Wire-Cell News

Updates from the Wire-Cell team.

Pgrapher Configuration Improvements

A powerful new idiom has been developed to simplify developing Jsonnet configuration files for Wire-Cell toolkit's Pgrapher app component.

The previous post described the Pgrapher execution engine. It included a short configuration snippet. Astute readers that studied that example may conclude that the power and flexibility of Pgrapher may come at a cost of writing a lot of configuration code.

In part, they'd be right. It is actually fairly straight-forward to configure a simple job and especially if one has in mind a single target. However, the power of Jsonnet and the flexibility of Pgrapher essentially begs one to construct modular "chunks" of configuration that can be reused to build up to a variety of final targets. This means the configuration author needs a way to encapsulate incomplete (sub) graphs, aggregate these into larger graphs, etc, until a fully complete graph can be built from the smaller parts.

Graphs of Nodes and Nodes of Graphs

To jump the the punch line, the idiom that has been developed is to allow for an incomplete (sub) graph to be recast into a single "node" which may then be used in a larger graph. This recasting may continue as one builds up the graph until one is left with a single node which "wraps" the entire graph. With this abstraction the author may focus on one area of the graph, for example the simulation and parts therein. The results may then be exposed as a few high-level nodes which hide details of the sub graph they represent.

What follows are details on how to use this new idiom. It starts with some review of how to configure a Pgrapher "manually" and then goes into the new methods.

Pgrapher Graph

As hinted in the previous post, a Pgrapher graph is ultimately built up of edges which connect nodes via their ports. For example one edge can be written as:

    tail: { node: wc.tn(fanout), port: 0 },
    head: { node: wc.tn(sink1) },
    tail: { node: wc.tn(fanout), port: 1 },
    head: { node: wc.tn(sink2) },

Here, fanout, sink1, etc, are configuration objects. They are what make up the final configuration sequence that the main Jsonnet file must produce. Their contents follow an object schema as described in the WCT manual. The wc.tn() Jsonnet function (provided by wirecell.jsonnet) processes an object and returns its canonical label. Not all configuration objects correspond to WCT INode but the ones used in a graph must. As is also shown, a node may have multiple input or output ports and edges that do not connect to port 0 must have an explicit port attribute set.

As is, this is all that one needs to know to build up Pgrapher graphs. Now consider if you want to take these two edges and use them to build a variety of different graphs. Besides arranging to get this snipped used in whatever Jsonnet files you must also keep track of fanout, sink1, etc objects and make sure they get placed into the final configuration sequence. The user of your bit of configuration may also want to break one of your edges so that they can insert some other nodes between, say, fanout and sink1.


To provide more flexibility a Jsonnet library pgraph.jsonnet has been developed. It hinges on the concept of a pnode. A pnode is an abstract node which represents ("wraps") either a single INode configuration object described above or a number of other pnode objects.

Regardless of what is "inside" a pnode it still looks and acts like a single node. It may contain an arbitrarily complex (sub) graph but all the user must care about is what input and output ports it presents. Thus they present the same level of complexity (simplicity) as an individual INode even if they may have very complex internal representations.

At the same time, a pnode need not be treated as a complete "black box". One thing it holds is a list of internal edges and it is possible to derive a new pnode whereby the user breaks an edge in order to insert new edges and nodes.

Besides managing internal edges, a pnode also manages the other nodes which it "uses". Configuration authors to list object dependencies for their pnode and as nodes are combined their "uses" track what is needed. When the graph is finally built, the "uses" array makes up the configuration sequence relevant to the graph and the "edges" list is what is given to the Pgrapher app.


Produce a pnode from an INode configuration object

It all starts with wrapping a single INode configuration object. This is done through a function:

local wc = import "wirecell.jsonnet";
local g = import "pgraph.jsonnet";               // [1]
local other = import "some_other_file.jsonnet";  // [2]

// a temporary variable holding the basic INode configuration object
local my_inode = {                               // [3]
    type: "MyNode",
    data: { 
	my_tool: wc.tn(other.cool_tool),         // [4]

// a temporary holding the pnode wrapper            [5]
local my_pnode = g.pnode(my_inode, uses: [other.cool_tool], nin=1, nout=1);

// finally what we export to the importer of this file
    a_truly_great_node: my_pnode,                // [6]

What's going on?

  1. Import the pgraph Jsonnet library
  2. Import your friends configuration library providing some cools tool.
  3. Create a temporary variable holding the configuration for your node
  4. Tell your node configuration the instance label for the cool tool (ultimately, this is used to look up the C++ tool by your C++ node implementation).
  5. Wrap your inode configuration into a pnode. The uses argument tells the pnode what other objects your node depends on and the nin and nout give the input/output port multiplicity.
  6. Finally we export the pnode in an object so that it may be used by yet higher-level configuration code.

