Core Data with NSFetchedResultsController in RubyMotion


January 14, 2014

Updated July 12, 2015.

Today we’ll be continuing our series on Core Data in RubyMotion, discussing table view optimization of large amounts of data in your RubyMotion application. If you’ve missed the earlier posts, you can find them here:

Introduction to Core Data in Motion

Core Data Basics in RubyMotion

Core Data Relationships in RubyMotion

Core Data Pre-loading in RubyMotion

Core Data Load Optimization in RubyMotion

Once again, we turn to Ray Wenderlich for inspiration and instruction. His Core Data tutorial wraps up with a post on the usage of NSFetchedResultsController, so we should probably talk about that as well.

Why do we want to use NSFetchedResultsController, anyway? What’s so special about it? When we started this series, with a relatively small sample dataset, it didn’t really need much optimization. Now that we’ve loaded our database up with all 244,292 wells, it definitely needs some help, because I don’t want my customers to wait minutes for the table view to load, which is what it does at this point. That is what I would call a fetch FAIL.

Source: http://sadmoment.com/dog-meets-tree-while-playing-fetch-in-the-park-with-a-frisbee/ Source: http://sadmoment.com/dog-meets-tree-while-playing-fetch-in-the-park-with-a-frisbee/

We will need to reduce memory overhead, and improve the response time of our table view, now that we have all that data. Ideally, in a table view, we would only load up the data that is actually visible to the user at any given moment. And that is exactly what the utility class NSFetchedResultsController provides. Let’s see how that is accomplished in RubyMotion.

First of all, we create an NSFetchedResultsController. Since this object requires access to the NSManagedObjectContext, which is in our store class, that’s where we will put it.

def fetched_results_controller
    fetch_request = NSFetchRequest.alloc.init
    fetch_request.entity = NSEntityDescription.entityForName('FailedBankInfo', inManagedObjectContext:@context)
    sort = NSSortDescriptor.alloc.initWithKey("details.close_date", ascending: false)
    fetch_request.sortDescriptors = [sort]
    fetch_request.fetchBatchSize = 20

    NSFetchedResultsController.alloc.initWithFetchRequest(fetch_request,
                                                managedObjectContext:@context,
                                               sectionNameKeyPath:nil,
                                               cacheName:"Root")
  end

The key to the construction of the NSFetchedResultsController is providing a base NSFetchRequest. This request needs to know which entity (a.k.a. model) is being fetched, and also requires an NSSortDescriptor so it knows in what order to return the requested objects. The fetchBatchSize simply limits the number of objects returned on any single query to the database.

Now that we can create our NSFetchedResultsController, where do we call it? In this case, we will be creating it in our table view controller’s viewDidLoad method.

def viewDidLoad
    super
    error_ptr = Pointer.new(:object)
    @fetch_controller = FailedBankStore.shared.fetched_results_controller
    @fetch_controller.delegate = self
    unless @fetch_controller.performFetch(error_ptr)
      raise "Error when fetching banks: #{error_ptr[0].description}"
    end
  end

Here we create the NSFetchedResultsController, set it’s delegate to be self, and trigger the initial fetch to populate table view.

Next, we need to update the table view, so that it knows to get it’s data from the NSFetchedResultsController.

def tableView(tableView, numberOfRowsInSection:section)
    @fetch_controller.sections.objectAtIndex(section).numberOfObjects
  end

  def configureCell(cell, atIndexPath:index)
    bank = @fetch_controller.objectAtIndexPath(index)
    cell.textLabel.text = bank.name
    cell.detailTextLabel.text = "#{bank.city}, #{bank.state}"
    return cell
  end

  CellID = 'CellIdentifier'
  def tableView(tableView, cellForRowAtIndexPath:indexPath)
    cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier(CellID) || UITableViewCell.alloc.initWithStyle(UITableViewCellStyleSubtitle, reuseIdentifier:CellID)
    configureCell(cell, atIndexPath:indexPath)
  end

These methods translate over from Ray’s tutorial pretty much intact, without much change, other than the “rubyization”.

I did sort of skip a step back there, so let’s not forget about that. In viewDidLoad we set the NSFetchedResultsController’s delegate to be self. Now, we have to implement the NSFetchedResultsControllerDelegate’s signature methods. Ray simply copied his implementation from an Apple sample. And I’ve simply converted his code into a Ruby module.

module NSFetchedResultsControllerDelegate

  def controllerWillChangeContent(controller)
    self.tableView.beginUpdates
  end

  def controller(controller, didChangeObject:object, atIndexPath:path, forChangeType:type, newIndexPath:new_path)
    tableView = self.tableView
    case type
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeInsert
        tableView.insertRowsAtIndexPaths([new_path], withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeDelete
        tableView.deleteRowsAtIndexPaths([path], withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeUpdate
        configureCell(tableView.cellForRowAtIndexPath(path), atIndexPath:path)
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeMove
        tableView.deleteRowsAtIndexPaths([path], withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
        tableView.insertRowsAtIndexPaths([new_path], withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
    end
  end

  def controller(controller, sectionIndexTitleForSectionName:sectionName)
  end

  def controller(controller, didChangeSection:section, atIndex:index, forChangeType:type)
    case type
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeInsert
        self.tableView.insertSections( NSIndexSet.indexSetWithIndex(index), withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
      when NSFetchedResultsChangeDelete
        self.tableView.deleteSections( NSIndexSet.indexSetWithIndex(index), withRowAnimation:UITableViewRowAnimationFade)
    end
  end

  def controllerDidChangeContent(controller)
    self.tableView.endUpdates
  end
end

Then we must include that module in our table view controller, to satisfy the requirements of the delegate:

class FailedBankTableViewController < UITableViewController
  include NSFetchedResultsControllerDelegate

It looks like a lot of code, but if you only need to display data, and you don’t need to change it much, you should just be able to reuse this module when required.

And that, as they say, is that. We now have a working implementation of NSFetchedResultsController, and the data will only be loaded 20 objects at a time. This speeds things up immensely, and reduces memory usage in our app from get-killed-immediately to just fine ;-) The complete example can be downloaded and run. Alas, I am unable to provide the “large data load” that I used, as that data is not mine to give away. I encourage you to come up with your own large data set, and plug it in, and see how it works.

What’s next after this? Since one of the strengths of Ruby (and thus RubyMotion) is it’s rich eco-system of gems, we should take all a look at what is available for use with Core Data.

Until then…

If you found this post enlightening, you will find the ebook I wrote on these topics (and more) will allow you to spend more time working on your iOS application features, instead of fighting with Core Data for hours (or days).


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