Lab 4: POSIX Signals

In this lab, we will learn about using POSIX (Unix) signals. The POSIX standard for signals, as with most of its components was based on UNIX semantics, but generalized to avoid explicitly endorsing one version of UNIX or another. The POSIX standard for signals and other aspects of system support are often supported by other operating systems. As with the other labs in this class we will experiment with signals in the context of Linux. We will also construct a small program which associates signal handlers with a few signals to give more interesting functionality to the starter code provided.

In this lab we will ensure you see how signals are used by BASH to support job control, which is an interesting feature, if slightly less widely used than it was a number of years ago. We will also look at a simple user program and change it in ways demonstrating:


Lab Materials
  1. Slides
  2. Lab Files

For this lab, you need to complete the implementation of the signals.c program. This program should count the number of times the user has sent the SIGINT signal to the running process. Pressing Ctl-C from the keyboard send this signal. When the process receives the SIGTSTP signal (Ctl-Z), it should print to the terminal the number of SIGINT signals it has received. After it receives 5 SIGINT signals, the program should prompt the user to exit. If the user does not respond within 10 seconds, an SIGALRM signal should force the program to exit.

You should be able to demonstrate your submitted code to the TA. An example output of running signals is shown below:

	bash> ./signals 
	Really exit? [Y/n]: n


	So far, '3' Ctl-C presses were counted


	So far, '4' Ctl-C presses were counted

	Really exit? [Y/n]: n

	Really exit? [Y/n]: 
	User taking too long to respond. Exiting  . . .


What to Hand in

Along with your finished implementation, you should be able to answer the following questions, as you may be quizzed over them:

  1. There are two special signals (KILL and STOP) which are not handled by the process they are sent to. When a KILL or STOP signal is generated, the operating system itself handles this signal and kills or stops the appropriate process. Considering what you learned in today's lab, speculate as to why the system designers chose to include signals which are handled solely by the operating system.
  2. What benefit do we gain from using the pause system call as opposed to an infinite while loop?
  3. Why do we mask other signals while inside the signal handler?
  4. When we implement the time out, we do not mask the SIGALRM signal. Why?
You also need to tar up your lab for submission. For this step, you should use the 'zip' target included in the lab's Makefile. Change the STUDENT_ID variable in the Makefile to your student ID and type:
    make zip

The newly created zip file should be turned in on Blackboard before the beginning of the next lab session.

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