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Mutexes

A mutex is a kernel object that implements a traditional reentrant mutex. A mutex allows multiple threads to safely share an associated hardware or software resource by ensuring mutually exclusive access to the resource.

Concepts

Any number of mutexes can be defined (limited only by available RAM). Each mutex is referenced by its memory address.

A mutex has the following key properties:

  • A lock count that indicates the number of times the mutex has be locked by the thread that has locked it. A count of zero indicates that the mutex is unlocked.

  • An owning thread that identifies the thread that has locked the mutex, when it is locked.

A mutex must be initialized before it can be used. This sets its lock count to zero.

A thread that needs to use a shared resource must first gain exclusive rights to access it by locking the associated mutex. If the mutex is already locked by another thread, the requesting thread may choose to wait for the mutex to be unlocked.

After locking a mutex, the thread may safely use the associated resource for as long as needed; however, it is considered good practice to hold the lock for as short a time as possible to avoid negatively impacting other threads that want to use the resource. When the thread no longer needs the resource it must unlock the mutex to allow other threads to use the resource.

Any number of threads may wait on a locked mutex simultaneously. When the mutex becomes unlocked it is then locked by the highest-priority thread that has waited the longest.

Note

Mutex objects are not designed for use by ISRs.

Reentrant Locking

A thread is permitted to lock a mutex it has already locked. This allows the thread to access the associated resource at a point in its execution when the mutex may or may not already be locked.

A mutex that is repeatedly locked by a thread must be unlocked an equal number of times before the mutex becomes fully unlocked so it can be claimed by another thread.

Priority Inheritance

The thread that has locked a mutex is eligible for priority inheritance. This means the kernel will temporarily elevate the thread’s priority if a higher priority thread begins waiting on the mutex. This allows the owning thread to complete its work and release the mutex more rapidly by executing at the same priority as the waiting thread. Once the mutex has been unlocked, the unlocking thread resets its priority to the level it had before locking that mutex.

Note

The CONFIG_PRIORITY_CEILING configuration option limits how high the kernel can raise a thread’s priority due to priority inheritance. The default value of 0 permits unlimited elevation.

When two or more threads wait on a mutex held by a lower priority thread, the kernel adjusts the owning thread’s priority each time a thread begins waiting (or gives up waiting). When the mutex is eventually unlocked, the unlocking thread’s priority correctly reverts to its original non-elevated priority.

The kernel does not fully support priority inheritance when a thread holds two or more mutexes simultaneously. This situation can result in the thread’s priority not reverting to its original non-elevated priority when all mutexes have been released. It is recommended that a thread lock only a single mutex at a time when multiple mutexes are shared between threads of different priorities.

Implementation

Defining a Mutex

A mutex is defined using a variable of type k_mutex. It must then be initialized by calling k_mutex_init().

The following code defines and initializes a mutex.

struct k_mutex my_mutex;

k_mutex_init(&my_mutex);

Alternatively, a mutex can be defined and initialized at compile time by calling K_MUTEX_DEFINE.

The following code has the same effect as the code segment above.

K_MUTEX_DEFINE(my_mutex);

Locking a Mutex

A mutex is locked by calling k_mutex_lock().

The following code builds on the example above, and waits indefinitely for the mutex to become available if it is already locked by another thread.

k_mutex_lock(&my_mutex, K_FOREVER);

The following code waits up to 100 milliseconds for the mutex to become available, and gives a warning if the mutex does not become available.

if (k_mutex_lock(&my_mutex, K_MSEC(100)) == 0) {
    /* mutex successfully locked */
} else {
    printf("Cannot lock XYZ display\n");
}

Unlocking a Mutex

A mutex is unlocked by calling k_mutex_unlock().

The following code builds on the example above, and unlocks the mutex that was previously locked by the thread.

k_mutex_unlock(&my_mutex);

Suggested Uses

Use a mutex to provide exclusive access to a resource, such as a physical device.

Configuration Options

Related configuration options:

API Reference

group mutex_apis

Defines

K_MUTEX_DEFINE(name)

Statically define and initialize a mutex.

The mutex can be accessed outside the module where it is defined using:

extern struct k_mutex <name>; 

Parameters
  • name – Name of the mutex.

Functions

int k_mutex_init(struct k_mutex *mutex)

Initialize a mutex.

This routine initializes a mutex object, prior to its first use.

Upon completion, the mutex is available and does not have an owner.

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex.

Returns

0 – Mutex object created

int k_mutex_lock(struct k_mutex *mutex, k_timeout_t timeout)

Lock a mutex.

This routine locks mutex. If the mutex is locked by another thread, the calling thread waits until the mutex becomes available or until a timeout occurs.

A thread is permitted to lock a mutex it has already locked. The operation completes immediately and the lock count is increased by 1.

Mutexes may not be locked in ISRs.

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex.

  • timeout – Waiting period to lock the mutex, or one of the special values K_NO_WAIT and K_FOREVER.

