How to avoid deadlocks

We have seen how easy is to write code that could lead to a deadlock, and we already seen a protocol that, when carefully observed, remove that risks.

We have see how a deadlock could occur if we need to lock more than one mutex at the same time, because in that case we could have a thread that has already locked a mutex, but can't get its hands on the other (or one of the others) mutex that it needs, since another thread has already locked it for its use. And the other thread is in the same situation. Both guys are waiting for locking a mutex locked from another thread. No easy way out, one would say.

But actually, there is a way out, and it is part of the C++11 standard - and, if your compiler does not implement this new feature, you could get it through the Boost Thread library. The trick is done by the free function std::lock() / boost::lock() that locks all the passed mutex, or wait till this is possible. No partial locking is performed, so in this case the risk of deadlock is completely removed.

We can rewrite both f1() and f2() (as seen in the previous post) as this:
void f(char feedback)
for(int i = 0; i < SIZE_; ++i)
boost::lock<boost::mutex, boost::mutex>(m1_, m2_); // 1

std::cout << feedback;

m1_.unlock(); // 2

1. As you see, lock() is a template function. It returns when it actually has performed the lock on both mutexes. There is no yield() call after this line because it actually doesn't have any use anymore, but you can try putting it (or maybe even a sleep, to force a context switch) and see what happens.
2. Major nuisance: the lock() function performs a simple lock() on the passed mutexes, no RAII as when lock_guard is used, that means we should unlock "by hand" both of them at the end of the critical area.

Do you feel uneasy for that explicit unlocks? Right, we could still use lock_guard, specifying that it has not to acquire the lock, just adopt it:
boost::lock<boost::mutex, boost::mutex>(m1_, m2_);
boost::lock_guard<boost::mutex> l1(m1_, boost::adopt_lock);
boost::lock_guard<boost::mutex> l2(m2_, boost::adopt_lock);

No more need of explicit unlock() at the end of the scope, the lock_guard dtor would take care of it.

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