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  1. Introduction
  2. Abbreviated Boot
  3. The Boot Process
  4. Startup and Run Levels
  5. Initialization Scripts
  6. Runlevel Scripts
  7. Login Process
  8. Bash Shell
  9. Filesystems
  10. LILO, Kernel and Root Filesystem
  11. The Kernel
  12. Passwords, Users, Groups, and Quotas
  13. The Environment
  14. The /etc/sysconfig directory
  15. The /proc filesystem
  16. Process Control
  17. Devices
  18. Daemons Services
  19. Inetd and Network Services
  20. Programs and Libraries
  21. Security and PAM
  22. The printer services
  23. Mouse support with gpm
  24. Mail
  25. News
  26. UUCP
  27. LDAP
  28. NFS and RPC
  29. Samba, NetBIOS, WINS, nmbd
  30. Identd (auth)
  31. Telnet and FTP
  32. Apache web server
  33. DNS and named
  34. How X Works
  35. X Scripts
  36. Support for Text
  37. Keymapping for Programs
  38. Keycode Table
  39. Example Keymap File
  40. Terminfo Commands
  41. VT100 ESC sequences
  42. Kernel Revisited
  43. Configuration Files
  44. Credits

Linux Process management

Process control and the ability for inter process communication is handled by the Linux kernel.

Tools for working with processes

  • accton - Turns process accounting on and off. Uses the file /var/log/pacct. To turn it on type "accton /var/log/pacct". Use the command with no arguments to turn it off.
  • kill - Kill a process by number
  • killall - Send a signal to a process by name
  • lastcomm (1) - Display information about previous commands in reverse order. Works only if process accounting is on.
  • nice - Set process priority of new processes.
  • ps(1) - Used to report the status of one or more processes.
  • pstree(1) - Display the tree of running processes.
  • renice(8) - Can be used to change the process priority of a currently running process.
  • sa(8) - Generates a summary of information about users' processes that are stored in the /var/log/pacct file.
  • skill - Report process status.
  • snice - Report process status.
  • top - Displays the processes that are using the most CPU resources.

Process Scheduling

Computer time on Linux systems is allocated in jiffies. A jiffie is a microprocessor time slice. On most Linux systems it is 1/100 of a second. On some systems it is 1/1024 of a second. The Linux kernel controls process scheduling. There are three types of scheduling:

  1. normal - Referred to as other, this is the scheduling type set for normal programs
  2. FIFO - This is a real time scheduling priority. The FIFO term means the first process started (first in) will be the first done (first out). The only time this type of process exits is if it sleeps, is rescheduled, or if it must wait on other kernel priorities to be done.
  3. RR - This is a round robin type of scheduling, where each task gets a certain amount of time then it must exit, yield control to the next task and get back into the task queue. This is a real time scheduling priority.

Linux processes have the following characteristics:

  1. policy - normal or real time. Real time processes have a higher priority than normal processes.
  2. priority - The process priority. It is a number between -20 and 19. The value of -20 is the highest, and 19 is the lowest priority. Process priority can be set with the nice(1) command and changed using the renice(8) command.

Inter-Process Communication

The types of inter process communication are:

  1. Signals - Sent by other processes or the kernel to a specific process to indicate various conditions.
  2. Pipes - Unnamed pipes set up by the shell normally with the "|" character to route output from one program to the input of another.
  3. FIFOS - Named pipes operating on the basis of first data in, first data out.
  4. Message queues - Message queues are a mechanism set up to allow one or more processes to write messages that can be read by one or more other processes.
  5. Semaphores - Counters that are used to control access to shared resources. These counters are used as a locking mechanism to prevent more than one process from using the resource at a time.
  6. Shared memory - The mapping of a memory area to be shared by multiple processes.

Message queues, semaphores, and shared memory can be accessed by the processes if they have access permission to the resource as set up by the object's creator. The process must pass an identifier to the kernel to be able to get the access.


Linux Signals are:

Signal NameNumberDescription
SIGINT2Terminal interrupt (ANSI)
SIGQUIT3Terminal quit (POSIX)
SIGILL4Illegal instruction (ANSI)
SIGTRAP5Trace trap (POSIX)
SIGBUS7BUS error (4.2 BSD)
SIGFPE8Floating point exception (ANSI)
SIGKILL9Kill(can't be caught or ignored) (POSIX)
SIGUSR110User defined signal 1 (POSIX)
SIGSEGV11Invalid memory segment access (ANSI)
SIGUSR212User defined signal 2 (POSIX)
SIGPIPE13Write on a pipe with no reader, Broken pipe (POSIX)
SIGALRM14Alarm clock (POSIX)
SIGTERM15Termination (ANSI)
SIGSTKFLT16Stack fault
SIGCHLD17Child process has stopped or exited, changed (POSIX)
SIGCONT18 Continue executing, if stopped (POSIX)
SIGSTOP19Stop executing(can't be caught or ignored) (POSIX)
SIGTSTP20Terminal stop signal (POSIX)
SIGTTIN21Background process trying to read, from TTY (POSIX)
SIGTTOU22Background process trying to write, to TTY (POSIX)
SIGURG23Urgent condition on socket (4.2 BSD)
SIGXCPU24CPU limit exceeded (4.2 BSD)
SIGXFSZ25File size limit exceeded (4.2 BSD)
SIGVTALRM26Virtual alarm clock (4.2 BSD)
SIGPROF27Profiling alarm clock (4.2 BSD)
SIGWINCH28Window size change (4.3 BSD, Sun)
SIGIO29I/O now possible (4.2 BSD)
SIGPWR30Power failure restart (System V)

As noted above, processes can ignore, block, or catch all signals except SIGSTOP and SIGKILL. If a process catches a signal, it means that it includes code that will take appropriate action when the signal is received. If the signal is not caught by the process, the kernel will take default action for the signal.


FIFOs are permanent objects and can be created using the mkfifo(1) or mknod(1) command. Inside the program, the FIFO can be created using the mknod command, then opened and read from or written to just like a normal file. The FIFO is normally in blocking mode when attempting to perform read operations.