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Answers for Quiz on Chapter 12

This page contains sample answers to the quiz on Chapter 12 of Introduction to Programming Using Java. Note that generally, there are lots of correct answers to a given question.

Question 1:

Write a complete subclass of Thread to represent a thread that writes out the numbers from 1 to 10. Then write some code that would create and start a thread belonging to that class.


The class that defines the thread:

public class CountingThread extends Thread {
   public static run() {
      for (int i = 1; i <= 10; i++)

Code to create an object of type CountingThread and start the thread:

CountingThread counter;     // Declare a variable to represent a thread.
counter = new CountingThread();  // Create the thread object.
counter.start();                 // Start the thread running.

(Note that it's possible to create a new thread and start it with one statement:

new CountingThread().start();

Because of the precedence of the new operator, this is equivalent to (new CountingThread()).start(), and the effect is to create a new object of type CountingThread and then to call the start() method in that object.)

Question 2:

Suppose that thrd is an object of type Thread. Explain the difference between calling thrd.start() and calling thrd.run().


Calling thrd.start() creates a new thread of control and returns immediately after doing so; then the thread's run() method is called in the new thread of control. The code in the run() method is executed at the same time, in parallel, with the code that follows the call to thrd.start().

The statement thrd.run() calls the run method in the usual way: The run() method is executed in the same thread of control as the method that called run(). Only after the run() method returns will the code that follows thrd.run() be executed.

Question 3:

What is a race condition?


A race condition is a problem that can occur in a multithreaded program. Suppose that a thread takes a sequence of actions in which one action can depend on the result of a previous action. A race condition occurs if it's possible for another thread to change or invalidate the result of the previous action, before the first thread completes the sequence. For example, there is a race condition in the simple assignment statement count = count+1 because it is executed as a sequence of steps. The old value of count is read, one is added to that value, and the new value is stored back into count. A race condition occurs if it is possible for another thread to increment the value of count between the time when the first thread reads the old value and the time when it stores the new value. In this case, the race condition can result in an incorrect value for count -- count might be increased by one when it was supposed to be increased by two. Another example occurs in the if statement

if ( ! list.isEmpty() )
    return list.removeFirst();

There is a race condition if it is possible for another thread to empty the list between the time when the first thread tests whether the list is empty and the time when the first thread tries to remove an element from the list. In this case, the race condition can result in an exception when the first thread tries to remove an item from an empty list.

Question 4:

How does synchronization prevent race conditions, and what does it mean to say that synchronization only provides mutual exclusion?


Synchronization makes it possible for a thread to complete a sequence of actions without interference from another thread. Two threads cannot be synchronized on the same object at the same time. While one thread is executing a synchronized block of code, it's impossible for another thread to be executing the same block of code, or any other block of code that is synchronized on the same object. For example, if a thread executes

synchronized(list) {
   if ( ! list.isEmpty() )
      return list.removeFirst();

then, assuming that all code that manipulates list is properly synchronized, it can be sure that no other thread will be able to empty the list between the time when the first thread tests whether the list is empty and the time when it removes the first element from the list.

Synchronization provides only mutual exclusion because it only protects a thread from other threads that are also synchronized. In the example, the code has exclusive access to list only if all the code segments that manipulate list are synchronized. There is no protection against a thread that executes the statement list.clear() without synchronization.

Question 5:

Suppose that a program uses a single thread that takes 4 seconds to run. Now suppose that the program creates two threads and divides the same work between the two threads. What can be said about the expected execution time of the program that uses two threads?


The execution time will depend on whether the program is being run on a computer that has more than one processor. If so, the execution time could be as little as 2 seconds, since each of two processors can do half of the 4-seconds worth of work. If the computer has only one processor, however, the two-threaded program will still take 4 seconds, since all the work will have to be done by the single processor.

Question 6:

What is an ArrayBlockingQueue and how does it solve the producer/consumer problem?


An ArrayBlockingQueue is a queue in which the operations of adding and removing items can block. Adding an item will block if the queue is full; removing an item will block if the queue is empty. (Furthermore, operations on the queue are properly synchronized for use in a multithreaded program.)

The producer/consumer problem is the problem of safely and efficiently getting items that are produced by one group of threads to a second group of threads that consume the items. If the items are sent through a blocking queue, then the threads in the second group will block when there are no items available for them to consume, and threads in the first group will block if they are producing items faster than they can be consumed. (Furthermore, the synchronization guarantees that no item will be lost or consumed twice.)

In an application in which only the consuming threads should block, a LinkedBlockingQueue, which has unlimited capacity, can be used.

Question 7:

What is a thread pool?


Thread pools are used when a large number of tasks are to be performed, as an alternative to creating a new thread to execute each task. A thread pool is a relatively small collection of threads that are available for performing tasks. When a task becomes available, instead of creating a new thread for the task, the task is assigned to one of the threads from the pool. When the task is complete, the thread goes back into the pool so that more tasks can be assigned to it.

Typically, tasks are placed into a queue as they become available. Each thread in the pool runs in an infinite loop in which it repeatedly takes a task from the queue and executes it. (Blocking queues work well for this application.)

Question 8:

Network server programs are often multithreaded. Explain what this means and why it is true.


A multi-threaded server uses threads to handle the client connections that it accepts. A server program is generally designed to process connection requests from many clients. It runs in an infinite loop in which it accepts a connection request and processes it. If the processing takes a significant amount of time, it's not a good idea to make the other clients wait while the current client is processed. The solution is for the server to make a new thread to handle each client connection, or to use a thread pool of threads that can handle the client connections. The server can continue to accept more client connections even while the first client is being serviced.

Question 9:

Why does a multithreaded network server program often use many times more threads than the number of available processors?


Network operations can block, which means that a thread that handles communication with a client will often spend most of its time sleeping. In order to keep all the processors busy, the number of active threads should be comparable to the number of processors. If at any given time, the number of active threads is only a fraction of the total number of threads, then the total number of threads should be several times the number of processors.

Question 10:

Consider the ThreadSafeCounter example from Subsection 12.1.3:

public class ThreadSafeCounter {
   private int count = 0;  // The value of the counter.
   synchronized public void increment() {
      count = count + 1;
   synchronized public int getValue() {
      return count;

The increment() method is synchronized so that the caller of the method can complete the three steps of the operation "Get value of count," "Add 1 to value," "Store new value in count" without being interrupted by another thread. But getValue() consists of a single, simple step. Why is getValue() synchronized? (This is a deep and tricky question.)


The getValue() method has to be synchronized because of the caching of local data that was discussed in Subsection 12.1.4. If getValue() were not synchronized, it is possible that a thread that calls getValue() would see an old, cached value of count rather than the most current value. Synchronization ensures that the most current value of count will be seen. If count were declared to be a volatile variable, then getValue() would not have to be synchronized. However, increment() would still need to be synchronized to prevent the race condition.

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