# [SOLVED] How to solve the dining philosophers problem with only mutexes?

## Issue

I wrote this program to solve the dining philosophers problem using Dijkstra’s algorithm, notice that I’m using an array of booleans (`data->locked`) instead of an array of binary semaphores.

I’m not sure if this solution is valid (hence the SO question).

Will access to the `data->locked` array in both `test` and `take_forks` functions cause data races? if so is it even possible to solve this problem using Dijkstra’s algorithm with only mutexes?

I’m only allowed to use mutexes, no semaphores, no condition variables (it’s an assignment).

Example of usage:

``````./a.out 4 1000 1000
``````
``````#include <pthread.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <stdbool.h>

#define NOT_HUNGRY  1
#define HUNGRY      2
#define EATING      3
#define RIGHT   ((i + 1) % data->n)
#define LEFT    ((i + data->n - 1) % data->n)

typedef struct s_data
{
int             n;
int             t_sleep;
int             t_eat;
int             *state;
bool            *locked;
}   t_data;

typedef struct s_arg
{
t_data  *data;
int     i;
}   t_arg;

int ft_min(int a, int b)
{
if (a < b)
return (a);
return (b);
}

int ft_max(int a, int b)
{
if (a > b)
return (a);
return (b);
}

// if the LEFT and RIGHT threads are not eating
// and thread number i is hungry, change its state to EATING
// and signal to the while loop in `take_forks` to stop blocking.
// if a thread has a state of HUNGRY then it's guaranteed
// to be out of the critical section of `take_forks`.
void    test(int i, t_data *data)
{
if (
data->state[i] == HUNGRY
&& data->state[LEFT] != EATING
&& data->state[RIGHT] != EATING
)
{
data->state[i] = EATING;
data->locked[i] = false;
}
}

// set the state of the thread number i to HUNGRY
// and block until the LEFT and RIGHT threads are not EATING
// in which case they will call `test` from `put_forks`
// which will result in breaking the while loop
void    take_forks(int i, t_data *data)
{
data->locked[i] = true;
data->state[i] = HUNGRY;
test(i, data);
while (data->locked[i]);
}

// set the state of the thread number i to NOT_HUNGRY
// then signal to the LEFT and RIGHT threads
// so they can start eating when their neighbors are not eating
void    put_forks(int i, t_data *data)
{
data->state[i] = NOT_HUNGRY;
test(LEFT, data);
test(RIGHT, data);
}

void    *philosopher(void *_arg)
{
t_arg   *arg = _arg;

while (true)
{
printf("%d is thinking\n", arg->i);
take_forks(arg->i, arg->data);
printf("%d is eating\n", arg->i);
usleep(arg->data->t_eat * 1000);
put_forks(arg->i, arg->data);
printf("%d is sleeping\n", arg->i);
usleep(arg->data->t_sleep * 1000);
}
return (NULL);
}

void    data_init(t_data *data, pthread_mutex_t *state_mutex, char **argv)
{
int i = 0;

data->n = atoi(argv);
data->t_eat = atoi(argv);
data->t_sleep = atoi(argv);
data->state_mutex = state_mutex;
data->state = malloc(data->n * sizeof(int));
data->locked = malloc(data->n * sizeof(bool));
while (i < data->n)
{
data->state[i] = NOT_HUNGRY;
data->locked[i] = true;
i++;
}
}

int main(int argc, char **argv)
{
t_data          data;
t_arg           *args;
int             i;

if (argc != 4)
{
fputs("Error\nInvalid argument count\n", stderr);
return (1);
}
data_init(&data, &state_mutex, argv);
args = malloc(data.n * sizeof(t_arg));
i = 0;
while (i < data.n)
{
args[i].data = &data;
args[i].i = i;
i++;
}
i = 0;
while (i < data.n)
{
pthread_create(threads + i, NULL, philosopher, args + i);
i++;
}
i = 0;
while (i < data.n)
}

``````

## Solution

Your spin loop `while (data->locked[i]);` is a data race; you don’t hold the lock while reading it `data->locked[i]`, and so another thread could take the lock and write to that same variable while you are reading it. In fact, you rely on that happening. But this is undefined behavior.

Immediate practical consequences are that the compiler can delete the test (since in the absence of a data race, `data->locked[i]` could not change between iterations), or delete the loop altogether (since it’s now an infinite loop, and nontrivial infinite loops are UB). Of course other undesired outcomes are also possible.

So you have to hold the mutex while testing the flag. If it’s false, you should then hold the mutex until you set it true and do your other work; otherwise there is a race where another thread could get it first. If it’s true, then drop the mutex, wait a little while, take it again, and retry.

(How long is a "little while", and what work you choose to do in between, are probably things you should test. Depending on what kind of fairness algorithms your pthread implementation uses, you might run into situations where `take_forks` succeeds in retaking the lock even if `put_forks` is also waiting to lock it.)

Of course, in a "real" program, you wouldn’t do it this way in the first place; you’d use a condition variable.

Answered By – Nate Eldredge

Answer Checked By – Mary Flores (BugsFixing Volunteer)