intro – introduction to library functions

#include <u.h>

#include <libc.h>

#include <auth.h>

#include <bio.h>

#include <draw.h>

#include <fcall.h>

#include <frame.h>

#include <mach.h>

#include <ndb.h>

#include <regexp.h>

#include <stdio.h>

#include <thread.h>

This section describes functions in various libraries. For the most part, each library is defined by a single C include file, such as those listed above, and a single archive file containing the library proper. The name of the archive is /$objtype/lib/libx.a, where x is the base of the include file name, stripped of a leading lib if present. For example, <draw.h> defines the contents of library /$objtype/lib/libdraw.a, which may be abbreviated when named to the loader as –ldraw. In practice, each include file contains a #pragma that directs the loader to pick up the associated archive automatically, so it is rarely necessary to tell the loader which libraries a program needs.

The library to which a function belongs is defined by the header file that defines its interface. The `C library', libc, contains most of the basic subroutines such as strlen. Declarations for all of these functions are in <libc.h>, which must be preceded by (needs) an include of <u.h>. The graphics library, draw, is defined by <draw.h>, which needs <libc.h> and <u.h>. The Buffered I/O library, libbio, is defined by <bio.h>, which needs <libc.h> and <u.h>. The ANSI C Standard I/O library, libstdio, is defined by <stdio.h>, which needs <u.h>. There are a few other, less commonly used libraries defined on individual pages of this section.

The include file <u.h>, a prerequisite of several other include files, declares the architecture–dependent and –independent types, including: uchar, ushort, uint, and ulong, the unsigned integer types; schar, the signed char type; vlong and uvlong, the signed and unsigned very long integral types; Rune, the Unicode character type; u8int, u16int, u32int, and u64int, the unsigned integral types with specific widths; uintptr, the unsigned integral type with the same width as a pointer; jmp_buf, the type of the argument to setjmp and longjmp, plus macros that define the layout of jmp_buf (see setjmp(2)); definitions of the bits in the floating–point control register as used by getfcr(2); and the macros va_arg and friends for accessing arguments of variadic functions (identical to the macros defined in <stdarg.h> in ANSI C).

Name space
Files are collected into a hierarchical organization called a file tree starting in a directory called the root. File names, also called paths, consist of a number of /–separated path elements with the slashes corresponding to directories. A path element must contain only printable characters (those outside the control spaces of ASCII and Latin–1). A path element cannot contain a slash.

When a process presents a file name to Plan 9, it is evaluated by the following algorithm. Start with a directory that depends on the first character of the path: / means the root of the main hierarchy, # means the separate root of a kernel device's file tree (see Section 3), and anything else means the process's current working directory. Then for each path element, look up the element in the directory, advance to that directory, do a possible translation (see below), and repeat. The last step may yield a directory or regular file. The collection of files reachable from the root is called the name space of a process.

A program can use bind or mount (see bind(2)) to say that whenever a specified file is reached during evaluation, evaluation instead continues from a second specified file. Also, the same system calls create union directories, which are concatenations of ordinary directories that are searched sequentially until the desired element is found. Using bind and mount to do name space adjustment affects only the current process group (see below). Certain conventions about the layout of the name space should be preserved; see namespace(4).

File I/O
Files are opened for input or output by open or create (see open(2)). These calls return an integer called a file descriptor which identifies the file to subsequent I/O calls, notably read(2) and write. The system allocates the numbers by selecting the lowest unused descriptor. They are allocated dynamically; there is no visible limit to the number of file descriptors a process may have open. They may be reassigned using dup(2). File descriptors are indices into a kernel resident file descriptor table. Each process has an associated file descriptor table. In some cases (see rfork in fork(2)) a file descriptor table may be shared by several processes.

By convention, file descriptor 0 is the standard input, 1 is the standard output, and 2 is the standard error output. With one exception, the operating system is unaware of these conventions; it is permissible to close file 0, or even to replace it by a file open only for writing, but many programs will be confused by such chicanery. The exception is that the system prints messages about broken processes to file descriptor 2.