Note, Jsonnet syntax doesn't require local node variables. The above could be shortened to just:

local wc = import "wirecell.jsonnet";
local g = import "pgraph.jsonnet";
local other = import "some_other_file.jsonnet";

    a_truly_great_node: g.pnode({
	type: "MyNode",
	data: { 
	    my_tool: wc.tn(other.cool_tool),
    }, uses: [other.cool_tool], nin=1, nout=1);

Intern Pnodes

So far, this is just more work. Where the payoff begins is the ability to pack up connected pnodes into an encompassing pnode. For example:

    n1: g.pnode({type:"Node", name:"n1"}, nout=1),
    n2: g.pnode({type:"Node", name:"n2"}, nin=1, nout=1),
    n3: g.pnode({type:"Node", name:"n3"}, nin=1),
    pn: g.intern([$.n1],[$.n3],[$.n2],[
	g.edge($.n1, $.n2),
	g.edge($.n2, $.n3)], "pn"),

Here, n1 is a source, n2 is a filter (one input port, out output port) and n3 is a sink.

The pgraph.intern() function takes three lists of nodes (input, output and internal) which may be empty, and list of internal edges that connect those nodes. In this example n1 is an input, n3 is an output and n2 is internal and connected to the other two. The resulting pn is still but a single node but it represents an entire graph (complete in this case). Continuing with this example:

    n12: g.intern([$.n1],[$.n2],edges=[
	g.edge($.n1, $.n2)
    ], name="n12"),
    n123: g.intern([$.n12],[$.n3],edges=[
	g.edge($.n12, $.n3),
    ], name="n123"),

Here n12 is a pnode which represents an incomplete graph. It has edges that join n1 to n2 while n2's output port becomes the output port of n12. Another user may form n123 by yet another interning to produce a pnode holding again a complete graph.

Edge breaking and node insertion

As mentioned above, given knowledge of the order of edges inside a pnode it is possible to derive a new pnode which breaks an edge in order to insert new pnodes. Extending the above example further:

n13: g.intern([$.n1],[$.n3], edges=[
    g.edge($.n1, $.n3),
], name="n13"),

n123inserted: g.insert_one($.n13, 0, $.n2, $.n2, name="n123inserted"),

The n13 node has interned n1 and n3 which are connected in a kind of "short circuit". Now, some other user may want to do something with the data that flows between this source and sink. Knowing that the (n1,n3) edge is at index 0 in the list of n13 edges it is possible to break that edge and insert a new node (n2) which is done when setting n123inserted.

A fancy example

The above example uses a graph which is really a simple linear pipeline. Real graphs may be much more complex. For example, in the case of simulating signal and noise both represent their own stream of data frames. The two stream must be summed together. A pnode can be built which makes it easy to build to configuration variants, one with just signal and one with also noise. Without defining everything, the noise portion is defined as:

local noise_source = g.pnode({
    type: "NoiseSource",
    data: { ... },
}, nout=1);
local frame_summer = g.pnode({
    type: "FrameSummer",
    data: { ... },
}, nin=2, nout=1);

    nominal: g.intern([frame_summer],[frame_summer],[noise_source],
		      edges=[g.edge(noise_source, frame_summer, 0, 1)],

The produced nominal pnode object now has simply one input port and one output port, both which are actually provided by the "frame summer" node. The "noise source" node gets carried along properly. By default the resulting pnode input ports consist of all input ports of all input nodes and etc for output. But here, one input port of the frame summer is already connected to the noise source. To indicate this special arrangement the iports and oports arguments are passed. These explicitly give the port descriptors to use for the resulting pnode.

This may seem confusing but once worked out, the user of the resulting pnode need not care. The complexity is hidden. The user just needs to take this nominal node and connect it to others.

Going further

To learn more about this new configuration idiom you may wish to run the example (excerpted above):

$ jsonnet -J cfg  cfg/test/test_pgraph.jsonnet

A working configuration is being developed in cfg/uboone/simsp/.

$ wire-cell -c cfg/uboone/simsp/main-simple-quiet.jsonnet

That top-level configuration file shows the end-game. It builds a complete graph of pnodes and uses it to configure the Pgrapher app and to provide the final configuration sequence. In summary:

local g = import "pgraph.jsonnet";
// ...

local graph = g.intern(...);
local app = {
    type: "Pgrapher",
    data: {
	edges: g.edges(graph),

// final configuration sequence.
[com.cmdline] + g.uses(graph) + [app]

Note that both the graph.edges and graph.uses list attributes will likely have duplicate entries due to details in how they are constructed. In order to properly strip them of duplicates while retaining proper order (in the case of .uses) they must be extracted through pgraph functions of the same name.


This turned into a long post. Eventually, I hope it will be distilled and integrated into the manual. It shows what you need to know to get started authoring or extending a configuration for WCT jobs based on the Pgrapher app. Of course this pnode idiom need not be followed in your own configuration of WCT. However WCT is now reaching a point where the wide variety of features it provides, still fewer than it eventually will, requires something to manage complexity of configuration. Thankfully, Jsonnet provides such a good basis for a configuration language that idioms like pnode can be invented. This idiom will be further explored as a configuration is developed to handle the current breath of WCT. It is targeting these features and options:

  • signal simulation
    • nominal vs shorted wire field responses
    • correctly and incorrectly configured electronics
  • noise simulation
    • with and without noise
  • optional simulation "truth" waveforms
  • software noise filtering
    • with and without it
    • uniform or correcting misconfigured electronics
  • signal processing
    • nominal 2D deconvolution
    • optional compressed sensing method to handle shorted wire regions

And, probably several variants I'm forgetting.


  • [2018-09-11 Tue] update to call pgraph.uses() and pgraph.edges() to build final lists.