Built-in datasets

Fuel has a growing number of built-in datasets that simplify working on standard benchmark datasets, such as MNIST or CIFAR10.

These datasets are defined in the fuel.datasets module. Some user intervention is needed before they’re used for the first time: a given dataset has to be downloaded and converted into a format that is recognized by its corresponding dataset class. Fortunately, Fuel also has built-in tools to automate these operations.

Environment variable

In order for Fuel to know where to look for its data, the data_path configuration variable has to be set inside ~/.fuelrc. It’s expected to be a sequence of paths separated by an OS-specific delimiter (: for Linux and OSX, ; for Windows):

# ~/.fuelrc
data_path: "/first/path/to/my/data:/second/path/to/my/data"

When looking for a specific file (e.g. mnist.hdf5), Fuel will search each of these paths in sequence, using the first matching file that it finds.

This configuration variable can be overridden by setting the FUEL_DATA_PATH environment variable:

$ export FUEL_DATA_PATH="/first/path/to/my/data:/second/path/to/my/data"

Let’s now change directory for the rest of this tutorial:


Download a built-in dataset

We’re going to download the raw data files for the MNIST dataset with the fuel-download script that was installed with Fuel:

$ fuel-download mnist

The script is pretty simple: you call it and pass it the name of the dataset you’d like to download. In order to know which datasets are available to download via fuel-download, type

$ fuel-download -h

You can pass dataset-specific arguments to the script. In order to know which arguments are accepted, append -h to your dataset choice:

fuel-download mnist -h

Two arguments are always accepted:

  • -d DIRECTORY : define where the dataset files will be downloaded. By default, fuel-download uses the current working directory.
  • --clear : delete the dataset files instead of downloading them, if they exist.

Convert downloaded files

You should now have four new files in your directory:

  • train-images-idx3-ubyte.gz
  • train-labels-idx1-ubyte.gz
  • t10k-images-idx3-ubyte.gz
  • t10k-labels-idx1-ubyte.gz

Those are the original files that can be downloaded off Yann Lecun’s website. We now need to convert those files into a format that the MNIST dataset class will recognize. This is done through the fuel-convert script:

$ fuel-convert mnist

This will generate an mnist.hdf5 file in your directory, which the MNIST class recognizes.

Once again, the script accepts dataset-specific arguments which you can discover by appending -h to your dataset choice:

fuel-convert mnist -h

Two arguments are always accepted:

  • -d DIRECTORY : where fuel-convert should look for the input files.
  • -o OUTPUT_FILE : where to save the converted dataset.

Let’s delete the raw input files, as we don’t need them anymore:

$ fuel-download mnist --clear

Inspect Fuel-generated dataset files

Six months from now, you may have a bunch of dataset files lying on disk, each with slight differences that you can’t identify or reproduce. At that time, you’ll be glad that fuel-info exists.

When a dataset is generated through fuel-convert, the script tags it with what command was issued to generate the file and what were the versions of relevant parts of the library at that time.

You can inspect this metadata calling fuel-info and passing an HDF5 file as argument:

$ fuel-info mnist.hdf5
Metadata for mnist.hdf5

The command used to generate this file is

    fuel-convert mnist

Relevant versions are

    H5PYDataset     0.1
    fuel.converters 0.1

Working with external packages

By default, Fuel looks for downloaders and converters in the fuel.downloaders and fuel.converters modules, respectively, but you’re not limited to that.

Fuel can be told to look into additional modules by setting the extra_downloaders and extra_converters configuration variables in ~/.fuelrc. These variables are expected to be lists of module names.

For instance, suppose you’d like to include the following modules:

  • package1.extra_downloaders
  • package2.extra_downloaders
  • package1.extra_converters
  • package2.extra_converters

You should include the following in your ~/.fuelrc:

# ~/.fuelrc
- package1.extra_downloaders
- package2.extra_downloaders
- package1.extra_converters
- package2.extra_converters

These configuration variables can be overridden through the FUEL_EXTRA_DOWNLOADERS and FUEL_EXTRA_CONVERTERS environment variables, which are expected to be strings of space-separated module names, like so:

export FUEL_EXTRA_DOWNLOADERS="package1.extra_downloaders package2.extra_downloaders"
export FUEL_EXTRA_CONVERTERS="package1.extra_converters package2.extra_converters"

This feature lets external developers define their own Fuel dataset downloader/converter packages, and also makes working with private datasets more straightforward.