attributes

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



NAME
       attributes - POSIX safety concepts

DESCRIPTION
       Note: the text of this man page is based on the material taken from the
       "POSIX Safety Concepts" section of the GNU C Library manual.  Further
       details on the topics described here can be found in that manual.

       Various function manual pages include a section ATTRIBUTES that
       describes the safety of calling the function in various contexts.  This
       section annotates functions with the following safety markings:

       MT-Safe
              MT-Safe or Thread-Safe functions are safe to call in the
              presence of other threads.  MT, in MT-Safe, stands for Multi
              Thread.

              Being MT-Safe does not imply a function is atomic, nor that it
              uses any of the memory synchronization mechanisms POSIX exposes
              to users.  It is even possible that calling MT-Safe functions in
              sequence does not yield an MT-Safe combination.  For example,
              having a thread call two MT-Safe functions one right after the
              other does not guarantee behavior equivalent to atomic execution
              of a combination of both functions, since concurrent calls in
              other threads may interfere in a destructive way.

              Whole-program optimizations that could inline functions across
              library interfaces may expose unsafe reordering, and so
              performing inlining across the GNU C Library interface is not
              recommended.  The documented MT-Safety status is not guaranteed
              under whole-program optimization.  However, functions defined in
              user-visible headers are designed to be safe for inlining.

       MT-Unsafe
              MT-Unsafe functions are not safe to call in a multithreaded
              programs.

       Other keywords that appear in safety notes are defined in subsequent
       sections.

   Conditionally safe features
       For some features that make functions unsafe to call in certain
       contexts, there are known ways to avoid the safety problem other than
       refraining from calling the function altogether.  The keywords that
       follow refer to such features, and each of their definitions indicates
       how the whole program needs to be constrained in order to remove the
       safety problem indicated by the keyword.  Only when all the reasons
       that make a function unsafe are observed and addressed, by applying the
       documented constraints, does the function become safe to call in a
       context.

       init   Functions marked with init as an MT-Unsafe feature perform MT-
              Unsafe initialization when they are first called.

              Calling such a function at least once in single-threaded mode
              removes this specific cause for the function to be regarded as
              MT-Unsafe.  If no other cause for that remains, the function can
              then be safely called after other threads are started.

       race   Functions annotated with race as an MT-Safety issue operate on
              objects in ways that may cause data races or similar forms of
              destructive interference out of concurrent execution.  In some
              cases, the objects are passed to the functions by users; in
              others, they are used by the functions to return values to
              users; in others, they are not even exposed to users.

       const  Functions marked with const as an MT-Safety issue non-atomically
              modify internal objects that are better regarded as constant,
              because a substantial portion of the GNU C Library accesses them
              without synchronization.  Unlike race, which causes both readers
              and writers of internal objects to be regarded as MT-Unsafe,
              this mark is applied to writers only.  Writers remain MT-Unsafe
              to call, but the then-mandatory constness of objects they modify
              enables readers to be regarded as MT-Safe (as long as no other
              reasons for them to be unsafe remain), since the lack of
              synchronization is not a problem when the objects are
              effectively constant.

              The identifier that follows the const mark will appear by itself
              as a safety note in readers.  Programs that wish to work around
              this safety issue, so as to call writers, may use a non-
              recursive read-write lock associated with the identifier, and
              guard all calls to functions marked with const followed by the
              identifier with a write lock, and all calls to functions marked
              with the identifier by itself with a read lock.

       sig    Functions marked with sig as a MT-Safety issue may temporarily
              install a signal handler for internal purposes, which may
              interfere with other uses of the signal, identified after a
              colon.

              This safety problem can be worked around by ensuring that no
              other uses of the signal will take place for the duration of the
              call.  Holding a non-recursive mutex while calling all functions
              that use the same temporary signal; blocking that signal before
              the call and resetting its handler afterwards is recommended.

       term   Functions marked with term as an MT-Safety issue may change the
              terminal settings in the recommended way, namely: call
              tcgetattr(3), modify some flags, and then call tcsetattr(3),
              this creates a window in which changes made by other threads are
              lost.  Thus, functions marked with term are MT-Unsafe.

              It is thus advisable for applications using the terminal to
              avoid concurrent and reentrant interactions with it, by not
              using it in signal handlers or blocking signals that might use
              it, and holding a lock while calling these functions and
              interacting with the terminal.  This lock should also be used
              for mutual exclusion with functions marked with race:tcattr(fd),
              where fd is a file descriptor for the controlling terminal.  The
              caller may use a single mutex for simplicity, or use one mutex
              per terminal, even if referenced by different file descriptors.

