# [R] Quirks with system.time and simulations

Patrick Connolly p.connolly at hortresearch.co.nz
Mon Jun 14 02:33:35 CEST 2004

```I tried the code that Richard O'Keefe posted last week, to wit:

library(chron)
ymd.to.POSIXlt <-
function (y, m, d) as.POSIXlt(chron(julian(y=y, x=m, d=d)))
n <- 100000
y <- sample(1970:2004, n, replace=TRUE)
m <- sample(1:12,      n, replace=TRUE)
d <- sample(1:28,      n, replace=TRUE)
system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1]  8.78  0.10 31.76  0.00  0.00
system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 14.64  0.13 53.30  0.00  0.00

On a somewhat newer machine, I got

\$ R --vanilla

R : Copyright 2004, The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
Version 1.9.0  (2004-04-12), ISBN 3-900051-00-3

[...]

> library(chron)
>     ymd.to.POSIXlt <-
+         function (y, m, d) as.POSIXlt(chron(julian(y=y, x=m, d=d)))
>     n <- 100000
>     y <- sample(1970:2004, n, replace=TRUE)
>     m <- sample(1:12,      n, replace=TRUE)
>     d <- sample(1:28,      n, replace=TRUE)
>
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.67 0.24 2.01 0.00 0.00
> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 3.06 0.02 3.08 0.00 0.00
>

But then I tried a few more times...

> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.09 0.04 1.13 0.00 0.00
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.11 0.09 1.20 0.00 0.00
>

The second time is a lot faster, but subsequent ones don't "improve further".
'
But with the "standard" function,

> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 2.64 0.02 2.66 0.00 0.00
> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 2.82 0.03 2.85 0.00 0.00
>
... it does improve slightly but rather a lot less.

THEN

If I compare the two methods in the reverse order,

\$ R --vanilla

R : Copyright 2004, The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
Version 1.9.0  (2004-04-12), ISBN 3-900051-00-3

[....]

> library(chron)
>     ymd.to.POSIXlt <-
+         function (y, m, d) as.POSIXlt(chron(julian(y=y, x=m, d=d)))
>     n <- 100000
>     y <- sample(1970:2004, n, replace=TRUE)
>     m <- sample(1:12,      n, replace=TRUE)
>     d <- sample(1:28,      n, replace=TRUE)
> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 3.66 0.02 3.76 0.00 0.00
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.65 0.05 1.70 0.00 0.00
>
>
> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 2.59 0.02 2.61 0.00 0.00
> system.time(as.POSIXlt(paste(y,m,d, sep="-")))
[1] 2.73 0.00 2.74 0.00 0.00
>
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.29 0.01 1.30 0.00 0.00
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 0.94 0.00 0.94 0.00 0.00
> system.time(ymd.to.POSIXlt(y, m, d))
[1] 1.06 0.01 1.07 0.00 0.00
>

It seems as though the first simulation makes it "easier" for
subsequent simulations of the same type AND also for simulations of a
somewhat different type also.  The degree to which it "helps" varies
according to just what is being run (no surprise there).  What I can't
figure out is what is happening that makes it quicker for second and
subsequent runs.

I even tried doing a gc() and setting seeds before each run to make a
more direct comparison, but it made no difference other than being
slightly less variable.  I have seen a similar phenomenon in other
types of simulations.

In the case of this code, it makes no difference whether n is 100 or
10000000.  Would that be attibutable to lazy evaluation?

> version
_
platform i686-pc-linux-gnu
arch     i686
os       linux-gnu
system   i686, linux-gnu
status
major    1
minor    9.0
year     2004
month    04
day      12
language R

It's not exactly a problem, but it could have a bearing on comparing
processing times which is something that happens from time to time.
In the comparison that gave rise to the code above, the order would
have made a substantial difference to the perceived effectiveness of
Richard's code.

--
Patrick Connolly
HortResearch
Mt Albert
Auckland
New Zealand
Ph: +64-9 815 4200 x 7188
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~
I have the world`s largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all
the beaches of the world ... Perhaps you`ve seen it.  ---Steven Wright
~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

```