Re: Memory tracking in GJS

Thanks all for your inputs; I now posted a first iteration of a patch that implements the suggestions of this thread here


On Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 6:09 AM, Colin Walters <walters verbum org> wrote:
On Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 8:50 PM, Cosimo Cecchi <cosimoc gnome org> wrote:
Hi all,

The state of garbage collection for typical GTK/JS applications is pretty sad these days.

It's worth a comparison with (C)Python.   In some ways, Python's hybrid refcount + GC is the worst of both worlds - you have the constant overhead (cacheline bouncing, etc.) hit of refcounting, with the unpredictability of GC as soon as you happen to make a reference cycle.

Except for the case of objects allocated in local function scope.  This case is a very important one for us.  Many of my applications do this a *lot* - lots of Gio.File instances for example.  And stuff like Cairo surfaces.   (C)Python will deterministically clean these up at the end of the function - they don't escape, their refcount drops to 0.

It'd be quite nice if the Spidermonkey compiler attempted to do escape analysis and deterministic cleanup when it could.

The problem is that for a native GObject wrapped into a JSObject there are effectively two sets of allocations: those internal to GObject and those needed to wrap it into a JSObject. While in the latter case the garbage collector will keep track of those segments, we currently never forward the GObject allocations/payload size to the garbage collector.

I don't think we can ever do that in a reliable way.  At least with the current design of GObject.

Now...the Samba guys are heavily invested in talloc ( ) which gives this kind of information for effectively free ( talloc_get_size () ).

I've thought sometimes about having an optional talloc-like API for GLib, but it would be really invasive.

The result is that, especially with large objects (e.g. pixbufs, cairo surfaces, ...) there's a huge difference between what mozjs thinks is the memory situation and the reality, and an application can effectively run out of system memory before the garbage collector kicks in. Firefox gets away with it because JS code only needs to allocate memory outside of the garbage collector very rarely, and those cases are handled internally by manually updating the counter.

It depends on the JS code, but certainly a lot of real-world web pages do heavy DOM manipulation which does involve lots of nontrivially-sized native objects.  This is the case that every web browser is optimized for, because they have to.

Some ideas that have been floating around:
* have special methods on "interesting" objects to explicitly release memory. gnome-shell for instance does this already when using Cairo from within JS, for exactly the same reason.

I think there's no question we should allow this.  It's a bit ugly, but 

* override the GLib memory allocator with e.g. g_mem_set_vtable() to intercept allocations and signal the garbage collector. Problems: doesn't work for things that use e.g. static constructors, is tricky for re-entrancy, libraries like GdkPixbuf might not use the GLib allocator for image payloads, doesn't work with the slice allocator.

I'd really rather investigate something like talloc-for-glib if we were to try going down this route.  It would have the potential to improve performance of pure C apps as well.

* keep track of memory allocated in GJS itself. We can use GType to query the size of the instance, class and even the size of private data. This still doesn't include additional allocations inside the object itself, such as strings, buffers and payloads. We could track those case-by-case by e.g. overriding constructors in the binding for "interesting" pixbuf-like types (ugh), or have a way to query that information from the type system/introspection itself.

I just don't think this one is going to scale.

Any other ideas?

Beyond the above, I think ultimately this needs help from the kernel.  That's where I was going with
Here the kernel is keeping track of our total memory usage, both JS and C.

I feel this is a fundamental enough issue that there must be a good way to design a generic solution.

It all gets a lot more interesting when you consider *multiple* garbage collected processes on the system.  I think this is still an open research area.

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