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Comment: Re:complex application example (Score 4, Informative) 160

by lkcl (#47493359) Attached to: Linux Needs Resource Management For Complex Workloads

> the first ones used threads, semaphores through python's multiprocessing.Pipe implementation.

I stopped reading when I came across this.

Honestly - why are people trying to do things that need guarantees with python?

because we have an extremely limited amount of time as an additional requirement, and we can always rewrite critical portions or later the entire application in c once we have delivered a working system that means that the client can get some money in and can therefore stay in business.

also i worked with david and we benchmarked python-lmdb after adding in support for looped sequential "append" mode and got a staggering performance metric of 900,000 100-byte key/value pairs, and a sequential read performance of 2.5 MILLION records. the equivalent c benchmark is only around double those numbers. we don't *need* the dramatic performance increase that c would bring if right now, at this exact phase of the project, we are targetting something that is 1/10th to 1/5th the performance of c.

so if we want to provide the client with a product *at all*, we go with python.

but one thing that i haven't pointed out is that i am an experienced linux python and c programmer, having been the lead developer of samba tng back from 1997 to 2000. i simpy transferred all of the tricks that i know involving while-loops around non-blocking sockets and so on over to python. ... and none of them helped. if you get 0.5% of the required performance in python, it's so far off the mark that you know something is drastically wrong. converting the exact same program to c is not going to help.

The fact you have strict timing guarantees means you should be using a realtime kernel and realtime threads with a dedicated network card and dedicated processes on IRQs for that card.

we don't have anything like that [strict timing guarantees] - not for the data itself. the data comes in on a 15 second delay (from the external source that we do not have control over) so a few extra seconds delay is not going to hurt.

so although we need the real-time response to handle the incoming data, we _don't_ need the real-time capability beyond that point.

Take the incoming messages from UDP and post them on a message bus should be step one so that you don't lose them.

.... you know, i think this is extremely sensible advice (which i have heard from other sources) so it is good to have that confirmed... my concerns are as follows:

questions:

* how do you then ensure that the process receiving the incoming UDP messages is high enough priority to make sure that the packets are definitely, definitely received?

* what support from the linux kernel is there to ensure that this happens?

* is there a system call which makes sure that data received on a UDP socket *guarantees* that the process receiving it is woken up as an absolute priority over and above all else?

* the message queue destination has to have locking otherwise it will be corrupted. what happens if the message queue that you wish to send the UDP packet to is locked by a *lower* priority process?

* what support in the linux kernel is there to get the lower priority process to have its priority temporarily increased until it lets go of the message queue on which the higher-priority task is critically dependent?

this is exactly the kind of thing that is entirely missing from the linux kernel. temporary automatic re-prioritisation was something that was added to solaris by sun microsystems quite some time ago.

to the best of my knowledge the linux kernel has absolutely no support for these kinds of very important re-prioritisation requirements.

Comment: complex application example (Score 4, Insightful) 160

by lkcl (#47492919) Attached to: Linux Needs Resource Management For Complex Workloads

i am running into exactly this problem on my current contract. here is the scenario:

* UDP traffic (an external requirement that cannot be influenced) comes in
* the UDP traffic contains multiple data packets (call them "jobs") each of which requires minimal decoding and processing
* each "job" must be farmed out to *multiple* scripts (for example, 15 is not unreasonable)
* the responses from each job running on each script must be collated then post-processed.

so there is a huge fan-out where jobs (approximately 60 bytes) are coming in at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 per second; those are being multiplied up by a factor of 15 (to 15,000 to 30,000 per second, each taking very little time in and of themselves), and the responses - all 15 to 30 thousand - must be in-order before being post-processed.

so, the first implementation is in a single process, and we just about achieve the target of 1,000 jobs but only about 10 scripts per job.

anything _above_ that rate and the UDP buffers overflow and there is no way to know if the data has been dropped. the data is *not* repeated, and there is no back-communication channel.

the second implementation uses a parallel dispatcher. i went through half a dozen different implementations.

the first ones used threads, semaphores through python's multiprocessing.Pipe implementation. the performance was beyond dreadful, it was deeply alarming. after a few seconds performance would drop to zero. strace investigations showed that at heavy load the OS call futex was maxed out near 100%.

