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Man Pages

Manual Reference Pages  -  PACTION (3)


paction - actions in a separate thread


Return Values
See Also


PDEL Library (libpdel, -lpdel)


.In sys/types.h
.In pthread.h
.In pdel/util/paction.h int paction_start struct paction **actionp pthread_mutex_t *mutex paction_handler_t *handler paction_finish_t *finish void *arg void paction_cancel struct paction **actionp


These functions provide support for actions, which are simply function invocations that happen in separate threads. This is just a simplified API for spawning and cancelling threads with built-in support for mutex locking and avoiding certain race conditions.

paction_start creates a new action and stores a pointer to the action, represented by a struct paction, in *actionp. The creation of an action results in handler being invoked in a new thread. paction_cancel cancels an action by canceling its associated thread. In any case, when the action has completed, finish is invoked. If the action was not canceled via paction_cancel, then *mutex is acquired before finish is invoked and released afterward. If paction_cancel was called, then the mutex is not acquired for finish. The was_canceled argument to finish reflects this.

handler and finish must be pointers to functions having these types:

typedef void paction_handler_t(void *arg);
typedef void paction_finish_t(void *arg, int was_canceled);

When paction_start is invoked, *actionp must be NULL. As long as the action is still in progress (i.e., finish has not yet been invoked), *actionp will be non-NULL. When the action completes or is canceled, *actionp is set to NULL again. Therefore, *actionp must remain valid and unmodified for the duration of the action, and can be used as an indicator of whether the action has completed.

paction_cancel cancels an outstanding action. This results in the action thread being canceled at the next cancellation point. Therefore, handler may need to register thread cleanup hooks in order to free any allocated resources in the case of cancellation. Upon return, *actionp is set to NULL. If *actionp is already NULL when paction_cancel is invoked, nothing happens.

In any case, finish is invoked when the action terminates. There are two reasons for an action terminating: either the action terminated normally, or paction_cancel was invoked. If the action terminated normally, *mutex is locked, *actionp is set to NULL, and finish is invoked with was_canceled set to zero. When finish returns *mutex is unlocked.

If the action was canceled by paction_cancel, then neither mutex nor actionp are dereferenced; final is simply called with was_canceled set to non-zero. Note that *actionp will have already been set to NULL previously by paction_cancel.

Cancelling the action thread directly via pthread_cancel(3) is treated just as if handler returned early; i.e., the first case above.


There are inherent race conditions between an action’s finish function being invoked and reading the value of *actionp or canceling the action with paction_cancel. The *mutex should be used to avoid these problems by using it to protect *actionp.

The user code should acquire *mutex before calling paction_start or paction_cancel, or before accessing *actionp. If this protocol is followed, then *actionp will be non-NULL if and only if the action is still pending, i.e., finish has not yet been invoked. In addition, the was_canceled argument will always be accurate, i.e., be non-zero if and only if paction_cancel was called to cancel the action.

Finally, mutex and actionp will not be dereferenced after a call to paction_cancel, so it is always safe to destroy the memory pointed to by mutex and actionp after calling paction_cancel. However, arg must remain valid until finish is invoked, which may occur after paction_cancel returns; alternatively, finish must not dereference arg if was_canceled is non-zero.


paction_start returns -1 if there is an error, with errno set appropriately. In particular, if *actionp is not equal to NULL, then errno will be set to EBUSY.


libpdel(3), pevent(3), pthread_cancel(3), pthread_create(3)


The PDEL library was developed at Packet Design, LLC.


.An Archie Cobbs Aq
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