Using a C++ DLL in Cube

October 10th, 2010

One thing that can drastically speed Cube is using a DLL to do big tasks, like Nested Logit Mode Choice. However, doing this can be fraught with hair-pulling errors.  This post shows some techniques to keep your hair on your head.  This post is written for a travel demand modeler, not a computer science person!

RTFM (Read The Fine Manual)

Read the help file for Matrix CALL statement.  The struct statement is pretty important, and the sprintf lines will be used throughout.

Memory Pointers

One of the most important things to understand is that because there are so many variables that can be passed between Cube and the C++ DLL, the memory pointers are passed instead.  Also, one of those "pull your hair out" things relates to this - if you attempt to access a memory pointer that hasn't been initialized, you get a crash that gives no error.

Because of this, the variables in the struct statement have a *, which notes that it is a memory pointer.

To keep from getting the crash-with-no-error, the following statement works well to test and allows a default to be used if the variable 'MarketSegments' is not set in Cube.

int MarketSegments=4;

if(Stack->pfFindVar("MarketSegments")!=0)
MarketSegments=(int)*Stack->pfFindVar("MarketSegments");

Matrix In, Matrix Out

While the Help file says that you can get to defined working matrixes using

static double **MW;
MW=(*Stack->pfFindVar)("MW",1);

I can't get it to work using C++ (I have gotten it to work in C).  Instead, use the following:

static double **MW=NULL;
MW=Stack->MW;

This will enable you to use MW[m][j] (where m is the MW number, and j is the j-zone).

You can also set the MW variables, but it does NOTHING if you don't set the MW to something in Cube Voyager.  Ergo, if you set

MW[101][j]=10;

Your output will be 0 unless you do the following in Cube Voyager

MW[101]=0
CALL...

Array Variables

One of the tricks I use to get array variables out of Cube is this

float ArrayVariable[7]={0,0,0,0,0,0,0};  //Note: I'm using 1-6.  Setting this to 7 means 0-6.  Setting it to 6 would mean 0-5
if(Stack->pfFindVar("ArrayVariable")>0){
double* tmpAV=NULL;
tmpAV=Stack->pfFindVar("ArrayVariable",1,2,3,4,5,6);
for(int x=1;x<=6;x++)
ArrayVariable[x]=tmpAV[x];
}

This code above checks that the ArrayVariable, fills them into a temporary variable, and then sets the actual variable.

Compilation Linker Settings

When compiling, you need to set the EXPORT flag so the name is predictable and correct.  To do this, go to your project's property pages - Configuration Properties - Linker - Command Line.  You need to add "/EXPORT:FunctionName" under Additional Options.  See the screenshot below

.

Other Weird Stuff

Any error in C++ that does not cause a compilation error results in one of those useless "this program has an error and will be closed" and crashes Task Monitor.  That being said, write messages to the output file frequently (if at least during debugging).  This can assist with finding typos (like, say, %10.65f in an sprintf statement, which means 65 decimal places in a 10-width line).

Cube Voyager: Using Cluster with DBI

October 3rd, 2010

Credit for this goes to Citilabs Support, although I made some adaptations.

In Matrix when using DBI, PAR ZONES=1 will effectively shut off Cluster. Therefore, the following works really well.


DISTRIBUTEINTRASTEP ProcessID=Cluster ProcessList={CORES}

PAR ZONES={CORES}

recs = ROUND(DBI.1.NUMRECORDS/{CORES})
start = (I-1)*recs+1
IF (I={CORES})
end = DBI.1.NUMRECORDS
ELSE
end = I*recs
ENDIF

LOOP _r=start,end
x=DBIReadRecord(1,_r)
ENDLOOP

This script sets each core to process an equal portion of the database with any remainder (e.g if you cluster 4 records over 3 cores) to the last core.

Cube Voyager Speed Clinic

September 26th, 2010

There are several issues with long travel demand model run times.  Deep down, these are supposed to be planning tools, and taking too long for results can reduce the practicality of using a travel demand model in decision making.

In Cube Voyager, I've been finding more ways to cut runtimes down as much as possible, and below is the list with some of the rationale.

Keep JLoops at a Minimum

The Matrix program runs in an implied ILOOP.  This being the case, anything in the script runs many times (as many as the zones you have).  Using a JLOOP in a 2,000 zone model means that there are  4,000,000 calculations to be done for each COMP statement.  What happens if you have 3 COMP statements?  You go from 4,000,000 to 12,000,000 calculations.  This is even worse if the calculations include a lookup function, which are generally slow.

Keep Files Small - Only Write What You Have To

This is a no-brainer.  The more that Cube (or anything, for that matter) has to write to disk, the longer the runtime.

Replace RECI with DBI wherever possible

DBI can be clustered (look for a post on that in the coming weeks).  While I'm not sure if there is any difference on one core, being able to use Cluster is the trump card.

Use Cluster Dynamically and Wherever Possible

Standardize the Cluster ID in your code, but set the process list to a catalog key as with below:

DISTRIBUTEINTRASTEP CLUSTERID=Cluster PROCESSLIST=2-{CORES}

Using Cluster to your advantage is critical to having a fast model.

Tour-Based Modeling: Why is it Important?

June 12th, 2010

One thing that is constantly bounced around is why tour-based modeling is better than trip based modeling.  We've been using trip based modeling for 50 years, isn't it timeless?

No.

Fifty years ago, when the trip based modeling methodologies were developed, the primary reason was to evaluate highway improvements.  While tolling was in use, the bonding requirements were likely different.  Transit, while extremely important, was not in the public realm (the streetcars were normally privately owned by the area's electric company).

Now, there are a lot of demands on travel models:

  • Tolling/Toll Road analysis at a better level
  • Different tolling schemes (area tolling, cordon tolling)
  • Travel Demand Management (telecommuting, flex hours, flex time, alternative schedules)
  • Better freight modeling (which now is becoming commodity flow and commercial vehicle modeling)
  • Varying levels of transit (local bus, express bus, intercity bus, BRT, light rail, and commuter rail

While many of these can be done with trip based models, most of them cannot be done well with trip based models.  There are a number of reasons, but the few that come to mind are aggregation bias, modal inconsistency, and household interrelationships.

Aggregation Bias

Aggregation bias occurs when averages are used to determine an outcome.  For example, using a zonal average vehicles per household, you miss the components that form the average, such as:

20 households, average VPHH = 2.2
2 HH VPHH = 0
5 HH VPHH = 1
4 HH VPHH = 2
6 HH VPHH = 3
3 HH VPHH = 4+

The trip generation and modal choices (car, bus, bike, walk, etc.) among these households are all different, and are even more more different if you look at the number of workers per household.

Modal Inconsistency

In trip based modeling, "people" are not tracked throughout their day.  So, if someone rides the bus to work, there is nothing in the model to ensure that they don't drive from work to get lunch.  While we don't want to force people to use the same mode, since many people will use the bus to get to work and then walk to lunch or to go shopping during lunch, we want to make sure that there is some compatibility of modes.

Household Interrelationships

One of the features of of tour based models is determining each person's daily activity pattern.  During this process, certain person types can determine what another person is doing.  For example, if a preschool age child is staying home, an adult (whether they are a worker or not) HAS to stay home.  Another example is if a school-non-driving-age child is going on a non-mandatory trip, an adult must accompany them.  Trip based models don't know about the household makeup and the household interaction.

The above are only three of the many reasons why tour-based modeling is important.  There are many more, but I feel these are some of the most important and some of the easiest to understand.