Kernel Space

January 19, 2007

牛角尖之二 — Binary Semaphore & Mutex

Filed under: 编程珠玑 — agassi @ 2:27 pm


Mutex:Is a key to a toilet. One person can have the key – occupy the toilet – at the time. When finished, the person gives (frees) the key to the next person in the queue.

Officially: “Mutexes are typically used to serialise access to a section of  re-entrant code that cannot be executed concurrently by more than one thread. A mutex object only allows one thread into a controlled section, forcing other threads which attempt to gain access to that section to wait until the first thread has exited from that section.”
Ref: Symbian Developer Library

(A mutex is really a semaphore with value 1.)


Is the number of free identical toilet keys. Example, say we have four toilets with identical locks and keys. The semaphore count – the count of keys – is set to 4 at beginning (all four toilets are free), then the count value is decremented as people are coming in. If all toilets are full, ie. there are no free keys left, the semaphore count is 0. Now, when eq. one person leaves the toilet, semaphore is increased to 1 (one free key), and given to the next person in the queue.

Officially: “A semaphore restricts the number of simultaneous users of a shared resource up to a maximum number. Threads can request access to the resource (decrementing the semaphore), and can signal that they have finished using the resource (incrementing the semaphore).”
Ref: Symbian Developer Library

 所以,mutex就是一个binary semaphore (值就是0或者1)。但是他们的区别又在哪里呢?主要有两个方面:

  • 初始状态不一样:mutex的初始值是1(表示锁available),而semaphore的初始值是0(表示unsignaled的状态)。随后的操作基本一样。mutex_lock和sem_post都把值从0变成1,mutex_unlock和sem_wait都把值从1变成0(如果值是零就等待)。初始值决定了:虽然mutex_lock和sem_wait都是执行V操作,但是sem_wait将立刻将当前线程block住,直到有其他线程post;mutex_lock在初始状态下是可以进入的。
  • 用法不一样(对称 vs. 非对称):这里说的是“用法”。Semaphore实现了signal,但是mutex也有signal(当一个线程lock后另外一个线程unlock,lock住的线程将收到这个signal继续运行)。在mutex的使用中,模型是对称的。unlock的线程也要先lock。而semaphore则是非对称的模型,对于一个semaphore,只有一方post,另外一方只wait。就拿上面的厕所理论来说,mutex是一个钥匙不断重复的使用,传递在各个线程之间,而semaphore择是一方不断的制造钥匙,而供另外一方使用(另外一方不用归还)。




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