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Subject: Re: [boost] [GGL] performance and bug
From: Simonson, Lucanus J (lucanus.j.simonson_at_[hidden])
Date: 2009-11-14 22:25:21

Barend Gehrels wrote:
> Hi list,
> As there were doubts expressed on this list regarding performance in
> more challenging environments, an additional test is provided. The
> resulting figures of GGL are still good, sometimes the best, sometimes
> the second best.
> For example, for a union on polygons with many diagonals, holes, and
> many points on both inputs:
> ggl 3.6 seconds
> b.p. 7.8 seconds
> terralib 8.2 seconds
> geos 35.9 seconds
> cgal 77.8 seconds (a cgal-intersection (instead of union) is the
> fastest in these tests)
> Polygons have large diagonals, holes are tested, and the number of
> vertices of both input polygons can be varied in the tests.
> More information:,
> including references to sources for reproducing the figures, everyone
> is invited to do that.

Thank you! This benchmark is quite even handed.

I want to start out by explaining my motivation for reviewing your library. If it is accepted I would like to specialize my polygon_set_data<> class for single, double and long double and rely on your implementation of boolean operations to support floating point coordinates. Before I do that I want to be sure that any problems with your library have been addressed before the library is accepted into boost. That's one reason I was so keen on seeing your polygon concept fixed to make it generic enough to adapt my polygon_with_holes_concept, since that would be an obstacle to integrating the two libraries. Performance problems, bugs and numerical robustness problems are also reasons why I would not want to integrate your algorithm into my library, so I am investigating these issues.

I followed your suggestion and constructed a benchmark. I found it somewhat challenging because your interface supports only two polygon operations, so I couldn't use the benchmark I designed for boostcon. In my benchmark I construct an square grid of trianglular holes in an enclosing rectangle. I vary the number of rows and columns with the 2nd and 3rd input parameters to your benchmark app. What I found is that your algorithm scales quadratically wrt. number of edges (as expected), and quickly performs 100X slower than my own implementation. Before reporting that your implementation is 100X faster than my own and faster than any other you should have done more careful work benchmarking to understand whether such an assertion was in fact accurate. I realize that you plan to fix this performance problem with a query tree based algorithm. I've already offered to fix it by applying my own optimizations as a patch. There is no reason not to accept your library into boost due to performance, but I would like to see it required that this performance problem be fixed before your library is accepted, which should be easy.

That said, I feel you owe me an apology for publishing misleading benchmark results during the review of my library that could very easily have prevented its acceptance into boost. As you can well imagine it caused me no small ammount of consternation. If I have ever said or done anything on the list or off that you feel I should appologize to you for, please tell me what it is so that I can do so.

Now that we have gotten the issue of performance out of the way, I'd like to move on to the issues of bugs and testing. During the benchmarking of your library I encountered a bug in your polygon intersection algorithm. I've attached the rectangle_bug.cpp file so that you can easily reproduce the problem. Apparently when the enclosing rectangles in my benchmark happen to be identical your library drops that polygon from the output of both the union and intersection operation. This leads to the area computation resulting in an awkwardly negative value. Duplicate edges and points (and indeed polygons) are well known examples of input degeneracies (as I discussed at boostcon) and it is probably in the handling of the degenerate cases that you will find the error that caused the polygon to be dropped. This isn't too surprising, because the Atherton/Wieler algorithm you implemented is notoriously difficult to get correct because handling all possible degeneracies (and their potential interaction) explicitly in the visitor policy for walking the graph is hard to do correctly. I would require that the bug I've found be fixed before your library is accepted into boost.

Now I'll discuss testing. The fact that there is a bug in your algorithm indicates to me that insufficient testing has been done. Is this algorithm used in production code? It is very difficult to think of all the things that can go wrong in a complicated algorithm and construct tests for each potential problem. What I did to validate my own implementation was auto generate large numbers of random test data of increasing scale until I was confident that anything that could go wrong would have gone wrong. The benchmark I showed at boostcon (the poster on the wall) is a good example of such a test at a large scale. It is no accident that it found a bug in polyboolean, it isn't likely for an algorithm with a bug in it to pass that kind of test. You should start small, merging many iterations of two randomly generate triangles, then three, then five and so on until you can perform a union on one million randomly generated triangles. The reason to start small is because it is easier to root cause a problem in a small test case, so you want to find any problems in the smallest possible testcase where the problem can occur. Since the policies are different for union and intersection you will also have to do the same for intersecting the union of large numbers of random triangles (which is what my boostcon benchmark did.) Compare your results to those produced by CGAL with an XOR operation performed by CGAL and make sure that no polygons in the result of the XOR have any regions larger than can be explained my numerical error. Actually, CGAL's licence probably doesn't allow you to use it for validation purposes, since you work for a commercial enterprise. Use GPC instead, oh wait... use something free. I'd like to see this kind of testing done before your library is accepted into boost.

I'd also like to see XOR as well as AND NOT implemented and supported by your interface before your library is accepted. A good testing methodology will help you write the visitor policies for these algorithms.

I'd like you to add the interfaces to intersect containers of polygons with eachother. I figured out I could probably fake it by adding reverse winding holes outside of the enclosing polygon, but I'd like your interface for that to be defined and working before I use it to specialize polygon_set_data<>, so I'd like that to be done before your library is accepted into boost as well. Obviously you will need to merge each input before you can intersect them (unless you want to write a fiendishly difficult visitor policy). I know full well that the union of more than two polygons is harder to implement in the Atherton-Wieler algorithm than the union of two polygons. I don't believe your algorithm supports the union of more than two polygons in all cases, but a good set of tests would convince me.

I'll defer discussion of numerical robustness until tomorrow since this email is already overlong.


Benchmark results:
GGL: area: 147058 speed: 0.05
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 30 30 10 200 0
GGL: area: 337291 speed: 0.26
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 40 40 10 200 0
GGL: area: 605332 speed: 0.77
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 50 50 10 200 0
GGL: area: 951182 speed: 1.89
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 60 60 10 200 0
GGL: area: 1.37484e+06 speed: 4.63
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 70 70 10 200 0
GGL: area: 1.87631e+06 speed: 16.85
dlxc0129> ggl_starcomb 1 80 80 10 200 0
GGL: area: 2.45559e+06 speed: 62.04

(my original algorithm)
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 30 30 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 338517 speed: 0.05
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 40 40 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 606996 speed: 0.1
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 50 50 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 953295 speed: 0.19
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 60 60 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 1.37741e+06 speed: 0.3
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 70 70 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 1.87935e+06 speed: 0.45
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 80 80 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 2.45911e+06 speed: 0.65

(with my optimization from two days ago)
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 30 30 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 338517 speed: 0.03
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 40 40 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 606996 speed: 0.06
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 50 50 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 953295 speed: 0.1
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 60 60 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 1.37741e+06 speed: 0.15
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 70 70 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 1.87935e+06 speed: 0.21
dlxc0129> gtl_starcomb 1 80 80 10 200 0
B.P.: area: 2.45911e+06 speed: 0.28

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