Need help with communication between multiple threads

kris foo at
Tue Feb 20 10:30:54 PST 2007

Chad J wrote:
> I'm a bit of a newbie to this whole multithreading thing, so I'm hoping 
> someone can help me with this.
> First, what I know (or what I think I know):  So I've been reading about 
> this, and apparently there's this problem where two threads that are 
> reading a value from the same address in memory at the same time may end 
> up with two completely different values.  Apparently this is because 
> when you write something, it may just end up in the cache and not be 
> updated in global memory.  Also, when reading, you may end up with 
> something that is just an outdated copy in the cache, and not the actual 
> thing from global memory.  But it doesn't stop there, apparently x86 
> computers are very forgiving on this stuff so if you make a mistake you 
> won't know it until your program is run on some more obscure hardware.
> Now then, my question:  In D, how do I ensure that when I write 
> something, the write is to global memory, and when I read something, the 
> read is from global memory?
> Some more info:  This comes up because I am trying to write a Timer 
> class for Tango, and it will include timers that trigger events at a 
> later date, which requires multithreading.  So it'd be most helpful if I 
> could accomplish this using only D features and/or Tango.

Basicially, you need to protect the value from contention between two 
threads. There are a number of ways to do this:

1) using native D facilities via the synchronized keyword: expose a 
getter and setter method, and have them both synch on the same 
object/lock. This is a fairly heavyweight resolution, but it would work.

2) get under the covers and utilize a mutex, semaphore, or some other 
classical synchronization construct exposed by the OS itself. Tango will 
provide a cross-platform way of doing this in the next release. This is 
potentially lighter weight than #1

3) use CPU-specific instructions to ensure value access is atomic. This 
is what Sean has exposed in the Atomic module within Tango. It is a 
lightweight and low-overhead solution, and works by locking the bus for 
the duration of the read/write access.

4) use a small discrete unit for the value. If value is just a byte, the 
underlying hardware will usually treat it as an indivisible unit, giving 
you the desired result (similar to #3). However, there are memory 
barriers involved also, which D respects via the "volatile" keyword. 
Beyond that, there may be issues with cache-reconciliation on a 
multi-core device, so this approach is generally not recommended.

- Kris

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