[Haskell-cafe] Fast sorting with Bytestring

Stefan O'Rear stefanor at cox.net
Wed Jun 18 14:23:00 EDT 2008

On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 08:19:10PM +0200, Georg Sauthoff wrote:
> Hi,
> I played a bit around with the nice bytestring package. At some point I
> implemented a simple sorting program, because I needed line-sorting a file
> with a custom line-compare function. I was a bit surprised, that the
> resulting code is very fast. A lot of faster than sorting via GNU sort
> (with the standard line-compare function).
> Then I got suspicious and tested standard GNU sort against a trivial
> standard sort implementation in Haskell using bytestring. The Haskell
> implementation looks like:
> Ok, strane ... Well, let's test with some 'normal' text:
> time ./sort < bible > /dev/null       # ~  0.4   s
> time sort < bible > /dev/null         # ~  0.56  s
> Ok, not that different. But with Haskell you often expect to get very
> slow code compared to an implementation in C.
> And I am surprised, that the Haskell is fast _and_ nice to read - because
> for example the ultra fast 'wc -l' Haskell implementation from the
> Haskell-Wiki uses some insider-knowledge about bytestring, and looks to
> a beginner not that intuitive, I guess.
> ./sort is the shown Haskell implementation. I used ghc 6.8.2, installed
> bytestring as a user-local package (don't now I this superseeds
> the global bytestring package), compiled via ghc -O2. The tests are run at a
> Pentium M 1.3 GHz computer. As GNU sort I tested the version from
> coreutils 6.9.
> You can get the test files from:
> http://www.techfak.uni-bielefeld.de/~gsauthof/stuff/brackets.gz
> http://www.techfak.uni-bielefeld.de/~gsauthof/stuff/bible.gz
> (obviously, you have to gunzip them after downloading ...)
> Of course, the naive Haskell implementation doesn't care about locales
> (i.e. collating locale sequences), but this shouldn't explain the
> observed differences sorting the brackets file.

GNU 'sort' uses an external sort algorithm.  You can, with 200M of
memory, give it a 50G input file, and it will work.  This might explain
the difference..

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