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Re: Performance tuning the Fedora Desktop

Hi Will

> How well or poorly did the performance tools work in identifying the
> performance problem?

I think profiling CPU usage at the desktop level has two important

   1  A call graph is essential
   2  The data don't have to be very accurate

Ad 1: The desktop CPU problems are generally algorithmic in nature. The
big improvements come from fixing O(n^2) algorithms and from adding
caching and other high-level optimizations. To do this it is essential
to know *why* something time-consuming is being done, so that you can in
the best case change the algorithm to not actually do it anymore.

Ad 2: Since you are working on high-level optimizations, you need to
know stuff like "30% in metacity" and get a rough break-down of those
30%. The profiler must not be so intrusive that the applications become 
unusable, but slightly skewed data is not a disaster.

This high-level optimization is in contrast to tuning of inner loops,
where the properties are reversed:

   1  In which function do we spend the time
   2  What, exactly, is the CPU doing. You want to know about 
      cache misses and divisions and branch predictions and such
      things. You want to know in what lines of source code the time
      is spent.

In this case you generally don't try to stop doing it, you try to do it

The sysprof profiler, which can be checked out of GNOME cvs, is clearly
aiming at the first kind of profiling.

Sysprof works with a kernel module that 50 times per second generates a
stacktrace of the process in the "current" variable, unless the pid of
that process is 0. A userspace application then reads those stacktraces
and presents the information graphically in lists and trees.

So it is a statistical, sampling profiler. The kernel code probably
reveals that I am not an experienced kernel hacker. Generally I worked
from various driver writing guides I found on the net, and I consider it
quite likely to break on more exotic kernels, where "exotic" means
different from mine.

Its killer feature I think is the presentation of the data. For each
function you can get a complete break-down of the children in which that
function spends its time. This even works with recursion, including
mutual recursion. Generally it never reports a function as calling
itself, instead it combines the numbers correctly. The not completely
trivial details would make this mail much longer.

That you can change the view of the data quickly makes it possible to
get a good high-level overview of the performance characteristics of the

A different property sysprof has is that it is fairly easy to get
running. Just install a kernel module and start the application and you
are set. I found oprofile a bit more difficult to get started with.

It seems to me that since oprofile probably reports more and better data
than my kernel module, we should try and get the graphical presentation
from sysprof to present oprofile data. It shouldn't be too difficult to
do this; the presentation code was lifted from the memprof/speedprof
profiler and is quite independent of the rest of the profiler. (Actually
you could argue that the presentation code pretty much _is_ the entire

Another thing that might be nice is a library that would allow symbol
lookup in binaries. I spent quite a bit of time whacking the memprof
code to deal with prelinked binaries, and I am not too confident I got
it completely right.


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