> Since nobody seems to be prepared to essay a brief definition of a
> thread register, I'll make one up from first principles and maybe the
> experts will beat it into shape.
Thank you, Dom, for trying to inject some civility into this debate.
> Multiple threads in a Linux process share the same address space: code
> and data. A thread has its own unique stack, but since (by
> definition) it shares all its data with every other thread it has no
> identity - there is no thread-unique static data. That means it has
> no handle to acquire and manage any thread-specific variables.
> [Some threads purists would probably maintain that's a Good Thing:
> threads to them are like electrons to quantum physicists,
> indistinguishable by definition].
> Linux is not noted for computer science purity; so an OS-maintained
> "thread identity" variable which is cheap to read in user space sounds
> a useful thing to have.
> A patient Linux expert (if any such are reading this list) might like
> to say what value is typically held (a pointer? an index?) and how
> it's used (my money's on "wrapped in an impenetrable macro").
> In a more baroque (synonym for "less backward"?) architecture there
> are usually registers hanging about which no compiler or OS author has
> previously figured out any use for, which can be bent to this purpose.
> Unfortunately, MIPS original architects committed the grave error of
> making all the registers useful.
> I quite like the idea of putting the thread value at a known offset in
> low virtual memory, but I expect the kernel keeps virtual page 0
> invalid to catch null pointers and that instructions start at the
> first boundary which doesn't create cache alias problems...
I think that the problem is complicated by the fact that
there may be a many->many mapping of kernel threads
(and CPUs) to user-land threads. In that case, no single
low-memory address can be correct for all kernel threads.
However, since every kernel thread should have its own
stack segment, it would appear to me that having a
variable "under" the stack would satisfy the need for
per-kernel-thread storage at a knowable location.
I suspect that there is a second-order problem in that
the base stack address may differ for instances of
the same binary launched under different circumstances.
But I don't think that renders the problem impossible.
One could have a global pointer, resolvable at link
time, which could be set to SP+delta by whatever
we call crt0 these days, and which should provide the
required semantics. Each user thread startup or
context switch could follow the global pointer to the
kernel-thread-specific memory location which
could be used as the pointer to the user-thread
specific data area.
Even with the double indirection, that strikes me
as far more efficient than performing a system call
on every thread startup to set up a magic value to be
returned in a k-register (as some have suggested)
and considerably less messy, technically and commercially,
than pulling a register out of the ABI and rendering it
useless for programs which happen not to be executing
the threads library (as others have proposed).
I await news as to why this is impossible and/or
unacceptable, and I shall endeavor to modify
or withdraw the suggestion accordingly.