Condition variable is used for a thread to wait for some condition to be true before continuing. The implementation is quite simple compared to lock, yet the difficult part is to understand how a CV is supposed to used.

CV Interface

Condition variable has two interfaces: cv_wait and cv_signal. cv_wait is used to wait for a condition to be true, and cv_signal is used to notify other threads that a certain condition is true.

So what?

Let's consider a producer-consumer case, where a bunch of threads share a resource pool, some of them (producer) is responsible to put stuff to the pool and others (consumer) are responsible to take stuff from the pool. Obviously, we have two rules.

  1. If the pool is full, then producers can not put to the pool
  2. If the pool is empty, then consumers can not take stuff from the pool

And we use two condition variables for each of these rules: pool_full and pool_empty. Here is the pseudo code for producer and consumer:

void producer(void) {
    while (pool_is_full) {
        cv_wait(pool_full, pool_lock);
    /* notify that the pool now is not empty, so if any one is waiting
     * on the pool_empty cv, wake them up 
    cv_signal(pool_empty, pool_lock);

void consumer(void) {
    while (pool_is_empty) {
        cv_wait(pool_empty, pool_lock);
    /* notify that the pool now is not full, so if any one is waiting
     * on the pool_full cv, wake them up 

    cv_signal(pool_full, pool_lock);

Here we also use a lock to protect access to the pool. We can see from this example:

  1. Condition variable is virtually a wait channel
  2. Condition variable is normally used together with lock, but condition variable itself doesn't contain a lock

What's in cv structure?

Obviously, we need a wait channel. And that's it (probably plus a cv_name).

cv_wait and cv_signal

Now let's get to business. The comment in $OS161_SRC/kern/inlucde/synch.h basically told you everything you need to do.

In cv_wait, we need to:

  1. Lock the wait channel
  2. Release the lock passed in
  3. Sleep on the wait channel
  4. When waked up, re-acquire the lock.

So before cv_wait, we should already hold the lock (so that we can release it). And after cv_wait, we still hold the lock.

In cv_signal, we just wake up somebody in the wait channel using wchan_wakeone.