next came replacement of multiprocessing.Pipe with unix socket pairs and threads with processes, so as to regain proper control over signals, sending of data and so on. early variants of that would run absolutely fine up to some arbitrarry limit then performance would plummet to around 1% or less, sometimes remaining there and sometimes recovering.

next came replacement of select with epoll, and the addition of edge-triggered events. after considerable bug-fixing a reliable implementation was created. testing began, and the CPU load slowly cranked up towards the maximum possible across all 4 cores.

the performance metrics came out *WORSE* than the single-process variant. investigations began and showed a number of things:

1) even though it is 60 bytes per job the pre-processing required to make the decision about which process to send the job were so great that the dispatcher process was becoming severely overloaded

2) each process was spending approximately 5 to 10% of its time doing actual work and NINETY PERCENT of its time waiting in epoll for incoming work.

this is unlike any other "normal" client-server architecture i've ever seen before. it is much more like the mainframe "job processing" that the article describes, and the linux OS simply cannot cope.

i would have used POSIX shared memory Queues but the implementation sucks: it is not possible to identify the shared memory blocks after they have been created so that they may be deleted. i checked the linux kernel source: there is no "directory listing" function supplied and i have no idea how you would even mount the IPC subsystem in order to list what's been created, anyway.

i gave serious consideration to using the python LMDB bindings because they provide an easy API on top of memory-mapped shared memory with copy-on-write semantics. early attempts at that gave dreadful performance: i have not investigated fully why that is: it _should_ work extremely well because of the copy-on-write semantics.

we also gave serious consideration to just taking a file, memory-mapping it and then appending job data to it, then using the mmap'd file for spin-locking to indicate when the job is being processed.

all of these crazy implementations i basically have absolutely no confidence in the linux kernel nor the GNU/Linux POSIX-compliant implementation of the OS on top - i have no confidence that it can handle the load.

so i would be very interested to hear from anyone who has had to design similar architectures, and how they dealt with it.

Comment: legal ramifications of identity verification (Score 1) 238

by lkcl (#47464365) Attached to: Pseudonyms Now Allowed On Google+

i think one of two things happened, here. first is that it might have finally sunk in to google that even just *claiming* to have properly verified user identities leaves them open to lawsuits should they fail to have properly carried out the verification checks that other users *believe* they have carried out. every other service people *know* that you don't trust the username: for a service to claim that they have truly verified the identity of the individual behind the username is reprehensibly irresponsible.

second is that they simply weren't getting enough people, so have quotes opened up the doors quotes.

Comment: Re:Hardware is hard (Score 2) 71

by lkcl (#47364551) Attached to: Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

Read "hard" as "Expensive as Hell"

That is part of it yes. It requires a wide range of differently experienced people: low level software, high level software, circuit design, assembly, layout, component sourcing, factory liasion, DFt, Manufacturing etc.

Then you need to get them all to work together. And you have to pay them.

... ynow... one of the reasons i came up with the idea to design mass-volume hardware that would be eco and libre friendly was because, after having developed the experience to deal with both low-level software and high-level software, and having done some circuit design at both school and university, i figured that the rest should not be too hard to learn... or manage.

  you wanna know the absolute toughest part [apart from managing people?] it's the component sourcing. maan, is that tough. if you want a laugh [out of sheer horror, not because it was actually funny] look up the story on how long it took to find a decently-priced mid-mount micro HDMI type D [8 months].

  so anyway, i set out to find people with the prerequisite skills that i *didn't* have, offered them a chance to participate and profit. the list of people who have helped and then fallen by the wayside... i... well.... i want to succeed at this so that i can give them something in return for what they did.

