Optional assignment for higher grade

A shell is an interface between a user and the operating system. It lets us give commands to the system and start other programs. Your task is to program a simple shell similar to for example Bash, which probably is the command shell you normally use when you use a Unix/Linux system.


When programming a shell, several of the POSIX system calls you studied already will be useful. Before you continue, make sure you have a basic understanding of at least the following system calls: fork(), execvp(), getpid(), getppid(), wait(), pipe(), dup2() and close().

Grade 4

For grade 4 your shell must be able to handle a single command and a pipeline with two commands.

Grade 5

For grade 5 your shell must be able to handle a single command or a pipeline with two, three or more commands.

You must also make sure not to leak resources. Especially you must make sure, that after a command line has finished, all descriptor to created pipes are closed. Otherwise the operating system will not be able to deallocate the pipes and potentially re-use the descriptor values.

Command data

In the file module-2/higher-grade/src/parser.h the following C structure is defined.

 * Structure holding all data for a single command in a command pipeline.
typedef struct {
  char*  argv[MAX_ARGV];  // Argument vector.
  position_t pos;         // Position within the pipeline (single, first, middle or last).
  int in;                 // Input file descriptor.
  int out;                // Output file descriptor.
} cmd_t;

The above structure is used to hold data for a single command in a command pipe line.

Command array

In the file module-2/higher-grade/src/shell.h command data for all commands in a command pipeline is stored in a global array.

 * For simplicitiy we use a global array to store data of each command in a
 * command pipeline .
cmd_t commands[MAX_COMMANDS];


In module-2/higher-grade/src/parser.h you find the following prototype.

 *  parses the string str and populates the commands array with data for each
 *  command.
int parse_commands(char *str, cmd_t* commands);

This function parse a command line string str such as "ls -l -F| nl"and populates the commands array with command data.

Program design

The below figure shows the overall structure of the shell.

When a user types a command line on the form A | B | C the parent parses the user input and creates one child process for each of the commands in the pipeline. The child processes communicates using pipes. Child A redirects stdout to the write end of pipe 1. Child B redirects stdin to the read end of pipe 1 and stdout to the write end of pipe 2. Child C redirects stdin to the read end of pipe 2.


In the module-2/higher-grade/src/parser.c file you must complete the implementation of the following function.

 * n - number of commands.
 * i - index of a command (the first command has index 0).
 * Returns the position (single, first, middle or last) of the command at index
 * i.
position_t cmd_position(int i, int n) {


Use module-2/higher-grade/src/shell.c to implement your solution. This file already implements the most basic functionality but it is far from complete.

Feel free to make changes

When inplementing your solution, you are allowed to:

  • add your own functions
  • modify existing functions
  • add (or remove) arguments to existing functions
  • modify existing data structures
  • add you own data strutures.

Alternative program design

The provided code is based on a design where the shell (parent) process creates one child process for each command in the pipeline.

An alterantive design is for the first child process to create the second child, the second child to create the third child etc. If you prefer this design, this might require you to modify the provided source code to fit this alterantive design.