what's the point of rpython?

Paul Rubin http
Tue Jan 20 22:39:39 CET 2009

Rhamphoryncus <rhamph at gmail.com> writes:
> "lock free" is largely meaningless.  What it really means is "we use
> small hardware locks rather than big software locks, thereby reducing
> (but not eliminating!) the contention".

At least in the case of Haskell's "software transactional memory",
reads are genuinely lock free in the normal uncontended case.  You use
LOCK XCHG to increment a counter in the object when you want to
update, and increment it again when you are done updating.  Since the
counter starts at 0, any time it has an odd value, an update is in
process and any other thread can notice that the object is locked and
try again later without asserting any locks itself.  If the counter
has an even value, it is unlocked, but there is a chance that a writer
thread can lock and udpate the object while a reader thread has a
lockless access in progress.  The reader detects this has occurred
when it finishes its transaction, read the counter a second time, and
notices that the counter has been incremented (maybe more than once)
since the transaction started; it then rolls back its operation and
tries again.  I'm not explaining that well so you can read about it in
SPJ's paper or Keir Fraser's.

> The second issue is the objects themselves, like a list which is
> mutable.  If you're using it in a single thread or writing from
> multiple threads this is a non-trivial constant cost.  If your object
> is not modified after creation and is read from many threads a lock
> would be a point of contention, preventing you from scaling freely.
> The dicts used by classes and globals are an import example of this,
> and a successful implementation needs something non-contending.  I
> assume Jython and IronPython do this.

I'm pretty sure Jython makes no attempt at all to mess with ref
counts--it just relies on the underlying Java gc.  I have no idea
about IronPython.

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