Process streams not working in Windows


Gaston is a plotting package that uses gnuplot as a backend. Gaston uses stdin, stdout and stderr streams to communicate with gnuplot. This works well in Linux, but (after a user report) I found that it is currently failing in Windows. Last time I tested on Windows was with Julia v0.6, and things worked correctly; however, Gaston has changed significantly since then.

My understanding is that libuv should handle all OS differences, which makes me suspect that this problem might be of interest. This is on Julia v1.1 and Windows 10, with Gaston master.

The problem manifests itself as follows:

julia> using Gaston
julia> plot(1:10)
Error showing value of type Gaston.Figure:
ERROR: Gnuplot is taking too long to respond.
 [1] error(::String) at .\error.jl:33
 [2] llplot(::Gaston.Figure) at C:\Users\mxbiee\.julia\packages\Gaston\dhvHQ\src\gaston_llplot.jl:190

The full stacktrace is here.

Julia starts gnuplot with this code:

mutable struct Pipes
    gstdin :: Pipe
    gstdout :: Pipe
    gstderr :: Pipe
    Pipes() = new()

const P = Pipes()

function __init__()
        success(`gnuplot --version`)
        error("Gaston cannot be loaded: gnuplot is not available on this system.")
    gstdin = Pipe()
    gstdout = Pipe()
    gstderr = Pipe()
    gproc = run(pipeline(`gnuplot`,
                         stdin = gstdin, stdout = gstdout, stderr = gstderr),
                wait = false)
    process_running(gproc) || error("There was a problem starting up gnuplot.")
    P.gstdin = gstdin
    P.gstdout = gstdout
    P.gstderr = gstderr
    return nothing

When plotting, Julia creates tasks to read gnuplot’s stdout and stderr. The task code is here. For each plot, two new async_readers are instantiated, one per stream, here. Then, Gaston tells gnuplot to send a special token (GastonBegin) through each stream. After plotting, the token GastonDone is sent. Thus, Gaston can identify when gnuplot started and when it finished plotting, and it can tell if anything went wrong. That logic starts here.

As you can see from the error above, Gaston never finds the tokens in the stream, so it declares a timeout.

I hesitate to open an issue, since the problem seems too open-ended and I don’t have the time or resources to narrow it down. However, I’ll be happy to open one if people think it’s a good idea. I’ll also be happy to provide additional information, or run tests, if somebody (I hope!) decides to take the time to investigate this problem.


I had a little peek at the gaston code. Thoughts:

  • The wait=false argument to run() seems new in julia 0.7. Could something have been broken on windows during the associated refactoring?
  • What happens if you dump all the content read by async_reader directly to stdout as you read it? Does anything appear? Could the problem be due to gnuplot flushing its stdout differently on windows to linux? Does the same version of gnuplot both work on 0.6 and fail on 1.0?