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Date: 2001-11-26 (18:39)
From: Mattias Waldau <mattias.waldau@a...>
Subject: [Caml-list] Beware of compare (and Ocaml beaten by Java)
Why isn't compare compiled as '-'? According to the definition
of compare this should be okay.

The reason why I am asking this can be found below.


Suffix arrays are very efficient for fast string searching 
in big texts. I implemented a first nice version, which 
took 40 s to run on my P4, when applied to the bible (4.5 MB)

The core of the slow program is

(* compare two substrings of the SAME text 
   [compare x y] returns [0] if [x=y], a negative integer if
   [x<y], and a positive integer if [x>y] *)
let rec same_substr_compare str idx1 idx2 : int =
  let length = String.length str in
  (* shortest string is smaller *)
  if idx1 = length then -1 else
  if idx2 = length then 1 else 
  (* compare one char *)
  let res = compare str.[idx1] str.[idx2] in
  (* char was equal, recurse *)
  if res = 0 then same_substr_compare str (idx1+1) (idx2+1)
  (* char was different, finished *)
  else res ;;

(* create and sort index array for string *)
let create_index str : int array =
  let idx = Array.init (String.length str) (fun ii -> ii) in
  Array.stable_sort (same_substr_compare str) idx;
  idx ;;

However, a colleague implemented it using Java. His code 
only takes 15 s to run.

Thus, I had to further tune the code by replacing 'compare' 
with '-', inlining better and removing bound-checking 
on strings and arrays. The new version runs in 10 s. 

During this lesson I learned that
1. compare is incredible slow! By replacing

	let res = compare str.[idx1] str.[idx2] in

	let res = (-) (int_of_char str.[idx1]) (int_of_char str.[idx2]) in

the run-time of the complete program went down 
from 20 s to 10 s.

2. Tail-recursive comparation is faster than using a 
loop and exit (runtime down from 80s to 60s). See the file
other_compares.ml in the nice version for these other attempts, 
one example is

exception Result of int ;;
let substr_compare str idx1 idx2 : int =
  let res = compare str.[idx1] str.[idx2] in
  if res <> 0 then res 
  else try
    let length = String.length str in
    let max_size = if idx1 > idx2 then
      length - idx1 
    else length - idx2 in
    for offset = 1 to max_size - 1 do
      let res = compare str.[idx1+offset] str.[idx2+offset] in
      if res<>0 then raise (Result res);
  with Result res -> res ;;

3. Mergesort (=Array.stable_sort) is faster than 
heapsort (=Array.sort). (runtime down from 60s to 40s).
(I also tried quicksort (=Sort.array), but after 8 hours
it still hadn't finished.)

4. The rest is inline and removing bounds checking.

This is the first time I got beaten by Java, I will 
have to reevaluate Java. Note that Java still does 
bounds checking!


The nice version is at 

The fast version is at

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