Just Software Solutions

Blog Archive for / cplusplus /

Last day for comments on the C++0x FCD

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The BSI deadline for comments on the C++0x FCD is tomorrow, Friday 18th June 2010. The ISO deadline is 26th July 2010, but we have to write up comments for submission in the form required for ISO, which takes time.

If you have a comment on the FCD, please see my earlier blog post for how to submit it to BSI. Help us make the C++0x standard as good as it can be.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

March 2010 C++ Standards Committee Mailing

Thursday, 08 April 2010

The March 2010 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published last week. This is the post-meeting mailing for the March 2010 committee meeting, and contains the C++0x Final Committee Draft, which I blogged about last week.

There are 6 concurrency-related papers (of which my name is on two), which I summarize below:

Concurrency-related papers

N3057: Explicit Initializers for Atomics

This paper proposes new initializers for atomic variables, providing a means of writing code which can be compiled as either C or C++. e.g.

void foo()
{
    atomic_int a=ATOMIC_VAR_INIT(42); // initialize a with 42
    atomic_uint b;                    // uninitialized
    atomic_init(&b,123);          // b now initialized to 123
}
N3058: Futures and Async Cleanup (Rev.)

This is a revision of N3041 to resolve many of the outstanding issues with futures and async. Mostly it's just wordsmithing to tidy up the specification, but there's a few key changes:

  • Defined behaviour for the wait_for() and wait_until() member functions of std::future, std::shared_future and std::atomic_future when used with std::async and a launch policy of std::launch::sync. The return value is now a value of the new std::future_status enumeration, and can be std::future_status::ready if the future becomes ready before the timeout, std::future_status::timeout if the wait times out, or std::future_status::deferred if the future comes from a call to std::async with a launch policy of std::launch::sync and the function associated with the future hasn't yet started execution on any thread.
  • The wording for std::async adopts the same wording as std::thread to clarify the copy/move and perfect forwarding semantics of the call.
N3069: Various threads issues in the library (LWG 1151)

This is a revision of N3040, and highlights which operations through iterators constitute accesses and data races, and explicitly allows for synchronization by writing and reading to/from a stream.

N3070: Handling Detached Threads and thread_local Variables

This is a hugely simplified replacement for my previous paper N3038. Rather than creating contexts for thread_local variables, this paper proposes new member functions for std::promise and std::packaged_task to allow the value to be set at the point of call, but threads waiting on associated futures to be woken only after thread_local variables have been destroyed at thread exit. This means that you can now safely wait on a future which is set in such a fashion when waiting for a task running on a background thread to complete, without having to join with the thread or worry about races arising from the destructors of thread_local variables. The paper also adds a similar mechanism for condition variables as a non-member function.

N3071: Renaming launch::any and what asyncs really might be (Rev.)

This is a revision of N3042 proposing renaming std::launch::any to std::launch::sync_or_async. This paper was not approved.

N3074: Updates to C++ Memory Model Based on Formalization

This is a revision of N3045. This paper proposes some changes to the wording of the memory model in order to ensure that it means what we intended it to mean.

Other Papers

There's several non-concurrency papers in the mailing as well as the standard set (working draft, agenda, issues lists, etc.). The most significant of these in my view are the following 3 papers. Check the mailing for the full set.

N3050: Allowing Move Constructors to Throw (Rev. 1)

This paper adds the new noexcept keyword to C++. This is used in place of an exception specification. On its own it means that the function does not throw any exceptions, but it can also be used with a boolean constant expression where true means that the function doesn't throw, and false means that it might. e.g.

void foo() noexcept;        // will not throw
void bar() noexcept(true);  // will not throw
void baz() noexcept(false); // may throw

If a noexcept exception specification is violated then std::terminate() is called.

The primary benefit from the boolean-constant-expression version is in templates, where the boolean expression can check various properties of the template parameter types. One of the things you can check is whether or not particular operations throw, e.g. by using the new has_nothrow_move_constructor type trait to declare the move constructor for a class to be noexcept if its class members have non-throwing move constructors:

template<typename T>
class X
{
    T data;
public:
    X(X&& other)
        noexcept(std::has_nothrow_move_constructor<T>::value):
        data(std::move(other.data))
    {}
};
N3053: Defining Move Special Member Functions

This proposal ensures that user-defined classes have move constructors and move assignment operators generated for them by the compiler if that is safe. Explicitly declaring a copy or move constructor will prevent the implicit declaration of the other, and likewise for copy and move assignment. You can always request the default definition using the = default syntax.

