On Thu, May 18, 2006 at 20:02, "Martin v. Löwis" <martin@v.loewis.de> wrote:
Nick Coghlan wrote:
> And if I understand it correctly, it falls under the category that
> waiting for another thread while holding the import lock is a *really*
> bad idea from a thread safety point of view.
> The thing with the import-after-fork deadlock is that you can trigger it
> without even doing anything that's known not to be thread-safe.

Right. With some googling, I found that one solution is pthread_atexit:
a pthread_atexit handler is a triple (before, in_parent, in_child).
You set it to (acquire, release, release). When somebody forks,
the pthread library will first acquire the import lock in the thread
that wants to fork. Then the fork occurs, and the import lock gets
then released both in the parent and in the child.

I would like to see this approach implemented, but I agree with you
that a test case should be created first.

Picking up a rather old discussion... We encountered this bug at Google and I'm now "incentivized" to fix it.

For a short recap: Python has an import lock that prevents more than one thread from doing an import at any given time. However, unlike most of the locks we have lying around, we don't clear that lock in the child after an os.fork(). That means that doing an os.fork() during an import means the child process can't do any other imports. It also means that doing an os.fork() *while another thread is doing an import* means the child process can't do any other imports.

Since this three-year-old discussion we've added a couple of post-fork-cleanups to CPython (the TLS, the threading module's idea of active threads, see Modules/signalmodule.c:PyOS_AfterFork) and we already do simply discard the memory for other locks held during fork (the GIL, see Python/ceval.c:PyEval_ReInitThreads, and the TLS lock in Python/thread.c:PyThread_ReInitTLS) -- but not so with the import lock, except when the platform is AIX. I don't see any particular reason why we aren't doing the same thing to the import lock that we do to the other locks, on all platforms. It's a quick fix for a real problem (see http://bugs.python.org/issue1590864 and
http://bugs.python.org/issue1404925 for two bugreports that seem to be this very issue.)

It also seems to me, since we have two or three (depending on how you count) uses for it, that we should either add a way to free the old locks (to the various threading implementations) or add a way to use pthread_atexit portably -- or at least portably across systems with fork(). I don't think we should wait with fixing the big issue (making threads and fork() being unnecessarily flakey) until we have a good fix for the small issue (a tiny bit of a memory leak after a fork() -- in the child process only.) Especially since the good fix for the small issue might require co-ordination between all the threading implementations we have and nobody knows about.

Thomas Wouters <thomas@python.org>

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