Paleran's Coding Effeciency class

Category: Softcode
Functions: get(), iter(), map(), switch(), u(), v(), xget().

MUSHCode for Paleran's Coding Effeciency class

Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 21:11:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Effeciency class log -- Paleran

Paleran says, "I believe we have enough players to begin."

Paleran says, "First thing: Please page if you wish to speak so that the spam level
may be decreased in the room."

Paleran says, "Welcome to the Coding School's Nth class on efficiency. Eru knows how
many of these have been done, but it is always a topic everyone enjoys
hearing about as different players have different views."

Paleran says, "The first topic will be on fundamentals of efficient coding."

Paleran says, "To start off with, the old @commands versus functions debate."

Paleran says, "Now everyone should realize one thing: You need at least one
@command, or 'think' in order to have your command evaluated when invoked
(this goes without saying that ufun()s are an exception.)"

Paleran says, "But now the question is (rhetorically): What should I use after the
initial stages of the code are in place?"

Paleran says, "Most people believe that functions are the end all be all to
efficient coding. This is not necessarily true."

Paleran says, "Example: Try to think of how to code a +clear for a +mail system. In
this command, an edit of multiply accessed attributes is invoked to
decrement a counter that contains the number of players that contain
that message in their mailbox."

Paleran says, "This, of course, is one method, but in order to do this, a simple
'think functions' will not suffice as queue evaluation becomes a
serious factor."

Paleran says, "So, one must resort to @dolist instead of iter() for this example."

Paleran says, "In most cases, however, functions are the most efficient way to solve
a coding problem."

Paleran says, "Any questions so far before I move on?"

Stoney says, "YEs. Why exactly do you have to use an @dolist in that situation?"

Paleran smiles, "I figured someone would ask that."

Paleran says, "It is a result of a topic I shall be covering a little later; the
queue evaluation. I will explain this in a bit, but were you to code
that command with an iter(), a situation might arise that would force
a horrible lag on the MUSH. Imagine someone deleting 100 messages.
That takes only one queue call with an iter(), but 100 with a @dolist.
I'll explain why the latter is more desirable."

Paleran says, "Any other questions?"

Paleran says, "Okay, moving on: The @wait <gasp>...Everyone hates the @wait command."

Stoney says, "Ah"

Jas says, "I do?"

Gruumsh loves it. :)

Paleran says, "HOld up a moment here, gaskin?"

Gruumsh puts @wait's on everything.

Gruumsh grins. :)

Gaskin says, "How much CPU time do MUSHcode functions use up, anyway? Surely
even something like the Pentium Elendor runs on should be able to cope
with anything we could throw at it?"

Paleran says, "In most cases, yes..."

Paleran says, "A simple addition or subtraction scheme takes nanoseconds for the
CPU to process, but something like an iter() can become seriously CPU
extensive were it abused; as in the +clear example I drew upon before."

Gruumsh steps closer to his screen, so he will see the text nanoseconds faster.

Paleran says, "Moving on to @waits."

Gaskin nods.

Paleran says, "There is only one instance where @waits become a serious problem:
Expansive timed waits. This may include a very large timed wait, or a
counter-type wait where an infinite loop is invoked."

Paleran says, "The reason this is a problem is as follows:"

Gruumsh raises his hand.

Paleran stops mid-sentence, "Gruumsh?"

Gruumsh says, "This morning I coded a warg with multiple @waits on its @a*'s,
making it have timed grunts and snarls for effect, so you would not
know what caused it to do that.."

Gruumsh says, "My max was like 6 seconds.. is this a really bad thing? :)"

Paleran says, "For @a* commands, not necessarily. I code those instances on objects,

Stoney sneaks ou tof the room while the teacher isn;t looking...

Paleran says, "Better, though, to have it respond to actions via ^-listen commands,
so that way you can narrow down when it gets invoked."

Gruumsh nods.. "Thats a good idea. :)"

Gruumsh writes that down in his notebook.

Paleran says, "Which brings me to my point I was going to express before...On a
small MUSH, using @waits is common and perfectly acceptable. As soon
as you start growing, and these @waits become more extensive, you run
into the problem of queue delay, which ultimately lags the MUSH."

Paleran says, "Most of you may or may not have noticed, but there is always one
object that resides in the @wait queue...Anyone (besides Frodo) know
what this is?"

Paleran looks around, "Guess not...It's what is called a cron counter."

Paleran says, "A cron counter is a process that is set up to run infinitely,
triggering objects across the MUSH at certain time intervals."

