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A daemon is a name given to long-running background processes which run on UNIX based operating systems. A daemon varies from regular processes in that it does not come in the direct control of an interactive user. Initially coined by the team working on Project MAC at MIT, they named this after Maxwell’s demon. It was a though experiment in thermodynamics which considered a demon that sorted molecules in the background. The term daemon though, comes from a semi-divine creature in Greek mythology. The purpose for the creation of daemons was to constantly work in the background to perform certain crucial system tasks.

The names of daemon processes end with the letter d, to differentiate them from other processes. Daemons usually have their parent process as the init process. This is the first process which is run when the system is booted. The init process adopts any child process if its parent process is terminated suddenly without waiting for the status of the child. This is usually how daemons are launched, by forking (dividing) processes the parent process is terminated while the child continues its functions. They can also be launched with init scripts which will cause them to load when the system is booting.

Daemons can be used to perform a variety of tasks such as handling connection requests within a network, perform scheduled tasks at a particular time, and handle file transfer applications. It is not necessary that other systems know that a daemon is listening, but invariably they are designed to invoke a running daemon.

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