Difference between binary semaphore and mutex

They are NOT the same thing. They are used for different purposes!
While both types of semaphores have a full/empty state and use the same API, their usage is very different.

Mutual Exclusion Semaphores
Mutual Exclusion semaphores are used to protect shared resources (data structure, file, etc..).

A Mutex semaphore is “owned” by the task that takes it. If Task B attempts to semGive a mutex currently held by Task A, Task B’s call will return an error and fail.

Mutexes always use the following sequence:

  - SemTake
  - Critical Section
  - SemGive

Here is a simple example:

  Thread A                     Thread B
   Take Mutex
     access data
     ...                        Take Mutex  <== Will block
   Give Mutex                     access data  <== Unblocks
                                Give Mutex

Binary Semaphore
Binary Semaphore address a totally different question:

  • Task B is pended waiting for something to happen (a sensor being tripped for example).
  • Sensor Trips and an Interrupt Service Routine runs. It needs to notify a task of the trip.
  • Task B should run and take appropriate actions for the sensor trip. Then go back to waiting.

   Task A                      Task B
   ...                         Take BinSemaphore   <== wait for something
   Do Something Noteworthy
   Give BinSemaphore           do something    <== unblocks

Note that with a binary semaphore, it is OK for B to take the semaphore and A to give it.
Again, a binary semaphore is NOT protecting a resource from access. The act of Giving and Taking a semaphore are fundamentally decoupled.
It typically makes little sense for the same task to so a give and a take on the same binary semaphore.

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