Paleran says, "+species, +culture, bulletin board updates, mobile objects are all a
part of this cron counter."

Paleran says, "Now, although some may argue that this is no more efficient than
having numerous @waits on the queue, I'll suffice it to say that it is
much more amiable from the administrative perspective."

Paleran says, "Perhaps Lukthil would be able to answer this question, but he's not
here :) (I don't think)"

Paleran says, "Moving along in series, we come to queue management. Some of you
probably do not know why there are two sets of queues for @wait
processes: semaphore and timed waits."

Gruumsh says, "Not a clue."

Gaskin says, "For getting your code to run in order?"

Gaskin says, "Semaphores, I mean. Though I never actually managed to work out
how. :)"

Paleran says, "The answer is complicated, but semaphores do allow an object to
repond to queue cycles more effectively. Example: a @wait me= in an
attribute will force an object to sit in the semaphore queue until

Paleran says, "Yes Gaskin, exactly."

Gruumsh mumbles. "Show off."

Paleran says, "Here is how the MUSH works on a very basic level:"

Gruumsh eeps, and must go code. He will read the log.

Paleran says, "It sits, waiting for some invocation of a command to pass the parser.
As soon as the parser sees this, it examines the source of the
invocation and the type of command. If it is a basic MUSH command,
such as WHO or PAGE, it will evaluate immediately from this MUSH queue.
If it is a user-defined command (+com, +who, any commands on
yourself), it is placed into the player/object queue. If it is a
@wait/semaphore, it is shoved into those respective queues. Now, when
the MUSH queue cycles through and completes its actions, it retrieves
the first queued item on the player queue and object queue, and
evaluates it."

Paleran says, "@wait/semaphores are weird. I'm not sure exactly how they are
parsed, aside from the knowledge that it is a separate process from
the MUSH queue, and a clock checks to make sure what needs to be

Paleran says, "Now, to reiterate Gaskin's point, since the MUSH evaluates things at
different speeds, a command that was called 5 seconds before a simple
command might not finish evaluation until after it. Which leads to
serious problems in many cases."

Paleran phews, "Any questions? :)"

Paleran says, "OKay, moving on once again: function usage."

Paleran says, "ufuns() are everyone's favorite function, well most players at least :)"

Paleran says, "Reason: not only does it cut down on code length making code easier
to read (we all know how horrid that is), it not only speeds up
evaluation, but also allows for multiple uses of this function from
different commands"

Paleran says, "Can anyone give an example of where a ufun would be more desirable?"

Paleran says, "Anyone awake? ;)"

Gaskin is, but doesn't understand the question. :)

Guareth has never coded on a MUSH before, he just has nowhere to be right now ;)

Mara nods and thinks if gaskin doesn't understand it she definately won't

Searonett is, but has never used the ufun. "Haven't coded since last year. got
burnout." :)

Guareth says, "Oh ufun... I've used something like that on a MUSE."

Paleran says, "Okay... How about this: Which is better:
switch(u(test),cases,u(actions based on cases)) or
switch(example,cases,actions for each case) when coding something like
a +who/switch command?"

Paleran says, "Think about this carefully :)"

Gaskin hmmms. "The second? But it'd be spammier." :)

Paleran says, "To whom?"

Paleran says, "the player, of course :) But not to the MUSH."

Gaskin nods, "Whoever is ex'ing the object..."

Gaskin says, "Well, it'd be harder to update, then? Or slightly slower. :)"

Gaskin says, "No, slightly faster!"

Paleran says, "In a +who/switch, you need to evaluate different levels of output
based on the given switch. A PERSONAL switch needs to check the
executor's LIST_PERSONAL (or whatever it is) for dbrefs, or a LOCATION
switch needs to check the location of the given input"
> It may be pointed out here that usually it is better coding style to
> separate the switches into multiple commands

Gaskin gives up.

Paleran is coming to it, Gaskin :)

Gaskin sorries.

Paleran says, "Now first, the second method of checking each input and basing
actions on that input (switch = input) requires a simple check of the
argument, then parsing the correct case based on the argument. The
delay that comes from doing this can be minimal, or numerous."

Paleran says, "Let's say that a +who command takes four lines of code to create.
Now for each case, you'd have to repeat that same command (or series
of functions) and parse the output based on the switch (filtering, in
other words)."

Paleran says, "Now, you can either repeat these four lines of code for EACH SWITCH,
or! You may use a ufun() to cut down on this"

Paleran hopes everyone is a little clearer on this. I don't want to dwell too
long on this topic :)

Paleran will reserve further discussion of this for another class. Moving on

Paleran says, "The xget() versus get() debate."