Returns

  • 0 – Mutex locked.

  • -EBUSY – Returned without waiting.

  • -EAGAIN – Waiting period timed out.

int k_mutex_unlock(struct k_mutex *mutex)

Unlock a mutex.

This routine unlocks mutex. The mutex must already be locked by the calling thread.

The mutex cannot be claimed by another thread until it has been unlocked by the calling thread as many times as it was previously locked by that thread.

Mutexes may not be unlocked in ISRs, as mutexes must only be manipulated in thread context due to ownership and priority inheritance semantics.

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex.

Returns

  • 0 – Mutex unlocked.

  • -EPERM – The current thread does not own the mutex

  • -EINVAL – The mutex is not locked

struct k_mutex
#include <kernel.h>

Mutex Structure

Public Members

_wait_q_t wait_q

Mutex wait queue

struct k_thread *owner

Mutex owner

uint32_t lock_count

Current lock count

int owner_orig_prio

Original thread priority

Futex API Reference

k_futex is a lightweight mutual exclusion primitive designed to minimize kernel involvement. Uncontended operation relies only on atomic access to shared memory. k_futex are tracked as kernel objects and can live in user memory so that any access bypasses the kernel object permission management mechanism.

group futex_apis

Functions

int k_futex_wait(struct k_futex *futex, int expected, k_timeout_t timeout)

Pend the current thread on a futex.

Tests that the supplied futex contains the expected value, and if so, goes to sleep until some other thread calls k_futex_wake() on it.

Parameters
  • futex – Address of the futex.

  • expected – Expected value of the futex, if it is different the caller will not wait on it.

  • timeout – Non-negative waiting period on the futex, or one of the special values K_NO_WAIT or K_FOREVER.

Returns

  • -EACCES – Caller does not have read access to futex address.

  • -EAGAIN – If the futex value did not match the expected parameter.

  • -EINVAL – Futex parameter address not recognized by the kernel.

  • -ETIMEDOUT – Thread woke up due to timeout and not a futex wakeup.

  • 0 – if the caller went to sleep and was woken up. The caller should check the futex’s value on wakeup to determine if it needs to block again.

int k_futex_wake(struct k_futex *futex, bool wake_all)

Wake one/all threads pending on a futex.

Wake up the highest priority thread pending on the supplied futex, or wakeup all the threads pending on the supplied futex, and the behavior depends on wake_all.

Parameters
  • futex – Futex to wake up pending threads.

  • wake_all – If true, wake up all pending threads; If false, wakeup the highest priority thread.

Returns

  • -EACCES – Caller does not have access to the futex address.

  • -EINVAL – Futex parameter address not recognized by the kernel.

  • Number – of threads that were woken up.

User Mode Mutex API Reference

sys_mutex behaves almost exactly like k_mutex, with the added advantage that a sys_mutex instance can reside in user memory. When user mode isn’t enabled, sys_mutex behaves like k_mutex.

group user_mutex_apis

Defines

SYS_MUTEX_DEFINE(name)

Statically define and initialize a sys_mutex.

The mutex can be accessed outside the module where it is defined using:

extern struct sys_mutex <name>; 

Route this to memory domains using K_APP_DMEM().

Parameters
  • name – Name of the mutex.

Functions

static inline void sys_mutex_init(struct sys_mutex *mutex)

Initialize a mutex.

This routine initializes a mutex object, prior to its first use.

Upon completion, the mutex is available and does not have an owner.

This routine is only necessary to call when userspace is disabled and the mutex was not created with SYS_MUTEX_DEFINE().

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex.

Returns

N/A

static inline int sys_mutex_lock(struct sys_mutex *mutex, k_timeout_t timeout)

Lock a mutex.

This routine locks mutex. If the mutex is locked by another thread, the calling thread waits until the mutex becomes available or until a timeout occurs.

A thread is permitted to lock a mutex it has already locked. The operation completes immediately and the lock count is increased by 1.

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex, which may reside in user memory

  • timeout – Waiting period to lock the mutex, or one of the special values K_NO_WAIT and K_FOREVER.

Returns

  • 0 – Mutex locked.

  • -EBUSY – Returned without waiting.

  • -EAGAIN – Waiting period timed out.

  • -EACCES – Caller has no access to provided mutex address

  • -EINVAL – Provided mutex not recognized by the kernel

static inline int sys_mutex_unlock(struct sys_mutex *mutex)

Unlock a mutex.

This routine unlocks mutex. The mutex must already be locked by the calling thread.

The mutex cannot be claimed by another thread until it has been unlocked by the calling thread as many times as it was previously locked by that thread.

Parameters
  • mutex – Address of the mutex, which may reside in user memory

Returns

  • 0 – Mutex unlocked

  • -EACCES – Caller has no access to provided mutex address

  • -EINVAL – Provided mutex not recognized by the kernel or mutex wasn’t locked

  • -EPERM – Caller does not own the mutex