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Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:45:12 -0400
From: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Planned robust mutex internals changes

Recent debugging with Adelie Linux & POSIX conformance tests gave me a
bit of a scare about the safety of the current robust mutex
implementation. It turned out the be completely unrelated (kernel
problem) but it did remind me that there's some mildly sketchy stuff
going on right now.

In order to implement ENOTRECOVERABLE, the current implementation
changes a bit of the mutex type field to indicate that it's recovered
after EOWNERDEAD and will go into ENOTRECOVERABLE state if
pthread_mutex_consistent is not called before unlocking. While it's
only the thread that holds the lock that needs access to this
information (except possibly for the same of pthread_mutex_consistent
choosing between EINVAL and EPERM for erroneous calls), the change to
the type field is formally a data race with all other threads that
perform any operation on the mutex. No individual bits race, and no
write races are possible, so things are "okay" in some sense, but it's
still not good.

What I plan to do is move this state to the mutex owner/lock field,
which should be the only field of the object (aside from waiter count)
that's mutable.

Currently, the lock field looks like this:

bits 0-29:  owner; 0 if unlocked or if owned died; -1 if unrecoverable
bit 30:     owner died flag, also set if unrecoverable; otherwise 0
bit 31:     new waiters flag

Ignoring bit 31, this means the possible values are 0 (unlocked), a
tid for the owner, 0x40000000 after owner died, and 0x7fffffff when

What I'd like too do is use 0x40000000|tid as the value for when the
lock is held but pthread_mutex_consistent hasn't yet been called. Note
that at the kernel level, bit 29 (0x20000000) is reserved not to be
used as part of a tid, so this does not overlap with the special value
0x7fffffff. And there's still some room for extensibility, since we
could use bit 31 along with values that don't indicate a mutex state
that can be waited on.

With these changes, no fields of mutex object will be mutable except
for the lock state (owner, futex) and the waiter count.

Anyway I'm posting this now as notes/reminder and for comments in case
others see a problem with the proposal or ideas for improvement. I'll
probably hold off on doing any of this until after release.


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