This is a proposal (sorry not a formal agenda) for a one-day training, covering the following topics.

  • IPC (the most part)

  • Code review of BEEEEEEP

  • Optional: advanced topics

Unix is a broad field of diversity and history. Just like there are many ways to do timers, there are many ways to do IPC (and by the way, many ways to do pretty much everything). It is a developer’s responsiblity to choose the best solution to a problem.

To make good choices and keep your system sane, it is good to have an overview of the mechanisms available, and an understanding of how they interfere with programming paradigms. Making bad choices is easy, especially because things appear to work in simple proof of concept scenarios, and lead to heavy breakage in nontrivial scenarios. For example, using Unix signals as a timer notification mechanism is the most inappropriate choice one can make - unfortunately the top search hits on Google suggest exactly that.


Starting with the most basic and inappropriate form of IPC, explain what that mechanism is, especially in a historic context, and what its semantics are. Conclusion: stay away.

Posix IPC (and Virtual Memory)

The term IPC - Inter Process Communication - is used in Unix terminology to mean any of

  • Message queues

  • Semaphores

  • Shared memory

Historically there is another family of IPC mechanisms, System-V IPC. That has the same focus, almost equally named artifacts, but is rather awkward to use, and not entirely portable. Linux supports that API as well, but no-one encourages its use anymore. In case Google suggests you use System-V IPC: stay away.

In this section, we will also hear about memory management is done in modern operating systems. Virtual memory is at the basis of (process-shared) semaphores and shared memory, so it is crucial to know how that works.

Unix Domain Sockets

The socket API is not part of the IPC category of communication mechanisms, simply because “IPC” predates sockets by over a decade.

Unix domain sockets are just one transport among the other ones supported by the socket API (the most popular being TCP/IP).

Application in your Company

Lets reserve some time to make a collaborative code review of BEEEEEEP.

Further Thoughts

If there’s time (I doubt it because one day is already tight enough to cover IPC), we can also talk about more advanced topics. Sockets are represented in Unix as file descriptors, just like regular files and many other communication mechanisms, so it makes sense to at least give an overview.