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Re: IDL Memory Management

"Myron Brown" <Myron.Brown@jhuapl.edu> writes:

> Hi.  I'm having a problem that I'm not sure how to solve.  I call a
> procedure I wrote which manipulates large images.  When it's done, it passes
> me back a relatively small array.  However, AFTER the procedure is complete,
> I have problems with swap space.  It appears that something is still
> allocated (or something).  I am not using pointers, just simple arrays
> (which I assume get thrown on the stack - maybe not).  Any ideas on how to
> deallocate this?

This question comes up every so often, and there is no easy answer.
RSI has a "Tip" on its web page which treats this issue in a little
more detail.

I assume you are running under a Unix-type OS.  Under Unix the memory
space of any process including IDL is treated as a one-demensional
array of cells.  IDL requests more memory from the system on an
as-needed basis.  If you do a lot of creating and destroying of IDL
variables, especially with big variables, you can end up with a lot of
unused *HOLES* in memory, and unfortunately holey memory can't be
returned to the system.  Windows may or may not be different in this

The solutions are to:

 * avoid making extra copies of your memory hogging image variables.
   This includes the implicit copies that are made in arithmetic

 * read about the TEMPORARY() function, and use it.

 * consider some form of "chunking" in your processing.  That is,
   operate on banded subsets of your image so that your overall memory
   footprint is smaller.  I do this successfully with gigabytes worth
   of data.

Cheers, and good luck,


Craig B. Markwardt, Ph.D.         EMAIL:    craigmnet@cow.physics.wisc.edu
Astrophysics, IDL, Finance, Derivatives | Remove "net" for better response