pvec {multicore}R Documentation

Parallelize a vector map function


pvec parellelizes the execution of a function on vector elements by splitting the vector and submitting each part to one core. The function must be a vectorized map, i.e. it takes a vector input and creates a vector output of exactly the same length as the input which doesn't depend on the partition of the vector.


pvec(v, FUN, ..., mc.set.seed = TRUE, mc.silent = FALSE,
     mc.cores = getOption("cores"), mc.cleanup = TRUE)



vector to operate on


function to call on each part of the vector


any further arguments passed to FUN after the vector


if set to TRUE then each parallel process first sets its seed to something different from other processes. Otherwise all processes start with the same (namely current) seed.


if set to TRUE then all output on stdout will be suppressed for all parallel processes spawned (stderr is not affected).


The number of cores to use, i.e. how many processes will be spawned (at most)


flag specifying whether children should be terminated when the master is aborted (see description of this argument in mclapply for details)


pvec parallelizes FUN(x, ...) where FUN is a function that returns a vector of the same length as x. FUN must also be pure (i.e., without side-effects) since side-effects are not collected from the parallel processes. The vector is split into nearly identically sized subvectors on which FUN is run. Although it is in principle possible to use functions that are not necessarily maps, the interpretation would be case-specific as the splitting is in theory arbitrary and a warning is given in such cases.

The major difference between pvec and mclapply is that mclapply will run FUN on each element separately whereas pvec assumes that c(FUN(x[1]), FUN(x[2])) is equivalent to FUN(x[1:2]) and thus will split into as many calls to FUN as there are cores, each handling a subset vector. This makes it much more efficient than mclapply but requires the above assumption on FUN.


The result of the computation - in a successful case it should be of the same length as v. If an error ocurred or the function was not a map the result may be shorter and a warning is given.


Due to the nature of the parallelization error handling does not follow the usual rules since errors will be returned as strings and killed child processes will show up simply as non-existent data. Therefore it is the responsibiliy of the user to check the length of the result to make sure it is of the correct size. pvec raises a warning if that is the case since it dos not know whether such outcome is intentional or not.

See Also

parallel, mclapply


  x <- pvec(1:1000, sqrt)
  stopifnot(all(x == sqrt(1:1000)))

  # a common use is to convert dates to unix time in large datasets
  # as that is an awfully slow operation
  # so let's get some random dates first
  dates <- sprintf('%04d-%02d-%02d', as.integer(2000+rnorm(1e5)),
                   as.integer(runif(1e5,1,12)), as.integer(runif(1e5,1,28)))

  # this takes 4s on a 2.6GHz Mac Pro
  system.time(a <- as.POSIXct(dates))

  # this takes 0.5s on the same machine (8 cores, 16 HT)
  system.time(b <- pvec(dates, as.POSIXct))

  stopifnot(all(a == b))

  # using mclapply for this is much slower because each value
  # will require a separate call to as.POSIXct()
  system.time(c <- unlist(mclapply(dates, as.POSIXct)))

[Package multicore version 0.1-8 Index]