The goal of this assignment is to examine asynchronous I/O programming and threads. You are
given a C file that models a simplified disk with an asynchronous read operation, simulated
DMA, and interrupts. You are also given three programs that perform a sequence of disk reads in
different ways. The first of these programs is completely implemented. It access the disk
sequentially, waiting for each request to finish before moving on. The other two programs are
partly implemented, with the rest left to you. The first improves on the sequential version using
event-driven programming. You will gain some experience with this style of programming and
then compare the runtime performance of the two alternatives. The second uses threads to turn
the asynchronous operations into synchronous ones, allowing you to write code with the first
program and get performance like the second.
The Simulated Disk
A simulated disk is implemented in the file disk.c and its public interface is in disk.h.
Recall that a disk contains a collection of disk blocks named by a block number. Applications
running on the CPU request disk blocks (usually 4-KB or so at a time) using a combination of
PIO, DMA and interrupts. They use PIO to tell the disk controller which blocks they want and
where in memory they want the disk to place the data (i.e., the content of the blocks). The disk
controller uses DMA to transfer this data into memory and then sends an interrupt to the CPU to
inform it that the transfer has completed. The total elapsed time for this operation is referred to
as the latency of the read.
Our simulated disk models a fixed, per-access read latency of 10 ms (1 ms is 10-3 seconds),
which is about the average access time of real disks. This means that it takes the disk 10 ms to
process a single read request. However, the disk can process multiple requests in parallel. When
it completes a request, it does what a real disk does, it uses a direct-memory transfer (DMA) to
copy the disk data into main memory and it delivers an interrupt to the CPU. In this case, of
course, the DMA is just a memory-to-memory copy between parts of your program’s memory.
And the interrupt is delivered by calling a specified handling procedure you register when you
initialize the disk.
To initialize the disk using an interrupt handler called interruptServiceRoutine, you
call the following procedure at the beginning of your program (all of the provided files already
To request that the first nbytes of the content of the disk block numbered blockno be
transferred into buf you call.
disk_schedule_read (buf, nbytes, blockno);
This procedure returns immediately. Then 10ms later, the target data is copied into buf and an
interrupted is delivered to you by calling interrupt_service_routine. The disk
completes reads in request order, and calls interrupt_service_routine for each
Like a real disk, multiple calls to disk_schedule_read will be handled in parallel; this fact
is helpful to know when comparing the performance of the different versions of the read
programs you will be modifying and running.
Now, since the simulated disk doesn’t really store data, it does not transfer anything interesting
into buf other than two things. It writes two integers to the beginning of the buffer. The first is
the requested block number that you will use to test your code to be sure you have the right disk
block. For example if you make the call
char buf ;
disk_schedule_read (buf, 8, 37);
And wait the 10ms for the interrupt, and then examine buf, you will see it unchanged except for
the beginning, which will store the number 37. Thus the following expression evaluates to true.
*((int*) buf) == 37
The second is the value associated with the block. Your program must sum as specified in the
code all of these values and print this sum when the program terminates. So you will declare a
global variable sum like this.
long sum = 0;
Then do this for each read as it finishes.
sum = sum * 1.1 + *(((int*) buf) + 1)
And then print sum at the end of the program like this.
printf (“%ld\n”, sum);
The implementation of the disk that you are provided sets this value field in each block to the
number 1 and so the sum you print should equal the total number of blocks you read. We will
change the value the disk returns when we mark you assignment, so be sure to really read the
Note — and this is important — the interrupt operates just like a regular interrupt. It will
interrupt your program at some arbitrary point to run the handler, continuing your program when
the handler returns. There are some potentially difficult (and I truly mean horrible) issues that
arise if your program and the handler access any data structures in common or if the handler calls
any non-reentrant procedure (e.g., malloc or free). You are provided with the
implementation of a reentrant, thread-safe queue that is safe to access from the handler and your
program. It is also okay to access the target data buffer (buf) in the handler. Do not access any
other data structures in the handler and do not call free from the handler (its okay to call
The disk provides one addition operation that you can call to wait until all pending reads have
The files queue.c and queue.h provide you with a thread-safe, re-entrant implementation of
a queue. If you need to enqueue information in your program that is dequeued in the interrupt
handler, use this queue.
To create a queue named something like prq, for example, you declare the variable like this.
Then before you use the queue you need to initialize it, in main, for example like this.
To add an item pointed to by the variable item (of any type) you do this:
queue_enqueue (&prq, item);
To get an item (e.g., of type struct Item*), you do this:
struct Item* item = queue_dequeue (&prq);
The provided code contains a file called Makefile that describes how this week’s program
should be built. In general, most C projects have a makefile like this. To compile the program
sRead, for example, type the following at the command line:
To compile every program just type this:
To remove executables, object files and other derived files type this:
Timing the Execution of a Program
The UNIX command time can be prepended to any command to time its execution. When the
command finishes you get a report of three times: the total elapsed clock time, the time spent in
user-mode (i.e., your program code) and the time spent system-mode (i.e., the operating system).
The format is otherwise a bit different on different platforms.
For example if you type this:
time ./sRead 100
You will get something like this on Mac OS when sRead completes:
1.074u 0.010s 0:01.08 100.0% 0+0k 0+0io 0pf+0w
And on Linux:
Ignore the user (u) and sys (s) times; they really are approximations. Pay attention only to the
real, elapsed time, which is 1.08 s in the Mac example and 1.1 s in the Linux example.
