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Hardware Support Locking


To evaluate whether a lock works, there are three basic criteria: 1. Mutual exclusion 2. Fairness 3. Performance

Design and Implement Lock

Locks requires OS help. Building spin locks could use:
1. Test-And-Set.
2. Compare-And-Swap.
3. Fetch-And-Add
XV6 uses option 1.
void lock(lock_t *lock) {
while (TestAndSet(&lock->flag, 1) == 1) ;
// spin-wait (do nothing)
TestAndSet swap flag's value with 1, and return the old value. If result is 1, it was locked before, so we spin and wait. If result is 0, it was unlocked, and we locked succesfully, we can now enter the critical section.

Case Study: Linux-based Futex Locks

How it works

Mutex lock counter: bit 31 clear means unlocked; bit 31 set means locked.
All code that looks at bit 31 first increases the ‘number of interested threads’ usage counter, which is in bits 0-30. All negative mutex values indicate that the mutex is still locked.


This code snippet from lowlevellock.h in the nptl library (part of the gnu libc library).
void mutex_lock (int *mutex)
unsigned int v;
/* Bit 31 was clear, we got the mutex. (this is the fastpath). */
if (atomic_bit_test_set (mutex, 31) == 0)
atomic_increment (mutex);
while (1)
if (atomic_bit_test_set (mutex, 31) == 0)
atomic_decrement (mutex);
/* We have to wait now. First make sure the futex value we are monitoring is truly negative (i.e. locked). */
v = *mutex;
if (v >= 0)
lll_futex_wait (mutex, v);
void mutex_unlock (int *mutex)
/* Adding 0x80000000 to the counter results in 0 if and only if there are not other interested threads - we can return (this is the fastpath). */
if (atomic_add_zero (mutex, 0x80000000))
/* There are other threads waiting for this mutex, wake one of them up. */
lll_futex_wake (mutex, 1);


In unlock, 0x80000000 hex is binary: 10 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 (31 zeros).
atomic_add_zero impl is:
# define atomic_add_zero(mem, value) \
({ __typeof (value) __atg13_value = (value); \
atomic_exchange_and_add (mem, __atg13_value) == -__atg13_value; })
exchange_and_add :Add VALUE to MEM and return the old value of MEM.
What this function does is: Convert hex value to a proper int. Use negative of value. Compare result of exchange_and_add to negative of value, as return result.
The flow of 2 cases:
Case 1: If no one waiting, return T.
Case 2: If someone still waiting, return False.