This means that lots of user code will now be able to readily take advantage of move semantics with a simple code change or even just a recompile. This can potentially be of major performance benefit.

N3055: A Taxonomy of Expression Value Categories

This paper nails down the true distinctions between lvalues, rvalues and rvalue references. It provides a new set of names to identify the distinct categories of values in C++ — lvalues and rvalues we already have, but now there's xvalues, prvalues and glvalues too. This categorization allows for better specification of when things can bind to lvalue references or rvalue references, when the compiler can eliminate copies or moves.

Please comment on the FCD

The purpose of the C++0x Final Committee Draft is to get comments prior to publication to ensure the final C++0x standard is as defect free as possible. This opportunity is only available for a limited time, so please comment on the FCD.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

C++0x Final Committee Draft Published - Please Comment

Friday, 02 April 2010

Earlier this week, the Final Committee Draft (FCD) of the C++0x standard was published. This means that C++0x is now in the final stages of bug fixing and wordsmithing before publication. If all goes to plan, the draft will move to Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) early in 2011, and will be a new standard by the end of 2011.

The publication of the FCD means that the draft standard has now been officially put up for review by the national standards bodies of ISO's member countries. The British Standards Institution is one of several national bodies that is actively involved in the standardisation of the C++ language. The panel members of the C++ Committee of the BSI, IST 5/-/21, are currently compiling a list of comments on the FCD. We intend to submit these as the BSI's National Body comments, aimed at getting issues with the FCD addressed before it becomes the new international standard for C++.

We're welcoming additional comments, and would like to provide a channel for anyone who may be interested in the C++0x Standard, but not able to be fully involved in the standards process, to submit comments. Note that not all comments — regardless of whether they are submitted by panel members or non-members — will go forward.

Here is some guidance on what we are looking for:

  • Suggestions for how to improve the clarity of the wording, even if that's just by adding a cross-reference to a relevant paragraph elsewhere;
  • Comments that identify any under/over specification; and
  • Comments highlighting inconsistencies or contradictions in the draft text.

Comments should be specific and preferably should include suggested updated wording (and if you need help formulating updated wording we can provide it, within reason) — the C++ standards committee is working to a very tight schedule in order to get C++0x out as soon as possible, and comments without wording (which therefore require more work from the committee) are more likely to be rejected.

The time for adding/removing features has now passed, so comments should focus on improving the draft as it stands rather than suggesting new features.

Owing to the time scale for submission to BSI and ISO, comments need to be submitted by Friday 18th June 2010.

If you have any comments, feel free to post them in the comment section of this blog entry, or email them to me. I will forward all appropriate suggestions to the rest of the BSI panel (whether or not I agree with them).

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

February 2010 C++ Standards Committee Mailing

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The February 2010 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published last week. This is the pre-meeting mailing for the March 2010 committee meeting and contains a new working draft.

There are 5 concurrency-related papers (of which my name is on one), which I summarize below:

Concurrency-related papers

N3038: Managing the lifetime of thread_local variables with contexts (Revision 2)

This is my paper on creating contexts for thread_local variables. The use of such contexts allows you to control when variables that are declared as thread_local are destroyed. It is a revision of my previous paper N2959; the primary change is that contexts can now be nested, which allows library code to use them without having to know whether or not a context is currently active.

N3040: Various threads issues in the library (LWG 1151)

This paper by Hans Boehm seeks to address LWG issue 1151. The key issue is to ensure that it is clear which operations may constitute a data race if they run concurrently without synchronization.

N3041: Futures and Async Cleanup

The adoption of multiple papers affecting futures and std::async at the same C++ committee meeting meant that the wording ended up being unclear. Detlef Vollmann kindly volunteered to write a paper to resolve these issues, and this is it.

Unfortunately, I think that some of the wording is still unclear. I also dislike Detlef's proposal to force the wait_for and wait_until member functions of the future types to throw exceptions if the future was created from a call to std::async with a launch policy of std::launch::sync. My preferred alternative is to change the return type from bool to an enumeration with distinct values for if the future is ready, if the wait timed out, or if the future holds a deferred function from std::launch::sync that has not yet started. This would be similar to the current behaviour of std::condition_variable::wait_for and std::condition_variable::wait_until, which return a std::cv_status enumeration value.

