Tag Archives: Performance

General Purpose GPU Programming for Mobile



There are times that your app collects a whole lot of data (by capturing it live or by downloading from a third party, or import from email), and you want to do a whole ton of reports and visualisations inside your app. .

To do lots of computing inside your smartphone is a very challenging job, as I have experienced myself in processing video data. A small trick is to use your GPU, which could be 10-100 times faster than your CPU in calculating floating point.

Setting up a GPU shader and calculation could be a huge task for anybody who are not familiar with OpenGL. So, this excellent GPGPU library could help you a lot, all you need to do is to change the calculation inside the vsh file. I am planning to make it even easier for anybody to use in the near future.

Improve your Android emulator performance

Want to supercharge your Android emulator in Eclipse/IntelliJ, use the following, excellent tip from Stackoverflow

IMPORTANT NOTE : Please first refer to Intel list about VT to make sure your CPU support Intel VT.

HAXM Speeds Up the Slow Android Emulator

HAXM stands for - “Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager”

Currently it supports only Intel® VT [Intel Virtualization Technology]

The Android emulator is based on QEMU; The interface between QEMU and the HAXM driver on the host system is designed to be vendor-agnostic.


Steps for Configuring Your Android Development Environment for HAXM

  1. Update Eclipse: Make sure your Eclipse installation and the ADT plug-in are fully up to date.
  2. Update your Android Tools: After each Eclipse plug-in update, it is important to update your Android SDK Tools. To do this, launch the Android SDK Manager and update all the Android SDK components. To take advantage of HAXM, you must be on at least release version 17.

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  • Download the x86 Atom System Images and the Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager Driver: Follow the image below:

enter image description here

  • Install the HAXM Driver by running “IntelHaxm.exe”.
    It will be located in one of following locations:

    • C:\Program Files\Android\android-sdk\extras\intel\Hardware_Accelerated_Execution_Manager
    • C:\Users\<user>\adt-bundle-windows-x86_64\sdk\extras\intel\Hardware_Accelerated_Execution_Manager

    If the installer fails with message that Intel VT must be turned on, you need to enable this in BIOS. See description for how to do this here.

Install .exe or .dmg

  • Create a New x86 AVD: Follow the image below:

Create AVD

  • Or as for new SDK, enter image description here

Why knowledge/skill costs a lot?

Yesterday, I have just done a very good job. It is very good because I spent almost a year keep thinking and trying to solve the problem but I couldn’t really solve much. However, the solution yesterday was so easy and short that I was shocked. It reminds me of the following story:

1 guy with a car broken going into a gargage. The repairer asks him for 100$ and it took him the whole day to fix the car. However, the car gets broken again after just a few days. The owner was so disappointed and tried with a new repairer. This new repairer, an elder, just took a quick look at the car and blow the hammer 3 times into some specific place. He then charged the owner 500$. This time, the owner was shocked, “How can I pay you 500$ for just 3 hammer blows?”. “1$ for 1 hammer blow and 497$ for me to know where to do so”.

It just shows me how much matter the knowledge, the thinking through the problem matters, not how much the efforts. Of course, experience and knowledge comes after efforts, but always think before doing

My New Book – 21 years old achievement

21 years old, I got my first book released, I was so excited. Buy it here

Pro iOS Apps Performance Optimization

Pro iOS Apps Performance Optimization















Today’s iPhone and iPad apps developers are often running into the need to refine, improve and optimize their apps performances. As more complex apps can be created, it is even more important for developers to deal with this critical issue.

Pro iOS Apps Performance Tuning and Optimization covers many common but difficult problems when tuning and optimizing performance for iPhone and iPad apps and how to resolve these problems efficiently. This book gives you the following:

  • Basic knowledge on common problems in iPhone apps
  • Advanced knowledge over data structure, algorithms, multithreading, and network data in iPhone apps
  • Comparison with problems and solutions for Android and Windows Phone apps

After reading this must-have book, you’ll be ready to make the most of the processing power of the iPhone with your apps performance optimization know-how.


