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COMPSCI 340 Assignment 1
10% of your grade
Due date: 9:30 pm Monday 19th August
Introduction
We no longer live in a world where computing speeds increase along with Moore's Law.
Instead we maintain increased throughput in our computers by running more cores and
increasing the amounts of parallelism. Parallelism on a multi-core (multi-processor) machine
is looked after by the operating system.
In this assignment you have to parallelise a simple algorithm in a number of different ways.
You then need to compare the different ways and write a report summarising your findings.
This assignment is to be done on a Unix based operating system. I recommend the Ubuntu
image in the labs (the CS lab version is more recent than the SE lab version).
The merge sort
The algorithm you have to parallelise is the merge sort. The reason the merge sort was chosen
is that it is almost the perfect algorithm to parallelise. Just to remind you, the merge sort
breaks the data to be sorted into two halves, sorts the halves recursively and merges the two
sorted halves back together to give the answer.
The version of the merge sort you have to use is written in C and available on the assignment
Canvas page as a1.0.c.
In all of the work which follows do NOT optimise the C compilations. Always compile
using:
cc filename.c -o filename (you will need to use -pthread for some programs).
Do all of the timings on the same (or very similar) machine and don't watch videos or do
similar things while you are taking the timings. Take the timings at least 3 times and average
them.
Things to do
Step 1
Read through and understand the code in the file a1.0.c.
Compile and run the program. An important part of the program is the is_sorted function
before the end. You will always need to call this to ensure that any changes you make to the
implementation do in fact return the sorted data.
If you run the program without any command line parameters e.g.
./a1.0
it will use a default array of only two values.
Run it with a larger amount of random data by including the size parameter on the command
line e.g.
./a1.0 1000
Page 1 of 5runs the program with an array of 1000 random values.
Determine how large an array can be dealt with by this program before you get a
segmentation fault.
Segmentation faults happen when something goes wrong with memory accesses or
allocations. (A segment is an area of memory.) In our case the program allocates space for the
array of values, and extra working space, on the stack, and as the size of the array increases
eventually we run out of stack space.
Modify the program (call it a1.1.c) to increase the amount of stack space so that the
program can at least deal with 100,000,000 numbers. Hint: man getrlimit and
setrlimit.
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result.
time ./a1.1 100000000
Step 2
Modify the program (call it a1.2.c) to use two threads to perform the sort.
You will need to make sure you are running on a machine with at least 2 cores. The lab
machines have at least 4 cores. If you are using a virtual machine you may need to change the
configuration to use at least 2 cores.
Hint: man pthread_create, pthread_join
Each pthread has its own stack and the standard pthread stack size is very limited (why do
you think this is so?). So you will need to increase the stack size. You need to change the
pthread attributes to do this.
Hint: man pthread_attr_init, pthread_attr_setstacksize
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result.
Step 3
Modify the program (call it a1.3.c) to use a new thread every time you call merge_sort.
This is really not a good idea. Use what you find out to answer question 4.
Step 4
Modify the program (call it a1.4.c) to use as many threads as there are cores to perform the
sort, and no more.
You will need to make sure you are running on a machine with at least 4 cores. The lab
machines have at least 4 cores. If you are using a virtual machine you may need to change the
configuration to use at least 4 cores (if your computer can do this).
Page 2 of 5First you need a way to determine from within the program how many cores you have in the
environment you are using. Hint: man sysconf.
You don't have to worry about the other work going on in the computer just proceed as if all
cores are available for your sorting program.
For this step you MUST use some shared state to keep track of how many threads are
currently active. Every time a new thread is started you should add one to a counter and every
time a thread stops running you should reduce that counter. Whenever you are about to call
merge_sort you either start a new thread (if you haven't reached the maximum number of
cores yet) or use an ordinary function call to merge_sort from within the current thread).
The problem with this approach is that multiple threads can be accessing the shared state at
the same time, so you will need to provide mutual exclusion over the thread counter. Hint:
man pthread_mutex_init, pthread_mutex_lock, pthread_mutex_unlock.
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result. You
should also take a screen shot of the System Monitor program showing the Resources
tab as your program runs. This will prove that all cores are being used.
