[sugar] python imports and performance (was Re: #5549 ...)

C. Scott Ananian cscott
Mon Jun 9 12:35:56 EDT 2008

Measuring the performance impact of shuffling imports is tricky.  At
the moment, all of our modules have imports at the top, so all it
takes is *one* module with a bad import at the top to basically charge
everyone the loading cost for all that code.  Therefore, you don't see
any performance improvement by piecemeal changes: you have to do a
substantial amount of refactoring before you finally get enough
imports off the startup path to cause an improvement.  If you remove
'import foo' from one place where it's not needed, but leave 'import
bar', and bar in turn imports foo (whether it's needed or not), you
don't see any improvement.  But I contend that it is still worth
doing!  When you finally get around to fixing 'bar', you'll start
seeing performance improvements.

The first time this issue arose was in conjunction with:
and I definitely *did* see concrete performance improvements from the
changes I made: but they were in a special case where Pippy wanted to
be able to 'import sugar.activity' in a reasonable amount of time, but
*wasn't* doing a full activity startup.  I wasn't benchmarking full
activity startup because that's not what I was interested in.  The
hostile reaction to my initial patch did not convince me it would be
worth my time extending my work to the point where it made a
difference to full activity startup, which undoubtedly would be a more
invasive patch.

I think the full solution will probably be a combination of lazy
module loading and moving the most egregious gratuitous imports.
'import sugar.activity.activity' still takes 3.7s *by itself* on build
703.  Why?

p.s. I suspect part of the larger startup issue may be that we are
rendering SVGs on demand for the toolbar, etc.  We can either defer
that rendering, allowing us to open the activity quickly and then
later fill in the icons (as the gnome panel does), or maintain a
persistent cache of SVG renderings.
                         ( http://cscott.net/ )

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