Book Review: C# in depth

If your one of those people who dreads cramming for exams but loves understanding the nitty-gritty of a problem, then C# in depth is a book you should get your hands on.

C# in Depth

Jon Skeet an MVP for many years now working for Google has a great writing style the provokes questions to answers you thought you already knew.  As Eric Lippert puts it

Jon gets all that. This book is ideal for professional developers who have a need to understand the “what” and “how” of the latest revision to C#. But it is also for those developers whose understanding is enriched by exploring the “why” of the language’s design principles.  

And if you need a teaser, Jon has a number of articles on line on the subject matter covered in his book.  Highly recommended, 4/5 from me.

Multi-Threading, Silverlight Sockets & Visualisation Part 1

When looking for ideas to build a socket-aware sample silverlight application, I came across the statistical shape modelling of research of Newcastle professor Tim Coote’s.  He has available on his website some tools for marking up a model with points, and mapping related images.


I used Tim’s sample face dataset, and created a Silverlight application that receives a stream of socket information containing the image data and polygons for rendering the ‘mask’

Silverlight Visualisation

Before getting to the visualisation however, I will cover off loading the dataset, and the multi-threading performance tests I did along the way.

The face dataset consists of three directories

·         images

·         points

·         models

A model is defined by a series of images, each of which map to a points file which contain a fixed array of X,Y co-ordinates.  These points map to triangles that form the polygons that are drawn on top of the image for each Timestep in the dataset.

Model contains the training set:



  107_0764.pts : 107_0764.jpg

  107_0766.pts : 107_0766.jpg

  107_0791.pts : 107_0791.jpg

  107_0792.pts : 107_0792.jpg


Points for for each time step contains 68 points at slightly different co-ordinates.

version: 1

n_points: 68


249.599 153.934

246.122 205.482

384.186 323.087

394.303 235.871


The triangles files indicates which points are joined to form the pologyons.

version: 1

n_triangles: 113


 { v1: 0 v2: 21 v3: 27 }

 { v1: 27 v2: 0 v3: 1 }

 { v1: 58 v2: 6 v3: 5 }

 { v1: 61 v2: 58 v3: 60 }


My sample contains a Loader responsible for parsing these files as and putting the object model into an in-memory cache.  Given the training data set contains a sequential list of files; loading of this information is inherently parallelisable.

When dealing with multi-threading scenarios, resource locking also becomes an issue, so I constructed a unit test which compares the following thread models:

1.       Single Threaded

2.       Pooled: Multi-Threaded using ThreadPool

3.       Parallel: Multi-Threaded using Microsoft’s new Task Parallel Library (TPL)

With the following locking models

·         Read/Write Lock

·         Write Lock

Following is the sample code for the Pooled method

private void RunPooled(Action threadProc)
    // Set the stop date
    stop = DateTime.Now.AddSeconds(runFor);

    // Use an event to wait for all work items to complete
    int count = threadCount;
    using (var mre = new ManualResetEvent(false))
        for (int i = 0; i < threadCount; i++)
            ThreadPool.QueueUserWorkItem((state) =>
                // Execute the method
                Thread.CurrentThread.Name = String.Format("Thread#{0:00}", state);
                if (Interlocked.Decrement(ref count) == 0)
            }, i);

        // Wait for all work to complete

Following is an example using Parallel.Do method (Note the Parallel.For method seems to perform some internal ‘optimisations’ which results in fewer worker thread’s being spun up).

private void RunParalell(Action threadProc)
// Set the stop date
stop = DateTime.Now.AddSeconds(runFor);

// Create the list of actions
List actions = new List();
for (int i = 0; i < threadCount; i++) { actions.Add(threadProc); } // Run the series of actions Parallel.Do(actions.ToArray()); } [/sourcecode]

The test spins up a series of threads to load the dataset which is will randomly read or write to the in-memory cache which is also subject to time outs.  The following configure was used:

Cache Expiry


Read Lock


Write Lock


Thread Sleep


Read/Write Ratio

9:1 (9 Reads for every 1 Write)

My machine configuration is Del MultiPlex 745, Intel Core 2, 2,394MHz, 4GM RAM running Windows 2003 SP 2.  The average execution time (ms) for each load request is summarised in the chart below:

Silverlight threading performance

Microsoft’s new parallel library wins out on a 2:1 ratio over the single treaded equivalent, and the Read/Write lock proves more efficient as it locks the resource less often given Read’s are more frequent the Writes as configured by the test ratio.

For complete test results, please see the complete spreadsheet or download the sample to play for yourself.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will discuss the Silverlight socket implementation, including the complexity of sending multi-part chunks of data for the large images.