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Posted 25 Aug 2005

C++/Mex wrapper adds microsecond resolution timer to Matlab under WinXP

, 25 Aug 2005
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C++/Mex wrapper adds microsecond resolution timer to Matlab under WinXP.


To any Matlab user interested in performance, the lack of a precision timer with microsecond resolution is a major shortcoming. Under Linux there are kernel patches available which provide this functionality, however under Windows one has to make to with millisecond resolution. Thankfully Keith Wansbrough has put his TSCtime package into the public domain providing precision timing from C/C++ programs under Visual C++.

Mex Wrapper Implementation

This project consists of a Mex wrapper function to access Keith Wansbrough's TSCtime high-precision time measurement functions from within Matlab. Matlab does this by calling the mex_tsctimer.dll generated by compiling this project file.

Wrapped TSCtime functions supported by this DLL are:

  • recalibrate();
  • gethectonanotime_first();
  • gethectonanotime_last();

A parameter is passed in from Matlab to select which wrapped function to invoke the desired TSCtime function avoiding the need for a separate DLL file for each function.

void mexFunction( int nlhs, mxArray *plhs[], int nrhs, const mxArray *prhs[]) {
  const char     str[]="Function 'mexeval' not defined for variables of class";
  char           errMsg[100];
  const mxArray *in_data;
  int            select = 0;
  ULONGLONG      t_meas = 0;
  double        *outArray;

  //mexPrintf("executing mex_tsctimer(%d)\n", nrhs);
  if(nrhs==0) {
    sprintf(errMsg,"%s '%s'\n",str,"double");
  else { // causes MATLAB to execute the string as an expression
    in_data = prhs[0];
    select = (int)(mxGetScalar(prhs[0]));
    //mexPrintf("%d selects %s\n", select, msg[select]);
         if (select == 0) recalibrate();
      else if (select == 1) t_meas = gethectonanotime_first();
      else if (select == 2) t_meas = gethectonanotime_last();
    plhs[0] = mxCreateDoubleMatrix(1,1,mxREAL);
    outArray = mxGetPr(plhs[0]);
    outArray[0] = ((double)t_meas)/1e7;
    //mexPrintf("measured time %f = %f\n", outArray[0], ((double)t_meas)/1e7);

Installing the Matlab DLL

Simply copy the mex_tsctimer.dll into your Matlab installation and/or add the Release directory into your Windows path and you're ready to start using the timer.

Usage in Matlab

Before using the TSCtime functions in Matlab or in C/C++ for that matter, you will need to calibrate the timer using the TSCcal utility provided as part of Keith's distribution.

Again for those interested in the details of Keith's code, please refer to the excellent explanation on his website.

This utility writes the timer calibration data unique to your platform into the Windows registry which is subsequently read by the TSCtime routines to correct the timing information measured in user applications.

Here's an example of how to use the DLL to measure the runtime of a sparse matrix by vector multiplication in Matlab:

smvm_start = mex_tsctimer(1); % TSCtime : gethectonanotime_first()
b = A*x;                      % code whose execution time you want to measure
end_smvm= mex_tsctimer(2);    % TSCtime : gethectonanotime_last()
run_time= end_smvm-smvm_start;


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Chief Technology Officer Movidius
Ireland Ireland
David Moloney holds a B.Eng. degree from Dublin City University, and Ph.D. in Engineering from Trinity College Dublin. For the past 25 years he has worked in microelectronics starting in 1985 with Infineon in Munich and ST Microelectronics in Milan, before returning to Ireland 1994 to help found a series of start-up technology companies including Parthus-CEVA and Silansys. David is currently co-founder (2005) and CTO of Movidius Ltd., a fabless semiconductor company headquartered in Dublin and focused on the design of software programmable multimedia accelerator SoCs. He holds 18 US patents and numerous conference and journal papers on DSP and computer architecture. David is a member of the IEEE.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralError in mex Pin
Amitabh7777-Oct-09 7:31
memberAmitabh7777-Oct-09 7:31 
Generalerror with mex.h file Pin
Boris40530-Apr-09 8:28
memberBoris40530-Apr-09 8:28 
Generalthx! plus a few corrections for msvs 2005 + Matlab 7.0 Pin
dain_bramage7-Nov-08 5:32
memberdain_bramage7-Nov-08 5:32 
Generala very simple way to acess a very high resolution timer [modified] Pin
mjas12-Oct-06 15:49
membermjas12-Oct-06 15:49 
GeneralError when compling Pin
smilurch8-Mar-06 17:01
membersmilurch8-Mar-06 17:01 
GeneralRe: Error when compling Pin
moloned8-Mar-06 19:39
membermoloned8-Mar-06 19:39 
GeneralMissing download Pin
Chris Maunder29-Aug-05 21:02
adminChris Maunder29-Aug-05 21:02 

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