(map reflect shtuff)
 => ramblings by Ahmad Nazir

Load the shell faster

November 3, 2016

tldr: The shell can be started faster by replacing the time consuming scripts with shims which can lazy-load the functionality for those scripts


Lately, zsh is taking way too long to boot-up for me i.e. around .3 secs.. long enough to annoy me. I normally reach for Ctrl-R to search the command history as soon as the shell starts and if the shell takes too long to start-up the control character gets lost.. forcing me to press that combination of keys again. Clearly, I can’t be expected to live with this atrocity and something needs to be done.

Here is some timing info for my shell:

mandark@mandark ~$ time zsh -i -c exit
zsh -i -c exit  0.32s user 0.11s system 101% cpu 0.427 total


After timing some of the suspects in my .zshrc file, I found out that loading autojump and calling compinit was delaying the initial boot time by about .2 secs.

Here are the calls in the .zshrc file that take the most time:

[[ -s $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh ]] \
  && source $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh;
autoload -U compinit && compinit -u;

Here is the timing info over 25 runs of the initialization including calls to autojump and compinit:

mandark@mandark ~$ time-n-cmd 25 'zsh -i -c exit' 2>&1 > /dev/null
  7.92s user 2.33s system 101% cpu 10.118 total

and without loading autojump and compinit:

mandark@mandark ~$ time-n-cmd 25 'zsh -i -c exit' 2>&1 > /dev/null
  1.95s user 0.88s system 101% cpu 2.799 total

That is 75% of the total initialization time.


Background processes?

My first attempt as to wrap the time-consuming calls in a function and call that function by putting it in the background. That helps with the start-up times for sure but the variables and commands are not sourced to the shell calling that function .. hence this is useless. Here is what I had in mind.

function init ()
  [[ -s $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh ]] \
    && source $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh \ # sourcing inside a function
    && autoload -U compinit && compinit -u \
    && echo "\n\ninit :: Autojump and comp init are loaded !"
init &

I would like to understand why source behaves differently when called inside a function .. but I’ll leave that for another day.

Lazy Load the functions!

After googling a bit, I realized that other people have been solving this using shims that lazy-load the functionality. In my case, I created a shim for the autojump function j:

j() {
    unset -f j
    [[ -s $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh ]] \
        && source $HOME/.autojump/etc/profile.d/autojump.sh \
        && autoload -U compinit && compinit -u
    j "$@"

This loads the functionality for autoloading when it is requested and not at shell start-up. Pretty neat!

Here is the new timing information:

mandark@mandark ~$ time-n-cmd 25 'zsh -i -c exit' 2>&1 > /dev/null
  2.07s user 0.91s system 101% cpu 2.946 total

That is almost a 4 times performance increase!


Timing a command multiple times:

# Usage: time-n-cmd TIMES CMD
time-n-cmd() {

  # params
  local times=$1
  local command=$2

  # Time the command by running multiple times
  time (
  for run in {1..$times}
    sh -c $command 2>&1 > /dev/null