What you’ll learn

  • Benchmark your apps using emulators and real device tests
  • Increase and optimize UITableView performance in your iOS apps
  • Increase your app performance using image and data caching techniques
  • Tune your apps using algorithms and data structures
  • Improve your parallel data access using multithreading techniques
  • Optimize memory usage for increased battery life and better apps performance
  • Use native C code to address memory leaks or EXEC_BAD_ACCESS

iPhone App Performance Optimization

iphone performance

iPhone Performance Benchmark

Working in a power limited environment like mobile, and especially, iPhone here, we soon have to face with performance problem in many different kinds. Different than the web model where web front end (javascript) do some (usually not much) processing – also browsers support you a lot, iPhone native application usually has to do quite a lot of processing.

Image Source

For iPhone native app, you cannot add any hardware to help you to have better performance. The only way you can try to deal is to deal with the software code itself. I will list some few problems and solutions that I figure out these days when I really focus on optimization. The list is applicable somehow to other mobile areas like Android or limited environment like embedded device

1/ Benchmark

It is a really traditional advice, but you always have to remember to benchmark your code, even by using simple tools like NSLog or Instrument tool. You should only care about places that is slow in terms of your test rather than trying guess and error possible places.

2/ Test on iPhone device

This is another traditional advice but people usually forget. You have to test on the real iPhone device. Let me give you an example: on my iPhone simulator, a method runs within 1 second, but in my iPhone device, it takes 8 seconds, a huge difference.

So, when you test your app on the iPhone device, don’t just test for UI, memory or features that the simulator doesn’t have. Remember testing the performance as well.

3/ Multithreading and the main thread

Some people may come to you and tell you that iPhone device just has 1 core and you never need to care about multithreading. It is just WRONG.  You still need to do a lot of multithreading to reach a better level of performance.

The main thread will do the user touch event handler and view rendering. Then, if you use the main thread for some calculation that takes a lot of time then your UI just become frozen or not smooth when you scroll.

For UI like UITableView where users scroll between many cells, the runtime will run a loop over visible cells and set the contents. Because this process runs in a row not concurrently, and it will not allow you to view or scroll the UITableView until it returns all cells, you can possibly let some of the cell content run on another thread. (more about performance on UITableViewCell part).

The other reasons for using thread are well-known, heavy IO and network processing, all of them block processing and you need thread so that your main thread is not block. This will help to make users feel your app run with higher performance

But, be CAREFUL, Multithreading comes with its own disadvantages. For rendering the view, you should do it on the main thread or somtimes, your app will just crash randomly. Another traditional reason is that the CPU has to switch too much between threads and it takes more time than usual to finish a task

4/ Use Memory wisely

Some questions on stackoverflow that I sometimes see shows a scare feeling about memory. It is right that iPhone has limited memory but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should use it as least as you can. Memory and Performance is always a trade-off problem, you must use it smartly

The right mind you need to keep is using that limited memory smartly. We all know the priority of speed is Memory > File and Local IO > Network, the fastest access is always using memory cache for the data. There are some problems for memory caching in iPhone:

    – You have to respond to 1 method in every UIViewController:  (void)didReceiveMemoryWarning. In this method, you have to smartly release some memory cache of data to reduce your memory usage.- Know what/when to cache something in memory. There are lots of Caching algorithms outside from simplest ones like: Random Replacement, Least Recently Used, Most Recently Used. It is also an issue of caching big images or caching lots of small images. It all depends on your app. For my app, my main view contains lots of thumbnail images that need displaying fast and the user can wait for seeing big images. So, we cache a lot of images (60-100) for just 2 MB of memory. Knowing how to balance memory usage and good performance will help you a lot

5/ Algorithms and Data Structure

For my case, I didn’t really need to solve big performance issue with Algorithm and Data Structure, but in a limited environment, a small mistake may lead to a big deal and hard to detect. My case was that I need to merge 2 data arrays from the network using some unique characteristics of elements.

