Programming Assignment#2: Memory Allocation Package


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In this assignment, you will develop a memory allocation library that is equivalent to the
malloc library provided by Unix-like operating systems. The malloc() function allocates
variable sized contiguous memory chunks on the heap, which is the memory segment just after
the uninitialized data segment. The current end of the heap is given by the program break as
shown in the figure below. The malloc() and related functions are built on top of brk() and sbrk(),
which we discuss next.
To allocate memory on the heap, we need to tell the kernel that the process’ program break is
located at a different address such that there is additional room in the heap. Initially, the program
break lies just past the end of the uninitialized data segment. After the program break is
increased, the program can access the memory in the newly created heap space. The brk() system
call sets the program break to the location specified by its argument. The sbrk() library routine is
similar where an increment can be specified to increase the program break.
The call sbrk(0) returns the current value of the program break without changing it. It can be
useful to track the size of the heap to monitor the behavior of the memory allocation package.
Your memory allocation package needs to provide the following functions for managing the
void *my_malloc(int size)
This function returns void pointer that we can assign to any C pointer. If memory could not be
allocated, then my_malloc() returns NULL and sets a global error string variable given by the
following declaration.
extern char *my_malloc_error
The possibility of error in memory allocation may be small, but it is important to provide
mechanisms to handle the error conditions.
void my_free(void *ptr)
This function deallocates the block of memory pointed by the ptr argument. The ptr should be an
address previously allocated by the Memory Allocation Package.
In UNIX/Linux, free() does not lower the program break. It adds the block of freed memory to
the free list so it could be recycled by future calls to malloc(). This is done for several reasons.
• The block being freed could be somewhere in the middle of the heap.
• Minimize the number of sbrk() calls that the program must perform to minimize the
number of system calls.
• In many cases, lowering the program break would not help programs that allocate large
amounts of memory. Such programs tend to either hold onto the allocation for long
periods of times or repeatedly allocate and deallocate memory segments.
You could consider these reasons when deciding what my_free() should be doing. If the
argument of my_free() is NULL, then the call should not free any thing. Calling my_free() on a
ptr value can lead to unpredictable results.
The my_free() should reduce the program break if the top free block is larger than 128 Kbytes.
void my_mallopt(int policy)
This function specifies the memory allocation policy. You need implement two policies as part
of this assignment: first fit and best fit. Refer to the lecture slides for more information about
these policies.
void my_mallinfo()
This function prints statistics about the memory allocation performed so far by the library. You
need to include the following parameters: total number of bytes allocated, total free space, largest
contiguous free space, and others of your choice.
Proposed approach
DO NOT USE malloc, calloc, or other variations offered by the operating system in this
assignment. Remember you are using lower level system calls and library routines for
implementing the memory management library. Using malloc routines will change the heap
configuration and destroy your setup. Some library routines like printf() also use malloc, so you
need to avoid their use as well. Use puts() and sprintf() instead of printf().
The implementation of the memory allocation package is straightforward. It first scans the list of
free memory blocks previously released by my_free() to find one whose size is large than or
equal to the one to be allocated. You can use different strategies such as first-fit or best-fit for
scanning the free list. If a larger block is found, then it is split and a portion is returned as the
allocation while the other portion remains in the free list. If no block on the free list is large
enough, sbrk() is used to allocate more memory. To reduce the calls to sbrk(), rather than
allocating exactly the number of required bytes, my_malloc() increases the program break in
larger units and puts the excess memory onto the free list. The excess memory cannot be more
than 128 Kbytes to be consistent with the way my_free() works.
One of the challenges is deallocating the correct number of bytes when my_free() is called. To
know the correct number of bytes to place in the free list, my_free() gets a little help from
my_malloc(). When my_malloc() allocates the block, it allocates extra bytes to hold an integer
containing the size of the block. The integer is located at the beginning of the block; the address
actually returned to the caller points to the location just past this length value, as shown in the
figure below.
When a block is placed on the double linked free list, my_free() uses a structure such as the
following to represent the free block. It should be noted that all the free blocks are connected in a
doubly linked list while the allocated one are not.
As blocks are deallocated and reallocated over time, the blocks of the free list will become
intermingled with the blocks of the allocated memory as shown below.
When my_free() runs, it is essential to check adjacent blocks for their status. If free blocks are
next to the block being freed, you need to merge them into a larger free block. To easily detect
adjacent free blocks, a boundary-tag scheme could be implemented. The boundary tag is a slight
variation of the scheme shown above. The figure below shows an example boundary-tag scheme.
You may return a slightly larger block than what is requested from my_malloc() to reduce
external fragmentation.
What to Hand in
Submit the following files separately:
1. A README file that explains any design decisions the TA should be aware of when
grading your assignment.
2. If you have not fully implemented all, then list the parts that work so that you can be sure
to receive credit for the parts you do have working. Indicate any issues you ran into doing
this assignment. If you point out an error that you know occurs in your problem, it may
lead the TA to give you more partial credit.
3. All source files needed to compile, run and test your code. If multiple source files are
present, provide a Makefile for compiling them. Do not submit object or executable files.
4. Output from your testing of your program.
5. You need to submit the testing routine that you used to test the assignment.