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Roman Baumer (Freenode: rba #raku or ##raku-infra) / 2022-01-21T05:19:16

Rakudo Weekly News: 2022.03 RakuCon How?

Published by liztormato on 2022-01-17T12:55:19

Andrew Shitov is asking for the community’s opinion on whether or not to have an in-person Raku Conference in Riga in 2022 in The Raku Conference Update. Cancelling an in-person event now, means no financial risk, which seems safest.

FOSDEM 2022 Status

Being a serial organizer, Andrew Shitov also published the schedule for the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM 2022 on Saturday 5 February (times in UTC, add one hour for CET):

A full program indeed. Looking forward to it already!

Data Wrangling

Anton Antonov has started a new blog about data wrangling, with the motto:

One of my current life missions is the speeding up of the next AI winter coming. I have decided to use Raku to accomplish that mission.

And as a first post: Introduction to Data Wrangling with Raku.

Frugal Computing

Wim Vanderbauwhede has written a blog post about the need for low-carbon and sustainable computing, and what developers can do about it: Frugal computing: developer perspective. Not strictly Raku related, but important nonetheless (/r/rakulang comments).

Testing with Github Actions

JJ Merelo has written a short how-to do testing with Github Actions in: Testing your Raku Module using Github Actions.

Flavio’s Corner

Wenzel’s Corner


Weekly Challenge #148 is available for your perusal.

New Pull Requests

Core Developments

Questions about Raku

Meanwhile on Twitter

Meanwhile on the mailing list

Comments about Raku

New Raku modules

Updated Raku Modules

Winding down

A not too shabby Rakudo Weekly News on, what many people will have you believe, is a Blue Monday. Au contraire! Should you feel you missed all of these fine Raku Advent Posts, here’s an easy overview for you to peruse. In any case, continue to stay healthy and safe for all of the Rakudo Weekly News editions of 2022!

gfldex: Fooled by complexity

Published by gfldex on 2022-01-16T12:49:26

And that fool would be me. After realising that HyperSeq is lazy, I managed to simplify the code in my last post.

sub needle(int \b) {
    sub is-pentagon($c is raw) { (1+sqrt(1+24*$c))%%6 }
    sub P($n is raw) { $n*(3*$n-1) div 2 }

    loop (my int $s = 1; $s < b; $s++) {
        my \bp = P(b);
        my \sp = P($s);
        if is-pentagon(bp + sp) && is-pentagon(bp - sp) {
            return |(b, $s);

sub infix:<notnilor>(\maybenil, \alternative) {
    maybenil =:= Nil ?? alternative !! maybenil

say (^∞).hyper(:batch(8), :degree(16)).map({.&needle notnilor Empty }).head;

The sub needle transforms its argument or returns Nil. By turning Nil into Empty, any call to .head will skip all values that where not a hit. At least for strongly CPU-bound tasks, which allow for small batch sizes, .hyper doesn’t overshoot much.

my atomicint $steps;
say (^∞).hyper(:batch(8), :degree(16)).map({$steps⚛++; .&needle notnilor Empty }).head;
say $steps;

# OUTPUT: (2167 1020)

Right now, almost all task are CPU-bound. Once Rakudo has learned to produce better bytecode being able to stop sibling threads will become desirable.


lizmat suggested to simplify the code further by replacing .&needle notnilor Empty with $_ with .&needle. This works because when with doesn’t fire, it returns Empty. That I did not know. It is specced and also applies to if. I filed the ENODOC under #4017. As it seems, we need to be careful not to run out of space on the interwebs by completing Raku’s docs.

gfldex: Manual hypering

Published by gfldex on 2022-01-15T13:41:55

Nemokosch was unhappy with the performance of a literal translation from Python. So he asked for advice in #raku-beginner. (The logger is missing messages. Authorities have been informed.) This lead to many suggestions, none of which helped much. As such, I was forced to play our Get out of Jail Free (card).

use v6.*;

sub is-pentagon($c is raw) { (1+sqrt(1+24*$c))%%6 }

sub P($n is raw) { $n*(3*$n-1) div 2 }
my atomicint $bail = 0;
(^∞).hyper(:batch(64)).map( -> \b {
    last if $bail;
    for (1..^b) -> \s {
        my \bp = P(b);
        my \sp = P(s);
        if is-pentagon(bp + sp) && is-pentagon(bp - sp) {
            say [b, s];
            say now - BEGIN now;

This is a rather strange use for .hyper as we don’t collect the resulting list. Also, last doesn’t quite work on a HyperSeq. Jnthn is confident this is a fixable problem. Sadly, I don’t have the patience to wait.

