martedì 2 agosto 2016


Dear all,

In this last period I worked on the BICG and BICGSTAB algorithm.
You can find the codes in the folder bicg_bicgstab at

Since the main loop of both of them have more or less 30-40 lines of code, I wrote them from scratch, because in my opinion was easier instead to modify and to adapt the original code at the many situations that occurred.

The strategy that I used is the same of PCG and GMRES: for each algorithm I wrote three sub-scripts to subdivide the cases which: (a) the matrix and the preconditioners are all matrices, (b) all functions handle or (c) some are matrices and some functions handle.

As for PCG and GMRES, I tried to make these codes compatible with Matlab.

In my BICG and BICGSTAB codes there are not actually the documentation, but I'll add them as soon as possible

Main modifications on BICGSTAB and BICG

Many of the changes that I applied at the BICGSTAB and BICG were quite similar to those that I made in PCG and GMRES. I make a little list to summarize them: 

  • Now the approximation of the solution X returned is the one that has the minimum residual and not the last one computed by the algorithm. Also the output variable ITER contains the iteration in which X was computed, not the number of iterations performed.
  • In the original Octave BICGSTAB code the stagnation criterion is
    resvec(end) == resvec(end - 1).
    Instead in the BICG code it is: res0 <= res1 (where res1 is the actual residual and res0 the previous)
    I changed this criterion with:
    norm(x - x_pr) <= norm(x)*eps
    (where x_pr is the previous iteration approximation)
    This criterion is more efficient, since it checks the variation of the approximations and not the variation of the residual, and it seems more similar to the "stagnation" described in the Matlab help. Moreover in BICGSTAB (and in BICG) there are many fluctuations of the residuals (they are not decrescent in general), so it's better to check directly the approximations.
    Due to these fluctuactions, the BICG criterion is wrong, since in this manner the Octave BICG usually stops also if it is not necessary.
  • I added the "flag = 2" criterion, the one that Matlab describes as "preconditioner matrix ill-conditioned", that in Octave is skipped. The check that I implemented is for the singularity of the preconditioner matrix M, since seems that in Matlab this flag appears only in this situation.
Now I will focus on some situations regarding BICGSTAB:
  •  I added the "half iterations" as in Matlab: studying the Saad implementation, I noticed that the approximation X is made in two steps at every iteration, indeed it is defined as:
    x = x + alpha*p + omega*s
    Then to be compatible with Matlab (since p/alpha and s/omega are not related and computed in different situations), I set x = x + alpha*p (and its residual) as the half iteration, and x = x + alpha*p + omega*s as the complete iteration.
    In this way  the "real" total number of iteration performed (recalling that ITER contains the iteration which X was computed) are
    (length(RESVEC) - 1) / 2.   
  • There was a problem when the matrices A, M1, M2 and/or the right-hand-side b are complex, indeed many times the residual blow up and the method does not converge. In the Saad reference book (where it was taken the Octave BICGSTAB, I think), the method is formulated only for the real case. The only difference is that using this formulation, some inner product are inverted (e.g. it uses <v, w>, instead of <w, v>). In the real case there is no problem since the inner real product is symmetric, but in the complex not, indeed the result of <v, w> is the complex conjugate of <w, v>.
  • In the Matlab help I noticed that there is the possibility of "flag = 4". I tried to reproduce it, then I used the same input data in the Octave BICGSTAB: the approximation X was all composed by NaN, and also for the residuals. Then I study in deep the Octave code and the reference book. I discovered that ih this situation there was some diviosn by zero probably caused by the Non-Symmetric Lanzcos Biorthogonalization (that is used in both BICG and BICGSTAB).
    With this Lanczos algorithm is possible the situation of a "serious breakdown" (not going into deep details, but it happens when a certain inner product is zero, instead of a non-zero number), and there is not easy examples to reproduce it. The refernce book suggest two possibility to avoid this situation: to restart the Lanczos biortho, or to use a difficult variant called "Look-Ahead Lanczos".
    I tried to study the "Look-Ahead" but in the Saad book is only mentioned the general idea, and it is not simple to implement and to understand quickly. Then I tried the second strategy it is not efficient (an easy experiment to try this strategy is: run BICGSTAB to find the last iteration without NaN, then run another time the BICGSTAB with the output X as initial guess), indeed the method does not converge and the residual does not decrease.
    Then (since in Matlab is not mentioned if it uses or not the Look Ahead) in the BICGSTAB implementation that I wrote I don't use any strategy and I set "flag = 4" when the guilty inner product is zero.
    To see an example of this situation in the Octave BICGSTAB see the file example_bicgistab.m
Instead, during the implementation of BICG there was not (for now) strange situations. For both BICG and BICGSTAB I tried the same tests that are given in their Octave implementations and I add some test to try the "flag =2" and "flag = 4" situations.


I know that to fix PCG, GMRES, BICG and BICGSTAB I used a lot of time. This because in their implementation emerged a lot of strange situations that needed a deep revision of these algorithms and many times also a discussion (with the mentors or the community) of how to proceed to solve particular problems. Also the mentors told me that they expected less time/work to improve and make a revision of the codes already implemented.
They also told me to spend the remaning time of the SoCiS to implement some methods not present in Octave. For this, I want to ask you if there is one of the suggested algorithms (minres, symmlq, symmetr, tfqmr, bicgstabl or lsqr) that you prefer to implement.

As usual, if there is something wrong/not clear, please contact me via e-mail or write a comment.


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