Comment: Re:Would it kill you to hint at what Improv is (wa (Score 3, Informative) 71

by lkcl (#47362691) Attached to: Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

If only there was some way to get more information, perhaps with a sort of "link" of some kind to a more detailed description.

here is the [old] specification of the [revision 1] CPU Card:
http://rhombus-tech.net/allwin...

the current revision 2 which i am looking for factories to produce (RFQs sent out already) we will try with 2gb of RAM. this is just a component change not a layout change so chances of success are high.

here is the [old] specification of the Micro-Engineering Board:
http://rhombus-tech.net/commun...

that was our "minimal test rig" which helped verify the interfaces on the first CPU Cards (and will help verify the next ones as well, with no further financial outlay needed. ever. ok, that would be true if i hadn't taken the opportunity to change the spec before we go properly live with it!! you only get one shot at designing a decade-long standard.... i'd rather get it right)

this will be the basis of the planned crowd-funding campaign: it's more of a micro-desktop PC:
http://rhombus-tech.net/commun...

the micro-desktop chassis is very basic: VGA, 2x USB, Ethernet, Power In (5.5 to 21V DC). all the other interfaces are on the CPU Card (USB-OTG, Micro-HDMI, Micro-SD). however unlike the Micro-Engineering Board, the power is done with a view to the average end-user (as is the VGA connector which means 2 independent screens, straight out the box).

does that help answer the question?

Comment: Re:What was desirable about it? (Score 3, Interesting) 71

by lkcl (#47362605) Attached to: Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

Open hardware sounds cool, but as others have noted, good hardware design is both difficult and expensive. Considering how rapidly the components advance (CPU/SoC, I/O, displays, etc.),

aaaah gotcha! that's the _whole_ reason why i designed the long-term modular standards, so that products *can* be split around the arms race of CPU/SoC on the one hand and battery life / display etc. on the other.

and the factory that we are in touch with (the big one), they _love_ this concept, because the one thing that you might not be aware of is that even the big guys cannot react fast enough nowadays.

imagine what it would mean to them to be able to buy HUGE numbers of CPUs (and related components), drop them into a little module that they KNOW is going to work across every single product that conforms to the long-term standard. in 6 months time there will be a faster SoC, more memory, less power, but that's ok, because *right now* they can get better discounts on the SoC that's available *now*.

on the other side of the interface, imagine what it would mean to them that they could buy the exact same components for a base unit for well... three to five years (or until something better came along or some component went end-of-life)?

it took them a while, but they _loved_ the idea. the problem is: as a PRC State-Sponsored company they are *prohibited* from doing anything other than following the rules... i can't tell you what those rules are: they're confidential, but it meant that we had to find other... creative ways to get the designs made.

We're in a world where a first generation Nexus 7 tablet sells for $140 or less. At Walmart.

yeah. now that prices are dropping, just like the PC price wars, the profits are becoming so small that the manufacturers are getting alarmed (or just dropping out of the market entirely). those people are now looking for something else. they're willing to try something that might get them a profit. what should we tell them?

anyway: thank you for your post, darylb, it provides a very useful starting point for some of the key insights i want to get across to people.

Comment: moving forward: next crowdfunding launch (Score 5, Informative) 71

by lkcl (#47362451) Attached to: Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

short version: the plan is to carry on, using the lessons learned to
try again, with a crowd-funding campaign that is transparent. please
keep an eye on the mailing list, i will also post here on slashdot
when it begins.

http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipe...

long version:

this has been a hugely ambitious venture, i think henrik's post explains much:
http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipe...

the - extremely ambitious - goal set by me is to solve a huge range of
issues, the heart of which is to create environmentally-conscious
mass-volume appliances that software libre developers are *directly*
involved in at every step of the way.

so, not to be disparaging to any project past or future, but this isn't
"another beagleboard", or "another raspberry pi beater": it's a way to
help the average person *own* their computer appliances and save
money over the long term. software libre developers are invited
to help make that happen.

by "own" we mean "proper copyright compliance, no locked boot
loaders and a thriving software libre environment that they can
walk straight into to help them do what they want with *their*
device... if they want to".

the actual OS installed on the appliance will be one that is
relevant for that appliance, be it ChromeOS, Android, even
Windows or MacOSX. regardless of the pre-installed OS, the
products i am or will be involved in *will* be ones that Software
Libre Developers would be proud to own and would recommend
even to the average person.

by "saving money over the long term" we mean "the device is
split into two around a stable long-term standard
with a thriving second-hand market on each side, with new
CPU Cards coming along as well as new products as well.
buy one CPU Card and one product, it'll be a little bit more
expensive than a monolithic non-upgradeable product,
but buy two and you save 30% because you only need
one CPU Card. break the base unit and instead of the whole
product becoming land-fill you just have to replace the base,
you can transfer not just the applications and data but
the *entire computer*".

