Final Report Inside the Black Box

by Shubham Shukla



Name: Shubham Shukla
Project: Inside The Black Box
Mentors: Heiko Strathmann, Giovanni De Toni
Organization: Shogun Machine Learning Toolbox


Shogun is a large scale machine learning toolkit developed by many diffrent minds and ideas. This means we have a lot of opportunities to optimize what goes on under the hood and create something simple and impactful. This project focuses a bit more on Iterative Algorithms among other things. The premature stopping framework was improved to make it more robust and natural to use and modify, the progress bar was improved to make it more verbose along with implementing it in some iterative algorithms, We also worked on making algorithms respect the provided feature types making them fully templated for a more generic behaviour.

Table of Contents

StoppableSGObject class and progress bar

In shogun we have a SignalHandler that gives some control of what happens in case of an event, like premature cancellation (CTRL+C), back to the user for some algorithms. We take all the premature stopping code and make it accessible to non CMachine types as well by placing it in a new CStoppableSGObject class. My mentor also introduced m_callback data member which can accept a lambda function that can serve as a way to fire a cancel computation signal.

Relevant PRs:

The class is implemented in PR4280. Other updates include

  • #4286: replacing cancel_computation calls with macro
  • #4287: enable premature stopping in all machines
  • #4291: use case for CStoppableSGObject class
Progress bar

We added a default prefix for class_name::method_name to the progress bar. This slightly changes the usage which is now done using SG_PROGRESS macro instead of progress method. We implemented it in most iterative algorithms. This helped us prepare a list of iterative algorithms
PR: #4305: The new macro and its usage Future Work: Finding more use cases for it and using it to extend the list of iterative algorithms.

Iterative Machine

Previously an algorithm could define what happens when a training process is cancelled or paused with the help of methods like on_next, on_pause etc. This is not flexible for a user behind an interface like shogun. We use the concept of mixins for the first time in shogun to write a new CIterativeMachine class which allows the user to cancel training anytime, execute some more code, and then resume it later if needed. The pre-trained model remains usable and concurrent. This is done by making sure the model updates its state in every iteration.

Relevant PRs:

The mixin is implemented in PR4335. Related PRs are:

  • #4320: update the state of Perceptron in every iteration
  • PR4335: this also includes the implementation of CIterativeMachine in CPerceptron
  • #4347: CIterativeMachine in CNewtonSVM class.
Future Work:
  • Porting all algorithms from the List of Iterative Algorithms wiki page to this code style
  • Systematic tests for all Iterative machines that ensure proper state update and concurrency.

Feature type dispatching and generic nature

There is an implicit assumption in most algorithms that the provided feature type will be 64 bit dense. To introduce more generic behaviour in an automated way we have written some new classes. These are all mixins that use the curiously recursive template pattern. This means algorithms will inherit from themselves and the orignal base class. The concept is new to shogun and brings a lot more possibilities for similar ideas. The idea is to dispatch feature types from base class and then have subclasses implement a templated version of train_machine.

Relevant PRs:
  • #4373: This implements two mixin + crtp classes to dispatch dense and string feature types. We also implement dense featue types in CLDA, and CLeastAngleRegression. There are also unit tests for training a machine will a list of feature types.
  • #4389: a meta example for dense dispatcher
    Future Work:
  • Add more dispatchers with tests along with implementations.
  • An automated way to create a new dispatcher class or maybe a workaround so that we don’t need to have as many dispatchers as the number of feature types.

Other Contributions and Ideas:

Observer and put

Shogun has an API to set values of member parameters that are registered by algorithms. This API can be used together with parameter observers to record summaries of change in member variables. This can be done using a new put_observe method that will inform the parameter observers on anything that is being updated. This comes with a design change of using put to change member data in code instead of using assignment. To benchmark the overhead we will gain over direct assignment we have written a benchmark in #4342
Future Work:

  • Prototyping and benchmarking of put_observe
  • Infering type using Any instead of doing so in CObservedValue
Systematic tests for Iterative machine

Writing seperate tests in multiple classes that aim to do the same thing is redundant. We can use TYPED_TESTS instead to do it for a number of classes. This has a few issues but will be possible in the future. An idea of how to do it is #4327 for serialization tests.
Future Work:

  • Using LibASTParser to provide more information on base classes
  • Making a general dataset for proper testing An idea of how these tests should look like is in
NewtonSVM Refactoring

The implementation of CNewtonSVM was outdated. We refactored it to use SGVectors/SGMatrix for data storage and using linalg API for computations. We also ported it to the new IterativeMachine code style.
PRs: We refactored most of the code in #4347. We added a new method to calculate pseudo inverse for matrices with two implementations in linalg #4356

Meta examples and cookbook contributions

These are some contributions to meta examples and cookbooks

  • Neural Network Factory: Adding the option to auto_initialize the neural network along with a new layer factory to create new layers. The example from python looks much more intuitive now.
    PR: #4386 contains the factory example along with a cookbook for training a Convolutional Neural Network on a dataset for mnist images of 0, 1, 2 in shogun. The corresponding dataset is #165
  • #4346: NewtonSVM meta example
  • #4340: Diffusion meta cookbook and example
  • #4310: porting KRRNystrom and LeastAngleRegression to new API
  • #4297: porting KernelRidgeRegression meta example to new API
  • Deleting CLabelsFactory: The CLabelsFactory performed static casts which were not needed anymore so we deleted it and used as for conversions
    PRs: #4281, #4277
  • #4278: A few meta examples on using distance machines from factory
  • #4236: factory methods in lda meta example

Parallel computation of sample in CLogDetEstimator: #4235 We used openMP to make the code parallel along with refactoring it for efficient memory usage