N3042: Renaming launch::any and what asyncs really might be

This is another paper from Detlef Vollmann proposing renaming std::launch::any to std::launch::any_sync. His rationale is that future revisions of the C++ standard may wish to add values to the std::launch enumeration for additional types of async calls that should not be covered by std::launch::any. Personally, I think this is a non-issue, and should be covered as and when such values are added.

N3045: Updates to C++ Memory Model Based on Formalization

Following attempts to create a mathematical formalization of the memory model it became clear that some cases were unclear or ambiguous or did not guarantee the desired semantics. This paper proposes some changes to the wording of the memory model in order to ensure that it means what we intended it to mean.

Other Papers

There's several non-concurrency papers in the mailing as well as the standard set (working draft, agenda, issues lists, etc.). The most significant of these in my view is N3044 which proposes compiler-defined move constructors and assignment operators. Check the mailing for the full set.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

The difference between struct and class in C++

Sunday, 21 February 2010

I've seen a lot of people asking about the differences between the use of the struct and class keywords in C++ lately. I don't know whether there's an influx of C++ programmers due to the upcoming C++0x standard, or whether I've just noticed people asking questions that haven't caught my eye before. Whatever the reason, I'm writing this blog entry as something I can point to the next time someone asks the question.

Declaring and defining user-defined types

The primary use of both the struct and class keywords is to define a user-defined type. In C++, such a user-defined type is termed a "class" regardless of which keyword is used in the definition. The choice of keyword is in one sense arbitrary, since the same features and facilities are available whichever keyword is used — there is only one semantic difference which we shall look at shortly. The following two class definitions are thus equivalent in all respects apart from the names of the classes:

struct type_a
{
private:
    int data;
public:
    type_a(int data_):
        data(data_)
    {}
    virtual void foo()=0;
    virtual ~type_a()
    {}
};

class type_b
{
private:
    int data;
public:
    type_b(int data_):
        data(data_)
    {}
    virtual void foo()=0;
    virtual ~type_b()
    {}
};

As this little example shows, you can have constructors, destructors, member functions, private members and even virtual member functions in a class declared with the struct keyword, just as you can with a class declared using the class keyword. Though this example doesn't show it, you can also use the struct keyword to declare classes with base classes.

You can even forward-declare your class using one keyword and then define it with the other, though compilers have been known to complain about this usage:

struct foo;
class foo {};

class bar;
struct bar {};

So, what of the minor semantic difference then? The change is in the default access specifier for members and base classes. Though classes defined using either keyword can have public, private and protected base classes and members, the default choice for classes defined using class is private, whilst for those defined using struct the default is public. This is primarily for backwards compatibility with C: the members of a C structure can be freely accessed by all code so in order to allow existing C code to compile unchanged as C++ the default access specifier for members of a class declared with struct must be public. On the other hand, private data is a key aspect of the encapsulation aspect of object-oriented design, so this is the default for those classes declare with class.

C doesn't have inheritance, but the default access specifier for base classes varies with the keyword used to declare the derived class too. It is public for classes declared with struct and private for those declared with class just the same as for data members. You can still override it with an explicit specifier in both cases.

Let's take a quick look at some examples to see how that works:

struct s1
{
    int a; // public
private:
    int b; // private
protected:
    int c; // protected
public:
    int d; // public again
};

class c1
{
    int a; // private
private:
    int b; // still private
protected:
    int c; // protected
public:
    int d; // public
};

struct s2:
    s1, // public
    private c1, // private
    type_b, // public again
    protected foo, // protected
    public bar // public again
{};

class c2:
    s1, // private
    private c1, // still private
    type_b, // private again
    protected foo, // protected
    public bar // public
{};

As far as declaring and defining user-defined types in C++, that is the only difference; in all other respects, classes declared with struct are identical to those declared with class.

C Compatibility

We touched on this a bit earlier: classes declared with the struct keyword can be compiled as C if they don't use any features that are C++ specific. Thus the following is both a valid C++ class and a valid C structure:

struct c_compatible
{
    int i;
    char c;
    double d;
};

It is therefore common to see struct used in header files that are shared between C and C++. Since non-virtual member functions don't affect the class layout you can even have member functions in such a type, provided they are hidden from the C compiler with a suitable #ifdef:

struct baz
{
    int i;

#ifdef __cplusplus
    void foo();
#endif;
};

Templates

There is one place where you can use the class keyword but not the struct one, and that is in the declaration of a template. Template type parameters must be declared using either the class or typename keyword; struct is not allowed. The choice of class or typename in this case is again arbitrary — the semantics are identical. The choice of keyword does not impose any semantic meaning, any type (whether a built in type like int or a user-defined type like a class or enumeration) can be used when instantiating the template in either case.You can of course declare a class template with the struct keyword, in which case the default access for the members of the template is public.

template<class T> // OK
void f1(T t);

template<typename T> // OK
void f2(T t);

template<struct T> // ERROR, struct not allowed here
void f3(T t);

template<class T>
struct S
{
    T x; // public member
};

That's all folks!

