I have a similar problem as Criteria for selecting timeout value?. But my question is slight different.

Process A dependes on process B and has a timeout value of 5 seconds, sometimes process B might take longer to respond(e.g. slow machines), in this case process A will think process B is gone and will terminate.

We have a performance requirement, so the goal is to always respond on the least feasible time. This application runs on tablets, notebooks, desktops and even servers. In a scenario were the host machine performance can vary widely, how can we adjust the timeout taking into account machine performance?

  • If 5 seconds timeout is too short for some cases, and assuming A resumes as soon as B is done or killed, why not simply take a longer timeout ?
    – Diane M
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:44
  • A longer timeout would work with tablets, but would be crazy long when running on a last gen i7.
    – Tolio
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:53
  • 5
    The purpose of a timeout is to identify a problem like a stalled process. Wouldn't that purpose be served even if the timeout is longer than you would expect from a faster machine? If your purpose is to identify things that take too long, then log performance measurements instead. Sep 18, 2015 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


I see two different options, use the one that makes more sense for the details of your use case:

Option 1: Immediately return from callback with longer timeout

It doesn't matter if the timeout is longer on a faster system, if it can immediately return and break you out of the wait period once the process is complete. So while the timeout is "10 seconds", on a fast system it could be effectively "1 second" or even faster.

Option 2: Don't give up on the first try

You can wait the 5 seconds, if there's no response, try again. Perhaps take three tries before giving up and terminating. You can modify the user interface to say something like "connecting to process B attempt #1, connecting to process B attempt #2", etc. so that it doesn't seem too long to the user, so that it looks like something is happening.

  • Option 2 works best for us, we already had something similar but wasn't sure about it, thanks.
    – Tolio
    Sep 21, 2015 at 14:10

It sounds like you have more of a performance scaling problem rather than a classic 'stop waiting if it takes too long' scenario

eg, say my app notifies me when a goal is scored in a football match. Every X seconds it polls a server to see if a goal has been scored.

If the server is down or slow I can switch to a backup server, so I don't want to wait forever. But the backup is slower than the main server. so I don't want to switch unnecessary. Also I want to know about the goal as soon as possible after it happens.

If I poll every second, the sever will be overloaded and start responding slowly, delaying the news. but if I only poll every minute the server may be capable of responding much quicker.

Here a simple static timeout of X seconds is unhelpful. if its too short I will switch the the backup too often. If its too long, I will wait too long before switching. My app needs a dynamic shifting expectation value for how long it expects the server to take.

To get this I need to log how long each request takes and modify the apps behaviour according. ie switch to the backup, make more or fewer requests or in your case terminate process A

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