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    SubjectRe: [PATCH 0/24] make atomic_read() behave consistently across all architectures
    On Sep 10, 2007, at 06:56:29, Denys Vlasenko wrote:
    > On Sunday 09 September 2007 19:18, Arjan van de Ven wrote:
    >> On Sun, 9 Sep 2007 19:02:54 +0100
    >> Denys Vlasenko <> wrote:
    >>> Why is all this fixation on "volatile"? I don't think people want
    >>> "volatile" keyword per se, they want atomic_read(&x) to _always_
    >>> compile into an memory-accessing instruction, not register access.
    >> and ... why is that? is there any valid, non-buggy code sequence
    >> that makes that a reasonable requirement?
    > Well, if you insist on having it again:
    > Waiting for atomic value to be zero:
    > while (atomic_read(&x))
    > continue;
    > gcc may happily convert it into:
    > reg = atomic_read(&x);
    > while (reg)
    > continue;

    Bzzt. Even if you fixed gcc to actually convert it to a busy loop on
    a memory variable, you STILL HAVE A BUG as it may *NOT* be gcc that
    does the conversion, it may be that the CPU does the caching of the
    memory value. GCC has no mechanism to do cache-flushes or memory-
    barriers except through our custom inline assembly. Also, you
    probably want a cpu_relax() in there somewhere to avoid overheating
    the CPU. Thirdly, on a large system it may take some arbitrarily
    large amount of time for cache-propagation to update the value of the
    variable in your local CPU cache. Finally, if atomics are based on
    based on spinlock+interrupt-disable then you will sit in a tight busy-
    loop of spin_lock_irqsave()->spin_unlock_irqrestore(). Depending on
    your system's internal model this may practically lock up your core
    because the spin_lock() will take the cacheline for exclusive access
    and doing that in a loop can prevent any other CPU from doing any
    operation on it! Since your IRQs are disabled you even have a very
    small window that an IRQ will come along and free it up long enough
    for the update to take place.

    The earlier code segment of:
    > while(atomic_read(&x) > 0)
    > atomic_dec(&x);
    is *completely* buggy because you could very easily have 4 CPUs doing
    this on an atomic variable with a value of 1 and end up with it at
    negative 3 by the time you are done. Moreover all the alternatives
    are also buggy, with the sole exception of this rather obvious-
    seeming one:
    > atomic_set(&x, 0);

    You simply CANNOT use an atomic_t as your sole synchronizing
    primitive, it doesn't work! You virtually ALWAYS want to use an
    atomic_t in the following types of situations:

    (A) As an object refcount. The value is never read except as part of
    an atomic_dec_return(). Why aren't you using "struct kref"?

    (B) As an atomic value counter (number of processes, for example).
    Just "reading" the value is racy anyways, if you want to enforce a
    limit or something then use atomic_inc_return(), check the result,
    and use atomic_dec() if it's too big. If you just want to return the
    statistics then you are going to be instantaneous-point-in-time anyways.

    (C) As an optimization value (statistics-like, but exact accuracy
    isn't important).

    Atomics are NOT A REPLACEMENT for the proper kernel subsystem, like
    completions, mutexes, semaphores, spinlocks, krefs, etc. It's not
    useful for synchronization, only for keeping track of simple integer
    RMW values. Note that atomic_read() and atomic_set() aren't very
    useful RMW primitives (read-nomodify-nowrite and read-set-zero-
    write). Code which assumes anything else is probably buggy in other
    ways too.

    So while I see no real reason for the "volatile" on the atomics, I
    also see no real reason why it's terribly harmful. Regardless of the
    "volatile" on the operation the CPU is perfectly happy to cache it
    anyways so it doesn't buy you any actual "always-access-memory"
    guarantees. If you are just interested in it as an optimization you
    could probably just read the properly-aligned integer counter
    directly, an atomic read on most CPUs.

    If you really need it to hit main memory *every* *single* *time*
    (Why? Are you using it instead of the proper kernel subsystem?)
    then you probably need a custom inline assembly helper anyways.

    Kyle Moffett

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