These are the only concrete distinctions between the uses of the struct keyword and the class keyword in C++. People also use them for documentation purposes, reserving struct for C-compatible classes, or classes with no member functions, or classes with no private data, or whatever their coding standard says. However, this is just documentation and convention rather than an inherent difference: you could use struct for all your classes, or class for all your classes except those that are shared with C.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

November 2009 C++ Standards Committee Mailing

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The November 2009 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published last week. This is the post-meeting mailing for the October committee meeting and contains a new working draft incorporating all the proposals accepted at the October meeting.

As those of you who read Herb Sutter's blog or Michael Wong's blog will already know, the big news for concurrency is that a proposal for std::async has been accepted, and this is reflected in the latest working draft.

There are 5 concurrency-related papers (of which my name is on one), which I summarize below:

Concurrency-related papers

N2985: C and C++ Thread Compatibility

Lawrence Crowl has been through the concurrency and multithreading support from the C++ working draft, and compared this to that now being added to the C working draft for the next C standard. This paper contains his observations and recommendations about the potential for compatibility between the types and functions provided by the two draft standards. I agree with some of his recommendations, and disagree with others. No action will be taken by the C++ committee unless his recommendations become full proposals.

N2992: More Collected Issues with Atomics

This is Lawrence Crowl's paper which rounds up various issues with the C++ atomics. It was accepted by the committee, and has been incorporated into the working draft. The most noticeable change is that the atomic types and functions now live in the <atomic> header. The macro for identifying lock-free atomics has been expanded into a set of macros, one per type, and a guarantee has been added that all instances of a type are lock-free, or all are not lock-free (rather than it being allowed to vary between objects). There is also a clarification that if you use compare-exchange operations on a type with padding bits then the padding bits will be part of the comparison (which will therefore affect atomic<float> or similar), plus a few other clarifications.

N2996: A Simple Asynchronous Call

This paper is by Herb Sutter and Lawrence Crowl, and brings together their papers from the pre-meeting mailing (N2970 and N2973) based on feedback from the committee. This is the std::async proposal that got accepted, and which has been incorporated into the working draft.

The result is that we have a variadic async function with an optional launch policy as the first argument, which specifies whether the function is to be spawned on a separate thread, deferred until get() or wait() is called on the returned future, or either, at the choice of the implementation.

N2997: Issues on Futures (Rev. 1)

This is a revision of N2967 from the pre-meeting mailing, which incorporates feedback from the committee. This is the version that was accepted, and which has been incorporated into the working draft. The key change is that unique_future has been renamed to just future in order to make things easier to read in what is anticipated to be the common case.

N2999: Background for issue 887: Clocks and Condition Variables (Rev. 1)

This is a minor revision of Detlef's paper from the pre-meeting mailing (N2969). The changes it proposes have not yet been accepted into the working paper, and will make it implementation-dependent which clocks can be used for condition variable waits.

Other concurrency changes in the working draft

  • std::mutex now has a constexpr constructor, so namespace-scope objects are guaranteed to be safe from initialization order issues.
  • The return type of the wait_for and wait_until member functions of std::condition_variable and std::condition_variable_any has been changed from a bool to a cv_status enum. This makes it clear whether the return is due to a signal (or spurious wake) or because the operation timed out.

Updated implementation

Our just::thread implementation of the C++0x thread library will shortly be updated to incorporate all these changes (including an implementation of std::async). Existing customers will get a free upgrade as usual.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

September 2009 C++ Standards Committee Mailing

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The September 2009 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published today. This is the pre-meeting mailing for the October committee meeting and contains the first new working draft since the "Concepts" feature was voted out of C++0x in July.