The app works really well in the Simulator for about 50-100 for each array (less than 0.5 second) . However, when I tested on the device, the time surprised  me, 8 seconds (16 times slower). It cost me 1 hour to detect that I use 2 for loops through 2 arrays which means O(n2), and then, I changed it to a dictionary which reduced the algorithm to O(n) and took me back to 1 second. Phew! Finally, performance is up now

What I learnt here is that even we don’t ever need to deal with Massive Data, we still need to be careful about some algorithm and data structure. 50 elements are nothing in a desktop or server scale but can cause a huge issue on limited environments in iPhone. Another lesson is a remind for me that I should always test on the real device to get the real performance

6/ Reuse UITableViewCell to improve Scrolling Performance

This part is quite unique for iPhone but may be good for other people to learn. In iPhone, we have a concept of UITableView for displaying a list and a table can contain a lot of cell.

The problem is that rendering the Cell (or generally the UIView), takes lots of time and can cause the app to look like stuck when it is scrolling. Usually, if you use the default UITableViewController template, the template already gives you the code for reusing the UITableViewCell.

The only problem is when you create a custom UITableViewCell using some usual tutorials like this and this (especially using Interface Builder), they forget to tell you that setting a CellIdentifer in the UITableView is not enough to reuse a cell. What you need to do is to set it in InterfaceBuilder or write a method to return it. I know that many people will forget it and think that they still reuse the cell, but they don’t. I suffer the same problem until I did benchmark and found the problem recently.

Here are 2 good techniques:

Copied from Stackoverflow, this question:

1st way: Just implement a method with the appropriate method signature:

- (NSString *) reuseIdentifier {
  return @"myIdentifier";

2nd way:

How to Reuse a Cell in Interface Builder

Cell Reuse in IB


1/ Web Caching, wikipedia

2/ Web Caching, Stanley Luong’s course material

3/ Stackoverflow – reuseable Cell

4/ Stackoverflow – custom UITableViewCell

Software Engineering and Algorithms

Algorithms and Data Structure against Software Engineering

Firstly, I want to talk a little bit about algorithms, data structure against software engineering.  Joel’s Article pointed out an excellent point that algorithms, data structure, functional programming is really important to learn, to challenge your mentality. And he is also right that current CS (and maybe IT, SE) degree is not hard enough, simply because if you designed a stupid software, it still WORKS, students will at least get  90+ points in your assignment. I see many not excellent students get 3.8 – 4.0 without any problems, because as Joel already stated, the problem in Software Engineering is when you have to extend, to make the software scalable, not when you create it. He’s all right about that. But he may make people misunderstand.

Algorithms is not the most important skill

For me, algorithm (if we consider it as a specific method to solve a specific problem rather than defined in wikipedia) is important, but it is no longer the most important skill and knowledge software engineer must have. Software engineers, nowadays, should expert about SOLID principles, and write reusable and maintainable code. Software engineers know how to design, architect and integrate between different system to write and maintain a scalable system. Software engineers can work with usability, working directly with client, understand and see the business and users’ world. These things require practice, thinking, learning from failure not just memorize them.  There are now many different jobs that do not require software engineers to become expert in algorithms, and also many great jobs requiring you to become algorithm expert. You may say that they are different jobs (like understand user’s business would be business analysis)) rather than software developers, you are wrong. Software developers now have to understand users’ mind, in general and specific domain to write usable features (read the Usability part in understand and see the business and users’ world for more details).

Algorithms != IT

Another misunderstanding about learning algorithms is that it will give you great mind in thinking in IT. It is right but not that much. In many cases, we work directly with a specific problem, like searching, sorting and computer vision. But that is a specific problem, people tried to solve it under a specific set of constraints. But software architect see the big picture, when to integrate, what to integrate and how to integrate. Both kinds of thinking are really difficult, requires creativity and experiences but hard to go for both. If people go too much into specific problem, it takes time to become an expert in another area. So, if people love one and want to become an expert in one, go for it.

But I like Algorithms

Personally, I do like algorithms so I usually do some algorithms competition in my free time on topcoder. Currently, I am working on this problem (another link if you can not access topcoder), if you want to join, just come. More people, more fun. I will write another entry to introduce about online IT competitions.