Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

A use for killing tasklets

A few weeks ago, I posted about Killing Tasklets, a feature of Stackless Python that allows you to abort a tasklet at any point. And it turns out I had a perfect use case for them just last week and things went swimmingly well.

We have a client program that controls the state of 3D objects, and a server program that does the rendering. The client calculates a serialized version of the server’s state (based on the client’s state) and sends it to the server. It does this through a publish/subscribe. The server receives the state and applies it to the current scene, moving objects and the like (of course we have other mechanisms for rebuilding the entire scene, this is just for ‘updating’ the attributes of the current object graph).

This causes a problem when the server takes longer to apply the new state to its scene than it does for the client to calculate it (maybe the client is super fast because it is caching everything). The server lags further and further behind the client. So when the server receives the ‘update’ command, it kicks off and stores the tasklet to do the updating. If another ‘update’ comes in while the previous update’s tasklet is still alive, it kills that tasklet and starts a new one. This way we get as smooth an updating as possible (dropping updates would cause more choppiness). This does require that updates are ‘absolute’ and not relative to other updates, and can be aborted without corrupting the scene.

Killing tasklets turned this into very straightforward code. In fact none of it other than the few lines that handle subscriptions on the server know anything about it at all. This sort of “don’t think about it too much, it just works like you’d expect” promise of tasklet killing is exactly why I like it and exactly what was fulfilled in my use case.

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