There is also quite a large number of papers in this mailing, including 7 concurrency-related papers (of which my name is on 2), which I summarize below:

Concurrency-related papers

N2955: Comments on the C++ Memory Model Following a Partial Formalization Attempt

Mark has been working on a formal model for parts of the C++ memory model, and has identified a few cases where the wording could be improved to clarify things.

N2959: Managing the lifetime of thread_local variables with contexts (Revision 1)

This is a revision of my earlier paper, N2907 which expands my proposal for a thread_local_context class, along with full proposed wording. I think this provides a workable solution to the general problem of ensuring that destructors for thread_local variables are run at particular points in the execution of a program as discussed in N2880.

N2967: Issues on Futures

This paper that I co-authored with Detlef Vollmann provides a complete rewording for the "Futures" section of the standard (30.6). It folds the proposed changes from N2888 in with changes requested by the LWG at July's meeting (including the addition of a new future type — atomic_future which serializes all operations), and editorial comments on the earlier wording. It doesn't resolve everything — there is still some discussion over whether unique_future::get() should return a value or a reference, for example — but it provides a sound basis for further discussion.

N2969: Background for issue 887: Clocks and Condition Variables

Detlef argues the case that std::condition_variable::wait_for and std::condition_variable::wait_until may wake "too late" if the user adjusts the system clock during a wait, and suggests simplifying the overload set to match the minimum requirements of POSIX. LWG has already decided that this is Not A Defect (NAD), and I agree — there are no guarantees about how soon after the specified timeout the wait will return, and this is thus entirely a quality of implementation issue.

N2970: A simple async() (revision 1)

This is a revision to Herb Sutter's take on a std::async function. There is a lot of discussion around the various issues, but the proposed wording seems incomplete — for example, if the unique_future associated with a synchronous async call is moved into a shared_future which is then copied, which call to get() runs the task?

N2973: An Asynchronous Call for C++

This is a revision to Lawrence Crowl's take on a std::async function. Whilst better specified than N2970 (a "serial" task is invoked in unique_future::get() or when the unique_future is moved into a shared_future), I'm not entirely happy with the result.

N2974: An Analysis of Async and Futures

To aid the committee with deciding on the semantics of std::async, Lawrence has put together this paper which outlines various options for creating futures from an async function. He then goes on to outline the operations that we may wish to perform on those futures, and how they relate to the various options for async.

As you can see by the 3 papers on the issue, std::async is a hot topic. I hope that a single coherent design can be agreed on at Santa Cruz, and incorporated into the standard. Comment on this blog post if you've got an opinion on the matter, and I'll pass it on.

Other papers

As I said at the beginning of this post, there are quite a few papers in this mailing. Other than the new working draft, there were 3 papers that piqued my interest:

Other papers include changes to the allocator proposals, papers to cover specific core issues, a couple of papers on type traits and a couple on pairs and tuples. See the full paper list for further details.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

August 2009 C++ Standards Committee Mailing

Thursday, 06 August 2009

The August 2009 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published yestoday. This is the post-meeting mailing for the July committee meeting. There isn't a new working draft this time, for one very simple reason: the "Concepts" feature was voted out of C++0x, so huge sections of the draft will have to be changed. Thankfully, the concurrency-related parts had not yet had concepts applied, so will not be affected directly by this.

C++0x timetable

What does this mean for the timetable? Well, the committee currently intends to issue a new Committee Draft for voting and comments by National Bodies in March 2010. How long it takes to get from that draft to a new Standard will depend on the comments that come back, and the length of the committee's issue lists. This is not intended to be a Final Committee Draft, implying there would be at least one more round of voting and comments. As I understand it, the earliest we could get a new Standard is thus early 2011, though if that were to be the case then the details would be finalised late 2010.

Concurrency-related papers

This time, there's only one concurrency-related paper in the mailing:

N2925: More Collected Issues with Atomics

This paper gathers together the proposed wording for a number of outstanding issues with respect to the atomic data types. This tightens up the wording regards the memory ordering guarantees of fences, and adjusts the overload set for both free functions and member functions to ensure atomics behave sensibly in more circumstances. Crucially, the header for atomic operations is also changed — rather than the <cstdatomic> / <stdatomic.h> pairing from the previous draft there is a single header: <atomic>.

Future developments

Though futures were discussed, no change was made to the working paper in this regard. Detlef and I have been asked to write a further paper on the topic to incorporate the issues raised at the meeting, which will therefore be in the next committee mailing.

Likewise, the proposals for dealing with the lifetime of thread_local variables and for launching an asynchronous task with a return value are still under discussion, and further papers on those can be expected.

