Monday, August 31, 2009

The Linux Kernel - Software Program Management

The Linux operating system calls a running program a process. A process can run in the foreground, displaying output on a display, or it can run in the background, behind the scenes. The kernel controls how the Linux system manages all the processes running on the system.

The kernel creates the first process, called the init process, to start all other processes on the system. When the kernel starts, it loads the init process into virtual memory. As the kernel starts each additional process, it allocates to it a unique area in virtual memory to store the data and code that the process uses.

Most Linux implementations contain a table (or tables) of processes that start automatically on boot-up. This table is often located in the special file /etc/inittabs. However, the Ubuntu Linux system uses a slightly different format, storing multiple table files in the /etc/event.d folder by default.

The Linux operating system uses an init system that utilizes run levels. A run level can be used to direct the init process to run only certain types of processes, as defined in the /etc/inittabs file or the files in the /etc/event.d folder. There are seven init run levels in the Linux operating system. Level 0 is for when the system is halted, and level 6 is for when the system is rebooting. Levels 1 through 5 manage the Linux system while it’s operating.

At run level 1, only the basic system processes are started, along with one console terminal process. This is called Single User mode. Single User mode is most often used for emergency filesystem maintenance when something is broken. Obviously, in this mode only one person (usually the administrator) can log into the system to manipulate data. The standard init run level is 3. At this run level most application software, such as network support software, is started. Another popular run level in Linux is 5. This is the run level where the system starts the graphical X Window software and allows you to log in using a graphical desktop window.

The Linux system can control the overall system functionality by controlling the init run level. By changing the run level from 3 to 5, the system can change from a console-based system to an advanced, graphical X Window system. Here are a few lines extracted from the output of the ps command:

test@testbox~$ ps ax
1 ? Ss 0:01 /sbin/init
2 ? S< 0:00 [kthreadd]
3 ? S< 0:00 [migration/0]
4 ? S< 0:00 [ksoftirqd/0]
5 ? S< 0:00 [watchdog/0]
4708 ? S< 0:00 [krfcommd]
4759 ? Ss 0:00 /usr/sbin/gdm
4761 ? S 0:00 /usr/sbin/gdm
4814 ? Ss 0:00 /usr/sbin/atd
4832 ? Ss 0:00 /usr/sbin/cron
4920 tty1 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty1
5417 ? Sl 0:01 gnome-settings-daemon
5425 ? S 0:00 /usr/bin/pulseaudio --log-target=syslog
5426 ? S 0:00 /usr/lib/pulseaudio/pulse/gconf-helper
5437 ? S 0:00 /usr/lib/gvfs/gvfsd
5451 ? S 0:05 gnome-panel --sm-client-id default1
5632 ? Sl 0:34 gnome-system-monitor
5638 ? S 0:00 /usr/lib/gnome-vfs-2.0/gnome-vfs-daemon
5642 ? S 0:09 gimp-2.4
6319 ? Sl 0:01 gnome-terminal
6321 ? S 0:00 gnome-pty-helper
6322 pts/0 Rs 0:00 bash
6343 ? S 0:01 gedit
6385 pts/0 R+ 0:00 ps ax

The first column in the output shows the process ID (or PID) of the process. Notice that the first process is our friend, the init process, which is assigned PID 1 by the Ubuntu system. All other processes that start after the init process are assigned PIDs in numerical order. No two processes can have the same PID.

The third column shows the current status of the process. The first letter represents the state the process is in (S for sleeping, R for running). The process name is shown in the last column. Processes that are in brackets have been swapped out of memory to the disk swap space due to inactivity. You can see that some of the processes have been swapped out, but the running processes have not.

Source of information : Wiley Ubuntu Linux Secrets

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