At the heart of Unix lies the concept of a process. Understanding this concept will help you keep control of your login session as a user. If you are also a system administrator, the concept is even more important.

A process is an independently running program that has its own set of resources. For instance, we showed in an earlier section how you could direct the output of a program to a file while your shell continued to direct output to your screen. The reason that the shell and the other program can send output to different places is that they are separate processes .

On Unix, the finite resources of the system, such as the memory and the disks, are managed by one all-powerful program called the kernel. Everything else on the system is a process.

Thus, before you log in, your terminal is monitored by a getty process. After you log in, the getty process dies (a new one is started by the kernel when you log out) and your terminal is managed by your shell, which is a different process. The shell then creates a new process each time you enter a command. The creation of a new process is called forking because one process splits into two.

If you are using the X Window System , each process starts up one or more windows. Thus, the window in which you are typing commands is owned by an xterm process or a reloaded terminal program. That process forks a shell to run within the window. And that shell forks yet more processes as you enter commands.

To see the processes you are running, ...

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