Glossary

administrator
See superuser .
alias
A shell feature that lets you create new commands or specify your favorite options. For example, alias my_ls='ls -F' creates an alias called my_ls that the shell replaces with ls -F.
atomic
Of or relating to atoms. :-)

In operating systems, this refers to the requirement that an operation, or sequence of operations, be considered indivisible. For example, a thread may need to move a file position to a given location and read data. These operations must be performed in an atomic manner; otherwise, another thread could preempt the original thread and move the file position to a different location, thus causing the original thread to read data from the second thread's position.

BIOS/ROM Monitor extension signature
A certain sequence of bytes indicating to the BIOS or ROM Monitor that the device is to be considered an "extension" to the BIOS or ROM Monitor—control is to be transferred to the device by the BIOS or ROM Monitor, with the expectation that the device will perform additional initializations.

On the x86 architecture, the two bytes 0x55 and 0xAA must be present (in that order) as the first two bytes in the device, with control being transferred to offset 0x0003.

budget
In sporadic scheduling, the amount of time a thread is permitted to execute at its normal priority before being dropped to its low priority.
buildfile
A text file containing instructions for mkifs specifying the contents and other details of an image , or for mkefs specifying the contents and other details of an embedded filesystem image.
canonical mode
Also called edited mode or "cooked" mode. In this mode the character device library performs line-editing operations on each received character. Only when a line is "completely entered"—typically when a carriage return (CR) is received—will the line of data be made available to application processes. Contrast raw mode .
channel
A kernel object used with message passing.

In BlackBerry 10 OS, message passing is directed towards a connection (made to a channel); threads can receive messages from channels. A thread that wishes to receive messages creates a channel (using ChannelCreate()), and then receives messages from that channel (using MsgReceive()). Another thread that wishes to send a message to the first thread must make a connection to that channel by "attaching" to the channel (using ConnectAttach()) and then sending data (using MsgSend()).

CIFS
Common Internet File System (aka SMB)—a protocol that allows a client workstation to perform transparent file access over a network to a Windows server. Client file access calls are converted to CIFS protocol requests and are sent to the server over the network. The server receives the request, performs the actual filesystem operation, and sends a response back to the client.
CIS
Card Information Structure.
command completion
A shell feature that saves typing; type enough of the command's name to identify it uniquely, and then press Esc twice. If possible, the shell fills in the rest of the name.
command interpreter
A process that parses what you type on the command line; also known as a shell .
compound command
A command that includes a shell's reserved words, grouping constructs, and function definitions (e.g., ls -al | less). Contrast simple command .
configurable limit
A special variable that stores system information. Some (e.g., _PC_NAME_MAX) depend on the filesystem and are associated with a path; others (e.g., _SC_ARG_MAX) are independent of paths.
configuration string
A system variable that's like an environment variable, but is more dynamic. When you set an environment variable, the new value affects only the current instance of the shell and any of its children that you create after setting the variable; when you set a configuration string, its new value is immediately available to the entire system.
connection
A kernel object used with message passing.

Connections are created by client threads to connect to the channels made available by servers. Once connections are established, clients can MsgSend() messages over them.

console
The display adapter, the screen, and the system keyboard are collectively referred to as the physical console. A virtual console emulates a physical console and lets you run more than one terminal session at a time on a machine.
cooked mode
See canonical mode .
core dump
A file describing the state of a process that terminated abnormally.
critical section
A code passage that must be executed serially (i.e., by only one thread at a time). The simplest from of critical section enforcement is via a mutex .
device driver
A process that allows the OS and application programs to make use of the underlying hardware in a generic way (e.g., a disk drive, a network interface). Unlike OSs that require device drivers to be tightly bound into the OS itself, device drivers for BlackBerry 10 OS are standard processes that can be started and stopped dynamically. As a result, adding device drivers doesn't affect any other part of the OS; drivers can be developed and debugged like any other application. Also, device drivers are in their own protected address space, so a bug in a device driver won't cause the entire OS to shut down.
DNS
Domain Name Service—an Internet protocol used to convert ASCII domain names into IP addresses. In BlackBerry 10 OS native networking, dns is one of Qnet's builtin resolvers.
edge-sensitive
One of two ways in which a PIC (Programmable Interrupt Controller) can be programmed to respond to interrupts. In edge-sensitive mode, the interrupt is noticed upon a transition to/from the rising/falling edge of a pulse. Contrast level-sensitive .
edited mode
See canonical mode .
EPROM
Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory—a memory technology that allows the device to be programmed (typically with higher-than-operating voltages, e.g., 12V), with the characteristic that any bit (or bits) may be individually programmed from a 1 state to a 0 state.

