Boost logo

Boost :

From: scott (scottw_at_[hidden])
Date: 2004-02-24 17:27:40

> -----Original Message-----
> From: boost-bounces_at_[hidden]
> [mailto:boost-bounces_at_[hidden]]On Behalf Of Matthew Vogt

> > Yes, exactly. Is there no potential to leverage the mechanism
> > you already have, i.e. "task"?
> >
> Yes, you can (if I now understand what you're asking
> correctly) - in the
> parlance of the code we've been discussing, you can achieve
> this by having all
> objects 'active' (with a thread), and having all functions as
> void functions
> that produce flow-on effects to other objects.
> Essentially, I send a message from my object to another
> object, and I receive
> the result not as a return value, but as a new message from
> the other object.

Yes! This is that recess that I couldnt quite scratch. What
you describe is the essence of my "reactive objects". Still a
bit more stretching required but that is "the guts of it".

A crude application of this technique might mave proxy methods
called things suchs as;

  // Proxy declarations for all methods of the active object
  proxy<void (int)> non_void_with_param;
  proxy<void (void)> non_void_without_param;

  proxy<void (int)> non_void_with_param_returned;
  proxy<void (const char *)> non_void_without_param_returned;

An immediate reaction might go something like "but look at the
overheads!". The plain truth is that for successful interaction
between threads, something of this nature is a pre-requisite. It
may as well be the mechansim that has already been crafted for the

If my scrappy example is taken "as is", the implied active objects
would effectively be "hard-coded" to interact with each other. This
is a non-viable design constraint that is relaxed by adding the
"callers address" to the queued "tasks". With this additional info
the thread "returns" (i.e. "a new message from the other object")
may be directed to any instance.

Please note: i'm not proposing the above "pairing of call and return
proxies" as the path forward. Its only intended to further expose
the essential technique.

> The limitation resulting from the unequal status of different
> event mechanisms
> is a fairly fundamental one. Is anyone working on this in a
> boost threads
> context?

Well, hopefully for reactive objects we have reduced it to 1? :-)
But to answer your question, no.

> > In another implementation this just involved storing some kind
> > of "return address" and adding that to the queued object (task).
> > On actual execution the thread (belonging to the active object)
> > need only turn around and write the results back into the callers
> > queue.
> >
> This implementation requires that all objects have a queue,
> which is another
> property of the 'reactive object' system you're describing,
> but can't work
> with the approach I've taken.

On first appearance this looks to be the case. A bit more sleight
of hand and there can be any number of reactive objects "serviced"
by a single thread. Previous explanations of this have failed
woefully so all I can do is direct you to the ActiveObject pattern,
entities "Scheduler" and "Servant".

The natural perception that reactive objects are "heavy on
threads" is addressed beautifully by this section of the pattern.
It appears that Schmidt et al. resolved many of our concerns
long before we knew enough to start waving our arms (well, I can
speak for myself at least).

The pattern doesnt address asynchronous return of results and
also doesnt quite give the entities a "final polish", i.e. the
Scheduler entity needs to inherit the Servant interface.

> Ok. Having established that this is a different pattern of
> multithreading,
> what are the costs/benefits of symmetric activation?

Operationally the costs of SA tends towards zero. If you first
accept that some form of inter-thread communication was required
anyhow, i.e. SA doesnt itself _add_ this requirement.

I think costs do exist in terms of the development cycle, e.g.
changing of culture. The type of programming actually required is
best defined IMHO as "signal processing" (e.g. SDL). It may take
some effort to convince developers of desktop apps that they
need to take a "signal processing" approach to the next version
of their 80Mb CAD package.

The benefits? System responsiveness, maintainability of
code, low software defect counts. The results are more
likely to run correctly for long periods.

There are difficulties when debugging. The traditional
flow of control is lost.

> > Its been fun up to this point but perhaps your "code with legs" is
> > viable as "active object" and that is a valid first phase? I could
> > wheel my barrow off to the side for a while
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Scott
> Yes, I don't think my code can be modified to incorporate
> your requirements.
> I am interested in your pattern, though.
> Perhaps a change of subject is in order?

Will go that way if you really didnt want to do anything more
with your active<object>. To me it seemed viable both as a
phase and as the basis for reactive objects. But think thats
up to you?


Boost list run by bdawes at, gregod at, cpdaniel at, john at