# Processes

Up to now, the programs we wrote were basically a single process in which instructions were executed one-by-one, in the order they were written down. The following code

class MyProgram {
String name;
MyProgram(String name) {
this.name = name;
System.out.println("Created MyProgram: " + name);
}
void printNum(int n) {
System.out.println(name + ": " + n);
}
public static void main(String[] args) {
MyProgram mp = new MyProgram("Test");
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++)
mp.printNum(i);
}
}


would yield the following output:

Created MyProgram Test
Test: 0
Test: 1
Test: 2


Or expressed as a sequence diagram, with methods as columns:

This is also the behavior you see when using the debugger and going through your program step-by-step, using the step-into action.

A process has a self-contained (and isolated) environment. A Process has a complete and private set of run-time resources; in particular, each process has its own memory space.

Consider this simple class that models a bean counter. It receives a name and allocates a large array of numbers; a call to .run() sorts the data.

class BeanCounter {
private final String name;
private final double[] data;
BeanCounter(String name, int n) {
this.name = name;
this.data = new double [n];
}

public void run() {
System.out.println(name + " is starting...");
Arrays.sort(data);
System.out.println(name + " is done!");
}
}


And here is an example program, allocating two bean counters, have them work, and then print a good bye message:

public static void main(String... args) {
BeanCounter b1 = new BeanCounter("Bureaucrat 1", 10000);
BeanCounter b2 = new BeanCounter("Bureaucrat 2", 1000);

b1.run();
b2.run();

System.out.println("main() done!");
}


With the expected result:

Bureaucrat 1 is starting...
Bureaucrat 1 is done!
Bureaucrat 2 is starting...
Bureaucrat 2 is done!
main() done!


To make the bean counters work in parallel, use the Thread class. It takes an instance of Runnable of which it will execute the .run() method in a separate thread, once the thread’s .start() method is called. First, modify the BeanCounter to implement the Runnable interface

public class BeanCounter implements Runnable {
// ...
}


and then pass instances to the Thread class constructor:

public static void main(String[] args) {
BeanCounter b1 = new BeanCounter("Bureaucrat 1", 10000);
BeanCounter b2 = new BeanCounter("Bureaucrat 2", 1000);

System.out.println("main() done!");
}


This will likely produce output similar to this:

Bureaucrat 1 is starting...
main() done!
Bureaucrat 2 is starting...
Bureaucrat 1 is done!
Bureaucrat 2 is done!


As you can see, the three methods (main, b1.run and b2.run) were executed in parallel. If you run the code on your machine, you may get a different order of the output; this is because only one thread can write to System.out at a time, and they may get to that point at different times depending on your number of CPUs etc.

Instead of providing a Runnable to the Thread, you can also extend the Thread class and overwrite the run method.

Threads are sometimes called lightweight processes; they exist inside processes and have shared resources. This allows communication but at the same time introduces risks.

From your operating systems class, you may already know that there are user and system (or kernel) level threads. In Java, threads are technically user level, since you work with the java.lang.Thread API (and the JVM) rather than directly with the operating system. For the JVM, however, threads are typically implemented as kernel level threads, to get the best performance; the VM translates the threading instructions into operations native to your operating system.

### Examples

Multi-threaded programming is ubiquitous in modern applications:

• rendering multiple animations on a page/screen
• handling user interactions such as clicks or swipes
• sorting data using divide-and-conquer
• concurrent network, database and device connections
• ability to control (pause, abort) certain long-lasting processes

# Synchronization

## Joining

The example above has one major flaw: the main() routine finishes before the actual work is done. Transferred to the real world, this would mean that you delegate the work to your team, but immediately report that all work is done while your team is still working hard!

One (terrible) way to fix this is to actively wait until a thread is done by checking its .isAlive() method. Consider this simple example where our Runnable will sleep for 15 seconds (and do nothing):

public class Joining implements Runnable {
@Override
public void run() {
System.out.println("Sleeping for 15 seconds");
try {
} catch (InterruptedException e) {
e.printStackTrace();
}
}

public static void main(String[] args) {
t.start();

while (t.isAlive())
;  // do nothing, but really fast...

System.out.println("Done!");
}
}


While this works, this is a terrible idea: the check for .isAlive() is really fast, thus the thread executing main will run “hot” without doing anything useful.

A much better way to solve this is to use the .join() method of Thread:

public static void main(String[] args) throws InterruptedException {
t.start();

t.join();  // block/sleep until t is done
System.out.println("Done!");
}


Note that join() (and sleep()) may throw an InterruptedException which needs to be appropriately handled.

You can use join() whereever you have access to the reference of a thread. For example, you could give one thread the reference to another thread, to have it start after the other thread finished.

## Shared Resources

But let’s get back to the example with the bean counters. Imagine you have a number of bean counters in your team, and they should all add to the same counter. This is possible, since threads share the memory:

class Counter {
private int c = 0;
int getCount() {
return c;
}
void increment() {
c = c + 1;
}
}

public class TeamBeanCounter implements Runnable {
Counter c;
TeamBeanCounter(Counter c) {
this.c = c;
}

@Override
public void run() {
for (int i = 0; i < 100000; i++) {
c.increment();
}
System.out.println("Total beans: " + c.getCount());
}
}


So each TeamBeanCounter receives a reference to the shared counter, and in the run() method, they each increment the counter by one; once they did this 100000 times, they print the total count.

