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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] TPB scheduler fills block buffers

From: Anton Blad
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] TPB scheduler fills block buffers
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2010 11:36:19 +0100
User-agent: RoundCube Webmail/0.3.1

On Mon, 29 Nov 2010 09:30:11 -0800, Eric Blossom <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 08:42:14AM +0100, antonb wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I am writing an application for which I want to keep the latency to a
>> minimum, and this involves trying to keep the buffers between the
>> as
>> empty as possible. Basically, I have a source block with an element
>> of
>> 512 bytes that accepts data through a public member function. If there
>> no data to transmit it will produce one empty packet to keep the USRP
>> busy.
>> The scheduler keeps asking for 64 items and I give it one. This goes on
>> until its write buffer is full. The processing latency (from the source
>> block to the USRP) of the first items is a few ms, but this grows to
>> over a second due to the large amounts of buffered data.
>> Looking at the behavior of the single threaded scheduler, it seems it
>> trying to keep the latency low by only requesting data from source
>> when the other blocks fail to produce anything. However, the thread per
>> block scheduler does not seem to care about whether a block is a source
>> block or not. Is there any way I can configure it to do this? Is there
>> any
>> other approach for solving this problem?
>> Thankful for any help,
>> Anton Blad
> Hi Anton,
> There's been some discussion about this over the past few months.
> Probably the easiest way to fix this problem is to limit the usable
> size of the buffers in the processing chain.  This is a relatively
> small change, that would allow an application developer to control the
> worst case amount of buffering that is used in the graph.  By default,
> we allocate buffers on the order of 32KiB, then double that size so
> that we can double buffer under the TPB scheduler. (Optimizing for
> throughput.)
> The current implementation requires that the physical size of the
> buffers be a multiple of the page size.  The fix I'm proposing leaves
> that constraint in place (it's hard to remove for a variety of
> reasons), but allows the specification of a limit on the total number
> of samples allowed in the buffer.  Thus, if want low latency, you
> could specify a limit of 512 bytes (or less for that matter), and the
> total buffering would be drastically reduced from what's currently
> used.
> I won't have time to look at this until after the new year, but if
> you're interested in looking at it, the primary place to look is
> gnuradio-core/src/lib/runtime/gr_buffer.{h,cc}.  Basically you'd want
> to limit the amount of space that it reports is available for writing
> to min(<whats-physically-available>, <your-limit>)
> Eric

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your reply. There are two obvious drawbacks with the simple
fix: the latency will still be higher than necessary, and processing large
chunks will not be possible. I have the following alternative suggestion:

* Create a new policy governing class (gr_tpb_policy_governor?) with the
purpose of keeping track of which blocks are making progress. The class
contains a condition variable that source blocks wait on in case the
scheduling policy disallows adding more samples to the flowgraph.

* Create an instance of gr_tpb_policy_governor in the gr_scheduler_tpb
constructor and tell it the number of blocks in the flattened flowgraph.

* Add a reference to the gr_tpb_policy_governor instance in the
gr_tpb_detail blocks. Update the states of the blocks in
gr_tpb_detail::set_{input,output}_changed and in
gr_tpb_thread_body::gr_tpb_thread_body depending on

The policies I can think of being useful are:

* flooding: the current policy, for performance

* active_blocks: block sources if more than a minimum number of blocks are
processing concurrently, in order to reduce latency. Could be set to 1 to
give the behavior of the single threaded scheduler.

* num_samples: block sources if more than a minimum number of samples are
processed currently, in order to reduce latency while still ensuring
acceptable performance.

I guess that the main drawback of this proposal is that the
gr_tpb_policy_governor will contain a very heavily used mutex.

Comments? If I do these changes, will the GNU Radio team be interested in
a patch?


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