Wednesday, July 10, 2013

node with threads

Put this together while reviewing someone else's code. It's a simple example of how to use uv_queue_work. I made the example to work with Node's v0.10 branch, as master has upgrade to v8 3.20 which introduced non-trivial API changes. Also, this code is academic and non-optimal. I promise you're code won't be faster implementing this as-is.

Starting at the bottom, we'll start by binding a native method to a JavaScript function.

Handle<Value> Run(const Arguments& args) {
  HandleScope scope;

  js_work* work = new js_work;
  work-> = work;
  work->callback = Persistent<Function>::New(args[0].As<Function>());

  // pretty simple, right?
  uv_queue_work(uv_default_loop(), &work->req, run_work, run_callback);
  return Undefined();

void Init(Handle<Object> target) {
  HandleScope scope;

NODE_MODULE(basics, Init)

Pretty standard setup for binding a native method to the return object. In Run() the first thing that happens is to make sure the passed argument is a function, which will be run from run_callback when the work is complete. Next we're setting up a small struct containing necessary information that will propagate through the call. Finally we're making the call to uv_queue_work. This will run run_work asynchronously in the thread pool then call run_complete.

Now let's start defining some of these mystic variables. Starting from the top:

#include <v8.h>
#include <node.h>
#include <node_buffer.h>
#include <assert.h>

#define SIZE 8

using namespace v8;

struct js_work {
  uv_work_t req;
  Persistent<Function> callback;
  char* data;
  size_t len;

Referring back to the first section you'll see work-> = work;. The uv_work_t has a data field where we can store a void pointer. So by creating this loop reference to work we'll be able to get at either later on.

void run_work(uv_work_t* req) {
  js_work* work = static_cast<js_work*>(req->data);
  char* data = new char[SIZE];
  for (int i = 0; i < SIZE; i++)
    data[i] = 97;
  work->data = data;
  work->len = SIZE;

This snippet clarifies why it's useful storing a void pointer to our js_work struct. For this simple example we're just allocating a small chunk of memory and filling it with char code 97 (i.e. 'a'). Then we're able to assign it back to the struct we created earlier.

Awesome. We've created a thread and had it execute some work. Time to wrap it all up:

void run_callback(uv_work_t* req, int status) {
  HandleScope scope;

  js_work* work = static_cast<js_work*>(req->data);
  char* data = work->data;
  node::Buffer* buf = node::Buffer::New(data, work->len);

  Handle<Value> argv[1] = { buf->handle_ };

  // proper way to reenter the js world

  // properly cleanup, or death by millions of tiny leaks
  // unfortunately in v0.10 Buffer::New(char*, size_t) makes a copy
  // and we don't have the Buffer::Use() api yet
  delete[] data;
  delete work;

Note: This is an abstract and not implementation ready. In the case that node::MakeCallback() throws then data wouldn't be free'd.

To start we unravel our data and make a Buffer out of it. In v0.10 we're still stuck with the old way of doing things so it's not too pretty, but it'll get the job done. Afterwards we need to create an array of Value's that'll be passed to the callback.

Now finally, time to call our callback! MakeCallback is the proper way to reenter js-land from an asynchronous native method. So first we pass the global scope (any object would do actually), the callback function and then the callback argument count and array. Last thing necessary is some proper cleanup. Don't forget to wash behind the ears!

To complete the whole thing, here's the script I used to test:

var basics = require('./build/Release/basics');

function runMe(buf) {


// output:
// called
// aaaaaaaa

Simple tutorial done. Though be warned, today was the first time I actually did this. So trolls may be lurking.

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