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The Perl 6 Summary for the week ending 20030302

Welcome back to another episode in the ongoing saga that is the Perl 6 development process (or at least my attempt to describe it).

We kick off with perl6-internals.

IMCC calling conventions

Piers Cawley attempted to describe tail call optimizations, why they were a good thing and why a caller saves calling convention made such optimizations easier (possible?). He wondered if he hadn't just succeeded in muddying the waters still further. Jerome Vouillon appeared to understand what Piers was going on about and pointed out that a caller saves scheme also helps with exception handling. Benjamin Goldberg wondered about Perl 5's goto &func semantics which can be looked at as a 'sort of' tail call (except you don't actually get much of an optimization with Perl 5 as it stands) and proposed a callee saves scheme for doing tail call optimization which didn't optimize away an unnecessary pair of save/restores. Dan pointed out that, while goto &func (which is sort of like tail call optimization in Perl 5) would have to be supported, tail call optimization made more sense if you didn't have to use any special syntax to make use of it.

A couple of easy questions...

David (Cuny?) wondered how he could determine the data type of an arbitrary PMC and whether there were any pre-built Windows binaries of Parrot available. Leon Brocard pointed him at the typeof operator in answer to the first question but punted on the second. Leo Tötsch also pointed at typeof. David noted that it didn't seem to be available in his 0.0.9 installation and was recommended to use the CVS version, and discussion drifted toward wondering when Parrot 0.1.0 would see the light of day. (Not before at least one of either objects or exceptions is implemented apparently).

Nobody answered the 'pre built Windows binary' part of David's question.

More on optimizing the JIT with IMCC

In last week's summary I mentioned that Sean O'Rourke had suggested getting IMCC to store a control flow graph in bytecode, which the JIT could use to optimize things more effectively. Sean read this and pointed out that it wasn't his idea but was actually an area of active research and gave a pointer to some information. He also pointed to a USENIX paper which discussed adding a full data-flow compiler into a JVM which could then generate code that ran faster than a lightweight JIT, especially for long-running programs. Sean's original link was to a subscription only site but Jason 'Research wants to be free' Gloudon found a public version of the paper. Dan was fascinated, but was worried about availability of engineering time, not wishing to presume on Leo, Daniel and everyone who's done JIT work.

Dan said that he'd 'rather have a lower-overhead JIT with a win for shorter programs than a high-overhead one with a win for long-running programs'. Leo pointed out that, at the moment we already have a high overhead JIT with most of the cost paid at load time and showed some of these costs. Dan and Leo then discussed what kind of metadata would be needed from IMCC (or some external tool) in order to improve matters.

Meanwhile, the original 'Using IMCC as JIT optimizer' thread continued as Leo committed some more changes both to code and to the documentation in jit.pod. The new version of the JIT optimizing IMCC should be platform independent and apparently runs 95% of Parrot's tests on an i386.

Phil Hassey wondered why we even had a set number of registers in the JVM in the first place. He wondered if it would be possible to have each block of code declare 'I need 12 registers for this bloc' and let the JIT system do the appropriate register spilling magic with the system registers. Leo said that this is approximately what the JIT optimizer does at the moment and outlined some of the problems associated with it.

Angel Faus had some questions and suggestions about the optimization approach that Leo was taking, with particular reference to the amount of copies to and from memory and proposed an efficient way forward. Nicholas Clark wondered if some of Angel's suggestions mean that imc (IMCC source code) had now usurped the role of parrot bytecode and muttered something about premature optimization and the lack of objects, exceptions, IO or a Z-code interpreter. Leo bridled slightly at 'premature optimization' and wondered what was important about a Z-code interpreter ('Z-code interpreter' is, according to Nicholas, 'obfuscated shorthand for "dynamic opcode libraries" and "reading foreign bytecode".')

Toward the end of the week, Leo checked in a final patch related to this experiment and commented that, to do things right, JIT optimization should move in the direction that Angel Faus had outlined. -- Sean's first link -- 'Free' paper -- IMCC as JIT Optimizer thread -- Leo's Last (-Oj) patch

Parrot 0.0.10 freeze

Steve Fink announced that it had been brought to his attention that we were overdue for another release and announced that he'd like to have a Parrot feature freeze on March 8, with a Parrot 0.0.10 release a week after that (or a Parrot 0.1.0 release if someone sneaks objects or exceptions in under the wire...).

Jerome Quelin wondered about a codename and Benjamin Goldberg commented that 'we don't have any of objects, exceptions, or a real IO system' and suggested that we use 'Kakapo', which is a large, flightless parrot. Garret Göbbel suggested the rather wonderful 'Orange Juice' in homage to Leo's recent work on the -Oj JIT optimization switch.

Dan's plans

Dan outlined his plan for the string rework (discussed last week). Nobody said anything, maybe they liked it.

Dan also outlined some requirements for the final Parrot build system, again, nobody comment.

And, right at the end of the week, he released his second attempt at an object spec. This one definitely got comments, but I'll cover them in the next summary.[] -- Strings[] -- Builds[] -- Objects

PSteve Peters' Patches Prevent Parrot Peeves

Steve Peters released a flurry of patches to eliminate compilation warnings during Parrot compilation. Leo wasn't sure about one of them, but I assume that most of them will be applied at some point.

Meanwhile, in perl6-language

Things were even quieter than last week with all of 10 messages, one of which was last week's summary.

Arrays, lists, referencing

Paul Johnson had observed that changing the order of evaluation (of terms in a list) -- which is currently undefined in theory whilst being left to right in practice -- would almost certainly break a great deal. He suggested that it would be sensible for Perl 6 to define such an order.

Larry agreed, commenting that 'The fact that Perl 5 doesn't define it is merely an oversight, brought on no doubt by a lack of oversight. But as you point out it can deduced by observation of all the various implementations of Perl.' Which made at least one person smile.

Predefined properties/traits/etc.

Last week, Simon Cozens asked that someone 'please compile a list of all the "is foo" properties that have been suggested/accepted as being pre-defined by the language.' as he couldn't keep track of them all.

This week someone (who also happened to be Simon Cozens) did just that. Allison Randal went through Simon's list commenting on what he'd got right and wrong, and explaining the general rule (properties and traits are lower case, class names are capitalized, so is Foo mean that something is a 'Foo', while is bar relates to a 'bar' property). The rest of the thread was taken up with confusion between Munich and Zurich.

Acknowledgements, Announcements and Apologies

I'm getting the feeling of someone sat in the calm before the storm. perl6-language has been very quiet these last few weeks, I'm guessing that people don't want to distract Larry from the important business of producing an Apocalypse. Rumours abound of a draft in circulation among the Perl 6 core design team... Maybe this week will see its publication and the level of discussion in the language list will rise once more. Until then I'm enjoying the calm.

Still no American Odyssey web page. One day, I promise.

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This week's summary was again sponsored by Darren Duncan. Thanks Darren. If you'd like to become a summary sponsor, drop me a line at [email protected]'>p[email protected].