Changing a bit from a 0 state into a 1 state can be accomplished only by erasing the entire device, setting all of the bits to a 1 state. Erasing is accomplished by shining an ultraviolet light through the erase window of the device for a fixed period of time (typically 10-20 minutes). The device is further characterized by having a limited number of erase cycles (typically 10e5 - 10e6). Contrast EEPROM , flash , and RAM .

EEPROM
Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory—a memory technology that's similar to EPROM , but you can erase the entire device electrically instead of via ultraviolet light. Contrast flash and RAM .
event
A notification scheme used to inform a thread that a particular condition has occurred. Events can be signals or pulses in the general case; they can also be unblocking events or interrupt events in the case of kernel timeouts and interrupt service routines. An event is delivered by a thread, a timer, the kernel, or an interrupt service routine when appropriate to the requestor of the event.
extent
A contiguous sequence of blocks on a disk.
fd
File Descriptor—a client must open a file descriptor to a resource manager via the open() function call. The file descriptor then serves as a handle for the client to use in subsequent messages.
FIFO
First In First Out—a scheduling policy whereby a thread is able to consume CPU at its priority level without bounds. See also round robin and sporadic .
filename completion
A shell feature that saves typing; type enough of the file's name to identify it uniquely, and then press Esc twice. If possible, the shell fills in the rest of the name.
filter
A program that reads from standard input and writes to standard output, such as grep and sort . You can use a pipe (|) to combine filters.
flash memory
A memory technology similar in characteristics to EEPROM memory, with the exception that erasing is performed electrically, and, depending upon the organization of the flash memory device, erasing may be accomplished in blocks (typically 64 KB bytes at a time) instead of the entire device. Contrast EPROM and RAM .
FQNN
Fully Qualified Node Name—a unique name that identifies a BlackBerry 10 OS node on a network. The FQNN consists of the nodename plus the node domain tacked together.
garbage collection
The process whereby a filesystem manager recovers the space occupied by deleted files and directories. Also known as space reclamation.
group
A collection of users who share similar file permissions.
HA
High Availability—in telecommunications and other industries, HA describes a system's ability to remain up and running without interruption for extended periods of time.
hard link
See link .
hidden file
A file whose name starts with a dot (.), such as .profile. Commands such as ls don't operate on hidden files unless you explicitly say to.
image
In the context of embedded BlackBerry 10 OS systems, an image can mean either a structure that contains files (i.e., an OS image) or a structure that can be used in a read-only, read/write, or read/write/reclaim filesystem (i.e., a flash filesystem image).
inode
Information node—a storage table that holds information about files, other than the files' names. In order to support links for each file, the filename is separated from the other information that describes a file.
interrupt
An event (usually caused by hardware) that interrupts whatever the processor was doing and asks it do something else. The hardware will generate an interrupt whenever it has reached some state where software intervention is required.
interrupt latency
The amount of elapsed time between the generation of a hardware interrupt and the first instruction executed by the relevant interrupt service routine. Also designated as Til . Contrast scheduling latency .
IPC
Interprocess Communication—the ability for two processes (or threads) to communicate. BlackBerry 10 OS offers several forms of IPC, most notably native messaging (synchronous, client/server relationship), POSIX message queues and pipes (asynchronous), as well as signals.
IPL
Initial Program Loader—the software component that either takes control at the processor's reset vector (e.g., location 0xFFFFFFF0 on the x86), or is a BIOS extension. This component is responsible for setting up the machine into a usable state, such that the startup program can then perform further initializations. The IPL is written in assembler and C. See also BIOS/ROM Monitor extension signature and startup code .
IRQ
Interrupt Request—a hardware request line asserted by a peripheral to indicate that it requires servicing by software. The IRQ is handled by the PIC , which then interrupts the processor, usually causing the processor to execute an Interrupt Service Routine (ISR) .
ISR
Interrupt Service Routine—a routine responsible for servicing hardware (e.g., reading and/or writing some device ports), for updating some data structures shared between the ISR and the thread(s) running in the application, and for signalling the thread that some kind of event has occurred.
kernel
See microkernel .
level-sensitive
One of two ways in which a PIC (Programmable Interrupt Controller) can be programmed to respond to interrupts. If the PIC is operating in level-sensitive mode, the IRQ is considered active whenever the corresponding hardware line is active. Contrast edge-sensitive .
A filename; a pointer to the file's contents. Contrast symbolic link .
message
A parcel of bytes passed from one process to another. The OS attaches no special meaning to the content of a message; the data in a message has meaning for the sender of the message and for its receiver, but for no one else.

