[TUHS] fstat(2) on pipes?

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Tue Aug 16 00:04:50 AEST 2016

    > From: Warren Toomey

    > xv6 is a Unix-like OS written for teaching purposes. 

I'm fairly well-aware of Xv6; I too am planning to use it in a project.

But back to the original topic, it sounds like there's a huge amount of
variance in the semantics of doing fstat() on a pipe. V6 doesn't special-case
it in any way, but it sounds as if other systems do.

What V6 does (to complete the list) is grow the temporary file being used to
buffer the pipe contents up to a certain maximum size, whereupon it halts the
writer, and waits for the reader to catch up - at which point it truncates
the file, and adjusts the read and write pointers back to 0. So fstat() on
V6, which doesn't special-case pipes in any way for fstat(), apparently
returns 'waiting_to_be_read' plus 'already_read'.

    >>> xv6 has fstat() but returns an error if the file descriptor isn't
    >>> associated with an i-node.

    >> ?? All pipe file descriptors should have an inode?

To answer my own question, after a quick look at the Xv6 sources (on my
desktop ;-); it turns out that Xv6 handles pipes completely differently;
instead of borrowing an inode, they have special 'pipe' structures.  Hence the
error return in fstat() on Xv6. (That difference also limits the amount of
buffered data in a pipe to 512 bytes. So don't expect high throughput from a
pipe on Xv6! :-)

So I guess you get to pick which semantics you want fstat() on a pipe to have
there: V6's, V7's (see below), or something else! :-)

    > 7th Ed seems to return the amount of free space in the pipe, if I read
    > the code correctly:

I'm not sure of that (see below), but I think it would make more sense to
return the amount of un-read data (which is what I think it does do), as the
closest semantics to fstat() on a file.

It might also make sense to return the amount of free space (to a writer), and
the amount of data available to read (to a reader), since those are the
numbers users will care about. (Although then fstat() on the write side of a
pipe will have semantics which are inconsistent with fstat() on files. And if
the user code knows the maximum amount of buffering in a pipe, it could work
out the available write space from that, and the amount currently un-read.)

    > fstat()
    > {
    >    ...
    >    /* Call stat1() with the current offset in the pipe */
    >   stat1(fp->f_inode, uap->sb, fp->f_flag&FPIPE? fp->f_un.f_offset: 0);
    > }
    > stat1()
    > {
    >   ...
    >    ds.st_size = ip->i_size - pipeadj;

I'm too lazy to go read the code (even though I already have it :-), but V7
seems to usually be very similar to V6. So, what I suspect this code does is
pass the expression:

  ((fp->f_flag & FPIPE) ? fp->f_un.f_offset : 0)

as 'pipeadj' (to account for the amount that's already been read), and then
returns (ip->i_size - pipeadj), i.e. the amount remaining un-read, as the


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