Your input

How do you feel about the removal of concepts? Do you think the slip in schedule will have an impact on you? Let me know in the comments.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

June 2009 C++ Standards Committee Mailing - New Working Draft and Concurrency Papers

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The June 2009 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published today. This is the pre-meeting mailing for the upcoming committee meeting. Not only does it include the current C++0x working draft, but there are 39 other papers, of which 6 are concurrency related.

Concurrency-related papers

N2880: C++ object lifetime interactions with the threads API

This is a repeat of the same paper from the May 2009 mailing. It is referenced by several of the other concurrency papers.

N2888: Moving Futures - Proposed Wording for UK comments 335, 336, 337 and 338

This is the first of my papers in this mailing. The current working draft restricts std::unique_future to be MoveConstructible, but not MoveAssignable. It also restricts std::shared_future in a similar way, by making it CopyConstructible, but not CopyAssignable. This severely limits the potential use of such futures, so the UK panel filed comments on CD1 such as UK comment 335 which requested relaxation of these unnecessary restrictions. This paper to provide a detailed rationale for these changes, along with proposed wording.

N2889: An Asynchronous Call for C++

This is the first of two papers in the mailing that proposes a std::async() function for starting a task possibly asynchronously and returning a future for the result from that task. This addresses a need identified by UK comment 329 on CD1 for a simple way of starting a task with a return value asynchronously.

N2901: A simple async()

This is the second of the papers in the mailing that proposes a std::async() function for starting a task possibly asynchronously and returning a future for the result from that task.

The primary difference between the papers is the type of the returned future. N2889 proposes a new type of future (joining_future), whereas N2901 proposes using std::unique_future. There are also a few semantic differences surrounding whether tasks that run asynchronously aways do so on a new thread, or whether they may run on a thread that is reused for multiple tasks. Both papers provide a means for the caller to specify synchronous execution of tasks, or to allow the implementation to decide between synchronous execution and asynchronous execution on a case-by-case basis. N2901 also explicitly relies on the use of lambda functions or std::bind to bind parameters to a call, whereas N2889 supports specifying function arguments as additional parameters, as per the std::thread constructor (see my introduction to starting threads with arguments in C++0x).

Personally, I prefer the use of std::unique_future proposed in N2901, but I rather like the argument-passing semantics of N2889. I also think that the thread_local issues can be addressed by my proposal for that (N2907, see below). A final concern that I have is that calling the task inside future::get() can yield surprising behaviour, as futures can be passed across threads, so this may end up being called on another thread altogether. For synchronous execution, I would prefer invoking the task inside the std::async call itself, but delaying it to the get() does allow for work-stealing thread pools.

N2907: Managing the lifetime of thread_local variables with contexts

This is the second of my papers in this mailing. It proposes a potential solution to the lifetime-of-thread_local-variables issues from N2880 discussed in last month's blog post.

The idea is that you manage the lifetime of thread_local variables by constructing an instance of a new class std::thread_local_context. When the std::thread_local_context instance is destroyed, all thread_local variables created in that context are also destroyed. You can then construct a subsequent instance of std::thread_local_context, and create new thread_local instances in that new context. This means that you can reuse a thread for multiple unrelated tasks, without "spilling" thread_local variables from an earlier task into later tasks. It can also be used with a std::async() function to ensure that the thread_local variables are destroyed before the associated future is made ready.

N2917: N2880 Distilled, and a New Issue With Function Statics

This is Herb Sutter's take on the issues from N2880. He starts with a general discussion of the issue with detached threads and static destruction of globals, and then continues with a discussion of the issues surrounding the destruction of function-scoped thread_local variables. In particular, Herb focuses on something he calls Function thread_local statics poisoning thread_local destructors — if the destructor of a thread_local object x calls a function that itself uses a function-scope thread_local y, then the destructor of y might already have been called, resulting in undefined behaviour.

I found Herb's coverage of the issues surrounding detached threads dismissive of the idea that people could correctly write manual synchronization (e.g. using a std::condition_variable or a std::unique_future), even though this is common practice amongst those using POSIX threads (for example, in David Butenhof's Programming with POSIX Threads, he says "pthread_join is a convenience, not a rule", and describes examples using detached threads and condition variables to signal when the thread is done). I can see many possibilities for such usage, so as a consequence, I am personally in favour of his "solution" 1D: leave things as they are with regard to detached threads — it is already undefined behaviour to access something after its destruction.