it was the environmental modular aspects as well as
the committment to free software *and* the desire to reach
mass-volume levels that attracted aaron to the Rhombus Tech
project.

perhaps unsurprisingly - and i take responsibility for this - the
details of the above did not translate well into the Improv
launch. the reason i can say that is because even henrik,
who has been helping out and a member of the arm netbooks
mailing list for quite some time, *still* has not fully grasped
the full impact of the technical details behind the standards

(hi henrik, how are ya, thank you very very much for helping
with the boot of the first A10 / A20 CPU card, your post on
the mailing list last week was very helpful because it shows
that i still have a long way to go to get the message across
in a short concise way).

the level of logical deduction, the details that need to be taken
into account, the number of processors whose full specifications
must be known in order to make a decent long-term stable
standard.... many people i know reading that sentence will think i
am some sort of self-promoting egotistical dick but i can tell you
right now you *don't* want to be holding in your head the
kinds of mind-numbing details needed to design a long-term
mass-volume computing standard. it's fun... but only in a
masochistic sort of way!

anyway. i did say long, so i have an excuse, but to get to the
point: now that the money is being returned, we can start again
with a new campaign - using a crowdfunding site that shows
numbers, and starts with a lower target (250) that offers more value
for that same amount of money to everyone involved as various
stretch goals (500, 1,000, 2500) are achieved. these will include
casework, FCC Certification, OS images prepared and, most
importantly as far as i am concerned, one of the stretch goals
i feel should be a substantial donation to the KDE Team in
recognition of the help - through some tough lessons if we are
honest - that they have given, as well as the financial outlay
that they've put forward because they believed in what we're
doing.

i'd like to hear people's thoughts and advice, here, because this
really is an exceptionally ambitious project that no commercial
company let alone a software-libre group would ever consider,
precisely because it requires a merging of *both* commercial
aspects *and* software libre principles and ethics. the
environmental angle and long-term financial savings are what
sells it to the end-users though.

Comment: a Commodore Pet 3032 (Score 1) 153

by lkcl (#47133723) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking?

1978, aged 8, our school had a commodore pet 3032. i typed in a simple program in BASIC, 10 for i = 1 to 40, 20 print tab(i), i 30 next i, 40 goto 10 and watched the numbers 1 to 40 scroll across the screen. i figured "huh that was obvious, i can do that" and 25 years later i was reverse-engineering NT 4.0 Domains network traffic (often literally one bit at a time) by the same kind of logical inference of observing results and deducing knowledge.

by 2006 i learned that there is something called "Advaita Vedanta" which is crudely known in the west as "espistemology". Advaita Vedanta basically classifies knowledge (there are several types: inference is just one of them), and knowing *that* allows you to have the confidence in your abilities. up until i heard about Advaita Vedanta i was "hacking blind and instinctively", basically. now i know that reverse-engineering is basically an extreme form of knowledge inference. which is kinda cool.

Comment: Re:Dark Reign (Score 1) 153

by lkcl (#47133695) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking?

Anybody here ever play that game?

yeah, me! were you around in 1995-1996 by any chance? in CB1 Cafe in cambridge UK i was the person who discovered that you could put zombies into the underground phase-tunnel vehicles, then sneak behind enemy lines (the underground vehicle could see "up" into one square at a time). i would go looking for artillery because artillery by default had a reaaally nasty habit of auto-firing at close-range enemies on a huuge delay. so, what would happen was: first zombie went up, artillery would turn and begin loading, zombie would go to nearest artillery craft and suicide, blowing up several. all artillery would fire, blowing up even more. second zombie up, artillery lock-and-load, zombie makes a beeline for.... you get the idea.

anyway the idea was good enough that it ended up on the hints-and-tips page. turns out that the people who we played were some of the people who worked at activision :)

Comment: malware with randomisation (Score 1) 125

by lkcl (#47127167) Attached to: Imparting Malware Resistance With a Randomizing Compiler

huh. this sounds very similar to the theoretical virus designs i came up with many years ago. yes, you heard right: turn it round. instead of the programs on the computer being randomised so that they are resistant to malware attacks, randomise the *malware* so that it is resistant to *anti-virus* detection. the model is basically the flu or common cold virus.

here's where it gets interesting: comparing the use of randomisation in malware vs randomisation in defense against malware, it's probably going to start being used in malware before it gets used in defending against malware. why? because malware attackers have nothing to lose. unfortunately, they are likely to keep their compilers secret. even *more* unfortunately, successful creation of anti-malware randomising compilers means that the malware attackers can use them as well.

but, that is just a risk that has to be taken, and make sure a decent job is done of it.

