what - Why is reading lines from stdin much slower in C++ than Python?




stack overflow python (7)

I wanted to compare reading lines of string input from stdin using Python and C++ and was shocked to see my C++ code run an order of magnitude slower than the equivalent Python code. Since my C++ is rusty and I'm not yet an expert Pythonista, please tell me if I'm doing something wrong or if I'm misunderstanding something.


(TLDR answer: include the statement: cin.sync_with_stdio(false) or just use fgets instead.

TLDR results: scroll all the way down to the bottom of my question and look at the table.)


C++ code:

#include <iostream>
#include <time.h>

using namespace std;

int main() {
    string input_line;
    long line_count = 0;
    time_t start = time(NULL);
    int sec;
    int lps;

    while (cin) {
        getline(cin, input_line);
        if (!cin.eof())
            line_count++;
    };

    sec = (int) time(NULL) - start;
    cerr << "Read " << line_count << " lines in " << sec << " seconds.";
    if (sec > 0) {
        lps = line_count / sec;
        cerr << " LPS: " << lps << endl;
    } else
        cerr << endl;
    return 0;
}

// Compiled with:
// g++ -O3 -o readline_test_cpp foo.cpp

Python Equivalent:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import time
import sys

count = 0
start = time.time()

for line in  sys.stdin:
    count += 1

delta_sec = int(time.time() - start_time)
if delta_sec >= 0:
    lines_per_sec = int(round(count/delta_sec))
    print("Read {0} lines in {1} seconds. LPS: {2}".format(count, delta_sec,
       lines_per_sec))

Here are my results:

$ cat test_lines | ./readline_test_cpp
Read 5570000 lines in 9 seconds. LPS: 618889

$cat test_lines | ./readline_test.py
Read 5570000 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 5570000

I should note that I tried this both under Mac OS X v10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) and Linux 2.6.32 (Red Hat Linux 6.2). The former is a MacBook Pro, and the latter is a very beefy server, not that this is too pertinent.

$ for i in {1..5}; do echo "Test run $i at `date`"; echo -n "CPP:"; cat test_lines | ./readline_test_cpp ; echo -n "Python:"; cat test_lines | ./readline_test.py ; done
Test run 1 at Mon Feb 20 21:29:28 EST 2012
CPP:   Read 5570001 lines in 9 seconds. LPS: 618889
Python:Read 5570000 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 5570000
Test run 2 at Mon Feb 20 21:29:39 EST 2012
CPP:   Read 5570001 lines in 9 seconds. LPS: 618889
Python:Read 5570000 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 5570000
Test run 3 at Mon Feb 20 21:29:50 EST 2012
CPP:   Read 5570001 lines in 9 seconds. LPS: 618889
Python:Read 5570000 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 5570000
Test run 4 at Mon Feb 20 21:30:01 EST 2012
CPP:   Read 5570001 lines in 9 seconds. LPS: 618889
Python:Read 5570000 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 5570000
Test run 5 at Mon Feb 20 21:30:11 EST 2012
CPP:   Read 5570001 lines in 10 seconds. LPS: 557000
Python:Read 5570000 lines in  1 seconds. LPS: 5570000

Tiny benchmark addendum and recap

For completeness, I thought I'd update the read speed for the same file on the same box with the original (synced) C++ code. Again, this is for a 100M line file on a fast disk. Here's the comparison, with several solutions/approaches:

Implementation      Lines per second
python (default)           3,571,428
cin (default/naive)          819,672
cin (no sync)             12,500,000
fgets                     14,285,714
wc (not fair comparison)  54,644,808

getline, stream operators, scanf, can be convenient if you don't care about file loading time or if you are loading small text files. But, if the performance is something you care about, you should really just buffer the entire file into memory (assuming it will fit).

Here's an example:

//open file in binary mode
std::fstream file( filename, std::ios::in|::std::ios::binary );
if( !file ) return NULL;

//read the size...
file.seekg(0, std::ios::end);
size_t length = (size_t)file.tellg();
file.seekg(0, std::ios::beg);

//read into memory buffer, then close it.
char *filebuf = new char[length+1];
file.read(filebuf, length);
filebuf[length] = '\0'; //make it null-terminated
file.close();

If you want, you can wrap a stream around that buffer for more convenient access like this:

std::istrstream header(&filebuf[0], length);

Also, if you are in control of the file, consider using a flat binary data format instead of text. It's more reliable to read and write because you don't have to deal with all the ambiguities of whitespace. It's also smaller and much faster to parse.


A first element of an answer: <iostream> is slow. Damn slow. I get a huge performance boost with scanf as in the below, but it is still two times slower than Python.

#include <iostream>
#include <time.h>
#include <cstdio>

using namespace std;

int main() {
    char buffer[10000];
    long line_count = 0;
    time_t start = time(NULL);
    int sec;
    int lps;

    int read = 1;
    while(read > 0) {
        read = scanf("%s", buffer);
        line_count++;
    };
    sec = (int) time(NULL) - start;
    line_count--;
    cerr << "Saw " << line_count << " lines in " << sec << " seconds." ;
    if (sec > 0) {
        lps = line_count / sec;
        cerr << "  Crunch speed: " << lps << endl;
    } 
    else
        cerr << endl;
    return 0;
}

By the way, the reason the line count for the C++ version is one greater than the count for the Python version is that the eof flag only gets set when an attempt is made to read beyond eof. So the correct loop would be:

while (cin) {
    getline(cin, input_line);

    if (!cin.eof())
        line_count++;
};

I reproduced the original result on my computer using g++ on a Mac.

Adding the following statements to the C++ version just before the while loop brings it inline with the Python version:

std::ios_base::sync_with_stdio(false);
char buffer[1048576];
std::cin.rdbuf()->pubsetbuf(buffer, sizeof(buffer));

sync_with_stdio improved speed to 2 seconds, and setting a larger buffer brought it down to 1 second.


In your second example (with scanf()) reason why this is still slower might be because scanf("%s") parses string and looks for any space char (space, tab, newline).

Also, yes, CPython does some caching to avoid harddisk reads.


Just out of curiosity I've taken a look at what happens under the hood, and I've used dtruss/strace on each test.

C++

./a.out < in
Saw 6512403 lines in 8 seconds.  Crunch speed: 814050

syscalls sudo dtruss -c ./a.out < in

CALL                                        COUNT
__mac_syscall                                   1
<snip>
open                                            6
pread                                           8
mprotect                                       17
mmap                                           22
stat64                                         30
read_nocancel                               25958

Python

./a.py < in
Read 6512402 lines in 1 seconds. LPS: 6512402

syscalls sudo dtruss -c ./a.py < in

CALL                                        COUNT
__mac_syscall                                   1
<snip>
open                                            5
pread                                           8
mprotect                                       17
mmap                                           21
stat64                                         29

Well, I see that in your second solution you switched from cin to scanf, which was the first suggestion I was going to make you (cin is sloooooooooooow). Now, if you switch from scanf to fgets, you would see another boost in performance: fgets is the fastest C++ function for string input.

BTW, didn't know about that sync thing, nice. But you should still try fgets.





getline