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Subject: Re: [boost] [thread] Timed waits in Boost.Thread potentially fundamentally broken on Windows (possibly rest of Boost too)
From: Andrey Semashev (andrey.semashev_at_[hidden])
Date: 2015-01-23 07:35:13

On Friday 23 January 2015 12:08:38 Niall Douglas wrote:
> Dear all,
> CC: Stephan @ Microsoft - Stephan I'd love to know what the MSVC STL
> does below so we have the option of matching your behaviour.
> During investigating this bug report for Boost.Thread
> ( I have discovered a
> very worrying situation: it would appear that potentially all timed
> waits in Boost.Thread, and potentially in other parts of Boost, are
> broken on Windows Vista and later and have been for some years.
> The problem is in correct handling of timeouts. If one does this:
> mutex mtx;
> condition_variable cond;
> unique_lock<mutex> lk(mtx);
> assert(cv_status::timeout == cond.wait_for(lk, chrono::seconds(1)));
> ... one would reasonably expect occasional failures on POSIX due to
> spurious wakeups. It turns out that this also spuriously fails on
> Windows, which is a surprise probably to many as Windows hides signal
> handling (actually APCs) inside its Win32 APIs and automatically
> restarts the operation after interruption. There is, therefore, the
> potential that quite a lot of code written to use Boost.Thread on
> Windows makes the hard assumption that the assert above will never
> fail.

That assert is false. Any code that assumes that cv.wait() does not spuriously
wake up is buggy, Windows or not. This is specified so for
std::condition_variable as well.

> This raises the question about what to do with Boost.Thread. We have
> the following options:
> Option 1: Timed waits are allowed to spuriously fail by the standard,
> so we mark this as wontfix and move on. Anyone using the predicate
> timed waits has never seen a problem here anyway.

That's right. There's nothing to fix, spurious wakeups are expected and should
be accounted for in the user's code regardless of the underlying operating

> Option 2: We loop waiting until steady_clock (really
> QueryPerformanceCounter under Boost) shows the requested timeout has
> passed. Problem: This wastes battery power and generates needless
> wakeups. A more intelligent implementation would ask Windows for the
> thread quanta and transform timeouts to match the Vista kernel
> scheduler in combination with always using deadline scheduling, but
> this would slow down the timed waits implementation.

That is a missed notification waiting to happen.

> Option 3: We adjust Boost.Thread to return timeouts when Windows
> returns a timed out status code, even if the actual time waited is
> considerably lower than the time requested. Problem: some code
> written for POSIX where when you ask for a timeout you always get it
> may misbehave in this situation.

That is simply incorrect. Why would you indicate a timeout when none occurred?
This will surely break some timed code.

The standard description is pretty clear: return cv_status::timeout only when
the timeout has expired, otherwise return cv_status::no_timeout. Boost.Thread
should follow this.

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