Systems Programming and Machine Organization
Assignment 6: Adversarial Network Pong
This assignment will teach you some useful and common strategies for handling problems common in networking, including loss, delay, and low utilization. It will also teach you programming using threads. The setting is a game called network pong.
- Assigned Sun 11/23
- Due Wed 12/10 at 11:59pm for college students (1 day later for extension). This is a classwide extension into reading period; you should be able to complete the problem set by the end of classes.
- This assignment may be completed in pairs.
- This assignment has a short written component as well as a coding component. See
Phase 0: Easy
Merge our Assignment 6 code into your repository with
git pull handout master. This will merge our Assignment 6 code with your previous work. If you have any “conflicts” from Assignment 5, resolve them before continuing further. Run
git push to save your work back to code.seas.
Please use an explicit merge to create your repository. If you copy code by hand, our automated scripts will have trouble analyzing your code, and it’ll be harder for you to incorporate our updates.
You may also create a new
cs61-psets repository for this assignment. Tell us if you do.
Once you have merged, edit the
pset6/serverinfo.h file so that
PONG_USER is defined to a unique string that only your team knows.
Note. We currently do not plan to implement authentication on the pong server. This means that, if you learn another team’s string, you can mess with their heads. Please do not abuse this system. Aggressive abuse will be reported to The Authorities.
make, and then run the
It will print out a URL. Visit that URL in your browser. You should see
something like this:
pong61 program draws a bouncing ball in a rectangular
pong61 works by making HTTP RPC requests to a Web
server we run. HTTP is the application protocol on which the Web is
built. Read more about HTTP before you continue.
When it starts up,
pong61 makes a single request to a URL
This tells the server to reset the pong board’s state. The server returns a simple response like this:
These two numbers are the board’s width and height, respectively. It also communicates with your browser to tell it to clear the board.
pong61 makes many requests to URLs like this:
This request causes a new ball to appear at position
YPOS). The server responds with a numeric
code and explanation. If everything goes well, it says:
If there’s a problem, the numeric code is negative, as in:
-1 x and y parameters must be numbers
After each request,
pong61 waits 0.1 seconds before making the next
Our handout code runs each HTTP request in its own thread, using the pthreads library. The main thread uses synchronization objects—mutexes and condition variables—to wait for each thread to complete before going on to the next. This works just fine on Phase 0. To do the problem set, you must change the code so it works on the other phases too. Use the web page's phase buttons to change phases.
Phase 1: Loss
In Phase 1, the server starts to lose messages. It will occasionally go offline for a short period. During that time, every
move request is rejected by closing down the connection. The
http_receive_response_headers function sets
-1 when this happens, but the pong thread ignores this problem and continues as if everything was fine. That position in the pong trail never gets filled in. Our server shows this mistake by drawing black marks in the spaces.
Your job in this phase is to detect lost messages and retry. When the server drops a connection, your code should close that connection (to free its resources) and make a new connection attempt at the same position. It shouldn’t move to the next position until the server responds for the current position.
However, you must be careful not to bombard the server while it is offline. The server will notice this and explode. Instead, you must implement a form of exponential backoff. This is a simple, powerful concept.
- The first time a connection attempt fails, wait for K seconds before trying again. K must be at least 0.01 sec.
- If the retry also fails, wait 2K seconds before trying again.
- If that retry also fails, wait 4K seconds before trying again.
- In general, after N failed retries, wait 2NK seconds before trying again. (You may want to introduce a maximum backoff; perhaps you would wait min(2NK, 128) seconds before trying again.)
Exponential backoff is awesome because it responds to short outages quickly, but imposes only logarithmic overhead (i.e., the number of messages sent during the outage is logarithmic in the length of the outage). It’s ubiquitous: Ethernet is built on it, and the next time your Gmail goes offline, check out the numbers that appear after “Not connected. Trying again in...”.
Phase 2: Delay
In Phase 2, the server delays its responses. It will send you the full header for its response, but delay the body. Since in the handout code the pong loop waits for one request to complete before sending the next, the pong ball will move extremely slowly in Phase 2. Too slowly, in fact: the server enforces a minimum ball speed, and when your code is slower than that speed, you’ll see some black marks on the display.
You might think solving this problem would be easy: just close the connection after some timeout. But the server is too clever for this. If you close a connection prematurely—before the entire response is sent—the server explodes.
To support delay, your
pong61 must handle multiple concurrent connections to the server. Now, the main thread should sometimes spawn a new thread before the previous thread exited!
But watch out. If you hold too many connections open in parallel, the server will explode.
Your Phase 2 code must also work in Phase 1. (A naive implementation of Phase 2 might skip ahead during the loss period.) We suggest you make Phase 2 work first on its own, then go back and make Phase 1 work again.
Phase 3: Utilization
So far, your
pong61 client opens a new network connection for every ball. This is wasteful and slow and in Phase 3 the server will not allow it. You should instead reuse valid HTTP connections for new ball positions.
http_connection object is available for reuse if and only if
conn->state == HTTP_DONE. This means that the server sent a complete response and is waiting for another request.
Reusing connections would be really easy—except that in Phase 3 the server also drops some connections (as in Phase 1) and delays some connections (as in Phase 2). Your
pong61 client must handle it all, and you must use synchronization primitives correctly.
The key function you’ll need to add is a connection table of available connections. This can be a linked list, an array, or whatever you’d like. When a connection reaches state
HTTP_DONE, add it to the table. When you need to call a new RPC, check the table first, and use that connection if one exists. Make sure that you protect your connection table from concurrent access! There should be no race conditions.
Phase 4: Congestion
In Phase 4, the server sometimes behaves as if it is congested. A congested server responds to a request not with
0 OK, but with a positive number, such as this:
This means that the server is overloaded.
pong61 is not allowed to send any more requests for (in this case) 1948 milliseconds. This should give the server enough time to cool down. The display will show a stop sign during the cool-down period, and if
pong61 ignores the stop request and sends a message anyway, the server will explode. But after the cool-down period, the client should go right back to sending requests.
Phases 1 through 3 are still active in Phase 4. Phase 4 may catch some race conditions in your code from Phase 3.
Phase 5: Evil
Phase 5 is a mystery, but not a very tough one. Run your code on Phase 5 and you’ll figure out the problem soon enough.
For full credit, your code must not suffer from race conditions. You’ll need to think this through carefully, as race conditions may not show up during normal testing. In your README.txt, write a short paragraph explaining your strategy for avoiding race conditions.
If you have extra time, implement something fun. For example, two teams could get together and implement Space Invaders (one team programming the monsters, and one team programming the spaceship)! Here are some RPCs the server implements that might be useful.
- Your fun mode should run when
pong61is given the
main, this is indicated by
nocheck == 1). This flag turns off the server’s checking facilities. Without the
-nflag, your client should run in normal mode.
- You can query the state of a cell with a
- You can set a cell to a new state for a given duration with a
move?x=XPOS&y=YPOS&style=STYLE&duration=MILLISECONDSRPC. This only works in
nocheckmode. You can also append
&fade=MILLISECONDSto the RPC to control how quickly the cell fades out (the fadeout defaults to 4 seconds).
- You can set
STYLEto a number of interesting possibilities. See if you can figure out what they are!
You will turn in your code by pushing your git repository to code.seas.harvard.edu. Inform us ASAP if you have changed partner or repository from pset 5.
Remember to fill out
README.txt, including the Race Conditions section.
- On the other hand, if two teams actually wanted to mess with one another’s heads....
This pset was created for CS61.