bit fields && data tearing

Peter Hurley peter at
Tue Jul 15 23:54:16 EST 2014

On 07/13/2014 06:25 PM, Benjamin Herrenschmidt wrote:
> On Sun, 2014-07-13 at 09:15 -0400, Peter Hurley wrote:
>> I'm not sure I understand your point here, Ben.
>> Suppose that two different spinlocks are used independently to
>> protect r-m-w access to adjacent data. In Oleg's example,
>> suppose spinlock 1 is used for access to the bitfield and
>> spinlock 2 is used for access to freeze_stop.
>> What would prevent an accidental write to freeze_stop from the
>> kt_1 thread?
> My point was to be weary of bitfields in general because access
> to them is always R-M-W, never atomic and that seem to escape
> people regularily :-) (Among other problems such as endian etc...)
> As for Oleg's example, it *should* have worked because the bitfield and
> the adjacent freeze_stop should have been accessed using load/stores
> that don't actually overlap, but the compiler bug causes the bitfield
> access to not properly use the basic type of the bitfield, but escalate
> to a full 64-bit R-M-W instead, thus incorrectly R-M-W'ing the field
> next door.

Yeah, ok, so just a generic heads-up about non-atomicity of bitfields,
and not something specific to Oleg's example. Thanks.

Jonathan Corbet wrote a LWN article about this back in 2012:

I guess it's fixed in gcc 4.8, but too bad there's not a workaround for
earlier compilers (akin to -fstrict_volatile_bitfields without requiring
the volatile keyword).

Peter Hurley

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