Lab 9
CIS 370
Umass Dartmouth
pipe is typically used as a one-way
communications channel which couples one
related process to another.
deals with pipes the same way it
deals with files.
process can send data ‘down’ a pipe
using a write system call and another
process can receive the data by using read
at the other end.
who | sort
 This
command causes the shell to start the
commands who and sort simultaneously.
 The
‘|’ symbol in the command line tells the
shell to create a pipe to couple the
standard output of who to the standard
input of sort.
 The
final result of this command should be
a nicely ordered list of the users logged
onto this machine.
 The
who command on the left side of the
pipe does not know that its stdout is being
sent to a pipe.
 The
who command simply writes to stdout.
 Similarly
the sort command does not know
that it is getting its input from a pipe.
 The
sort command simply reads the stdin.
 Both
commands behave normally!
 The
overall effect is logically as if the
following sequence has been executed.
$ who > sometempfile.txt
$ sort sometempfile.txt
$ rm sometempfile.txt
 Flow
control is maintained automatically by
the OS (if who writes faster than sort can
read, who is suspended, until sort catches
#include <unistd.h>
 Within
programs a pipe is created using the
system call pipe().
int pipe(int filedes[2]);
 If
successful, this call returns two file
one for writing down the pipe,
one for reading from it.
is a two-integer array that will hold
the file descriptors that will identify the
 filedes
 If
successful, filedes[0] will be open for
reading from the pipe and filedes[1] will
be open for writing down it.
can fail (returns -1) if it cannot
obtain the file descriptors (exceeds userlimit or kernel-limit).
 pipe()
This sample code available online:
 The
output of pipes.c:
Hello, World #1
Hello, World #2
Hello, World #3
Pipes behave first-in-first-out, this cannot be
changed; lseek() will not work in pipes!
The size of the read and write don’t have to
match (For example, you can write 512 bytes
at a time while reading 1 byte at a time).
The previous example is trivial as there is only
one process involved and the process is
sending messages to itself!
Pipes become powerful when used with fork().
This sample code available online:
 Do
you see a problem here?
 What
happens if both attempt to write and
read at the same time?
 Pipes
are meant as uni-directional
communication devices.
This sample code available online:
 We
now have a uni-directional pipe
connecting two processes!
 Closing
If all processes close the write-only end of the
pipe and the pipe is empty, any process
attempting a read will return no data (will
return 0 like EOF).
 Closing
the write file descriptor
the read file descriptor
If all processes close the read-only end of the
pipe and there are processes waiting to write to
the pipe, the kernel will send a SIGPIPE signal.
If the signal is not caught the process will terminate.
If the signal is caught, then after the interrupt
routine has completed, write will return -1.
This sample code available online:
Included with these slides are those from
previous semesters covering other topics
related to pipes. This material was not covered
because it is mostly unrelated to today’s lab
Identifying the size of a pipe to prevent writing too
much data.
 Non-blocking reads and writes on pipes.
 Using select() system call to handle multiple pipes.
 Pipes with exec().
FIFOs (named pipes).
You should review Chapter 7 of the lab
textbook for comprehensive explanations of
these topics.
You will write a C program which opens FOUR pipes, P1,
P2, P3 and P4. Your program should then create three
children, C1, C2, and C3 (all in the same generation) as
shown in the family tree below.
The structure of pipes and processes should look as
Your program should behave as follows:
 AFTER opening the pipes and creating the children, the
parent process should prompt the user for the number of
messages to pass. Only the parent should know this value.
 Once the parent knows how many messages to expect
from the user, it should prompt the user for those
messages in the form:
“<message string> <child to receive message>”
 You may assume that messages are only one word in
length (you do not need to handle spaces in messages).
 The parent will then use pipes P1 and P2 to send all the
messages to the appropriate children.
 Because C2 and C3 share pipe P2, they may receive each
other’s messages. In this situation, they are responsible
for using P3 or P4 to forward the messages as
Each process should ensure that its pipes are
Once received, messages MUST be printed out in the
“Child <x> read message: <msg>”
Where <x> is the number of the child (1, 2, 3) that is
printing the message and <msg> is the message itself.
Hint: To avoid blocking reads in the children, you should
consider what happens when processes close one end of
a pipe.
Hint: When sending messages to C2 and C3, you may want
to append a special character to the message so that
they will know if it was meant for them or not.
Hint: It’s probably a good idea to perform all the writes
before performing any reads.
Example execution:
$ ./myPipes 3
$ 3 messages to send from parent.
$ Message 1 (<msg> <child>): Hello 1
$ Message 2 (<msg> <child>): World 3
$ Message 3 (<msg> <child>): Goodbye 2
$ All messages sent!
$ Child 1 read: Hello
$ Child 2 read: Goodbye
$ Child 3 read: World
$ C1 exiting...
$ C3 exiting...
$ C2 exiting...
$ Parent exiting...

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