You will use this command to assess and compare the runtime performance of the three
Hints: Creating and Joining with Threads in Run
You should create a separate thread for each call to read using:
uthread_create (void* (*start_proc)(void*), void* start_arg)
Also note that it is necessary to joint with a thread (i.e, uthread_join(t)) if you want to
wait until the thread completes. You will need to do this in run, because when main returns the
program will terminate, even if there are other threads running.
Hints: Blocking and Unblocking Threads
A thread can block itself at any time by calling uthread_block. Another thread can wakeup
a blocked thread (t) by calling uthread_unblock(t). Recall that you will need to block
threads after they call disk_scheduleRead and before they call handleRead. And that
this blocked thread should be awoken when the disk read on which it is waiting has completed.
Also recall that a thread can obtain its own identity (e.g., for unblocking) by calling
What to Do
Download the Provided Code
The file www.ugrad.cs.ubc.ca/~cs213/cur/assignments/a9/code.zip contains the code files you
will use for this assignment this includes the implementation of uthreads, spinlocks, a simulated
disk, and other files used in each of the questions below.
Question 1: Synchronous Disk Read by Wasting CPU Time
Examine the program sRead.c, compile it by typing make sRead and run it.
You run it from the command line with one argument, the number of reads to perform. For
example, to perform 100 reads, you type this:
Temporarily modify handleRead to assert that the value at the beginning of buf is something
other than blockno to confirm that this is really working. For example
assert (*((int*) buf) == blockno-1)
Now, restore the assert statement and temporarily add a printf statement to handleRead
to print number at the beginning of every the buffer something this:
printf (“buf = %d, blockno = %d\n”, *((int*) buf), blockno);
Again, this is just to convince yourself that this works. Now, remove the printf.
Finally, time the execution of the program for executions that read various numbers of blocks.
time ./sRead 10
time ./sRead 100
time ./sRead 1000
Knowing how the simulated disk and this program perform you should be able to explain why
you see the runtime performance you do.
Record your data, observations, and explanation in the file Q1.txt.
Question 2: Implement Asynchronous Read — aRead.c
Now open aRead.c in an editor and examine it carefully. This version of the read program will
use event-driven style programming to handle the disk reads asynchronously. That is, each read
request registers a completion routine and returns immediately. The completion routines are then
called by the disk interrupt handler when each read completes.
To keep things simple, the disk delivers interrupts in request order (i.e. the same order as calls to
disk_schedule_read). So, for example, if you schedule reads for blockno values of 0, 1,
and 2, in that order, the first time interrupt_service_routine runs it will be to tell you
that the read for block 0 has completed; the second call will be for block 1 and so on. But note,
that the interrupt is just an interrupt. It does not transmit any values; the interrupt service routine
has no parameters.
So, you will need to remember the details of each pending read using a request queue. You must
use the queue; this is the only data structure that handle_read is allowed to accesses.
Compile and test your program the same way that you did for sRead. But sure to accumulate
the block values and print their sums as sRead does and as described in the Background section
and use valgrind to ensure that it is free of memory leaks.
Measure the runtime performance of aRead for executions that read different numbers of disk
blocks as you did with sRead and so that you can directly compare their performance. There is
some experimental error and so you should run each case at least three times and take the
minimum. The reason for taking the minimum is that this is the most reliable way to factor out
extraneous events that you see as noise in your numbers. Obviously, this is not a good way to
determine the expected behaviour of the programs; its just a good way to compare them.
Now you know more and have more data. Record the time values you observe for both aRead
and sRead for a few different numbers of reads. Be sure to choose meaningful values for this
parameter; e.g., at least a small one of around 10 and a large one of around 1000 (though if your
system is too slow to run either of these for 1000, choose a smaller number). Explain what you
observe: both what and why. The why part is important: carefully explain why one of these is
faster than the other.
Record your data, observations, and explanation in the file Q2.txt.
Question 3: Using Threads to Hide Asynchrony
Now open the new file tRead.c in an editor and examine it carefully. Compare this version to
both of the other versions on worked on in Assignment 7 (i.e., sRead.c and aRead.c). The
goal in this new version is to read and handle disk blocks sequentially in a manner similar to
sRead but to do so using threads to get performance similar to aRead.
To do this, it will be necessary to create multiple threads so that threads can stop to wait for disk
reads to complete without the negative performance consequences seen in sRead.c.
See the Background section above for some notes that help with the implementation.
Compile and test your program. Again, be sure to accumulate and print the sum of the block
values and ensure that it is free of memory leaks.
Evaluate this version as you did the other two.
Compare their performance and record your data. Compare both the elapsed time (as you have
previous) and the system time of aRead and tRead, which measures the approximate amount
of time the program spends running in the operating system. If there is a significant difference
Record your data, observations, and explanation in the file Q3.txt.
What to Hand In
Use the handin program.
The assignment directory is ~/cs213/a9, it should contain the following plain-text files.
1. README.txt that contains the name and student number of you and your partner
2. PARTNER.txt containing your partner’s CS login id and nothing else (i.e., the 4- or 5-
digit id in the form a0z1). Your partner should not submit anything.
3. For Question 1: Q1.txt.
4. For Question 2: aRead.c and Q2.txt.
5. For Question 3: tRead.c and Q3.txt.