Message passing not only allows processes to pass data to each other, but also provides a means of synchronizing the execution of several processes. As they send, receive, and reply to messages, processes undergo various "changes of state" that affect when, and for how long, they may run.

metadata
Data about data; for a filesystem, metadata includes all the overhead and attributes involved in storing the user data itself, such as the name of a file, the physical blocks it uses, modification and access timestamps, and so on.
microkernel
A part of the operating system that provides the minimal services used by a team of optional cooperating processes, which in turn provide the higher-level OS functionality. The QNX Neutrino microkernel itself lacks filesystems and many other services normally expected of an OS; those services are provided by optional processes.
mountpoint
The location in the pathname space where a resource manager has "registered" itself. For example, a CD-ROM filesystem may register a single mountpoint of /cdrom.
mutex
Mutual exclusion lock, a simple synchronization service used to ensure exclusive access to data shared between threads. It's typically acquired (pthread_mutex_lock()) and released (pthread_mutex_unlock()) around the code that accesses the shared data (usually a critical section ).
name resolution
In a BlackBerry 10 OS network, the process by which the Qnet network manager converts an FQNN to a list of destination addresses that the transport layer knows how to get to.
name resolver
Program code that attempts to convert an FQNN to a destination address.
NDP
Node Discovery Protocol—proprietary QNX Software Systems protocol for broadcasting name resolution requests on a BlackBerry 10 OS LAN.
network directory
A directory in the pathname space that's implemented by the Qnet network manager.
NFS
Network FileSystem—a TCP/IP application that lets you graft remote filesystems (or portions of them) onto your local namespace. Directories on the remote systems appear as part of your local filesystem and all the utilities you use for listing and managing files (e.g., ls, cp, mv) operate on the remote files exactly as they do on your local files.
Node Discovery Protocol
See NDP .
node domain
A character string that the Qnet network manager tacks onto the nodename to form an FQNN .
nodename
A unique name consisting of a character string that identifies a node on a network.
package
A directory tree of files laid out in a structure that matches where they would be if they were transported to the root of some filesystem.
pathname prefix
See mountpoint .
pathname-space mapping
The process whereby the Process Manager maintains an association between resource managers and entries in the pathname space.
persistent
When applied to storage media, the ability for the media to retain information across a power-cycle. For example, a hard disk is a persistent storage media, whereas a ramdisk is not, because the data is lost when power is lost.
PIC
Programmable Interrupt Controller—a hardware component that handles IRQs.
PID
Process ID. Also often pid (e.g., as an argument in a function call). See also process ID .
POSIX
An IEEE/ISO standard. The term is an acronym (of sorts) for Portable Operating System Interface—the X alludes to UNIX, on which the interface is based.
preemption
The act of suspending the execution of one thread and starting (or resuming) another. The suspended thread is said to have been preempted by the new thread. Whenever a lower-priority thread is actively consuming the CPU, and a higher-priority thread becomes READY, the lower-priority thread is immediately preempted by the higher-priority thread.
prefix tree
The internal representation used by the Process Manager to store the pathname table.
priority inheritance
The characteristic of a thread that causes its priority to be raised or lowered to that of the thread that sent it a message. Also used with mutexes. Priority inheritance is a method used to prevent priority inversion.
priority inversion
A condition that can occur when a low-priority thread consumes CPU at a higher priority than it should. This can be caused by not supporting priority inheritance, such that when the lower-priority thread sends a message to a higher-priority thread, the higher-priority thread consumes CPU on behalf of the lower-priority thread. This is solved by having the higher-priority thread inherit the priority of the thread on whose behalf it's working.
process
A nonschedulable entity, which defines the address space and a few data areas. A process must have at least one thread running in it.
process group
A collection of processes that permits the signalling of related processes. Each process in the system is a member of a process group identified by a process group ID. A newly created process joins the process group of its creator.
process group ID
The unique identifier representing a process group during its lifetime. A process group ID is a positive integer. The system may reuse a process group ID after the process group dies.
process group leader
A process whose ID is the same as its process group ID.
process ID (PID)
The unique identifier representing a process. A PID is a positive integer. The system may reuse a process ID after the process dies, provided no existing process group has the same ID. Only the Process Manager can have a process ID of 1.
pty
Pseudo-TTY—a character-based device that has two "ends": a master end and a slave end. Data written to the master end shows up on the slave end, and vice versa. You typically use these devices when a program requires a terminal for standard input and output, and one doesn't exist, for example as with sockets.
Qnet
The native network manager in the BlackBerry 10 OS.
QoS
Quality of Service—a policy (e.g., loadbalance) used to connect nodes in a network in order to ensure highly dependable transmission. QoS is an issue that often arises in high-availability ( HA ) networks as well as realtime control systems.
QSS
QNX Software Systems.
quoting
A method of forcing a shell's special characters to be treated as simple characters instead of being interpreted in a special way by the shell. For example, less "my file name" escapes the special meaning of the spaces in a filename.
RAM
Random Access Memory—a memory technology characterized by the ability to read and write any location in the device without limitation. Contrast flash , EPROM , and EEPROM .
raw mode
In raw input mode, the character device library performs no editing on received characters. This reduces the processing done on each character to a minimum and provides the highest performance interface for reading data. Also, raw mode is used with devices that typically generate binary data—you don't want any translations of the raw binary stream between the device and the application. Contrast canonical mode .
remote execution
Running commands on a machine other than your own over a network.
replenishment
In sporadic scheduling, the period of time during which a thread is allowed to consume its execution budget .
reset vector
The address at which the processor begins executing instructions after the processor's reset line has been activated. On the x86, for example, this is the address 0xFFFFFFF0.
resource manager
A user-level server program that accepts messages from other programs and, optionally, communicates with hardware. BlackBerry 10 OS resource managers are responsible for presenting an interface to various types of devices, whether actual (e.g., serial ports, parallel ports, network cards, disk drives) or virtual (e.g., /dev/null, a network filesystem, and pseudo-ttys).

