File: Playback.html

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<html>
<head>
<link rel=stylesheet href="style.css" type="text/css">
<title>collectl - Playback</title>
</head>

<body>
<center><h1>Playback</h1></center>
<p>
<h3>Playing back one or more files</h3>
There are actually 2 reasons for playing back a file, one being to generate
<a href=Plotfiles.html>plottable files</a> and the other is to simply examine
the data in the same format as you would see if running collectl interactively.
The following discussion applies to both cases, the only real difference is that to
generate plot files you include the switches <i>-P</i> and <i>-f</i>.
<p>
You tell collectl to play back one or more files using <i>-p</i> followed by any
combination of one or more filenames separated with commas or whitespace, noting you 
need to quote the string if it contains spaces or wildcard characters.
The files will be played back as if a single file with monotonically
increasing sample numbers for each unique host.  It should be noted
that if these files contain samples for different subsystems the resultant
stream will contain data elements for all, zero filling as appropriate.  When
this occurs, a message will be displayed if -m has been specified.
<p>
Collectl will generate plot format if requested with -P, 
writing the output to multiple output files if both summary and detail data is
specified or when a file with data for a differnet host or a different collection
date is encounted.  <i>NOTE: files that contain data that crosses
midnight will <i>not</i> force creation of a second file when the date changes</i>.
<p>
<b>Filtering with <i>--from</i> and <i>--thru</i></b>
<br>
You restrict the timeframe between which data is reported by using 
<i>--from</i> and <i>--thru</i>.  However, since collectl doesn't require you 
to specify both switches nor does it require you to specify both a date and time
for each switch, it tries to make an intelligent guess as to what timeframe
you really meant.  In most cases it guesses right but sometimes it guesses wrong.
The simple fix if it gets confused is to remove the ambiguity and just specify 
full dates/times with both switches.
<p>
When you specify playback files using wildcarding in the name string, collectl
initially selects all the files that match.  However, in some cases you may not 
really intend for them to all be played back, especially if you selected a timeframe
using <i>--from</i> and <i>--thru</i> switches.  Have no fear.  Collectl will use 
these switches to select the appropriate subset of files that match your selection.
<p>
<center><b><i>Caution</i></b></center>
When filtering wildcarded files using <i>--from</i> and/or <i>--thru</i> switches,
collectl compares those values with the timestamps of the filenames to determine
whether or not that file is likey to contain the data requested.  However, collectl
doesn't know if a file contains data that spans midnight or not so it simply assumes it
doesn't since this is a rarely used feature.  Therefore, collectl <i>only</i>
relaxes these tests when wildcards are <i>not</i> specified in the filename playback string.
<p>
<b>Processing files that span midnight</b>
<br>
The main reason for the <a href=#complex>complexity</a> in the interpretation of <i>--from</i> and 
<i>--thru</i>, is to allow collectl to deal with files that
contain data that crosses midnight.  
As an example, consider a single file with data collected from midnite
on one day to 2AM, 26 hours later.  If you want to tell collectl to process the entire file,
don't specify any time filters and it will report everything.  
But if you want to process the date from midnight to 1AM,
you need to tell collectl which dates are involved!  As stated in the rules above:
<ul>
<li>if you only specify <i>--from 00:00-01:00</i> (note we're using the alternate switch
format), collectl will process 1 hour's worth of data</i>.</li>
<li>If you want 25 hours worth of data you will need to include the date of the second day 
with <i>--thru</i>.</li>
<li>If you only want one hour's worth of data for the second day you will need to specify 
both dates.</li>
</ul>
<p>
<b>A word about the first record reported</b>
<br>
Collectl always needs data from a base interval from which to begin
calculating changes in counters and that interval is never displayed.
In other words, if you collected data every 10 seconds starting at 10:00:00
and then played it back, the first time reported will be for 10:00:10.
<p>
In order to try and mitigate this when playing back data and specifying
a <i>--from</i> time, collectl attempts to read a sample from the previous interval so
that you actually see the time you requested.
Further, when mulitple files are processed collectl is smart enough to know if they are 
contiguous to use the last set of data from one file as the base interval for the next one
and as a result there will be no <i>holes</i> in the data as reported.
However if they are not configuous a new base level must be taken for the new file and 
its first record skipped.  This can be confusing and probably not even that important 
but consider 2 files generated contiguously:
<ul>
<li>If you process each file one at a time, their first samples will not be displayed</li>
<li>If you process them in one command using a wild card for the date/time, you will see
the first record of the second file</li>
</ul>
If you have 2 non-contiguous files you will see the same results whether you process them one
at a time or together using a wild card, that is no first record for either.
<p>
<a name=complex></a>
<b>How <i>--from</i> and <i>--thru</i> are really interpretted</b>
<br>
This section probably contains more detail than you should really care about and
is here more for completeness than anything else.  Remember, these switches can
contain a date, a time or both!  You can also use the shorthand form of combining
both switches under <i>--from</i> by separating the two with a hypen.  In other
words you do something like: <i>--from 12:00-13:00</i>, noting you can use
an combination of dates/times on either side of the hyphen.

<ul>
<li>the default <i>from</i> and <i>thru</i> dates are 20000101 and 20380101 respectively</li>
<li>if no times are specified, each file will be processed from beginning to end</li>
<li>if no dates are specified, the time(s) apply to each file being processed.  In
other words the switches <i>--from 10:00 --thru 11:00</i> will result in data being
reported from 10:00 to 11:00 for each day!  If only <i>--from 10:00</i>, data will be
played back every day starting at 10:00.  If you want to the first day to start at 10:00
and subsequent days to be reported in full, specify a complete set of dates/times.</li>
<li>if one or both dates are specified, things become a little more complicated</li>
<ul>
<li>if one date is specified, use the default for the one not specified</li>
<li>if both dates are specified, times only apply to the first/last dates</li>
<li>ignore any files created after the thru date/time</li>
</ul>
</ul>
</ul>

<p>
<center><i><b>Important Tip</b></i></center>
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that when you play back a file,
collectl will use the same switches as were specified during collection.  In other
words if you collect cpu, disk and network data using <i>-scdn</i>, when you play
it back you will get cpu, disk and network <i>summary</i> data either displayed on
the terminal or written to a file.  However, you could just have easily chosen a
different subsystem specification such as <i>-scND</i> in which case you'd still get
CPU summary data but now you'd get network and disk detail data.  This feature can
be extremely useful especially when combined with different output formatting switches
such as <i>-o</i> and/or <i>--verbose</i>.

<table width=100%><tr><td align=right><i>updated May 04, 2011</i></td></tr></colgroup></table>

</body>
</html>