BLOCKED and READY states

To fully understand how scheduling works, you must first understand what it means when we say a thread is BLOCKED and when a thread is in the READY state. You must also understand a particular data structure in the kernel called the ready queue.

A thread is BLOCKED if it doesn't want the CPU, which might happen for several reasons, such as:

  • The thread is sleeping.
  • The thread is waiting for a message from another thread.
  • The thread is waiting on a mutex that some other thread owns.

When designing an application, you always try to arrange it so that if any thread is waiting for something, make sure it isn't spinning in a loop using up the CPU. In general, try to avoid polling. If you do have to poll, then you should try to sleep for some period between polls, thereby giving lower-priority threads the CPU should they want it.

For each type of blocking there is a blocking state. We'll discuss these states briefly as they come up. Examples of some blocking states are REPLY-blocked, RECEIVE-blocked, MUTEX-blocked, INTERRUPT-blocked, and NANOSLEEP-blocked.

A thread is READY if it wants a CPU but something else currently has it. If a thread currently has a CPU, then it's in the RUNNING state. Simply put, a thread that's either READY or RUNNING isn't blocked.