Why Ruby 1.9 GUI hangs if i do any intensive computation in separate Ruby thread?

Ruby 1.9 is supposed to have native threads, and GIL is supposed to lift if some threads enters native code (like GUI toolkit main loop or C implementation of some Ruby lib).

But if i start following simple code sample that displays GUI in main thread and do some basic math in separate thread - the GUI will hang out badly, try to resize window to see it yourself. I have checked with different GUI toolkit, Qt (qtbindings gem) - it behaves exactly same. Tested with Ruby 1.9.3-p0 on Windows 7 and OSX 10.7

require 'tk' require 'thread' Thread.new { loop { a = 1 } } TkRoot.new.mainloop()

Same code in Python works fine without any GUI hangs:

from Tkinter import * from threading import * class WorkThread( Thread ) : def run( self ) : while True : a = 1 WorkThread().start() Tk().mainloop()

What i'm doing wrong?


It seems where is no such problem on Ubuntu linux, so my question is mainly about Windows and OSX.


Some people points out that where is no such problem on OSX. So i assembled out a step-by-step guide to isolate and reproduce a problem:

  1. Install OSX 10.7 Lion via "Recovery" function. I used our test department MB139RS/A mac mini for test.
  2. Install all updates. The system will look like this: Why Ruby 1.9 GUI hangs if i do any intensive computation in separate Ruby thread?
  3. Install latest ActiveTcl from activestate.com, in my case it's ActiveTcl 8.5.11 for OSX.
  4. Download and unpack latest Ruby source code. In my case it's Ruby 1.9.3-p125. Compile it and install replacing system Ruby (commands below). You will end up with latest ruby with built-in Tk support: Why Ruby 1.9 GUI hangs if i do any intensive computation in separate Ruby thread?
  5. Create a test.rb file with code from my example and run it. Try resizing a window - you will see terrible lags. Remove thread from code, start and try resizing a window - lags are gone. I recorded a video of this test.

Ruby compilation commands:

./configure --with-arch=x86_64,i386 --enable-pthread --enable-shared --with-gcc=clang --prefix=/usr make sudo make install

-------------Problems Reply------------

This hang can be caused by C code of Ruby bindings in Toolkit. As you know, ruby threads have a global lock : the GIL. It seems that mixing between Ruby bindings' C thread, Tk C thread and Pure Ruby thread is not going well.

There's a documented workaround for a similar case, you can try to add those lines before require 'tk' :

module TkCore

Graphical toolkit needs a main thread in order to refresh graphical elements. If your thread is in an intensive computation, your thread is requesting heavily the lock and so it is interfering with toolkit's thread.

You can avoid use of sleep trick if you want. In Ruby 1.9, you can use Fiber, Revactor or EventMachine. According to oldmoe, Fibers seems to be quite fast.

You can also keep Ruby threads if you can use IO.pipe. That's how parallel tests were implemented in ruby 1.9.3. It seems to be a good way to workaround Ruby threads and GIL limitations.

Documentation shows a sample usage :

rd, wr = IO.pipe

if fork
puts "Parent got: <#{rd.read}>"
puts "Sending message to parent"
wr.write "Hi Dad"

The fork call initiates two processes. Inside if, you are in the parent process. Inside else, you are in the child. The call to Process.wait closes child process. You can, for instance, try to read from your child in your main gui loop, and only close & wait for the child when you have received all the data.

EDIT: You'll need win32-process if you choose to use fork() under Windows.

Your thread block will use 100% cpu, this is really unlikely any real code will eat that much (if you are doing really intensive calculations you should consider another language), maybe try adding some pauses:

require 'tk'
require 'thread'
require 'rexml/document'
Thread.new { loop { sleep 0.1; a = 1 } }

Your code works fine for me on Mac OS X 10.7 with 1.9.3 btw.

That said as much as I love ruby but the current gui libraries state is really bad in my opinion and I avoid using it for that.

Depending on platform you might set priority of threads:

require 'tk'
require 'thread'
require 'rexml/document'
t1 = Thread.new { loop { a = 1 } }
t1.priority = 0
t2 = TkRoot.new.mainloop()
t2.priority = 100

If you're serious about using multiple threads, you might want to consider using JRuby. It implements Ruby Threads using Java threads, giving you access to the Java concurrency libraries, tools, and well tested code.

For the most part, you just replace the ruby command with the jruby command.

Here's one place to start. https://github.com/jruby/jruby/wiki/Concurrency-in-jruby

Category:ruby Views:696 Time:2012-01-30

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