Linear algebra in C++ is no fun

One of the reasons I’m in the UK this week is to work with David Balding on HapCluster, a method developed in his group that I have extended in various directions.

There’s a few extensions we want to add, and maybe (finally) get a paper written about all the extensions.  The latter probably won’t happen … even with lots of extensions is is hard getting a paper accepted that just adds features here and there, and it is always necessary to compare with a lot of other tools (when really no single tool can beat all the others unless you find just the right “sweet spot” in parameter space where you are lucky, and that takes months of fiddling with parameters and I just can’t be bothered).

Anyway, one of the extensions we are looking at is mapping of quantitative traits.  Ed Waldron already did this in his thesis, but I never got around to implementing it in my tool, ’cause I didn’t fully understand the mathematics.  I still don’t, but I think that I get enough to implement the formulas now at least.

The only problem is that it is a lot of matrix expressions that I need to implement, and that is just hell to do in C++.  At least if you, as I do, use GSL and CBLAS.

A simple expression such as

$$!\mathbf{V}^* := \left(\mathbf{V}^{-1} + \mathbf{B}^T\mathbf{B}\right)^{-1}$$


with a pre-computed $$\mathbf{V}^{-1}$$.


$$!\mathbf{m}^* := \left(\mathbf{V}^{-1} + \mathbf{B}^T\mathbf{B}\right)^{-1}\left(\mathbf{V}^{-1}\mathbf{m}+\mathbf{B}^T\mathbf{Y}\right)$$

we can re-use the computation from before, but it still ends up as this long function:

You have to break down the expressions into tiny little chunks, like you are writing assembly programs for arithmetic.  It is very frustrating.

It is low-level, of course, because the direct translation of matrix expressions to code is pretty inefficient, with lots of temporary matrices being created and deleted.  Still, that is pretty much how my code looks anyway, I am just manually doing the direct translation, ’cause I don’t want to spend too much time trying to optimise the code before I know that it actually works (and is too slow to be worth optimising).

Template expressions, like in Blitz++, should be able to handle this, but I have never managed to learn that library.  I don’t really deal with matrix expressions that often, so I haven’t bothered.  If I end up having to do much more matrix hacking, I will.  Life is just too short to manually coding it up…


A bunch of flu links

While I have read a bit about the flu and find it interesting, if scary, I am by no means an expert, but luckily there are other bloggers around who does a good job at writing about it.

Check out these links:

Also check out the Flu Wiki and you can follow the spread of the swine flu at google maps.


How bad is the flu?

It is all over the news these days, the swine flu from Mexico.  The US has declared an emergency and the first cases have appeard in Europe.

How bad can it get?  Pretty bad, actually.

We are better prepared than we were in 1918, but still, we also travel a lot more, so a pandemic can spread fast if measures are not taken.

With the scare of the bird flu the last couple of years, one would hope that goverments are prepared, but of course it can also end up with a “boy that cried wolf” situation where people do not take the flu serious enough.

This might be a bad time to go to a busy airport, but I’m off to Heathrow now…


No “last week in the blogs” this week

Sorry, there won’t be a list this week.  I have not only been too busy to blog, but too busy even to read the blogs, so I don’t really feel up to trying to make a list for this week… it would have to be based on very quick scans of headlines and you have your RSS reader for that!

Oh well, I hope to catch up for next week.  I should, I think.  This week was crazy because I needed to finish some work before today, but for the rest of the week I am on the road (visiting London and Oxford) and should have plenty of blogging time when sitting in a hotel waiting for my slow laptop to finish MCMC runs.