Thus, this program:

public static void main(String[] args) {
Counter c = new Counter();

}


Should output something where the last line (i.e. the last bean counter to finish) reads

Total beans: 400000


However, you more likely read this:

Total beans: 362537


So what happened? All bean counters share the same Counter instance; however, they since each thread executes its own methods, we need to look at the increment() method carefully:

void increment() {
c = c + 1;
}


In fact, to execute this assignment, the JVM needs to first load the value of c, then add 1, and then assign it back to c.

void increment() {
int tmp = c;
++tmp;
c = tmp;
}


That means, two threads can be at different steps of this method, but share the memory. Note that the stack variables are per-thread, whereas the heap variables (the counter instance) are shared (see Java VM Specifications).

1 tmp1 = c   tmp1 = 0
2   tmp2 = c tmp2 = 0
3 ++tmp1   tmp1 = 1
4   ++tmp2 tmp2 = 1
5 c = tmp1   c = 1
6   c = tmp2 c = 1 !

Since the memory is shared, both threads retrieve the same value c of the counter (at the beginning: 0). Then they each increment that value by one, before they individually call setCount.

To fix this, we need to tell the JVM, which code segment may only entered by one thread at a time; this is also called locking. This is done using the keyword synchronized, either as a modifier to the method or as a block instruction.

synchronized void increment() {
c = c + 1;
}

void increment() {
synchronized (this) {
c = c + 1;
}
}


Each thread trying to enter the critical section first has to acquire the lock (here: this), or wait for it to become available. The thread then executes all statements inside the synchronized section, before it releases the lock again.

Note that for the block instruction, the argument to synchronized defines the lock object; this could be any object, and is implicitly this when using synchronized as a method modifier. Using either method, the output of the TeamBeanCounter program is as expected:

Total beans: 400000


## Synchronized Methods vs. Lock Objects

• The benefit of synchronized methods is, that it is an easy fix to existing code; the downside is that the whole method is locked.
• The benefit of synchronized (lock) { ... } is that the locking can be applied to very few (but critical) operations; note that in the above example, a synchronized (this) spanning the whole method body is effectively the same as making the method synchronized.
• While you can use any object as lock, you must use the the same reference in all relevant places.

# Communication

The synchronized keyword allows us to safely change values which will be read by other threads. However sometimes this basic mechanism is not enough. Consider the following scenario:

This is a classic deadlock, similar to a Mexican stand-off from the movies: threadA wants to acquire lock2, which is currently taken by threadB; threadB wants lock1, which is currently taken by threadA. As a result, nothing happens, the situation is stuck.

When inside a synchronized section, you can use the methods wait(), notify() and notifyAll() of the lock to wait in a thread until notified by some other thread. You can use this mechanism to have workers only be active when they should be:

Note: These methods are parts of the Java threading API and are defined final in Object

Note: notify() will wake up one (random) other thread; notifyAll() will wake up all other waiting threads.

## The Consumer-Producer Problem

The classic example to demonstrate how to use wait() and notify() in combination is the consumer-producer-problem: producers store data in a (ring) buffer and consumers take data out of the buffer. A typical example is a streaming media player: the producer is the decoder that reads encoded data and stores decoded (raw) media in the buffer; the media device (e.g. video player) is the consumer, removing ready-to-render data from the buffer.

The buffer provides the basic operations put(T t) and T get(), which should each block if full (put) or empty (get).

class Buffer<T> {
final int max = 10;

synchronized void put(T obj) throws InterruptedException {
// wait until buffer not full
while (buffer.size() == 10)
wait();

// wake up other threads waiting for buffer to change
notifyAll();
}

synchronized T get() throws InterruptedException {
// wait until there's something in the buffer
while (buffer.size() == 0)
wait();

T obj = buffer.remove(0);

// wake up other threads waiting for buffer to change
notifyAll();
return obj;
}
}


Now you could have several threads of producers and consumers which call the get and put methods. If somebody calls get on an empty buffer, it will repeatedly wait until there is something in the buffer. If somebody calls put on a full buffer, it will repeatedly wait until there is space available.

This works because only one thread at a time is allowed within the critical section; this is also the case why wait and notify can only be called within a critical section.

And here is the complete lifecycle of the thread showing the effects of start(), wait(), sleep() and join().

# Advanced Aspects of Java: Atomic Access

In Java, reads and writes of references and most basic types are atomic, i.e. they happen effectively at once. This does not hold for long and double, where the reads and writes are done in two chunks of 32 bit. Thus, two competing threads can read/write corrupted/incomplete data.

Use the volatile keyword to make any variable read/write atomic. In certain cases, this may already be enough to synchronize your threads, i.e. a synchronized might not be required anymore, since any change on a volatile variable is immediately visible to other threads. However, volatile does not extend to the operators, i.e. a increment or decrement operator may still require synchronization.

Final (final) fields however, are thread-safe, since their values don’t change.