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Tweakable Optimisation


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

First read up on what a tweakable is. Your task is to automatically optimise the tweakables in a program to make it run quickly.

You do this by monitoring a program every time it is run. The program provides some measure of efficiency e.g. time to process a transaction, time per file, time per byte processed… You perturb the tweakables for each run. You collect a database of statistics. You then use a sort of multidimensional Newton-Raphson (similar to code use to numerically solve differential equations) to home in on the optimum values of the tweakables for that particular computer in that particular millieu.

This can be complicated by other factors e.g. how much of the CPU (Central Processing Unit), RAM (Random Access Memory), disk is being hogged by other processes unrelated to the one being measured. The optimum tweakable depends on the environment.

Finally the optimum tweakables can vary over time for a long running program like Web server. Ideally you then want something to continually adjust the tweakables as the program runs to keep them optimal.

You must create generic interfaces for instrumenting a program that do not put a great burden of understanding on the application programmer.

You will need JNI (Java Native Interface) to measure the environment the program is running in.


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