Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thread object as a lock object - myThr.wait()

Someone (HSBC?) asked me what happens if I call myThread.wait().

MyThread thrd = new MyThread();
thrd.start();
synchronized(thrd){
 thrd.wait(); // similar to thrd.join()
}
Using a Thread.java object as a monitor object is legal, but not advisable. Unlike c++, java has no undefined behavior, so the behavior is probably "defined" in the java language spec. I guess the behavior is that main thread waits in the "waiting room" of the thrd object, but who will notify main thread?

My experiment shows that main thread actually gets notified when thrd ends. Before we uncover the mysterious notifier, let's remember that it's unusual, confusing and never necessary to use a Thread.java object as a lock. There's always a simpler alternative.

If you really use a Thread.java object as a lock/conditionVar, there are hidden issues. Here's one issue I know -

As a condition variable, a Thread.java object has the undocumented behavior of calling this.notifyAll() when it dies. Someone speculated -- "In fact this is how the join() method is implemented, if I remember correctly: it waits on the thread object until it dies." Note join() is an instance method of an Thread.java object. When main thread calls thrd2.join(), it treats thrd2 as a conditionVar and waits on it until another thread calls thrd2.notifyAll(). Notifying thread is actually the thrd2 itself.

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http://www.linkedin.com/in/tanbin