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Pthreads Programming: A POSIX Standard for Better Multiprocessing

08/15/07

Permalink 09:26:37 pm, by lano1106, 336 words, 2154 views   English (CA)
Categories: Linux/UNIX, Multithreading

Pthreads Programming: A POSIX Standard for Better Multiprocessing

Pthreads Programming: A POSIX Standard for Better Multiprocessing, Bradford Nichols, Dick Buttlar, Jacqueline Proulx Farrell, ISBN: 1565921151

This book does a nice job for describing the pthread API. When I have read this book, my multithread programming experience was mainly with Win32 threads and reading this book was my first exposure to the condition synchronization objects. With the help of this book, it has been a breeze to learn how to use conditions. What is missing from this book written 10 years ago, which is also missing in all multithread books that I have read of that era, is coverage on issues with parallel processing. If all you have to do with threads is to launch a background job while keeping UI responsive or asynchronous I/O on a single core processor, you will be fine with this book.

However, if you try to crunch an array of data with multiple threads each processing their own chunk of the array, you could fall into cache line alignment problems even if your threads does not access the same memory locations. Those problems are platform dependant. I have written such a program that was working wonderfully well with a Sparc station and a PowerPC based station but once ported to a x86 architecture, the program was actually becoming slower than the single thread version. It is very hard to get it right. You have to be careful about the array alignment in memory and where the boundaries of the chunks of data that you assign to threads are. What will happen if 2 threads located on 2 different processors access to the same cache line is that one processor will have to flush that cache line back to the main memory and the other processor will have to fetch the values back from the main memory to its cache. The overhead of this is so huge that processing the array from a single thread could be faster.

I still have to find a book that addresses these problems. I expect it to come soon with dual and quad core processors becoming mainstream but this is not this book.

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