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FUTEX(7) Linux Programmer's Manual FUTEX(7)


     futex - fast user-space locking


     #include <linux/futex.h>


     The  Linux  kernel  provides  futexes  ("Fast user-space mutexes") as a
     building block for fast user-space locking and semaphores.  Futexes are
     very  basic  and lend themselves well for building higher-level locking
     abstractions such as mutexes, condition  variables,  read-write  locks,
     barriers, and semaphores.
     Most  programmers  will  in fact not be using futexes directly but will
     instead rely on system libraries built on  them,  such  as  the  Native
     POSIX Thread Library (NPTL) (see pthreads(7)).
     A  futex is identified by a piece of memory which can be shared between
     processes or threads.  In these different processes, the futex need not
     have  identical  addresses.   In  its  bare form, a futex has semaphore
     semantics; it is a counter that  can  be  incremented  and  decremented
     atomically; processes can wait for the value to become positive.
     Futex  operation  occurs  entirely  in  user space for the noncontended
     case.  The kernel is involved only to arbitrate the contended case.  As
     any  sane  design will strive for noncontention, futexes are also opti-
     mized for this situation.
     In its bare form, a futex is an aligned integer which is  touched  only
     by  atomic  assembler instructions.  This integer is four bytes long on
     all platforms.  Processes can share this  integer  using  mmap(2),  via
     shared  memory  segments,  or because they share memory space, in which
     case the application is commonly called multithreaded.
     Any futex operation starts in user space, but it may  be  necessary  to
     communicate with the kernel using the futex(2) system call.
     To  "up"  a  futex, execute the proper assembler instructions that will
     cause the host CPU to atomically  increment  the  integer.   Afterward,
     check  if  it has in fact changed from 0 to 1, in which case there were
     no waiters and the operation is done.  This is  the  noncontended  case
     which is fast and should be common.
     In the contended case, the atomic increment changed the counter from -1
     (or some other negative number).  If this is detected, there are  wait-
     ers.   User space should now set the counter to 1 and instruct the ker-
     nel to wake up any waiters using the FUTEX_WAKE operation.
     Waiting on a futex, to "down" it, is the reverse operation.  Atomically
     decrement  the  counter and check if it changed to 0, in which case the
     operation is done and the futex was uncontended.  In all other  circum-
     stances,  the process should set the counter to -1 and request that the
     kernel wait for another process to up the futex.  This  is  done  using
     the FUTEX_WAIT operation.
     The  futex(2) system call can optionally be passed a timeout specifying
     how long the kernel should wait for the futex to  be  upped.   In  this
     case,  semantics  are  more  complex  and the programmer is referred to
     futex(2) for more details.  The same holds for asynchronous futex wait-


     Initial  futex  support  was  merged  in Linux 2.5.7 but with different
     semantics from those described above.  Current semantics are  available
     from Linux 2.5.40 onward.


     To  reiterate, bare futexes are not intended as an easy-to-use abstrac-
     tion for end users.  Implementors are expected to be assembly  literate
     and to have read the sources of the futex user-space library referenced
     This man page illustrates the most common use of  the  futex(2)  primi-
     tives; it is by no means the only one.


     clone(2),     futex(2),     get_robust_list(2),     set_robust_list(2),
     set_tid_address(2), pthreads(7)
     Fuss, Futexes and Furwocks: Fast Userlevel Locking in  Linux  (proceed-
     ings  of  the  Ottawa  Linux  Symposium  2002),  futex example library,


     This page is part of release 4.16 of the Linux  man-pages  project.   A
     description  of  the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
     latest    version    of    this    page,    can     be     found     at

Linux 2017-09-15 FUTEX(7)

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