Step 5
You may have been tempted to ignore locking the shared state in step 4. That is not a good
idea. One way you can improve performance is to move to spin locks instead of the heavy
weight mutexes.
Modify the program (call it a1.5.c) and use spin locks to protect the shared state. Hint: man
pthread_spin_init, pthread_spin_lock, pthread_spin_unlock.
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result. You
should also take a screen shot of the System Monitor program showing the Resources tab as
your program runs. This will prove that all cores are being used.
Step 6
Go back to step 2 and modify the program (call it a1.6.c) to use two processes rather than
two threads.
Processes normally don't share memory with each other and so there will have to be some
communication between the processes. Hint: man fork, pipe.
One of the interesting things is that the fork system call copies the data in the parent process
so that the child can see the data from the parent (at the time of the fork). This means the
child process does not need to copy data from the parent to the child. However after the child
has sorted the data the resulting sorted values have to be sent back to the parent in order for it
to do the merge.
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result.
Page 3 of 5Step 7
The same as step 6 but use as many processes as the machine has cores. Call the program
a1.7.c. There is a difficulty here as after a fork each process has its own values for how
many cores are currently being used. How will you deal with this?
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result. You
should also take a screen shot of the System Monitor program showing the Resources tab as
your program runs. This will prove that all cores are being used.
Step 8 & Step 9
These are similar to steps 6 and 7 in that they both use processes rather than threads.
However rather than passing information back to parent processes we share the memory to be
sorted in all of the processes. Hint: man mmap. Call the programs a1.8.c and a1.9.c. In
a1.9.c you have to worry about the shared state as in step 7.
Time how long it takes the program to sort 100,000,000 numbers and record the result. You
should also take a screen shot of the System Monitor program showing the Resources tab as
your program runs.
Bonus step
Write the quickest version of merge sort that you can based on the original code. Call the
program a1.bonus.c. In your report include a section describing your program with its
timing results. This section will get you an extra mark if it is faster than the previous
programs.
Questions to answer
Include the answers to these questions at the start of your report document. You do not need
to include the questions ("TurnItIn" will flag them as copies).
1. What environment did you run the assignment on? Hint: man uname, man free and man
lscpu. The output of uname -a provides some of this information, free provides
information on the amount of memory, and lscpu provides information on the number of
CPUs. Also mention whether you were using a virtual machine and if so say which one. [1
mark]
2. What approximate size for the array can you get to in the original program before a
segmentation error occurs? [1 mark]
3. Why is the limit on the stack size smaller than the amount of memory actually available to
the stack (as you proved in step 1)? [1 mark]
4. Why is it not a good idea to start a new thread every time merge_sort is called? You
should mention the things which go wrong. [1 mark]
Page 4 of 55. Normally spin locks are regarded as wasteful. Why is the use of spin locks in Step 5
acceptable? [1 mark]
Report
Write a report (max. 4 pages) which summarises what you have found out about the different
ways of parallelising the merge sort program. You must only include results from the
programs you have written (i.e. if you didn't do steps 8 and 9 you should not refer to results
from those steps). [10 marks]
You should order the techniques from slowest to fastest and include a brief explanation of
what is happening in each of them and how that relates to their performance. Include relevant
timing information and screen shots from the System Monitor.
This report and the questions above must be submitted in a text readable pdf or Word
document. This will automatically be sent through TurnItIn when you submit it and it will be
checked for uniqueness.
Submission
1. Submit your report (including the answers to the questions) as a pdf or Word document in
Canvas under "Assignment 1 Report". The report must be readable by "TurnItIn" i.e. don't
submit an image of your report. If TurnItIn cannot process your document you may get no
marks for the assignment.
2. Submit the source code of all the programs from steps 1 to 9 (and the bonus if you did this)
in a zip file on Canvas under "Assignment 1 Programs". Your report will not be marked
unless you submit your programs and the marker is able to open and inspect them.
The report and every source code file must include your name and login.
By submitting a file you are testifying that you and you alone wrote the contents of that file
(except for the component given to you as part of the assignment).
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