my \integers =;

start for (^∞).batch(46) { try integers.send($_); }

my @promises;
for ^($*KERNEL.cpu-cores - 1) {
    my atomicint $bail = 0;
    with integers {
        @promises.push: start {
            loop { -> \b {
                    last if $bail;
                    for (1..^b) -> \s {
my \integers =;

start {
    for (^5000).batch(46) { try integers.send($_); }

my @promises;
for ^($*KERNEL.cpu-cores - 1) {
    my atomicint $bail = 0;
    with integers {
        @promises.push: start {
            my $result = Empty;
            loop {
       -> \b {
                    for (1..^b) -> \s {
                        last if $bail;
                        my \bp = P(b);
                        my \sp = P(s);
                        if is-pentagon(bp + sp) && is-pentagon(bp - sp) {
                            $result = |(b, s);
                CATCH { when X::Channel::ReceiveOnClosed { last } }


say @promises».result;

The idea is simple. I pipe the list in chunks into a Channel and start a bunch of threads. Those threads look for the needle and signal each other via an atomicint that it’s time to go home. By defaulting to Empty in the result value of the start-block, I eliminate all return values of threads that didn’t find the value of interest.

Let’s generalise this a little.

augment class HyperSeq {
    multi method find(&needle, :$first!, :$take-result!) {
        my \chan =;

        my @promises;
        for ^( - 1) {
            my $p =;
            start {
                my $result = Empty;
                BAIL: loop {
                    for chan.receive {
                        $result = .&needle;
                        unless $result =:= Nil {
                            last BAIL;

                    CATCH { when X::Channel::ReceiveOnClosed { say 'bail'; last } }

                for @promises {
                    .keep(Empty) unless .status ~~ Kept;
            @promises.push: $p;

        await start {
            for self.batch( { chan.send($_); }
            CATCH { when X::Channel::SendOnClosed { } }


sub needle(\b) {
    for (1..^b) -> \s {
        my \bp = P(b);
        my \sp = P(s);
        if is-pentagon(bp + sp) && is-pentagon(bp - sp) {
            return |(b, s);

say (^∞).hyper(:46batch).find(&needle, :first, :take-result);

By using the Channel to indicate that one of the threads is done, I don’t need the atomicint any more and the &needle is using Nil for something useful. This is now faster then the original Python implementation — with 16 cores on full steam. And that is very promising. Once we got single thread performance under control, we won’t even see the competition in the rear mirror.

I do have the feeling that our hyper/race-facilities do lack some algorithms. If you know other languages that have them, please plunder and pillage away. YARRRR!

Raku Advent Calendar: All the blogs posts of 2021

Published by liztormato on 2022-01-10T19:51:57

Rakudo Weekly News: 2022.01/02 Perching?

Published by liztormato on 2022-01-10T18:42:12

Inspired by the mention of increased number of visitors to the 2021 Raku Advent Calendar (up 180% from 2020), and an article about the cycle of adoption of technology, Steve Roe created a Pull Request for the Raku’s Most Wanted list, which describes a plan to make the Raku Programming Language the tool of choice for the scientist / programmer that is hitting the limits of Python. Hopefully, a Python Perch for all the people working on this in the Rakudo Weekly News, will become a thing!

FOSDEM 2022 Status

The Call for Participation for the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM 2022 is closed. Andrew Shitov lists the 10 presentations accepted for the Raku DevRoom, and the two that were submitted to other FOSDEM tracks. Looks like an exciting program to be seen on the 5th of February!

Complete Course of Raku

Andrew Shitov also reported on the progress of the Complete Course of the Raku Programming Language.

On Wolfram and Mathematica

Anton Antonov has written a blog post about connecting Mathematica and Raku (/r/rakulang comments).

Another Speedrun

Tomasz Wegrzanowski did another of their Speedrun blog posts, this time about the regular expressions of the Raku Programming Language. This caused quite some discussion. Specifically because of deciding that the behaviour of \d in Raku’s regular expressions is a design bug (/r/rakulang comments). But it is good to see such an article about Raku “outside” of the bubble!

Looking forward / backward

Several people looked forward and/or backward at the start of the new year:

Sylvain’s Corner

Sylvain Colinet continued their series of articles about writing an SNES assembler / compiler / disassembler in Raku: Day 4 -Testing.

Flavio’s Corner


Weekly Challenge #147 is available for your perusal (and of course, you can also still have a look at #146 because the Weekly Challenge did not skip a week)!