In other operating systems, this functionality is traditionally associated with device drivers . But unlike device drivers, BlackBerry 10 OS resource managers don't require any special arrangements with the kernel. In fact, a resource manager looks just like any other user-level program. See also device driver.

root
The superuser, which can do anything on your system. The superuser has what Windows calls administrator's rights.
round robin
A scheduling policy whereby a thread is given a certain period of time (the timeslice ) to run. Should the thread consume CPU for the entire period of its timeslice, the thread will be placed at the end of the ready queue for its priority, and the next available thread will be made READY. If a thread is the only thread READY at its priority level, it will be able to consume CPU again immediately. See also FIFO and sporadic .
RTOS
Realtime operating system.
runtime loading
The process whereby a program decides while it's actually running that it wishes to load a particular function from a library. Contrast static linking .
scheduling latency
The amount of time that elapses between the point when one thread makes another thread READY and when the other thread actually gets some CPU time. Note that this latency is almost always at the control of the system designer.

Also designated as Tsl . Contrast interrupt latency .

session
A collection of process groups established for job-control purposes. Each process group is a member of a session. A process belongs to the session that its process group belongs to. A newly created process joins the session of its creator. A process can alter its session membership via setsid(). A session can contain multiple process groups.
session leader
A process whose death causes all processes within its process group to receive a SIGHUP signal.
shell
A process that parses what you type on the command line; also known as a command interpreter .
shell script
A file that contains shell commands.
simple command
A command line that contains a single command, usually a program that you want to run (e.g., less my_file). Contrast compound command .
socket
A logical drive in a flash filesystem, consisting of a contiguous and homogeneous region of flash memory.
socket
In TCP/IP, a combination of an IP address and a port number that uniquely identifies a single network process.
software interrupt
Similar to a hardware interrupt (see interrupt ), except that the source of the interrupt is software.
sporadic
A scheduling policy whereby a thread's priority can oscillate dynamically between a foreground or normal priority and a background or low priority. A thread is given an execution budget of time to be consumed within a certain replenishment period. See also FIFO and round robin .
startup code
The software component that gains control after the IPL code has performed the minimum necessary amount of initialization. After gathering information about the system, the startup code transfers control to the OS.
static linking
The process whereby you combine your programs with the modules from the library to form a single executable that's entirely self-contained. The word static implies that it's not going to change—all the required modules are already combined into one. Contrast runtime loading.
superuser
The root user, which can do anything on your system. The superuser has what Windows calls administrator's rights.
A special file that usually has a pathname as its data. Symbolic links are a flexible means of pathname indirection and are often used to provide multiple paths to a single file. Unlike hard links, symbolic links can cross filesystems and can also create links to directories.
system page area
An area in the kernel that is filled by the startup code and contains information about the system (number of bytes of memory, location of serial ports, etc.) This is also called the SYSPAGE area.
thread
The schedulable entity under BlackBerry 10 OS. A thread is a flow of execution; it exists within the context of a process .
timer
A kernel object used in conjunction with time-based functions. A timer is created via timer_create() and armed via timer_settime(). A timer can then deliver an event , either periodically or on a one-shot basis.
timeslice
A period of time assigned to a round-robin scheduled thread. This period of time is small (four times the clock period in BlackBerry 10 OS); programs shouldn't rely on the actual value (doing so is considered bad design).

Last modified: 2013-12-21

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