I'm doing a GP problem that includes database queries as part of the evaluation.  Because the number of database queries can vary greatly depending on the composition of the individuals in the population, the time for each generation also varies significantly.  100 generations might take 10 minutes or it might take 5 hours.   I decided I wanted to be able to set an optional time limit that would terminate evolution if it exceeded the given time.

My initial approach was to extend SimpleEvolutionState and add a new parameter during setup() and override evolve() to check if the duration was exceeded.  This worked fine, other than going through an extra breeding before it terminated.

I decided that a time limit might be useful to other people, so I went ahead and modified some of the core ECJ classes - EvolutionState, SimpleEvolutionState, and SteadyStateEvolutionState - to support it.

I added new parameter called time-limit, which is a integer value in minutes  It is optional.  The existing generations and evaluations parameters are checked before the time limit, so if the generation limit is reached before the time-limit, then the run will end.  If time-limit is set, then generations and evaluations are optional - one of the three must be set.

A patch for this change is attached.  It was created by running 'svn diff' from the ec directory of the current revision of the source tree.

I have tested the parameter handling in EvolutionState and the run termination in SimpleEvolutionState, but have not tested SteadyStateEvolutionState.

Sean - if you feel this feature would useful going forward, feel free to incorporate into the main source tree.