Reduce lag with UITableView and GCD

I have a UITableView consisting of roughly 10 subclassed UITableViewCells named TBPostSnapCell. Each cell, when initialised, sets two of its variables with UIImages downloaded via GCD or retrieved from a cache stored in the user's documents directory.

For some reason, this is causing a noticeable lag on the tableView and therefore disrupting the UX of the app & table.

Please can you tell me how I can reduce this lag?

tableView... cellForRowAtIndexPath:

if (post.postType == TBPostTypeSnap || post.snaps != nil) {

        TBPostSnapCell *snapCell = (TBPostSnapCell *) [tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:snapID];

        if (snapCell == nil) {

            snapCell = [[[NSBundle mainBundle] loadNibNamed:@"TBPostSnapCell" owner:self options:nil] objectAtIndex:0];

            [snapCell setPost:[posts objectAtIndex:indexPath.row]];

            [snapCell.bottomImageView setImage:[UIImage imageNamed:[NSString stringWithFormat:@"%d", (indexPath.row % 6) +1]]];
        }

    [snapCell.commentsButton setTag:indexPath.row];
    [snapCell.commentsButton addTarget:self action:@selector(comments:) forControlEvents:UIControlEventTouchDown];
    [snapCell setSelectionStyle:UITableViewCellSelectionStyleNone];

    return snapCell;
}

TBSnapCell.m

- (void) setPost:(TBPost *) _post {

    if (post != _post) {
        [post release];
        post = [_post retain];
    }
    ...

    if (self.snap == nil) {

        NSString *str = [[_post snaps] objectForKey:TBImageOriginalURL];
        NSURL *url = [NSURL URLWithString:str];
        [TBImageDownloader downloadImageAtURL:url completion:^(UIImage *image) {
            [self setSnap:image];
        }];
    }

    if (self.authorAvatar == nil) {
        ...
        NSURL *url = [[[_post user] avatars] objectForKey:[[TBForrstr sharedForrstr] stringForPhotoSize:TBPhotoSizeSmall]];

        [TBImageDownloader downloadImageAtURL:url completion:^(UIImage *image) {
            [self setAuthorAvatar:image];
        }];
        ...
    }

}

TBImageDownloader.m

+ (void) downloadImageAtURL:(NSURL *)url completion:(TBImageDownloadCompletion)_block {

    if ([self hasWrittenDataToFilePath:filePathForURL(url)]) {
        [self imageForURL:filePathForURL(url) callback:^(UIImage * image) {
            _block(image); //gets UIImage from NSDocumentsDirectory via GCD
        }];
        return;
    }

    dispatch_queue_t queue = dispatch_get_global_queue(DISPATCH_QUEUE_PRIORITY_HIGH, 0);
    dispatch_async(queue, ^{
        UIImage *image = [UIImage imageWithData:[NSData dataWithContentsOfURL:url]];
        dispatch_async(dispatch_get_main_queue(), ^{
            [self writeImageData:UIImagePNGRepresentation(image) toFilePath:filePathForURL(url)];
            _block(image);
        });
    });
}

Answers


First thing to try is converting DISPATCH_QUEUE_PRIORITY_HIGH (aka ONG MOST IMPORTANT WORK EVER FORGET EVERYTHING ELSE) to something like DISPATCH_QUEUE_PRIORITY_LOW.

If that doesn't fix it you could attempt to do the http traffic via dispatch_sources, but that is a lot of work.

You might also just try to limit the number of in flight http fetches with a semaphore, the real trick will be deciding what the best limit is as the "good" number will depend on the network, your CPUs, and memory pressure. Maybe benchmark 2, 4, and 8 with a few configurations and see if there is enough pattern to generalize.

Ok, lets try just one, replace the queue = ... with:

static dispatch_once_t once;
static dispatch_queue_t queue = NULL;
dispatch_once(&once, ^{
    queue = dispatch_queue_create("com.blah.url-fetch", NULL);
});

Leave the rest of the code as is. This is likely to be the least sputtery, but may not load the images very fast.

For the more general case, rip out the change I just gave you, and we will work on this:

dispatch_async(queue, ^{
    UIImage *image = [UIImage imageWithData:[NSData dataWithContentsOfURL:url]];
    dispatch_async(dispatch_get_main_queue(), ^{
        [self writeImageData:UIImagePNGRepresentation(image) toFilePath:filePathForURL(url)];
        _block(image);
    });
});

Replacing it with:

static dispatch_once_t once;
static const int max_in_flight = 2;  // Also try 4, 8, and maybe some other numbers
static dispatch_semaphore_t limit = NULL;
dispatch_once(&once, ^{
    limit = dispatch_semaphore_create(max_in_flight);
});
dispatch_async(queue, ^{
    dispatch_semaphore_wait(limit, DISPATCH_TIME_FOREVER);
    UIImage *image = [UIImage imageWithData:[NSData dataWithContentsOfURL:url]];
    //  (or you might want the dispatch_semaphore_signal here, and not below)
    dispatch_async(dispatch_get_main_queue(), ^{
        [self writeImageData:UIImagePNGRepresentation(image) toFilePath:filePathForURL(url)];
        _block(image);
        dispatch_semaphore_signal(limit);
    });
});

NOTE: I haven't tested any of this code, even to see if it compiles. As written it will only allow 2 threads to be executing the bulk of the code in your two nested blocks. You might want to move the dispatch_semaphore_signal up to the commented line. That will limit you to two fetches/image creates, but they will be allowed to overlap with writing the image data to a file and calling your _block callback.

BTW you do a lot of file I/O which is faster on flash then any disk ever was, but if you are still looking for performance wins that might be another place to attack. For example maybe keeping the UIImage around in memory until you get a low memory warning and only then writing them to disk.


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