[e2e] Packet transmission timer

Constantinos Dovrolis dovrolis at mail.eecis.udel.edu
Sat Jul 7 13:39:09 PDT 2001


We had done something similar in Solaris 2.6 a couple of
years ago, trying to get fine-grained timeouts, not limited
by the clock interrupt period. Actually, the main focus
of that study was to examine the overhead involved in
decreasing the clock interrupt period from 10msec to 1msec,
and the corresponding improvement that results in the accuracy of
synchronous execution. A report for anyone interested
in this kind of stuff can be found at:

The trick with the audio card was also what we were doing
to get accurate sub-millisecond timeouts. Of course, if you
decrease the timeout period too much, the audio interrupt overhead
becomes noticeable.

Solaris comes with a 1msec clock interrupt these days, so our study is
kind of obsolete I guess..


Computer and Information Sciences - University of Delaware


On Fri, 6 Jul 2001, John Lazzaro wrote:

> > Jeevandra <jeevandra at swift.ee.umist.ac.uk> writes
> >
> > or less. But most OSs are not able to provide that of a high timer
> > resolution. I am only able to obtain at most a 10ms granularity.
> There's a trick that works under Linux that comes out of the audio
> world, and so it only works if there is a soundcard in your machine
> and you have the OSS or ALSA drivers installed, that lets you do
> significantly better than 10ms.
> The way these audio API's work, at start time you have the option
> of creating a small pool of "fragment" buffers -- 4 buffers of 64
> bytes each, for example. For 44100Hz mono 16 bit audio, a fragment
> holds 0.725ms of sound, and the 4 fragments together hold about 3ms
> of sound.
> Once you've created the fragment pool, you can write() to the sound
> card device, and either one of two things happen:
> -- There's a fragment free in the pool. If so, the data you write
> is copied to the fragment, which is then taken out of the pool and
> queued for playback to the soundcard, and the write() returns
> immediately.
> -- There's no fragments left in the pool -- because you've done a
> bunch of write() calls in succession, and so the playback queue
> is filled with all the fragments. In this case, the write() blocks,
> until the sound driver is finished playing out the lead fragment
> in the queue (which takes 0.725ms), and then unblocks.
> Given this behavior, you can write a simple "dummy" audio app,
> that sets up a fragment pool at the start of the fragment, and
> then does a set of quick write()'s to use up all the fragments
> (in our example 4). It then does a 5th write, which in effect
> will act as a 0.725ms timer. In this scenareo, everything else
> in your program is carefully designed to be non-blocking. Audio
> apps that do low-latency work under Linux (for example, music
> synthesis programs that are controlled by a MIDI keyboard) use
> this technique to get acceptably low latency. A few things to
> note:
> -- This is most reliable when you use real-time POSIX scheduling,
> and run the process in SCHED_FIFO.
> -- This is different than just calling a function like nanosleep(),
> because the process is really blocking during that 0.725ms --
> you can run a program like this under X just fine, and maintain
> full cursor and window control, whereas running a SCHED_FIFO
> process with nanosleep() calls for timing and no other blocking
> would lock the mouse and keyboard until the process ended.
> -- You can query the soundcard using ioctl()'s to track the
> total number of fragments written during the lifetime of the
> program. You can use this a clock, and you can double check
> the number against the gettimeofday() clock to catch any
> catastrophes that led to an overrun, and compensate accordingly.
> The success of this technqiue ultimately lies in the ability of
> the kernel to deliver good SCHED_FIFO scheduling performance --
> to quickly note when the soundcard driver unblocks, and hand
> control back to the SCHED_FIFO process. There's a relatively
> short list of "things not to do" if you want this to work
> reliably under Linux -- and if you're willing to install the
> special "low-latency kernel patches", the list gets even shorter.
> There's a community devoted to these sorts of techniques:
> http://www.linuxdj.com/audio/lad/resources.php3
> for more details on how to make this actually work for you.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> John Lazzaro -- Research Specialist -- CS Division -- EECS -- UC Berkeley
> lazzaro [at] cs [dot] berkeley [dot] edu     www.cs.berkeley.edu/~lazzaro
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------

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