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calling pthread_self (on ubuntu), expensive?

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# 1  
Old 06-03-2010
calling pthread_self (on ubuntu), expensive?

Hi all,

Is anyone aware of what operations are involved when a call to pthread_self() is made, obtaining the unique thread ID on a Ubuntu system (or even any Linux flavour)?

Specifically, to retrieve the thread id, is there any locking required or atomic operations?

I'm building an application for multi-core systems (in C using pthreads) which needs to be scalable and I'm planning to call this function quite often, hence I need some idea how "expensive" it is to do so.

Any help much appreciated.

# 2  
Old 06-03-2010
The internals of this function are some pretty hairy inline assembly, differing wildly from architecture to architecture. I can't tell precisely what it's doing. But from the comments, it sure looks like they're trying hard to make it minimal(down to the instruction-level, even) and nonblocking.
/* Return the thread descriptor for the current thread.

   The contained asm must *not* be marked volatile since otherwise
   assignments like
        pthread_descr self = thread_self();
   do not get optimized away.  */
# define THREAD_SELF \
  ({ struct pthread *__self;                                                  \
     asm ("movq %%fs:%c1,%q0" : "=r" (__self)                                 \
          : "i" (offsetof (struct pthread, header.self)));                    \

Last edited by Corona688; 06-03-2010 at 08:46 PM..
This User Gave Thanks to Corona688 For This Post:
# 3  
Old 06-03-2010
Corona beat me to it.

The only thing I can add - pthread_self is not atomic.
This User Gave Thanks to jim mcnamara For This Post:
# 4  
Old 06-03-2010
Thanks for your replay Corona688.

I found similar code in glibc (tls.h)...

/* Return the TCB address of the current thread.  */
# define THREAD_SELF                                   \
  ({ tcbhead_t *__tcb;                                  \
     __asm__ ("movl %%gs:%c1,%0" : "=r" (__tcb)                      \
          : "i" (offsetof (tcbhead_t, tcb)));                  \

Which I believe is accessing the Thread Control Block of the running thread which resides here in the gs register, specifically the offset containing the tcb address, I think.

This should result in a pretty quick, "inexpensive" and scalable operation then. Wondered if there was a chance that another thread could overwrite the register where this value is written before the calling thread retrieved it, (the volatile keyword isn't used) but I suppose this function would be useless if that was a possibility. This function must be thread safe, right?

# 5  
Old 06-04-2010
There's a different tls.h for every architecture.

Of course it's thread-safe, not much point having it otherwise. It may be using registers that it wouldn't have write-access to, as well; unlike the old linuxthreads, NPTL operates with pretty low-level support by the kernel. (not that NPTL runs as root -- more that things more fundamental than system calls exist in the kernel for it. On MIPS for example, it monopolizes one of only four special hardware registers a MIPS chip has.)
# 6  
Old 06-07-2010
I can't think of a good reason to call pthread_self a lot.
I doubt it's atomic, why should it need to be, it's unique to the thread.
it's only used for detaching or scheduling.
i would start detached if need be. scheduling I haven't tried.
"keep it simple".
# 7  
Old 06-07-2010
"I can't think of a good reason to call pthread_self a lot.

It's a long story, but basically I need a way of accessing application specific "context" information I have stored which is different depending on which thread is running. Using pthread_self() provides a way of having a unique key to that information regardless of where within a program, the execution is. Because pthread_self doesn't require any arguments, I don't need to carry around a parameter everywhere with that key, hence the application doesn't even have to be aware of the mechanism.

Hopefully that makes sort-of sense.

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