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Caching of computational expensive tasks (memoization)

Memoization - automatic caching of computational expensive tasks

There are several computations in aroma.affymetrix that generate identical output and are repeated between method calls or even analysis sessions. In order to speed up such repeated calculations, the package caches results using a technique referred to as memoization. You will typically notice that the first time you analyze a new type of chip, some computations takes a long time, but the second time it is much faster.

For instance, in some cases the index of the first cell (but not the others) in each CDF unit is queried. In order to retrieve these indices, first all indices for all units are read and then the first index is extracted from each unit. Since there are several 100,000s of units, this is a time consuming process. In order to not have to repeat this process each time this kind of data is needed, the package caches the result to the file system the first time, and then reloads the cached results in future calls. This mechanism is referred to as on-file caching.

In cases where the computational expensive results are small enough, the package sometimes cache the results in memory for quick lookup. This is mainly used to speed up interactive usage, that is, method calls by the user at the prompt. This mechanism is referred to as in-memory caching.

It is only redundant data that is cached, that is, cached (on-file or in-memory) results may be deleted at anytime without harm.

File caching

Results cached to file are stored by default in the so call cache root path:


You can find the current path by calling getCacheRootPath(). The location of the .Rcache/ directory can be modified by using setCacheRootPath(). For example:


See help("Startup") how to add this to the .Rprofile file in order for this to be applied to all R sessions started. Alternatively, one can set the path using system environment variable R_CACHE_PATH. The former overrides the latter.

Cache files are named <32-chars hexadecimal>.Rcache where the hexadecimal part is a unique (MD5) identifier, e.g. 5c01b589b209fe250a04cda2d297555c.Rcache. Since the filename itself does not reveal what kind of data is cached, the cache directory structure is setup such that it should be possible to identify at least what type of results are contained in the cached files. First of all, all data cached by the package is stored under:

<cache root path>/aroma.affymetrix/

Then, for instance, data specific to a certain chip type is cached to:

<cache root path>/aroma.affymetrix/<chip type>/

and data specific to a certain data set is cached to:

<cache root path>/aroma.affymetrix/<data set name>,<data set tags>/

With this structure it is easy to clean out the cached data for a certain project when done.