Re: Confused about a thread-safe singleton example.

Alan Johnson <>
Tue, 02 Dec 2008 22:47:22 -0800
<gh5a1t$2pt$> wrote:

I have a C++-specific question about thread-safe singleton instances.
 There's a trivial example here:

That goes like this, very simple and straightforward:

static Mutex mutex; static TheClass *instance;

static TheClass * getInstance () { MutexLocker lock(mutex); if
(!instance) instance = new TheClass(); return instance; }

The example then goes on to talk about how double-check locking is
broken, etc. My question is pretty much this: Is C++ static
initialization thread-safe? If not, then how does the above example
safely use "mutex"? If so, then what is wrong with this:

static TheClass instance; // not a pointer

static TheClass * getInstance () { return &instance; // it's
correctly initialized? }

The reason I ask is I almost never see it done like that, I always
see blog entries and articles that say the same thing "store instance
in a pointer, use a mutex to protect, and p.s. double-checked locking
is broken". It seems like doing it lock-free is made out to be a hard
 problem, so *if* having a static instance works (but I don't know if
 it does, that's my question), then why doesn't anybody ever suggest

Thanks! Jason

1. Don't use singletons. Ever. Pretty much all of the value of the GoF
Design Patterns book is negated by the fact that they chose to
legitimize Singleton as a design pattern. Singleton is just a fancy
name for global variable. We should call it the Global Variable

2. If you think you've found a good reason to use a singleton, see point #1.

3. Double checked locking works without memory fencing on x86:

Thus, your main opponent in the optimizer.

4. Whether or not the construction of a static variable is threadsafe
depends mostly on the implementation (the standard says nothing about
it). gcc has an option =fno-threadsafe-statics to turn off the extra
code emitted to make local statics thread safe. I guess one could
extrapolate that by default local statics are thread safe in gcc (though
I have no idea if this is actually true).

Alan Johnson

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