Tracking down the step by step of the “ls” command in the Shell
The Shell is a user’s program that communicates with the system kernel through commands prompt from the user and then later interpreted in a way that system can understand it, so the commands that the user type in the Shell translates into instructions and system calls.
Systems calls are a native function of the kernel which one can manipulate important information and hardware of the computer as is shown in the following flow chart:
Now let’s see how the system kernel interprets the command “ls -l” that displays the lists of files in the path where the user is located together with the additional information such the permissions of files as shown in the following:
Normally once the Shell is prompt to the user a dollar
$sign is blinking on window meaning the shell is waiting for an input from the user as shown below:
Once the user types a command in the Shell, the system read it with the
getline() function that takes the command as a string and then save it into the buffer, getline() function shown below:
getline(&line, &bufsize, stdin)
Later, the function
strtok() will take the string inside the buffer and it will split it into an array of characters, so from the command
ls -l will later transform it in to
["ls", "-l"]. The main idea of transforming that way is for the system to understand clearly.
The shell will check the first argument of the tokenized string in the global variables folder with the
envcommand and it will compare it with the list of commands in the
PATH/bin/usr. Once it finds it proceeds to read the other tokens that could be part of the command, in this case, the flag
-l, the Shell will recognize a flag if as it has a
- at the beginning of the tokenized string.
/usr/local/sbin/ls -l => This where the command is located when it conacatenates with the tokenized string
With the route mentioned before the Shell can execute it with the following function:
execve(PATHroute, token, NULL)
The most important thing that happens when the command is executed it is the execution of the functions
wait(), fork creates a child process (PID) where
execve() execute the file in the path
/bin/ls -lwhile the parent waits for the response of the child process, as shown in the next flow chart:
execve()function has three parameters,
-PATHroute contains the route and the command to execute, the second one contains the arguments that user prompt to the shell
ls -l and the third one ends it, as shown in the flow chart below:
After all those steps the command
ls -l is executed, then frees the memory used for the process, and for the last step, it exits it and finally the Shell prompt with the
$ again waiting for the next command.
For a better understanding of how the Shell works in more detail please have a look at the following flow chart.
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Contributors: Twitter: gustavo55432603 and Medium: @gustavotovarcabrera