Paleran says, "Anyone have any thoughts as to which is faster?"

Paleran sees the class has withered greatly.

Frodo raises his hand, "xget is alleged to be faster, but my guess is that the
difference is trivial"

Paleran says, "Not so much trivial, but based on what exactly you are doing with
it. The answer is, it's complicated :)"

Paleran says, "Simple put, though:"

Paleran says, "xget() is faster than get if you need to evaluate both arguments,
whereas get is faster if the second argument requires NO evaluation."

Gaskin writes that one down. :)

Paleran can get into a long-winded discussion as to why, but I'll spare you
guys :)

Paleran says, "Another example: iter() versus map()"

Paleran says, "Which one is faster? :)"

Frodo thinks that iter() would be faster, since it doesn't have to go and
dereference the function, since it is inline.

Gaskin says, "Map()=Ufun() for lists? :)"

Paleran says, "Usually, yes. But there is one isolated case that map() is faster"

Paleran says, "Where the first argument of the iterative function requires a
retrieval of an attribute."

Frodo nods.
Paleran says, "Example: iter(get(#10000/shire_list),stuff) is slower than
> Azahkil pointed out to me later that this wasn't the best example, I'll keep
> those pages in the log

Paleran says, "filter, fold, and numerous others need to be examined thoroughly if
you're striving for the most efficient coding possible."

Paleran will skip right along to...

Paleran says, "Efficient coding: how necessary is it?"

Azakhil has never seen map used like that...I thought the first arg was the
function and the 2nd the list

Paleran says, "Yup, you're right :)"

Paleran got the arguments flipped, sorry.

Paleran says, "Back to the efficient coding question, the answer is, it really
doesn't for 95% of all player's code."

Paleran says, "Reason being:"

Frodo suspects that the limiting factor in lag is usually things like checking
permissions on zones and things, along with net lag, and that
squeezing a few cycles here and there doesn't make much difference.

Paleran says, "The sole 5% are the global functions on a MUSH, the ones that are
invoked on a daily basis by numerous players."

Frodo nods. "The globals need to be efficiently coded. That's where the
machine spends its time."

Paleran nods, "Pretty much, Frodo. It's a case-by-case scenario."

Frodo says, "A lot of functions only get executed once a month... no point
worrying about time there."

Paleran says, "Right, whereas the local objects that makes up the 95% of the MUSH,
such as guards, books, etc., are really incosequential to the
effeciency of the MUSH."

Gaskin mumbles, "Hacker mentality."

Azakhil pages: not to interrupt your class further, but with map() to get the
list, you still need a
if Function is on the object calling map()

Paleran says, "Although...It is generally appreciated to code as efficiently as to
the limits of your abilities :) As soon as you start worrying about
whether xget or get is more efficient, you need to re-evaluate exactly
how much this command will be invoked and if this is actually
worth the trouble :)"

Paleran pages Azakhil with 'It was a bad example, yeah.'.

Paleran pages Azakhil with 'It's not usually something I worry about
too much, but was the best I could come up with on the fly :)'.

Paleran says, "Note that global code also encompasses ZMO coding. Not invoked
nearly as much as the commands in the Master Room, but should be coded
semi-efficiently as they will be executed more than local commands."

Paleran says, "One last point before I open the floor: external coding."

Paleran says, "Were you able to see the entire MUSH, you would notice a large
number of players with OOC code, com macros, etc. (well, maybe not
so much now as before). These things are much more amiably placed
on external programs such as tf where you may execute them
locally, instead of making the MUSH do the work."

Paleran says, "Personally, I have 2436 bytes on my object character. Probably
one of the lowest in the game due to one fact: Most of my
macros/code is placed into tf, where the MUSH-tf interaction is
much faster than completely via the MUSH."

>From afar, Azakhil nods, "I'm not ripping on you, your doing fine, I
agree with most or your examples..just thought I'd point it
out....what you mentioned was true in speed if the function, is on
the same object....and if it is a v() list...I think...

Long distance to Azakhil: Paleran nods, "That is the case I had thought
about before...Not sure why I used #10000 exactly :)

Frodo nods. "TF is also good for storing wardrobes and stuff off line."

Paleran says, "Well, that's all I have to say for this session. Any questions
on any point I have covered?"

Across Middle-earth, Eonwe shouts, "+wardrobe is offline while I work on it."

Paleran says, "Weird :)"
> Although unrelated to the class, I kept that there because it was cool:)

Samwise only takes up 2190..:P

Paleran nods, "Yeah, I do have a /ic and /ooc macro where my description
gets updated based on my WHO status.

