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extremely boring async function runner!
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README.md

extreme!

extremely boring async function runner, written in 44 lines of 0-dependency Rust.

why?

I teach custom Rust workshops that cover a wide variety of low-level subjects. This lays bear the essential runtime complexity of Rust's async functionality for educational purposes.

documentation

/// Run a `Future`.
pub fn run<F, O>(f: F) -> O
where
    F: Future<Output = O>

implementation

use std::sync::{Arc, Condvar, Mutex};
use std::task::{Context, Poll, RawWaker, RawWakerVTable, Waker};

#[derive(Default)]
struct Park(Mutex<bool>, Condvar);

fn unpark(park: &Park) {
    *park.0.lock().unwrap() = true;
    park.1.notify_one();
}

static VTABLE: RawWakerVTable = RawWakerVTable::new(
    |clone_me| unsafe {
        let arc = Arc::from_raw(clone_me as *const Park);
        std::mem::forget(arc.clone());
        RawWaker::new(Arc::into_raw(arc) as *const (), &VTABLE)
    },
    |wake_me| unsafe { unpark(&Arc::from_raw(wake_me as *const Park)) },
    |wake_by_ref_me| unsafe { unpark(&*(wake_by_ref_me as *const Park)) },
    |drop_me| unsafe { drop(Arc::from_raw(drop_me as *const Park)) },
);

/// Run a `Future`.
pub fn run<F: std::future::Future>(mut f: F) -> F::Output {
    let mut f = unsafe { std::pin::Pin::new_unchecked(&mut f) };
    let park = Arc::new(Park::default());
    let sender = Arc::into_raw(park.clone());
    let raw_waker = RawWaker::new(sender as *const _, &VTABLE);
    let waker = unsafe { Waker::from_raw(raw_waker) };
    let mut cx = Context::from_waker(&waker);

    loop {
        match f.as_mut().poll(&mut cx) {
            Poll::Pending => {
                let mut runnable = park.0.lock().unwrap();
                while !*runnable {
                    runnable = park.1.wait(runnable).unwrap();
                }
                *runnable = false;
            }
            Poll::Ready(val) => return val,
        }
    }
}

how does it work?

Rust async blocks and functions evaluate to an implementation of the Future trait, which has one method: poll. If you want to run a Rust Future by calling its poll method, you need to have a Context that you can pass to it. This Context allows the Future to have some information about the system it is running inside of. In particular, a Context provides access to a Waker, which is essentially just a raw pointer and a RawWakerVTable which can be thought of almost like a trait implementation. The Waker allows the Future to notify the runtime at a later time, communicating that it should be polled again.

bugs encountered over time

But it didn't always look this way... Here is a mostly-complete account of the reliability-related engineering effort that went into this.

  1. use after free of thread, where the backing future could clone the waker and send a reference to the thread object that lives in the stack frame of the run function. If the backing Future wakes the waker after the run function returns, it's a use after free. caught by @stjepang
  2. use after free due to accidentally dropping an Arc in the vtable clone, caught with ASAN via the sanitizer script
  3. race condition triggered by usage of thread::park, which can race when other code may rely on thread parking, like std::sync::Once being used from the called Future's poll method. caught by @tomaka
  4. potential correctness issue in pin usage, alleviated by shadowing the input future to guarantee that it is never reused, and using Pin::as_mut in the poll loop instead of creating a new Pin in each loop. caught by @withoutboats

miri, LSAN, and TSAN have also been run on this code, although they have not found issues yet.

conclusion

Runtimes can be pretty simple. Simple is not easy. unsafe must be paired with tools like the sanitizer script in this repo, and ideally as much peer feedback as possible. None of the people mentioned above were requested to look at this code, but because it was only a few dozen lines long, they took a look and provided helpful feedback. Time spent making things look cute and short turned into peer feedback that caught real bugs.

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