Assignment: C Structs and Pointers

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane, or A Stunning Reversal

This assignment is intended to develop the student's proficiency for programming in C. This assignment is part of the Student Built Xinu track for professors that are Teaching With Xinu. This assignment may be completed in teams of two.


  • Write a C program that reads in an arbitrarily long sequence of positive integers and outputs that same sequence in reverse order.
  • Your program should understand positive integers in binary (starting with "0b"), octal, decimal, and hexadecimal, but all output will be in decimal (base 10). This should reuse code from your calculator project.
  • Your program should ignore any amount of white space between integers, including tabs, spaces, newlines, etc. See the isspace() function in your text or in the man pages for details. However, your output should consist entirely of base 10 representation integers in a line by themselves.
  • To store an arbitrary list of integers, your program will need to request more memory from the operating system when the space it already has runs out. This kind of dynamic allocation is performed using the malloc() function, as detailed in your text and in the man pages. You may assume that we will test your program with at least 100,000,000 integers. Your program should exit gracefully if a malloc() request is denied.
  • Billionrandom is a random number generator that takes a single command-line parameter for the number of integers desired, and then outputs a predictable sequence of pseudorandom number generator using a linear congruential generator and rotating through the various bases. This program can be used to generate test inputs of varying sizes.


  • There are a variety of approaches for storing an arbitrarily long list of integers. The approach I recommend is building a linked list of structures that store a reasonable number of integers. So, for example, you could define a struct that contains an array of a few thousand integers. Every time you fill up that structure, request another one and string it into a linked list with all of the previous blocks. This is an excellent balance in efficiency -- if your block size were too small (one integer per malloc() in the most absurd case,) your program would spend all of its time asking the O/S to allocate more memory. If the block size were too large, (say, a Gigabyte,) your program would needlessly waste resources when the input was only a small list, and might not even be able to allocate a single chunk that large.
  • This project is inherently dangerous; please exercise both great care and ethical consideration during this assignment. For large numbers of integers, this program is essentially a stress test for the operating system's virtual memory subsystem. On a late model 3 GHz Pentium IV running the program with a test list of 1,000,000,000 runs for over 15 minutes; practically locking up all user interfaces for the last 10 minutes of that. The reference implementation, in combination with the test generator, can bring pretty much any server to its knees in a matter of minutes. As a result, the following are particularly important:
    • list of DO NOTs for this project:
      • DO NOT run your program with a large test size on any other large server relied upon by multiple users.
      • DO NOT pipe the output of billionrandom or your program to a text file for list sizes over a few million. If you do the math, you'll see that this could quickly fill up a lot of the space and clog up the network with file server traffic.
      • DO NOT run large test cases when it is apparent that a bunch of other people are trying to do their work on the same machine. See the top and w UNIX commands for more info.
    • list of DOs for this project:
      • DO check your dynamic allocation code by adjusting your block size downward to insure that even small numbers of integers will require multiple malloc() requests.
      • DO check your malloc() error handling by adjusting your block size upward until your first request fails.
      • DO run your program with large test input (more than a few million) only once you are relatively certain it is working properly -- so that you only have to do it once.
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