However, the issue Herb raises with regard to order of destruction for thread_local variables is important, and not something that my std::thread_local_context proposal addresses. As Herb points out, the problem does exist with regard to function-local static variables already — thread_local just amplifies the problem. I am inclined to go with what POSIX threads does, and what boost::thread_specific_ptr does: make them "phoenix" variables that are re-initialized when accessed after destruction, and are thus added back onto the destructor list. This is Herb's solution 2B.

Other papers

Now that CD1 is out, and the committee is trying to get things pinned down for CD2, Concepts are getting a lot of discussion. There are therefore several papers on Concepts in the mailing. There are also papers on automatically defining move constructors, revised wording for lambdas, a proposal for unifying the function syntax, and several others. Check out the full list of papers for details.

Your comments

Do you have any comments on the papers (especially the concurrency ones, but if you have any comments on the others I'd like to know too)? Which std::async proposal do you prefer, or do you like aspects of both or neither? Do you think that thread_local_context objects combined with resurrecting thread_local objects on post-destruction access solves the thread_local issues?

Let me know by posting a comment.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

May 2009 C++ Standards Committee Mailing - Object Lifetimes and Threads

Monday, 18 May 2009

The May 2009 mailing for the C++ Standards Committee was published a couple of weeks ago. This is a minimal mailing between meetings, and only has a small number of papers.

The primary reason I'm mentioning it is because one of the papers is concurrency related: N2880: C++ object lifetime interactions with the threads API by Hans-J. Boehm and Lawrence Crowl. Hans and Lawrence are concerned about the implications of thread_local objects with destructors, and how you can safely clean up threads if you don't call join(). The issue arose during discussion of the proposed async() function, but is generally applicable.

thread_local variables and detached threads

Suppose you run a function on a thread for which you want the return value. You might be tempted to use std::packaged_task<> and std::unique_future<> for this; after all it's almost exactly what they're designed for:

#include <thread>
#include <future>
#include <iostream>

int find_the_answer_to_LtUaE();

std::unique_future<int> start_deep_thought()
{
    std::packaged_task<int()> task(find_the_answer_to_LtUaE);
    std::unique_future<int> future=task.get_future();
    std::thread t(std::move(task));
    t.detach();
    return future;
}

int main()
{
    std::unique_future<int> the_answer=start_deep_thought();
    do_stuff();
    std::cout<<"The answer="<<the_answer.get()<<std::endl;
}

The call to get() will wait for the task to finish, but not the thread. If there are no thread_local variable this is not a problem — the thread is detached so the library will clean up the resources assigned to it automatically. If there are thread_local variables (used in find_the_answer_to_LtUaE() for example), then this does cause a problem, because their destructors are not guaranteed to complete when get() returns. Consequently, the program may exit before the destructors of the thread_local variables have completed, and we have a race condition.

This race condition is particularly problematic if the thread accesses any objects of static storage duration, such as global variables. The program is exiting, so these are being destroyed; if the thread_local destructors in the still-running thread access global variables that have already been destroyed then your program has undefined behaviour.

This isn't the only problem that Hans and Lawrence discuss — they also discuss problems with thread_local and threads that are reused for multiple tasks — but I think it's the most important issue.

Solutions?

None of the solutions proposed in the paper are ideal. I particularly dislike the proposed removal of the detach() member function from std::thread. If you can't detach a thread directly then it makes functions like start_deep_thought() much harder to write, and people will find ways to simulate detached threads another way. Of the options presented, my preferred choice is to allow registration of a thread termination handler which is run after all thread_local objects have been destroyed. This handler can then be used to set the value on a future or notify a condition variable. However, it would make start_deep_thought() more complicated, as std::packaged_task<> wouldn't automatically make use of this mechanism unless it was extended to do so — if it did this every time then it would make it unusable in other contexts.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to handle the issue, please leave them in the comments below and I'll pass them on to the rest of the committee.

Posted by Anthony Williams
[/ cplusplus /] permanent link
Tags: , , ,

| Stumble It! stumbleupon logo | Submit to Reddit reddit logo | Submit to DZone dzone logo

Comment on this post

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the RSS feed RSS feed or Follow me on Twitter? You can also subscribe to this blog by email using the form on the left.

More recent entries Older entries

Design and Content Copyright © 2005-2016 Just Software Solutions Ltd. All rights reserved.