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

NAME         top

       attributes - POSIX safety concepts

DESCRIPTION         top

       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
       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 or Thread-Safe functions are safe to call in the
              presence of other threads.  MT, in MT-Safe, stands for Multi
              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 functions are not safe to call in a multithreaded
       Other keywords that appear in safety notes are defined in subsequent
   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
       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
              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
       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.
              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
              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.
              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.
              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         top


COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of release 4.12 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
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       latest version of this page, can be found at
Linux                            2015-03-02                    ATTRIBUTES(7)

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