Files are normally read or written in sequential order. The I/O position in the file is called the file offset and may be set arbitrarily using the seek(2) system call.

Directories may be opened and read much like regular files. They contain an integral number of records, called directory entries. Each entry is a machine–independent representation of the information about an existing file in the directory, including the name, ownership, permission, access dates, and so on. The entry corresponding to an arbitrary file can be retrieved by stat(2) or fstat; wstat and fwstat write back entries, thus changing the properties of a file. An entry may be translated into a more convenient, addressable form called a Dir structure; dirstat, dirfstat, dirwstat, and dirfwstat execute the appropriate translations (see stat(2)).

New files are made with create (see open(2)) and deleted with remove(2). Directories may not directly be written; create, remove, wstat, and fwstat alter them.

The operating system kernel records the file name used to access each open file or directory. If the file is opened by a local name (one that does not begin / or #), the system makes the stored name absolute by prefixing the string associated with the current directory. Similar lexical adjustments are made for path names containing . (dot) or .. (dot–dot). By this process, the system maintains a record of the route by which each file was accessed. Although there is a possibility for error--the name is not maintained after the file is opened, so removals and renamings can confound it--this simple method usually permits the system to return, via the fd2path(2) system call and related calls such as getwd(2), a valid name that may be used to find a file again. This is also the source of the names reported in the name space listing of ns(1) or /dev/ns (see proc(3)).

Pipe(2) creates a connected pair of file descriptors, useful for bidirectional local communication.

Process execution and control
A new process is created when an existing one calls rfork with the RFPROC bit set, usually just by calling fork(2). The new (child) process starts out with copies of the address space and most other attributes of the old (parent) process. In particular, the child starts out running the same program as the parent; exec(2) will bring in a different one.

Each process has a unique integer process id; a set of open files, indexed by file descriptor; and a current working directory (changed by chdir(2)).

Each process has a set of attributes -- memory, open files, name space, etc. -- that may be shared or unique. Flags to rfork control the sharing of these attributes.

The memory of a process is divided into segments. Every program has at least a text (instruction) and stack segment. Most also have an initialized data segment and a segment of zero–filled data called bss. Processes may segattach(2) other segments for special purposes.

A process terminates by calling exits(2). A parent process may call wait(2) to wait for some child to terminate. A string of status information may be passed from exits to wait. A process can go to sleep for a specified time by calling sleep(2).

There is a notification mechanism for telling a process about events such as address faults, floating point faults, and messages from other processes. A process uses notify(2) to register the function to be called (the notification handler) when such events occur.

By calling rfork with the RFMEM bit set, a program may create several independently executing processes sharing the same memory (except for the stack segment, which is unique to each process). Where possible according to the ANSI C standard, the main C library works properly in multiprocess programs; malloc, print, and the other routines use locks (see lock(2)) to synchronize access to their data structures. The graphics library defined in <draw.h> is also multi–process capable; details are in graphics(2). In general, though, multiprocess programs should use some form of synchronization to protect shared data.

The thread library, defined in <thread.h>, provides support for multiprocess programs. It includes a data structure called a Channel that can be used to send messages between processes, and coroutine–like threads, which enable multiple threads of control within a single process. The threads within a process are scheduled by the library, but there is no pre–emptive scheduling within a process; thread switching occurs only at communication or synchronization points.

Most programs using the thread library comprise multiple processes communicating over channels, and within some processes, multiple threads. Since Plan 9 I/O calls may block, a system call may block all the threads in a process. Therefore, a program that shouldn't block unexpectedly will use a process to serve the I/O request, passing the result to the main processes over a channel when the request completes. For examples of this design, see ioproc(2) or mouse(2).

nm(1), 8l(1), 8c(1)

Math functions in libc return special values when the function is undefined for the given arguments or when the value is not representable (see nan(2)).

Some of the functions in libc are system calls and many others employ system calls in their implementation. All system calls return integers, with –1 indicating that an error occurred; errstr(2) recovers a string describing the error. Some user–level library functions also use the errstr mechanism to report errors. Functions that may affect the value of the error string are said to ``set errstr''; it is understood that the error string is altered only if an error occurs.

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