Monday, December 8, 2014

C++ User Group in Saratov, October 2014

On 25th, October 2014 the regular C++ meeting conference was held. It was planned to be 5 speakers but one of them could not attend due to family circumstances. Thus the total amount of presentations were equal to 4:

  1. Vasiliy Sorokin: Google C++ Mocking and Test Frameworks
  2. Grigory Demchenko: Asynchronicity And Coroutines: Data Processing
  3. Rainer Grimm: Functional Programming in C++11
  4. Mikhail Matrosov: C++ Without new and delete

Below you may find small description related to each presentation.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Memory Model: Brief Description


My previous post was related to discussion about memory model in C++11. Now let’s talk about memory model itself briefly.

So, memory model contains 3 different use cases. It can be classified differently. Let’s use the following criteria: how many threads are affected on atomic operation:

  1. One thread, known as relaxed atomic operations.
  2. Two threads, known as acquire-release operations.
  3. More than two threads, the strongest guarantee, known as sequentially consistent operations.

One Thread: Relaxed Atomics

It’s quite simple: if you just need to have eventual atomic consistency you may use relaxed atomics. It has the best performance but it guarantees only atomic operation for that value. Other threads may read old values, but eventually updated value will appear. It’s useful, e.g., for statistics, debugging flags etc, or during intermediate atomic operations in some complex scenarios.

Friday, July 18, 2014

C++11 Memory Model

What is the most interesting and promising feature in C++11? Many of you might say it's the rvalue semantics including move and perfect forward concepts. But I don't think so.

Let me clarify what I mean. Definitely, rvalue semantics is a step forward. But it's not the most advanced and interesting part of the standard. The reason is that it doesn't contain something new. Forwarding is like a syntactic sugar, it allows avoiding unnecessary usage of overloaded functions. Move semantics had been introduced before C++11, for example, in Ultimate++ framework, transfer semantics. So, it's like a syntax evolution to deeper improve performance when return value optimization cannot be applied.

Meanwhile the memory model is another story. It resolves one of the most sophisticated problems: how to obtain common denominator for very different hardware processor models with different assembler instructions. It's very complicated problem. You have to know about every platform to create such denominator. And I would say that it has been resolved perfectly.

Wait, wait, wait. Most of readers might raise an objection against "perfect solution". It's the most complex part of the standard. It's true. But the problem itself is much more complicated. So solution from the problem statement point of view is much simpler.

Solution is great indeed. It provides an abstraction that allows to create highly portable and still very efficient applications using appropriate atomic instructions on any platform: from x86 to modern ARM and DEC Alpha (with special consume/release semantics, as if DEC and ARM platforms like relaxing). Finally, memory model of next generation of ARM processor is going to have special atomic sequential consistency instructions providing better performance in most cases. It's the case when hardware pays attention to software needs. It's fundamental model that has far-reaching consequences. And it's amazing!

I'm very expecting that in the nearest future any lock-free and wait-free articles will contain detailed description of memory ordering for all involved atomic operations.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Object-Oriented Programming: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Let me clarify. I love OOP. I developed a lot of functionality using OOP and found it is very productive and highly extensible approach. So what's the point?

The Good

What is primary goal of OOP? What are the benefits? Why is it so popular? Where is a magic?

These are simple questions. And I would like to have simple answers. I guess you too. I have this one: it allows to significantly improve the code reuse. How? Because you may use abstractions instead of concrete classes and this fact allows to reuse the functionality based on those abstractions. Why does it matter? Because code reuse is the most effective way to speed up your development.

The Bad

So what's wrong with OOP? Is it the holy grail and silver bullet together? Unfortunately the answer is: no. On the one hand we have development speed up. On the other hand we have the price to use abstractions. Let's discuss it in detail.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Future/Promise Discussion


Currently, C++11 has introduced async and future/promise pattern. It allows performing concurrent operations and waiting for the result. It looks very promising (in future). Yep.

I don't want to discuss the current standard implementation. It looks like an initial step and contains several flaws (destructor behavior, no thread pools, only blocking semantic for value retrieval etc). I would like to discuss particular usage and overhead questions.

There are several typical usage:

  1. Start the task asynchronously and wait for the result.
  2. Start the task asynchronously and don't wait for the result.
  3. Start several (or a lot) tasks asynchronously and wait for the results.

Let's discuss them in details.

Start the task asynchronously and wait for the result

The idea is simple: sometimes I need start task asynchronously while continuing doing processing at the same time. If the result of the task is needed I invoke the method get() from the future to obtain the result. It looks pretty simple. The only thing is that this is the only case where future/promise technique is very well suited.

Let's consider another typical usage.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

C++ User Group in St. Petersburg, 21 June 2014

Today I've given the presentation related to multithreading topic: "Fine-grained locking". The considered approach uses fairly simple idea: to incorporate lock/unlock mutex operations into object access using overloaded operator->:

template<typename T, typename T_mutex>
struct Access : std::unique_lock<T_mutex>
    Access(T* t_, T_mutex& m)
        : std::unique_lock<T_mutex>(m), t(t_) {}

    template<typename T_lockType>
    Access(T* t_, T_mutex& m, T_lockType type)
        : std::unique_lock<T_mutex>(m, type), t(t_) {}

    T* operator->()     { init(); return t; }

    void init()         { if (!this->owns_lock()) this->lock(); }
    T* t;

template<typename T>
struct SmartMutex
    typedef Access<T, Mutex> WAccess;
    typedef Access<const T, Mutex> RAccess;

    RAccess operator->() const { return read(); }
    WAccess operator->()       { return write(); }
    RAccess read() const       { return {get(), mutex()}; }
    RAccess readLazy() const   { return {get(), mutex(), std::defer_lock}; }
    WAccess write()            { return {get(), mutex()}; }
    WAccess writeLazy()        { return {get(), mutex(), std::defer_lock}; }

    T* get() const             { return data.get(); }
    Mutex& mutex() const       { return *mutexData.get(); }

    std::shared_ptr<T> data = std::make_shared<T>();
    std::shared_ptr<Mutex> mutexData = std::make_shared<Mutex>();

This allows to avoid race conditions and to use atomicity on the object data level.

Lazy methods are suitable to avoid another issue of multithreaded applications: deadlock. Here is an example how to use it correctly with std::lock:

SmartMutex<X> x, y;
auto rx = x.readLazy();
auto ry = y.readLazy();
std::lock(rx, ry);
// now rx and ry can be used

The same approach was used to implement SmartSharedMutex allowing to share read access. But instead of usual overloaded ->, new operator was introduced: ---> (long arrow). How was it implemented? See related article: Useful Multithreaded Idioms of C++ (in Russian)