New Pull Requests

Core Developments

Questions about Raku

Meanwhile on Twitter

Meanwhile on the mailing list

Comments about Raku

New Raku modules

Updated Raku Modules

Winding down

With a very filled first Rakudo Weekly News of 2022! And still many things in the pipeline! Hope you had a good time during this holiday season. May 2022 be for you what 2021 was most definitely not! Meanwhile, continue to stay healthy and safe! See you next week for the second Rakudo Weekly News of 2022!

Rakudo Weekly News: 2021.52 JDV Released

Published by liztormato on 2021-12-27T18:34:14

Justin DeVuyst has announced the 2021.12 Rakudo Compiler Release, their first release and hopefully the first of many to come! Claudio Ramirez quickly provided Linux packages for this release. And JJ Merelo published updated Docker Containers. And Anton Oks published a new Rakudo Star Windows image. Good to see such cooperation! And good to see more and more coverage about the Raku Programming Language!

Adventing Concludes

These are the final entries of the 2021 Raku Advent Blog:

FOSDEM 2022 Final Opportunity

The Call for Participation for the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM 2022 is still open, as the deadline was moved to 31 December! This means it is still time to submit your proposal, but the deadline is coming in close!

Also, Vadim Belman is looking for help in documenting their FOSDEM talk.

From the Foundation

Doing it like a Cro

Anton Antonov created a video demonstration of the generation of Raku data wrangling code from natural language specifications.

Sylvain’s Corner

Sylvain Colinet started writing a series of articles about writing a SNES assembler / compiler / disassembler that previously escaped detection by yours truly:

Flavio’s Corner


Weekly Challenge #145 is available for your perusal.

New Pull Requests

Core Developments

Questions about Raku

Meanwhile on Twitter

Meanwhile on the mailing list

Comments about Raku

New Raku modules

Updated Raku Modules

Winding down

Hope everybody survived the festivities so far! Many people taking some time off, so yours truly will do the same: the Rakudo Weekly News will skip a week, and thus be published next on the 10th of January 2022. Meanwhile, continue to stay healthy and safe! See you in two weeks for the first Rakudo News, of 2022!

Raku Advent Calendar: Day 25 – Future-proofing the Raku Programming Language

Published by liztormato on 2021-12-25T01:00:03

Around this time last year, Jonathan Worthington was writing their Advent Post called Reminiscence, refinement, revolution. Today, yours truly finds themselves writing a similar blog post after what can only be called a peculiar year in the world.

The Language

Visible Changes

The most visible highlights in the Raku Programming Language are basically:

last / next with a value

use v6.e.PREVIEW;
say (^5).grep: { $_ == 3 ?? last False !! True } # (0 1 2)
say (^5).grep: { $_ == 3 ?? last True  !! True } # (0 1 2 3)

Normally, last just stops an iteration, but now you can give it a value as well, which can be handy e.g. in a grep where you know the current value is the last, but you still want to include it.

use v6.e.PREVIEW;
say (^5).map: { next    if $_ == 2; $_ } # (0 1 3 4)
say (^5).map: { next 42 if $_ == 2; $_ } # (0 1 42 3 4)

Similarly with map, if you want to skip a value (which was already possible), you can now replace that value by another value.

Note that you need to activate the upcoming 6.e Raku language level to enable this feature, as there were some potential issues when activated in 6.d. But that’s just one example of future proofing the Raku Programming Language.


The .pick(*) call will produce all possible values of the Iterable on which it is called in random order, and then stop. The .pick(**) will do the same, but then start again producing values in (another) random order until exhausted, ad infinitum.

.say for (^5).pick(* ); # 3␤4␤0␤2␤1␤
.say for (^5).pick(**); # 3␤4␤0␤2␤1␤0␤2␤1␤4␤3␤3␤4␤2␤1␤0␤....

Nothing essential, but it is sure nice to have 😀.

is implementation-detail trait

The is implementation-detail trait indicates that something that is publicly visible, still should be considered off-limits as it is a detail of the implementation of something (whether that is your own code, or the core). This will also mark something as invisible for standard introspection:

class A {
    method foo() is implementation-detail { }
    method bar() { }
.name.say for A.^methods; # bar␤BUILDALL␤

Subroutines and methods in the core that are considered to be an implementation-detail, have been marked as such. This should make it more clear which parts of the Rakudo implementation are game, and which parts are off-limits for developers (knowing that they can be changed without notice). Yet another way to make sure that any Raku programs will continue to work with future versions of the Raku Programming Language.

