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6.3 Implementation warts

6.3.1 RT signals

Sending and receiving the same number of signals is crucial for INTERRUPT-THREAD and sig_stop_for_gc, hence they are real-time signals for which the kernel maintains a queue as opposed to just setting a flag for “sigint pending”.

Note, however, that the rt signal queue is finite and on current linux kernels a system wide resource. If the queue is full, SBCL tries to signal until it succeeds. This behaviour can lead to deadlocks, if a thread in a WITHOUT-INTERRUPTS is interrupted many times, filling up the queue and then a gc hits and tries to send SIG_STOP_FOR_GC.

6.3.2 Miscellaneous issues

Signal handlers should automatically restore errno and fp state. Currently, this is not the case.

6.3.3 POSIX – Letter and Spirit

POSIX restricts signal handlers to a use only a narrow subset of POSIX functions, and declares anything else to have undefined semantics.

Apparently the real reason is that a signal handler is potentially interrupting a POSIX call: so the signal safety requirement is really a re-entrancy requirement. We can work around the letter of the standard by arranging to handle the interrupt when the signal handler returns (see: arrange_return_to_lisp_function.) This does, however, in no way protect us from the real issue of re-entrancy: even though we would no longer be in a signal handler, we might still be in the middle of an interrupted POSIX call.

For some signals this appears to be a non-issue: SIGSEGV and other semi-synchronous signals are raised by our code for our code, and so we can be sure that we are not interrupting a POSIX call with any of them.

For asynchronous signals like SIGALARM and SIGINT this is a real issue.

The right thing to do in multithreaded builds would probably be to use POSIX semaphores (which are signal safe) to inform a separate handler thread about such asynchronous events. In single-threaded builds there does not seem to be any other option aside from generally blocking asynch signals and listening for them every once and a while at safe points. Neither of these is implemented as of SBCL 1.0.4.

Currently all our handlers invoke unsafe functions without hesitation.