CS414 Prelim 1: In Class, no notes.  10:15 to 11:25. 

Four problems, 25 points each


Your name: ___________________Your ID : _______________________



  1. You, your mom, and your dad, all like to do the crossword puzzle.  Which form of concurrency control would be best, if the goal is that this be a family activity, that the solution not require talking about the puzzle among yourselves, and that the puzzle be completed as rapidly as possible?   For each option comment very briefly on whether it would work, how well it would work, and why.  Assume that everyone is using pencil and that not every guess for a word is correct – some of the words people write down are guesses that will turn out to be wrong, and will later need to be erased.  For example, maybe your mother guesses that 1-down in the example below is “stone” at the same moment that you guess that the word should be “apple”.

A sample crossword puzzle: 


1.      Witch’s pet

2.      Blueberry _________


1.      Newton’s inspiration



a)      Obtain mutual exclusion, using a semaphore, prior to writing (or erasing) each letter.  Release the mutex after doing so.  One semaphore per square on the puzzle.

This solution won’t work: if two people try to write the same word at the same time, their letters can intermingle, creating chaos.  For example, if you want to write “stone” and I want to write “apple” in 1-down, we could end up with a mixture of letters from the two words.







b)      Same as (a), but with one semaphore for the entire puzzle.

This has exactly the same problem as (a) and for exactly the same reason.

c)      Obtain mutual exclusion prior to writing (or erasing) each word, using a single semaphore associated with the first letter of that word,.  Release the mutex after writing the word.  One semaphore per number on the puzzle.  In our example, to write “apple”, number 1 down, you need the semaphore for the cell containing the “a”, numbered 1-down.

Working a word at a time helps – we won’t conflict now for the word in 1-down.  But consider 1-down and 2-across in our example: I might write “stone” while you write “pie” and again, we’ll get some unpredictable outcome.  In general, we need to guarantee that a word is written while holding mutex relative to all other words that overlap the same spaces.  So, this solution is still flawed.

d)      Same as (c) but with a separate semaphore for each across-word and one for each down-word, even when they start on a single cell.  If a single cell was the start of both a down and an across word, it would have 2 semaphores.

This is flawed for the same reason that (d) is flawed.

e)      Same as (c) but before writing or erasing a word, you obtain mutual exclusion for every word your word will overlap.  For example, if 9-down crosses 3 and 6 across, you’ll obtain mutual exclusion using the semaphores associated with all three words.

This is finally a correct way to obtain mutual exclusion, and also quite a good way to do it.  A word is guaranteed not to conflict with any cross-word that intersects it.  So this works, and also achieves a high degree of concurrency.

3.  Bakery Algorithm:

a)      Process 3 is still in the critical section, yet process 0 doesn’t wait when it executes the while loop “while(number[3] and (number[3],3) < (number[0],0)) do no-op”


In this case, number[3] will have remained set to 7, so number[0] will be set to at least 8.  When evaluating the while condition, it will be “true” so process 0 will wait.  Thus this scenario cannot arise.




b)       Process 3 is able to leave and re-enter the critical section three times before Process 0 is able to enter it even once.


This situation can definitely arise.  Nothing tells us that process 3 will step to the side and let process 0 run right now – all we can assume is finite progress, not immediate progress.  So the scheduler could easily allow process 3 to run for a long time, letting it leave and re-enter many times before process 0 finally gets in.


c)      Process 0 sets number[0] to 5.

This could occur if process 3 leaves the critical section, and all number[i] are now zero.  Next, suppose that 4 processes try to enter one by one, and the 4th has number[] set to 4.  If process 0 finally gets to execute at that point, it will pick number[0] equal to 5.


d)      Process 0 sets number[0] to 7.

The same scenario described above can also lead process 0 to pick value 7, if 6 processes enter sequentially before it manages to set its own number to max(…)+1


Consider the process-resource wait  graph shown below.


a)      Give a reduction sequence whereby we can show that the system is not currently deadlocked.


Reduce in this order:  P5, P4, P1, P2, P3


b)      Could the next resource allocation cause the system to become deadlocked?  Justify your answer – no credit for saying “yes” or “no” without explaining.

No.  The nxt allocation must either be one unit of R1 to P1, or one unit of R1 to P5, because R2 is currently fully allocated.  In either case the system is free of deadlock – if we draw the new resource graphs for both cases, in fact, the same reduction sequence just given will still fully reduce the graph.  In general, a deadlock free resource-wait graph cannot become deadlocked by doing an allocation – an extra request must also occur.


4.   Suppose that you are solving a computational application in which three kinds of operations need to be done on a large matrix, and each takes time t units.   You design your application with 3 lightweight tasks (processes) and implement a monitor style of synchronization for various data structures that are shared between the tasks.   For simplicity, let’s also assume that the tasks include all the computing needed to solve the problem – there is no code to execute before the three tasks start and once they finish, the program is done.

Now, suppose that you run this program on a machine that has 4 identical CPU’s and measure the running time for a series of experiments in which you vary the number of CPU’s assigned to your program by the O/S.   


a)  Would you expect the program to run twice as fast with 2 CPU’s and three times as fast with 3 CPU’s?   Explain.


Not really.  Ideal speedups tend to ignore scheduling and synchronization delays, which can be considerable.  At best, we would expect an n-fold speedup with n <=3 CPU’s but the actual number might be much worse.


c)      What would you expect to see if you tell the O/S to assign 4 CPU’s to your program?


Either it won’t help or it might even hurt, slowing things down a little.  The case where things slow down is a bit obscure: the extra CPU could result in lower quality caching by the computer, since the active tasks actually “fit” 3 CPU’s very well, and hence you get the best quality of hardware caching with 3  CPU’s and by keeping the tasks on one CPU each.  If we add a fourth CPU and use it, we need to do all sorts of cache flushing and it could slow things down quite a bit.