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developerWorks: Context Switching

Jul 24, 2002, 09:00 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by DR. Edward G. Bradford)

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"All modern operating systems have a context switcher. In UNIX it was called the switcher because the subroutine that performed the context switch was the swtch() routine. Linux and Windows refer to the action of changing process context as scheduling. In any case, in a multitasking operating system, the efficiency of execution of scheduling is part of the scalability picture.

"In this column we'll get a feel for how fast the operating system can switch contexts. The contexts will be vanishingly simple, accomplishing almost nothing. To measure the speed of a context switch algorithm, a test may be devised that performs a predictable number of context switches and performs them in a specified order. The result would be a demonstration of a context switch and a simple opportunity to measure the speed of a context switch operation..."

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