Re: [R] for loop performance

From: Barth B. Riley <bbriley_at_chestnut.org>
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2011 11:11:16 -0500

Thanks Martin, this is very helpful.
Barth

-----Original Message-----
From: Martin Morgan [mailto:mtmorgan_at_fhcrc.org] Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:04 AM
To: Barth B. Riley
Subject: Re: [R] for loop performance

On 04/14/2011 07:12 AM, Barth B. Riley wrote:
> Hi Martin
>
> Question--when variables are defined within a function (and not
> returned by the function) the memory they used is deallocated when the
> function returns, correct? That would seem to make sense but since my
> R code is not compiled, I'm not sure how R handles local variables
> within a function.

The answer depends on what the function returns, and perhaps other things. For instance

f = function() { a = 1; b = 2; a }
x = f()

'a' and 'b' created inside f() will be garbage collected; there is no way to access their value after f() returns. But in

g = function() { a = 1; function() {} }
y = g()

(i.e., g a function that returns a function) y is now a function, functions have environments (the one in which they were created), and the environment can accessed, so 'a' is still accessible

 > environment(y)[["a"]]
[1] 1

and is not available for garbage collection until y is removed.

Martin

>
> Barth
>
>
> -----Original Message----- From: Martin Morgan
> [mailto:mtmorgan_at_fhcrc.org] Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:57 AM
> To: Barth B. Riley Cc: r-help_at_r-project.org Subject: Re: [R] for loop
> performance
>
> On 04/13/2011 02:55 PM, Barth B. Riley wrote:
>> Dear list
>>
>> I am running some simulations in R involving reading in several
>> hundred datasets, performing some statistics and outputting those
>> statistics to file. I have noticed that it seems that the time it
>> takes to process of a dataset (or, say, a set of 100 datasets) seems
>> to take longer as the simulation progresses. Has anyone else noticed
>> this? I am curious to know if this has to do with how R processes
>> code in loops or if it might be due to memory usage issues (e.g.,
>> repeatedly reading data into the same matrix).
>
> Hi Barth
>
> The 'it gets slower' symptom is often due to repeatedly 'growing by 1'
> a list or other data structure, e.g.,
>
> m = matrix(100000, 100) n = 20000 result = list() system.time(for (i
> in seq_len(n)) result[[i]] = m)
>
> versus 'pre-allocate and fill'
>
> result = vector("list", n) system.time(for (i in seq_len(n))
> result[[i]] = m)
>
> The former causes 'result' to be copied on each new assignment, and
> the size of the copy gets larger each time.
>
>>
>> Thanks in advance
>>
>> Barth
>>
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