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Implementing Callbacks (Was: RE: [PATCH] Adding callbacks to thecore)

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David M. Lloyd
August 22, 2001 12:52
Implementing Callbacks (Was: RE: [PATCH] Adding callbacks to thecore)
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On Wed, 22 Aug 2001, Arthur Bergman wrote:

> I do not know how many times I have to say this, the above code is
> faulty, if the next callback gets disabled.

Right, I should have said this:

  Disable a previously registered callback.  If the callback is not
  enabled, does nothing.  A callback may disable itself, but otherwise
  this function should only be called outside of a callback in the main

> I think this should be optimized for the first kind. And thus we
> should optimize for dispatching not for adding or removing callbacks.
> I understand that we should be flexible, but a 45% overhead instead of
> a 6% overhead for calling an empty function is pretty wild. Note that
> even if every callback after it isn't that much slower, you still have
> the intial 45%.

Believe it or not, but I actully tried to optimize for the first case.
One thing I did NOT want to do is iterate over an array, because it's
difficult to insert & remove elements from an array, and I didn't want to
pay the cost of iterating over an array in which some callbacks aren't
even enabled.  I'm not sure why using a linked list is so much slower...
maybe it's a cache issue?  Or maybe it's the comparisons?

> I once again suggest an array which you just iter over calling every
> callback. And no mutex. If the callback needs some kind of data from
> another thread, I think the callback should take care of it's own
> protection.

The mutex isn't the problem here... read on.

> Or we go the other way and make every repeating function notify that
> it needs to be called and make everyone a oneoff event. The
> combination of these two seems to create a non optimal solution.

I see what you're getting at.  I've been down some of these roads, and
here's what I came up with.

First, I'll cover the goals that I had in mind with this project.

1. I want to come up with a more flexible replacement for pluggable
runops.  In this so far I've failed because of the performance issues
(which I cover below).

2. I want to be able to start a thread in the background to do some work,
and have it call a Perl sub when it's done, passing it the result of its
work.  The callback system I have right now can do that effectively... if

Next, I'll cover the different implementation methods I've thought about.

1. Implementing callbacks as pseudo-signals.

The way the current signal handler works is that when a signal happens,
the signal handler ends up scanning an array of all possible signals to
find out which one happened.  This is bad because most of them will not
have happened.  In current perl it's OK because signals only happen once
in a while.  But callbacks can be on constantly.

Also, how would you add or remove pseudo-signal handlers at runtime?

One pro to this method is that there is only one comparison to determine
if an event has happened.

2. Having an array of callbacks, seperate from signals.

Much like using pseudo-signals, but with the benefit that you only have to
scan an array of callbacks, not signals too.  Same problem though, how
would you add or remove callbacks?

I suppose that one could just expand the array for new ones and not ever
delete old ones; just clear their flags and never set them again.  Or just
suck it up and splice the array when you need to delete.

The main problem with these two methods is that you are scanning a list of
flags, looking for "true", but you also cover disabled or non-pending
events, which is a waste... theoretically.

3. Linked list of callbacks, seperate from signals.

This is the (probably misguided) path I took.  My thinking is like this.

We pay the same price in comparisons that you would with an array of
callbacks seperate from signals.  But adding and removing callbacks
becomes easier, and when you scan the list, you only scan callbacks that
are active.  You don't waste time scanning inactive callbacks.

But I think the issue is not that it's a linked list.  I think that the
reason it's slow is the three comparisons.

Solution?  I think that I have to come up with some way to combine signals
and callbacks, so that we get the speed that we have today (one comparison
no matter what) and yet still be able to pass data from an asynchronous
C function to the callback, or from a seperate thread to the callback.

This will probably involve reimplementing signals as callbacks.  That's a
kinda scary proposition to me, who has never made a change to Perl
before... but I guess it's the next step in the quest to add callbacks to
the core (assuming I can't find a way to optimize my current

- D


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