   Other safety remarks
       Additional keywords may be attached to functions, indicating features
       that do not make a function unsafe to call, but that may need to be
       taken into account in certain classes of programs:

       locale Functions annotated with locale as an MT-Safety issue read from
              the locale object without any form of synchronization.
              Functions annotated with locale called concurrently with locale
              changes may behave in ways that do not correspond to any of the
              locales active during their execution, but an unpredictable mix
              thereof.

              We do not mark these functions as MT-Unsafe, however, because
              functions that modify the locale object are marked with
              const:locale and regarded as unsafe.  Being unsafe, the latter
              are not to be called when multiple threads are running or
              asynchronous signals are enabled, and so the locale can be
              considered effectively constant in these contexts, which makes
              the former safe.

       env    Functions marked with env as an MT-Safety issue access the
              environment with getenv(3) or similar, without any guards to
              ensure safety in the presence of concurrent modifications.

              We do not mark these functions as MT-Unsafe, however, because
              functions that modify the environment are all marked with
              const:env and regarded as unsafe.  Being unsafe, the latter are
              not to be called when multiple threads are running or
              asynchronous signals are enabled, and so the environment can be
              considered effectively constant in these contexts, which makes
              the former safe.

       hostid The function marked with hostid as an MT-Safety issue reads from
              the system-wide data structures that hold the "host ID" of the
              machine.  These data structures cannot generally be modified
              atomically.  Since it is expected that the "host ID" will not
              normally change, the function that reads from it (gethostid(3))
              is regarded as safe, whereas the function that modifies it
              (sethostid(3)) is marked with const:hostid, indicating it may
              require special care if it is to be called.  In this specific
              case, the special care amounts to system-wide (not merely intra-
              process) coordination.

       sigintr
              Functions marked with sigintr as an MT-Safety issue access the
              GNU C Library _sigintr internal data structure without any
              guards to ensure safety in the presence of concurrent
              modifications.

              We do not mark these functions as MT-Unsafe, however, because
              functions that modify this data structure are all marked with
              const:sigintr and regarded as unsafe.  Being unsafe, the latter
              are not to be called when multiple threads are running or
              asynchronous signals are enabled, and so the data structure can
              be considered effectively constant in these contexts, which
              makes the former safe.

       cwd    Functions marked with cwd as an MT-Safety issue may temporarily
              change the current working directory during their execution,
              which may cause relative pathnames to be resolved in unexpected
              ways in other threads or within asynchronous signal or
              cancellation handlers.

              This is not enough of a reason to mark so-marked functions as
              MT-Unsafe, but when this behavior is optional (e.g., nftw(3)
              with FTW_CHDIR), avoiding the option may be a good alternative
              to using full pathnames or file descriptor-relative (e.g.,
              openat(2)) system calls.

       :identifier
              Annotations may sometimes be followed by identifiers, intended
              to group several functions that, for example, access the data
              structures in an unsafe way, as in race and const, or to provide
              more specific information, such as naming a signal in a function
              marked with sig.  It is envisioned that it may be applied to
              lock and corrupt as well in the future.

              In most cases, the identifier will name a set of functions, but
              it may name global objects or function arguments, or
              identifiable properties or logical components associated with
              them, with a notation such as, for example, :buf(arg) to denote
              a buffer associated with the argument arg, or :tcattr(fd) to
              denote the terminal attributes of a file descriptor fd.

              The most common use for identifiers is to provide logical groups
              of functions and arguments that need to be protected by the same
              synchronization primitive in order to ensure safe operation in a
              given context.

       /condition
              Some safety annotations may be conditional, in that they only
              apply if a boolean expression involving arguments, global
              variables or even the underlying kernel evaluates to true.  For
              example, /!ps and /one_per_line indicate the preceding marker
              only applies when argument ps is NULL, or global variable
              one_per_line is nonzero.

              When all marks that render a function unsafe are adorned with
              such conditions, and none of the named conditions hold, then the
              function can be regarded as safe.

SEE ALSO
       pthreads(7)

COLOPHON
       This page is part of release 5.01 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
       https://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.



Linux                             2015-03-02                     ATTRIBUTES(7)