July 10, 2011, 6:48 a.m.
posted by ersatz
In Section 5.12, we saw our TCP client handling two inputs at the same time: standard input and a TCP socket. We encountered a problem when the client was blocked in a call to fgets (on standard input) and the server process was killed. The server TCP correctly sent a FIN to the client TCP, but since the client process was blocked reading from standard input, it never saw the EOF until it read from the socket (possibly much later). What we need is the capability to tell the kernel that we want to be notified if one or more I/O conditions are ready (i.e., input is ready to be read, or the descriptor is capable of taking more output). This capability is called I/O multiplexing and is provided by the select and poll functions. We will also cover a newer POSIX variation of the former, called pselect.
I/O multiplexing is typically used in networking applications in the following scenarios:
I/O multiplexing is not limited to network programming. Many nontrivial applications find a need for these techniques.