Internet Transmission Control
The TCP protocol provides a reliable, flow-controlled, two-way
transmission of data. It is a byte-stream protocol used to support the
SOCK_STREAM abstraction. TCP uses the standard
Internet address format and, in addition, provides a per-host collection of
“port addresses”. Thus, each address is composed of an
Internet address specifying the host and network, with a specific TCP port
on the host identifying the peer entity.
Sockets utilizing the TCP protocol are either “active” or “passive”. Active sockets initiate connections to passive sockets. By default TCP sockets are created active; to create a passive socket the listen(2) system call must be used after binding the socket with the bind(2) system call. Only passive sockets may use the accept(2) call to accept incoming connections. Only active sockets may use the connect(2) call to initiate connections.
Passive sockets may “underspecify” their location to
match incoming connection requests from multiple networks. This technique,
termed “wildcard addressing”, allows a single server to
provide service to clients on multiple networks. To create a socket which
listens on all networks, the Internet address
INADDR_ANY must be bound. The TCP port may still be
specified at this time; if the port is not specified the system will assign
one. Once a connection has been established, the socket's address is fixed
by the peer entity's location. The address assigned to the socket is the
address associated with the network interface through which packets are
being transmitted and received. Normally this address corresponds to the
peer entity's network.
TCP supports several socket options which are set with setsockopt(2) and tested with getsockopt(2).
- Retrieve information about a socket's underlying TCP session.
TCP_INFOis only used with
getsockopt(). The argument is a pointer to an instance of struct tcp_info (from
- 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,
<netinet/tcp.h>), to defeat this algorithm.
- By convention, the TCP sender will set the “push” bit and begin transmission immediately (if permitted) at the end of every user call to write(2) or writev(2). When this option is set to a non-zero value, TCP will delay sending any data at all until either the socket is closed, the internal send buffer is filled, or this option is set to a zero value.
- Set the maximum segment size for this connection. The maximum segment size can only be lowered.
- Use selective acknowledgements for this connection. See options(4).
- Use TCP MD5 signatures per RFC 2385. This requires Security Associations to be set up, which can be done using ipsecctl(8). When a listening socket has TCP_MD5SIG set, it accepts connections with MD5 signatures only from sources for which a Security Association is set up. Connections without MD5 signatures are only accepted from sources for which no Security Association is set up. The connected socket only has TCP_MD5SIG set if the connection is protected with MD5 signatures.
The option level for the setsockopt(2) call is the protocol number for TCP, available from getprotobyname(3).
Options at the IP transport level may be used with TCP; see ip(4) or ip6(4). Incoming connection requests that are source-routed are noted, and the reverse source route is used in responding.
A socket operation may fail with one of the following errors returned:
- when trying to establish a connection on a socket which already has one;
- when the system runs out of memory for an internal data structure;
- when a connection was dropped due to excessive retransmissions;
- when the remote peer forces the connection to be closed;
- when the remote peer actively refuses connection establishment (usually because no process is listening to the port);
- when an attempt is made to create a socket with a port which has already been allocated;
- when an attempt is made to create a socket with a network address for which no network interface exists.
tcpbench(1), getsockopt(2), socket(2), inet(4), inet6(4), ip(4), ip6(4), netintro(4), ipsecctl(8), tcpdrop(8)
tcp protocol stack appeared in