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Manual page for TCP(4P)

tcp - Internet Transmission Control Protocol


#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>

s = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0);


TCP is the virtual circuit protocol of the Internet protocol family. It provides reliable, flow-controlled, in order, two-way transmission of data. It is a byte-stream protocol used to support the SOCK_STREAM abstraction. TCP is layered above the Internet Protocol (IP), the Internet protocol family's unreliable internetwork datagram delivery protocol.

TCP uses IP's host-level addressing and adds its own per-host collection of ``port addresses''. The endpoints of a TCP connection are identified by the combination of an IP address and a TCP port number. Although other protocols, such as the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), may use the same host and port address format, the port space of these protocols is distinct. See inet.4f for details on the common aspects of addressing in the Internet protocol family.

Sockets utilizing TCP are either ``active'' or ``passive''. Active sockets initiate connections to passive sockets. Both types of sockets must have their local IP address and TCP port number bound with the bind.2 system call after the socket is created. By default, TCP sockets are active. A passive socket is created by calling the listen.2 system call after binding the socket with bind . This establishes a queueing parameter for the passive socket. After this, connections to the passive socket can be received with the accept.2 system call. Active sockets use the connect.2 call after binding to initiate connections.

By using the special value INADDR_ANY, the local IP address can be left unspecified in the bind call by either active or passive TCP sockets. This feature is usually used if the local address is either unknown or irrelevant. If left unspecified, the local IP address will be bound at connection time to the address of the network interface used to service the connection.

Once a connection has been established, data can be exchanged using the read.2v and write.2v system calls.

TCP supports one socket option which is set with setsockopt and tested with getsockopt.2 Under most circumstances, TCP sends data when it is presented. When outstanding data has not yet been acknowledged, it gathers small amounts of output to be sent in a single packet once an acknowledgement is received. For a small number of clients, such as window systems that send a stream of mouse events which receive no replies, this packetization may cause significant delays. Therefore, TCP provides a boolean option, TCP_NODELAY (defined in <netinet/tcp.h>), to defeat this algorithm. The option level for the setsockopt call is the protocol number for TCP, available from getprotobyname (see getprotoent.3n

Options at the IP level may be used with TCP; see ip.4p

TCP provides an urgent data mechanism, which may be invoked using the out-of-band provisions of send.2 The caller may mark one byte as ``urgent'' with the MSG_OOB flag to send.2 This causes an ``urgent pointer'' pointing to this byte to be set in the TCP stream. The receiver on the other side of the stream is notified of the urgent data by a SIGURG signal. The SIOCATMARK ioctl returns a value indicating whether the stream is at the urgent mark. Because the system never returns data across the urgent mark in a single read.2v call, it is possible to advance to the urgent data in a simple loop which reads data, testing the socket with the SIOCATMARK ioctl, until it reaches the mark.

Incoming connection requests that include an IP source route option are noted, and the reverse source route is used in responding.

TCP assumes the datagram service it is layered above is unreliable. A checksum over all data helps TCP implement reliability. Using a window-based flow control mechanism that makes use of positive acknowledgements, sequence numbers, and a retransmission strategy, TCP can usually recover when datagrams are damaged, delayed, duplicated or delivered out of order by the underlying communication medium.

If the local TCP receives no acknowledgements from its peer for a period of time, as would be the case if the remote machine crashed, the connection is closed and an error is returned to the user. If the remote machine reboots or otherwise loses state information about a TCP connection, the connection is aborted and an error is returned to the user.


A socket operation may fail if:
A connect operation was attempted on a socket on which a connect operation had already been performed.
A connection was dropped due to excessive retransmissions.
The remote peer forced the connection to be closed (usually because the remote machine has lost state information about the connection due to a crash).
The remote peer actively refused connection establishment (usually because no process is listening to the port).
A bind operation was attempted on a socket with a network address/port pair that has already been bound to another socket.
A bind operation was attempted on a socket with a network address for which no network interface exists.
A bind operation was attempted with a ``reserved'' port number and the effective user ID of the process was not super-user.
The system ran out of memory for internal data structures.


accept.2 bind.2 connect.2 getsockopt.2 listen.2 read.2v send.2 write.2v getprotoent.3n inet.4f ip.4p

Postel, Jon, Transmission Control Protocol - DARPA Internet Program Protocol Specification, RFC 793, Network Information Center, SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., September 1981.


SIOCSHIWAT and SIOCGHIWAT ioctl's to set and get the high water mark for the socket queue, and so that it can be changed from 2048 bytes to be larger or smaller, have been defined (in <sys/ioctl.h>) but not implemented.

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Created by unroff & hp-tools. © by Hans-Peter Bischof. All Rights Reserved (1997).

Last modified 21/April/97