Comp111 Assignment 2: ants and aardvarks


One of the most famous problems in concurrency is that of the "Dining Philosophers", who must share knives and forks in a concurrent manner. But this has been studied too much in the literature, so instead, we will study the "Dining Aardvarks".

There are 11 aardvarks and 3 anthills. There are 100 ants in each anthill. Only 3 aardvarks can share one anthill at a time. It takes one second of real time for an aardvark to slurp up an ant, and another second for the aardvark to swallow it, during which time it is not using the anthill and another aardvark can start slurping. However, should an aardvark attempt to slurp an ant from an anthill where 3 aardvarks are already slurping, or make any other kind of mistake, including attempting to slurp from an already empty anthill or an anthill that doesn't exist, it will be 4 seconds before the aardvark is available to slurp again. The simulator calls that 'sulking'.


Your objective is to manage the aardvarks so that all of the ants are consumed in a minimal amount of real time. Each aardvark is a thread in a multi-threaded program. You are given a simulator for the anthills that invokes the aardvarks and measures the resulting behavior.

You must write one thread

extern void *aardvark(void *); 
that is invoked 11 times. This thread should simulate the behavior of one aardvark so that 11 instances of this thread solve the problem.

When invoked, the thread has one argument passed to it, which is the name of the aardvark that it is simulating. The bare skeleton of a thread is something like:

int initialized=0; 
void *aardvark(void *input) {
    char aname = *(char *)input; // name of aardvark, for debugging purposes
    if (!initialized++) {
	// initialize all variables, mutexes, semaphores here
    while (chow_time()) {  // there is an ant to eat
	// try to slurp an ant!
    return NULL;

Each thread may utilize the following interface, documented in /comp/111/a/a2/anthills.h :

#define TRUE 1
#define FALSE 0 
#define AARDVARKS 11
#define ANTHILLS 3
#define ANTS_PER_HILL 100
extern int slurp(char aname, int anthill); // eat one ant. 
extern int chow_time(); // whether there are ants to eat
extern double elapsed(); // how much time has been spent? 
A starting version of the aardvarks code may be found in /comp/111/a/a2/aardvarks.c.

The Simulator

You will test your aardvarks.c by use of a simulator, currently contained in /comp/111/a/a2/anthills.c and /comp/111/a/a2/anthills.h. You may not modify this simulator (except to test your theories), but may use whatever information you can glean from the source code. During grading, this simulator will be the one that is used. The simulator creates your threads and waits for them to complete. It also provides mechanisms by which your threads must slurp the ants. These mechanisms employ concurrency locks in the manner discussed in class: see the code for details.


Assignment 4 is worth 10 points, including 2 points style and 8 points based upon the actual performance of your program in elapsed time. Note that if your threads do not complete, your score for that part is 0. You must not deadlock!

Getting started

To get started,
mkdir a2
cd a2 
cp /comp/111/a/a2/aardvarks.c .
ln -s /comp/111/a/a2/anthills.o .
gcc -g aardvarks.c anthills.o -lpthread -lrt 
This is a pretty miserable version of the aardvarks that makes grevious errors. Edit aardvarks.c to create your solution, and use the above compilation command.

Using the Simulator

The simulator takes several arguments that control what it prints. The last option can be utilized to visualize the aardvarks.

Visualizing the Aardvarks

There is a simple visualizer for the aardvarks in /comp/111/a/a2/see.R. This is a program in the R language for statistical analysis. To use it, first run your a.out using the csv argument. Then, in the same directory, on any workstation, type:
% ln -s /comp/111/a/a2/see.R .
% R
>  source('see.R')
>  q()
You can also run this on any windows machine, by first transferring output.csv to the machine.

In the visualization, the aardvarks are on Y while wallclock time is on X.


Some initial comments:

Some of my dirty tricks

Some of my dirty tricks:

Submitting completed assignments

Your 11 threads should be in a single c program aardvarks.c. Programs in other languages are unacceptable. Your program must compile with the following compilation command:

gcc -g aardvarks.c /comp/111/a/a2/anthills.o -lpthread -lrt
To submit this program, first ssh to comp111-01 or -02, then type:
provide comp111 a2 aardvarks.c
where aardvarks.c is a file containing all of your program.

Your submission will be graded offline on one of the comp111 machines. To see grading status or comments, type:

progress comp111