# [R] Is it possible to vectorize/accelerate this?

William Dunlap wdunlap at tibco.com
Thu Nov 3 23:22:55 CET 2011

```You should get familiar with some basic timing tools
and techniques so you can investigate things like this
yourself.

system.time is the most basic timing tool.  E.g.,
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f0(a))
user  system elapsed
22.920   0.000  22.932
means it took c. 23 seconds of real time to run f0(a)
1000 times.

When comparing timing, it makes things easier to define
a series of functions that implement the various algorithms
but have the same inputs and outputs.  E.g., for your problem

f0 <- function(a_vec) {
b_vec <- a_vec
for (i in 2:length(b_vec)){
b_vec[i] <- ifelse(abs(b_vec[i-1] + a_vec[i]) > 1, a_vec[i], b_vec[i-1] + a_vec[i])
}
b_vec
}

f1 <- function(a_vec) {
b_vec <- a_vec
for (i in 2:length(b_vec)){
b_vec[i] <- if(abs(b_vec[i-1] + a_vec[i]) > 1) a_vec[i] else b_vec[i-1] + a_vec[i]
}
b_vec
}

f2 <- function(a_vec) {
b_vec <- a_vec
for (i in 2:length(b_vec)){
if(abs(s <- b_vec[i-1] + a_vec[i]) <= 1) b_vec[i] <- s
}
b_vec
}

Then run them with the same dataset:
> a <- runif(1000, 0, .3)
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f0(a))
user  system elapsed
22.920   0.000  22.932
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f1(a))
user  system elapsed
5.510   0.000   5.514
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f2(a))
user  system elapsed
4.210   0.000   4.217

(The rbenchmark package's benchmark function encapsulates this idiom.)

It pays to use a dataset similar to the one you will ultimately be using,
where "similar" depends on the context.  E.g., the algorithm in f2 is relatively
faster when the cumsum exceeds 1 most of the time

> a <- runif(1000, 0, 10)
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f0(a))
user  system elapsed
21.900   0.000  21.912
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f1(a))
user  system elapsed
4.610   0.000   4.609
> system.time(for(i in 1:1000)f2(a))
user  system elapsed
2.490   0.000   2.494

If you will be working with large datasets, you should look at how the
time grows as the size of the dataset grows.  If the time looks quadratic between,
say, length 100 and length 200, don't waste your time testing it for length 1000000.
For algorithms that work on data.frames (or matrices), the relative speed ofen
depends on the ratio of the number of rows and the number of columns of data.
Check that out.  For these sorts of tests it is worthwhile to make a function to
generate "typical" looking data of any desired size.

It doesn't take too long to do this once you have the right mindset.  Once you
do you don't have to rely on folklore like "never use loops" and instead do
evidence-based computing.

Bill Dunlap
Spotfire, TIBCO Software
wdunlap tibco.com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: r-help-bounces at r-project.org [mailto:r-help-bounces at r-project.org] On Behalf Of R. Michael
> Weylandt
> Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2011 2:51 PM
> To: hihi; r-help
> Subject: Re: [R] Is it possible to vectorize/accelerate this?
>
> Yes -- if & else is much faster than ifelse() because if is a
> primitive while ifelse() is a whole function call (in fact, you can
> see the code by typing ifelse into the prompt and see that it has two
> if calls within it.
>
> Michael
>
> On Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 4:38 PM, hihi <v.p.mail at freemail.hu> wrote:
> > Hi,
> > thank you for your very immediate response. :-) Is if than and else faster
> > than ifelse? I'm wondering (or not knowing something)
> > Best regards,
> > Peter
> > 2011/11/3 R. Michael Weylandt <michael.weylandt at gmail.com>
> > <michael.weylandt at gmail.com>
> >>
> >> I don't immediately see a good trick for vectorization so this seems to me
> >> to be a good candidate for work in a lower-level language. Staying within R,
> >> I'd suggest you use if and else rather than ifelse() since your computation
> >> isn't vectorized: this will eliminate a small amount over overhead. Since
> >> you also always add a_vec, you could also define b_vec as a copy of a to
> >> avoid all those calls to subset a, but I don't think the effects will be
> >> large and the code might not be as clear.
> >>
> >> You indicated that you may be comfortable with writing C, but I'd suggest
> >> you look into the Rcpp/Inline package pair which make the whole process much
> >> easier than it would otherwise be.
> >>
> >>  I'm not at a computer write now or I'd write a fuller example, but the
> >> documentation for those packages is uncommonly good an you should be able to
> >> easily get it down into C++. If you aren't able to get it by tomorrow, let
> >> me know and I can help troubleshoot. The only things I foresee that you'll
> >> need to change are zero-basing, C's loop syntax, and (I think) the call to
> >> abs(). (I always forget where abs() lives in c++ ....)
> >>
> >> The only possible hold up is that you need to be at a computer with a C
> >> compiler
> >>
> >> Hope this helps,
> >>
> >> Michael
> >>
> >> On Nov 3, 2011, at 3:10 PM, hihi <v.p.mail at freemail.hu> wrote:
> >>
> >> > Dear Members,
> >> >
> >> > I work on a simulaton experiment but it has an bottleneck. It's quite
> >> > fast because of R and vectorizing, but it has a very slow for loop. The
> >> > adjacent element of a vector (in terms of index number) depends
> >> > conditionally on the former value of itself. Like a simple cumulating
> >> > function (eg. cumsum) but with condition. Let's show me an example:
> >> > a_vec = rnorm(100)
> >> > b_vec = rep(0, 100)
> >> > b_vec[1]=a_vec[1]
> >> > for (i in 2:100){b_vec[i]=ifelse(abs(b_vec[i-1]+a_vec[i])>1, a_vec[i],
> >> > b_vec[i-1]+a_vec[i])}
> >> > print(b_vec)
> >> >
> >> > (The behaviour is like cumsum's, but when the value would excess 1.0
> >> > then it has another value from a_vec.)
> >> > Is it possible to make this faster? I experienced that my way is even
> >> > slower than in Excel! Programming in C would my last try...
> >> > Any suggestions?
> >> >
> >> > Than you,
> >> > Peter
> >> >
> >> > ______________________________________________
> >> > R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> >> > https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> >> > PLEASE do read the posting guide
> >> > http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> >> > and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.
> >
> >
>
> ______________________________________________
> R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

```

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