Paleran says, "You don't need a &HISTORY, sammy :)"

Samwise grins.

Gaskin grins.

Gaskin says, "I've got a few questions..."

Paleran says, "Shoot :)"

Paleran quickly hides behind Frodo as a guard.

Gaskin says, "Though perhaps not related to your points. :) First, is
working with a large object slower than working with a small one?
ie. is getting attributes from a 2k object faster than from a 20k

Paleran says, "Minimally, yes."

Paleran says, "Were you to say 7 meg as opposed to 2k, I would say most
definately :)"

Frodo says, "I believe there are clever hashing functions in the way that
attributes are stored and located."

Paleran nods, "hashing is the fastest attribute retrieval method, I
believe, for these objects."

Paleran says, "The Mail database takes a serious amount of time for the parser
to extract the attribute it needs, whereas an object such as a
palyer character as myself takes fractions of a second."

Paleran says, "And we're talking in small increments here :) milliseconds as
opposed to nano or picoseconds. Not something altogether
noticeable isolated, but compounded can be quite harsh on the MUSH
process altogether."

Gaskin OKs, "Another question- do the length of attribute names make any
difference at all to the MUSH? Is getting
#19499/GASKIN_MADE_THIS_ATTRIBUTE faster than #19499/GMTA?"

Paleran says, "Does that answer your question, Gaskin? It's not something to
worry about :)"

Frodo has to run and will catch Gaskin's questions in the log. "Thanks,

Paleran says, "Thank you, Frodo :)"

Gaskin was just wondering. These are the questions he never got to ask
before. :p

Frodo says, "Lukthil once told me that attribute names don't make any
significant difference."

Frodo leaves the classroom.

Paleran says, "They don't for this reason:"

Paleran says, "Attribute names are checked character by character. As soon as
it finds a perfect match and has no unresolved conflicts, it will
return the value of the attribute."

Paleran says, "Were you to have a number of attributes like
#19499/GASKIN_MADE_THIS_ATTRIBUTE1 then 2, then 3, etc...that
*might* have a small impact, but isolated nothing to be concerned

Paleran says, "Also, I think there is a limit as to the attribute name's
length. Not too sure, though. Something to find out :)"

Paleran eeps as his guard is gone, "Well, shoot em off if you got em, Gaskin :)"

Gaskin grins. "While I'm on a roll, what's the maximum length an
attribute can be?"

Paleran bzzzt, "Already answered. Next question :)"

Gaskin says, "Is was? Curses. :)"

Paleran says, "Also, I think there is a limit as to the attribute name's
length. Not too sure, though. Something to find out :)"

Baria leaves the classroom.

Celwe has a question that has nothing to do with the topic. :) "Where can
I find a good coding FAQ besides Amberyl's?"

Paleran says, "There's one somewhere on the Web that I found the other day.
Derned if I knew the URL, however."

Paleran says, "Do a search in altavista for 'MUSH code' :)"

Samwise has a question related to that, "Is there a place to learn about

Paleran says, "No, there isn't Samwise."

Gaskin buys C++ for Dummies.

Paleran says, "In order to hardcode you have to be one of the following:
extremely adaptive to noticing patterns and creating extensions to
those patterns, or extremely knowledgable in C and UNIX coding. Or
any intermix between the two :)"

Samwise ohs, "Darn."

Paleran says, "MUSHcode is in straight C, not C++ :)"

Gaskin buys C for Dummies.

Samwise says, "Well, I just need to learn UNIX and C, I guess..<sigh>"

Gaskin raises his hand, and actually meant the maximum size of attribute
*contents* back there. :p

Paleran says, "For example, Belegril/Xatra knows absolutely nothing about C,
yet he created a series of functional equivalents to @wait and
@force. Not altogether too hard if you're an excellent problem
solver. Then myself, I learned C first so it was slightly
easier for me to hardcode more original functions."

Paleran says, "Contents! Oh :)"

Paleran says, "4K, I believe..."

Gaskin ahs.

Paleran says, "Or it might be 8K on Elendor. Not sure what Lukthil modified it
to. I know for a fact that it is 4K by default :)"

Paleran says, "Any other questions? Gaskin or anyone?"

Samwise shakes his head, "Nope. Good class..:)"

Gaskin agrees, "Time for a quick code spring cleaning..."

Paleran says, "Okay, well I thank you all that stuck my boring lecture out
until the end, and happy coding :)"

Samwise waves