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Chapter 8

Threads Overview
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Stopping Threads
Thread Tasks
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  Demo 5

  Demo 6

Task Splitting
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  Demo 8

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Java2D Animation
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Processor View
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Concurrent processes, i.e. threads, are extremely useful tools but, as we see in the discussions of synchronization in Chapter 8: Java, can be tricky to handle when the processes must interact with each other. Java 5.0 came with many additional tools for the programmer to use when threading.

The Concurrency Utilities - Java Language Programming Guide gives an overview of the new tools. This article - Getting to Know Synchonizers - Java Tech Tips - Feb.26.2005 - gives a nice introduction to the follwoing four synchronization tools:

The wait-notify system in standard Java is not the only way that thread synchronization can be done. A classic approach in other languages is the semaphore, which is a protected variable allows up to a given N number of threads to access a resource simultaneously. As described in the tutorial, an instance of the new Java Semphore class can be used to limit how many many treads can invoke a particular method at any one time.

Say that you are simulating a system of many mutally interacting particles, each of whose motion depends on the position of the other particles. You assign a thead to each particle to calculate its velocity, position, etc. for an increment in time based on the sum of the forces from the other particles. You clearly have to constrain each thread to calculate only one step and then wait for all the other particle to "catch up". Otherwise, some threads will get far ahead of the others and calculate their particle motions incorrectly based on previous positions of the other particles rather than on where those other particles would actually be at the same time step.

So a given thread should do its calculation and then wait until all the other threads are finished before starting to calculate the next step. This could be done with a barrier synchronization technique. This term implies that a thread is stopped at the barrier until all threads reach it. Once all have reached it, the barrier is lowered and they all start a new round of step calculations and all again wait at the barrier after they finish their work.

The concurrency utilities offers the CyclicBarrier class to provide this tool. (It's called cyclic because it can be reused after each time the waiting threads are released by it.) The class includes the option of running a thread when once all the threads reach the barrier. The tutorial uses the case of adding up the rows of matrix.

The CountDownLatch class allows one to prevent a set of threads from running until you are ready for them to. For example, you might want to create the threads and then do some initialization tasks before starting them all simultaneously. The tutorial shows how to use the CountDownLatch to start several threads simultaneously and also to stop them all at the same time.

The join() method in the Thread class can also be used to allow for two or more threads to finish togehter. However, latches can be used to create several places where threads must wait before proceeding with further processing.

Say that you want to create a producer/consumer system in which the producer fills up a buffer, passes the filled buffer to the consumer, which then begins to empty that buffer for its own purposes. Meanwhile, the producer could be filling a new buffer. Rather than creating a new buffer object each time, the consumer could pass the producer an old buffer that it had finished emptying.

The java.util.concurrent.Exchanger class provides for this exchange of objects. The tutorial provides a producer/consumer example that illustrates this.

More new concurrency Tools:
In Chapter 10: Java: The Concurrency Utilities, we discuss the new Executor framework, which relieves the programmer of threading toil such as creating thread pools, killing a thread safely, etc. The Callable interface improves on Runnable by allowing for the return of data and for throwing and catching an exception from a thread.


References & Web Resources


Most recent update: Oct. 6, 2005




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Hist. Adapt Range
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Sorting in Java
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Histogram Median
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Error Bars
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Fit to Polynomial
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