Last month, Mark hired me on as a consultant to help him profile a program he's been writing. And while I can't describe the program (or the project the program is for), I can, however, describe the issues I've had with profiling this program.
Normally to profile a program, you compile the program using special
compiler options (with
gcc this is the
that instrument the program with special code to record not only how many
times each function is called, but how much time is spent running each
function. This information is saved when the program terminates, and you
run another special program to decode this output into an easy to read format. Then you use that
information to boost the performance of
It's pretty straightforward.
This project, on the other hand, wasn't so straightforward. The
primary issue—it's a multiprocess program; that is, it calls
fork() to create child processes that do the actual work. It's
the child processes that need to be profiled, but it's difficult to actually
get the profile information from the child processes due to the way
the profiler works (and both the GNU profiler (which I'm not allowed to use
due to licensing fears) and the Sun Studio 12 profiler (which is the
development platform for the project) work simularly, so this issue affects
Problem one—the output. The program runs and when it exits, the
accumulated data is written to a file. This file is named
gmon.out if I were using GNU). In this
case, the main program starts, creates several child processes. The ouput
file is only generated when a process ends, and the only time a process ends
in this project is when you explicitely stop the main program. This results
mon.out being overwritten by each child as they end, then
overwritten again when the main process ends. So all I end up with is
profile information for the main process, which tells me that the main
processing loop took 99% of the time with only 0.01 seconds of CPU time (in
other words—the parent process did nothing noteworthy). And there's no
option in either the compiler or at runtime, to change the output file.
Or is there?
mon.out is generated in the current working
directory of the running process. Change the working directory of the
process, and the file ends up in the new working directory. So I modify the
program such that each child process creates a new working directory based
on the child's process ID and try again.
I ended up with one
mon.out file in the working directory of
the main process, and a bunch of empty directories. This leads to the
second problem with profiling—you only get the output when the process
exit() (or returns from
_exit() (there is a
difference between the two).
And replacing the calls to
caused the program to hang (Mark even had a comment in the code about the C
fork() badly in the case of
So that pretty much killed using the compiler profiler options for this project.
Or did it?
The code is on a Sun server, which means it comes with DTrace, which is an incredible tracing facility that can be used to profile an application! Without compiling a special version of the program! Heck, you can profile any running process at any time!
It's a neat facility.
Just by using some sample scripts from the DTraceToolkit
and a few examples from the Solaris Dynamic Tracing
Guide, I was able to provide Mark with enough information to nearly
double the performance of the program (major culprit—a ton of pointless
strcpy() calls in a third party library being used, but that's
about all I can say about that).
I was fortunate in that DTrace existed; between samping the program
counter, recording the number of standard library calls made, and
selectively checking the call stack to a few questionable calls (for
ferror() if you can
believe it, and tracking down the few hundred thousand calls to
strcpy()) of selected child processes, I was able to profile
this multiprocess program (and each process is multithreaded—a fact I
didn't realize until later).
And if DTrace didn't exist? Well … there's
the profiling equivalent to
printf() debugging I could have
“I keep getting these notifications that you've updated your site,” said Dad, “but when I check, I keep seeing the same page over and over again.” This was about the fourth or fifth time this topic has come up over the past few months. And each time I tell Dad to shift-reload but that doesn't seem to work for him, although the page eventually does change, after awhile.
I suspect I know the problem. Sometime in the past year I changed the configuration of my webserver to allow browsers and web proxies to better cache the content here:
ExpiresActive On ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 day" ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month" ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month" ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month" ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month" ExpiresByType text/plain "access plus 1 month"
Images, style sheets, plain text files, all can be cached for a month (heck, they can probably be cached indefinitely for my blog—the content has never really changed all that much), but the web pages (in addition to the various feed files) can only be cahced for 24 hours.
And I think that's the issue.
Dad's ISP is known to aggressively cache the web (I won't name names, but it's initials are 'A', 'O' and 'L') so I may need to adjust my methods for caching values.
An empirical test of ideas proposed by Martin Heidegger shows the great German philosopher to be correct: Everyday tools really do become part of ourselves.
The findings come from a deceptively simple study of people using a computer mouse rigged to malfunction. The resulting disruption in attention wasn’t superficial. It seemingly extended to the very roots of cognition.
“The person and the various parts of their brain and the mouse and the monitor are so tightly intertwined that they're just one thing,” said Anthony Chemero, a cognitive scientist at Franklin & Marshall College. “The tool isn't separate from you. It's part of you.”
More food for thought in the tool vs. crutch debate …
The original plan was to drive to Blountstown to surprise Joe for his birthday, but due to existent plans his family had, we couldn't do that. Joe then expressed interest in meeting at MegaCon the following week, but we all told him that no one from South Florida would be able to make (in truth, with the help of his wife, planning on meeting him for a surprise birthday party in Orlando).
So at the ungodly hour of 11:00 am, Bunny, Gregory, Kurt, Keith and I started our drive northward. We needed to start out early to ensure we would arrive at the hotel first and set up the decorations and get the cake.
Joe (left) still giddy at our little surprise, even stuffed into the back of a sport utility vehicle with Kurt.
Joe was totally surprised by us, and was rather giddy the entire evening. Just being there was the best gift we could have given him.
If I thought 11:00 am was ungodly, then there's no description I can give of getting up at 7:00 am (I think the last time I had to do that was … um … over twenty years ago?) in order to get to the convention. After a quick breakfast at McDonald's (where I saw no less than five (5) superheros eating breakfast—this particular McDonald's was within walking distance to the Orlando Convention Center, so it's not surprising that I saw no less than five (5) superheros at that particular establishment), Joe, Kurt, Gregory, Keith, Bunny, and I headed over to the convention center. There in the parking lot, we met up with Jeff and Tom, who drove up that day from South Florida to help celebrate Joe's birthday.
We then hiked about a mile through the south portion of the convention center to the north hall (yes, the Orlando Convention Center is at least two huge buildings), only to wait in line for about an hour to get tickets to go inside.
But once inside … oh my …
Dinner afterwards (after some fun attempting to navigate through the Orlando traffic), then back to the hotel for some swimming and hanging out.
Unfortunately, I did not get any shots inside the store, as I was too busy drooling over all the sets for sale (I was particularly drooling over the Emerald Night Train set), and marvelling at a camera/video display they had set up. You could hold up a box of a kit to the camera, and on the video display, you could see yourself holding up the box, but the system would then add a 3D rendering of the kit on the box you were holding. And as you rotated the box around, the the 3D rendering would rotate with the box (and a few kits were even animated, like the Emerald Night Train).
A few hours there, then we all started the drive back from Orlando.