9 Nov 2006 slamb   » (Journeyer)

robogato

I was one who pushed phpgurru over the spam threshold. It's a shame his last diary post was lost, because that's what convinced me he was a spammer. He said something about knowing a guy who will provide you content for your website so you get more AdWords money or something, and linked to the guy's spammy website.

ncm, C++ thread cancellation

That's interesting! But I bet against you - they'll fail. I'd say pthread cancellation has six problems that Java's interrupt() does not:

  1. widely inconsistent, broken implementations [1]
  2. it's a C standard that proposes a C++ way (exception stacks) rather than a C way (ECANCELED)
  3. inability to pass through language boundaries, like through the Python interpreter
  4. not reversible [2], making it worthless for canceling a single task in a long-running worker thread
  5. allows what I describe in the sigsafe documentation as the "after race" [3] . The standard says: [4]
    ... if the thread is suspended at a cancellation point and the event for which it is waiting occurs before the cancellation request is acted upon, it is unspecified whether the cancellation request is acted upon or whether the cancellation request remains pending and the thread resumes normal execution.
  6. (for the people who implemented it via a C++ exception) crashes if cancellation happens in a destructor while an exception is being handled. (close(2) is a cancellation point, so this is likely! The solution I've seen is for the user to always disable cancellation before calling it in this case, but they won't. It'll just crash.)

The C++ people will probably avoid #2, #3, and #4; and introduce #7:

  1. no standard way of signaling cancellation to underlying C code that makes blocking system calls

Given that most everyone using C++ wraps some third-party C library or makes some direct system call, I think #7 is particularly important. C++ just can't pull it off without C. The pthread situation needs to be fixed first. #2 just can't be, short of them admitting they screwed up, ditching it, apologizing to everyone who tried to use it, and going with ECANCELED. I'd be just a tiny bit surprised to see a standards body do such a thing...

I think the screwed-up pthread cancellation is a consequence of premature standardization. After working with DSL Forum (worst standards body ever), I'm quite familiar with the problem. They stamped approval on a cool new thing before there were three useful, compatible implementations, so the problems weren't discovered until it was too late to change them.

So what hope is there for people who want to use cancellation? Well, you can easily build it on top of sigsafe. Unfortunately, sigsafe's only practical for people who make direct system calls (e.g., people who write servers instead of gtk-based GUI clients), and you either need to (1) port it to each platform you will use (takes me a few hours for each) or (2) have a "correct" path and a "racey but portable" path.

I think portability is overrated - everyone should use new versions of Linux, FreeBSD, or (maybe) OS X. Trying to port to old versions or to a million different systems is a colossal waste of time. [5] But my view is unpopular; thus the lack of major applications using sigsafe.

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