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Subject: Re: [Boost-users] [thread] variables in thread examples require 'volatile'?
From: Gabriel Redner (gredner_at_[hidden])
Date: 2009-12-08 22:06:30

> Volatile and threading/barriers are 2 different things, which only
> appear related.  volatile is for dealing with the compiler, barriers
> are for dealing with the CPU(s).
> The reason that data_ready is NOT 'left' in a register is because a
> function with unknown side-effects (cond.wait) is being called.  You
> could just as easily have:
> while (!data_ready)
>   some_library_function();
> and the compiler will ensure that data_ready is re-read (ie not left
> in a register) because it is a global, and the compiler is unsure
> whether or not some_library_function() modifies data_ready or not.  In
> theory the compiler could go look into some_library_function() and
> figure that out, but in practice it doesn't.
> As for memory barriers, cond.wait() locks and unlocks the mutex, which
> puts in the necessary memory barriers.  Note that the order of
> lock/unlock/relock is such that data_ready is only read while holding
> the lock.  Of course, nothing here says whether the other thread
> *wrote* data_ready inside a lock or with the necessary
> release-barrier, but let's assume that it did.
> So recap:
>>>> volatile is not needed in that example because access is protected by a mutex.
> No, I'd say volatile is not needed because functions with unknown
> side-effects are being called (and/or if the mutex code was somehow
> magically inlined, then we can assume the compiler recognizes the
> memory-barrier intrinsics and forces memory re-reads because of that).
> And
>> It is possible that the cond.wait may introduce a memory barrier that forces the cache among multiple CPU's
>> to sync up
> - cond.wait DOES introduce a memory barrier. Probably 2 - a release on
> unlock(mutex) and an acquire on lock(mutex)
> - it is not really 'cache syncing' that is the problem (most CPUs have
> cache-coherency guarantees) it is the relative ordering of reads and
> writes (and RE-ordering by the CPU / memory bus) that causes the
> 'visibility' problems.

Thank you for the very clear and concise explanation!


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