Comment: Re:Which is why sometimes small engines ... (Score 1) 238

by lkcl (#47095237) Attached to: Official MPG Figures Unrealistic, Says UK Auto Magazine

Whereas with a bigger engine this is less of the case and you can get equivalent mpg

ah, i wrote a diesel truck simulator in 1993 for Pi Technology: there is actually much more to it than that. with a bigger engine with higher torque it is possible to have the vehicle drive more often in its peak torque range where it has either better acceleration or better fuel economy or both.

with a smaller engine the effect you mention - that people put their foot to the floor - means that the engine has to rev its nuts off and thus operates waaay outside of its efficiency band.

Comment: watch the program on 5th gear (Score 4, Interesting) 238

by lkcl (#47091277) Attached to: Official MPG Figures Unrealistic, Says UK Auto Magazine

before making *any* judgement you *need* to watch the program on 5th gear which covers exactly this question in some detail. basically the test was designed originally for people driving sensibly, and it was designed i think well over 20 possibly even 30 years ago. so it has a very *very* gentle acceleration and deceleration curve. gentle acceleration because that is not only fuel-efficient but also the cars of that time simply could not accelerate that much, and gentle braking because again that is more fuel-efficient but also because if you had drum brakes they would overheat.

people no longer drive sensibly: they are more aggressive with other drivers (not keeping a safe distance), they put their foot down hard on the accelerator and they put their foot down hard on the brake. also as the cars are more reliable they tend to not maintain them properly: until i watched another program on 5th gear about how badly old oil affects fuel economy and the lifetime of the engine i had absolutely no intention of changing oil regularly in the decade-year-old cars i buy.

so, in effect, people should stop complaining and start driving in more fuel-efficient ways... *regardless* of how aggressive the person behind them gets when they set off from the lights at the same acceleration rate as a 40 tonne cargo lorry. that's the other person's problem.

Comment: love descent (Score 1) 251

by lkcl (#47068119) Attached to: It's Time For the <em>Descent</em> Games Return

i love descent, and i love that it's now software libre. i hope the guy who maintains d2x has stopped being an idiot by including patched versions of standard libraries such as libsdl without providing an option to replace them and forcing the patched versions to overwrite pre-installed software, but yes - awesome.

the thing about descent was that it was the first game with 6 degrees of freedom. i actually bought a special joystick that was capable of dealing with it (one designed for flight simulators) and after 2 to 3 weeks of practicing i was competent at side-motion circular slides firing at a target at the centre. the first 2 weeks were spent mostly getting motion sickness and having the nose of the craft bashed against a corner :)

it was also fun to watch spectators swaying from watching the screen! but, again, after a couple of weeks you got used to it, both as a player and as a spectator.

yeah - to those people who set up LAN parties: i hear ya :) i did the same. i think the lowest spec i got away with was a 486 SX 25 with 12mb of RAM, setting the screen to 320x240 and it was just about tolerable. i had to use 10-Base-T with terminators for goodness sake - what the heck i was doing with 5 networked computers in my house back in 1996 with just a 28kbaud modem i _really_ don't know!

so yes, absolutely: descent (the software libre version *or* a commercial version) gets my vote... *as long as* it has a community portal similar to that of Dark Reign, with a chat room so that people can meet other players, set up a match and play. that is bizarrely what's missing from bzflag: although bzflag has an in-game chat it doesn't hatve out-game community chat, very odd.

also, it would be awesome to see planetary-surface action as well, not just in mines (no matter how large). i always felt a little claustrophobic and the attack vectors would be very different in free space... interesting to think about the possibilities here, hmmm :)

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