[Rcpp-devel] parallel distance matrix calculation

Dirk Eddelbuettel edd at debian.org
Sat Jul 12 04:01:38 CEST 2014

On 11 July 2014 at 21:19, JJ Allaire wrote:
| (2) The premise of RcppParallel is that you are reading and writing directly
| into C arrays in background threads (it's not safe to call into R and therefore
| not really safe to call into Rcpp). So to interact with a Matrix/Vector you
| need to calculate the appropriate offsets from matrix.begin() to get the slices
| (rows/columns) of the matrix you want.
| #2 is based on my conservative assumption about what's thread-safe in Rcpp.
| Romain may tell us that it's perfectly safe to call vector iterators and
| matrix::operator(,) from a background thread but I don't want to assume that's
| okay without confirmation. If those things _aren't_ okay (or might not be okay
| in the future) then we either need to provide good examples for offsetting into
| vectors and matrixes or perhaps provide some lightweight helper classes or
| functions for doing the same.

When I was working for a while with OpenMP, I found it easier (in terms of my
own mental task switches) to simply not assume anything R-related in the
parallel code.  It is too easy to briefly forget the multithreaded context
and use an idiom which may involve R data structures -- and the possibility
of subsequent data corruption, or worse, is simply not worth it.

So yes, as you suggest, "in theory" we can use lightweight wrappers. "In
practice", this may be fraught with nasty surprises.  

Parallel programming is hard. Which to me is yet another reason to start
defensively.  But we'll all learn more as we move along, so thanks again to
you for RcppParallel / TBB and all that for getting us going!

http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com | @eddelbuettel | edd at debian.org

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