Invisible Changes

There were many smaller and bigger fixes and improvements “under the hood” of the Raku Programming Language. Some code refactoring that e.g. made Allomorph a proper class, without changing any functionality of allomorphs in general. Or speeding up by using smarter algorithms, or by refactoring so that common hot code paths became smaller than the inlinining limit, and thus become a lot faster.

But the BIG thing in the past year, was that the so-called “new-disp” work was merged. In short, you could compare this to ripping out a gasoline engine from a car (with all its optimizations for fuel efficiency of 100+ years of experience) and replacing this by an electrical engine, while its being driven running errands. And although the electrical engine is already much more efficient to begin with, it still can gain a lot from more optimizations.

For yours truly, the notion that it is better to remove certain optimizations written in C in the virtual machine engine, and replace them by code written in NQP, was the most eye-opening one. The reason for this is that all of the optimization work that MoarVM does at runtime, can only work on the parts it understands. And C code, is not what MoarVM understands, so it can not optimize that at runtime. Simple things such as assignment had been optimized in C code and basically had become an “island” of unoptimization. But no more!

The current state of this work, is that it for now is a step forward, but also a step back in some aspects (at least for now). Some workflows most definitely have benefitted from the work so far (especially if you dispatch on anything that has a where clause in it, or use NativeCall directly, or indirectly with e.g. Inline::Perl5). But the bare startup time of Rakudo has increased. Which has its effect on the speed with which modules are installed, or testing is being done.

The really good thing about this work, is that it will allow more people to work on optimizing Rakudo, as that optimizing work can now be done in NQP, rather than in C. The next year will most definitely see one or more blog posts and/or presentations about this, to lower the already lowered threshold even further.

In any case, kudos to Jonathan WorthingtonStefan SeifertDaniel GreenNicholas Clark and many, many others for pulling this off! The Virtual Machine of choice for the Raku Programming Language is now ready to be taken for many more spins!

The Ecosystem

Thanks to Cro, a set of libraries for building reactive distributed systems (lovingly crafted to take advantage of all Raku has to offer), a number of ecosystem related services have come into development and production.

zef ecosystem

The new zef ecosystem has become of age and is now supported by various developer apps, such as App::Mi6, which basically reduces the distribution upload / commit process to a single mi6 release↵. Recommended by yours truly, especially if you are about to develop a Raku module from scratch. There are a number of advantages to using the zef ecosystem.

direct availability

Whenever you upload a new distribution to the zef ecosystem, it becomes (almost) immediately available for download by users. This is particularly handy for CI situations, if you are first updating one or more dependencies of a distribution: the zef CLI wouldn’t know about your upload upto an hour later on the older ecosystem backends.

better ecosystem security

Distributions from the older ecosystem backends could be removed by the author without the ecosystem noticing it (p6c), or not immediately noticing it (CPAN). Distributions, once uploaded to the zef ecosystem, can not be removed.

more dogfooding

The zef ecosystem is completely written in the Raku Programming Language itself. And you could argue that’s one more place where Raku is in production. Kudos to Nick Logan and Tony O’Dell for making this all happen! is a place where one can browse the Raku ecosystem. A website entirely developed with the Raku Programming Language, it should be seen as the successor of the website, which is not based on Raku itself. Although some of the features are still missing, it is an excellent piece of work by James Raspass and very much under continuous development.

Not forgetting the past

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santanaya has said. And that is certainly true in the context of the Raku Programming Language with its now 20+ year history.

Permanent Distributions

Even though distributions can not be removed from the zef ecosystem, there’s of course still a chance that it may become unavailable temporarily, or more permanently. And there are still many distributions in the old ecosystems that can still disappear for whatever reason. Which is why the Raku Ecosystem Archive has been created: this provides a place where (ideally) all distributions ever to be available in the Raku ecosystem, are archived. In Perl terms: a BackPAN if you will. Before long, this repository will be able to serve as another backend for zef, in case a distribution one needs, is no longer available.

Permanent Blog Posts

A lot of blog post have been written in the 20+ year history of what is now the Raku Programming Language. They provide sometimes invaluable insights into the development of all aspects of the Raku Programming Language. Sadly, some of these blog posts have been lost in the mists of time. To prevent more memory loss, the CCR – The Raku Collect, Conserve and Remaster Project was started. I’m pretty sure a Cro-driven website will soon emerge that will make these saved blog posts more generally available. In the meantime, if you know of any old blog posts not yet collected, please make an issue for it.

Permanent IRC Logs

Ever since 2005, IRC has been the focal point of discussions between developers and users of the Raku Programming Language. In order to preserve all these discussions, a repository was started to store all of these logs, up to the present. Updating of the repository is not yet completey automated, but if you want to search something in the logs, or just want to keep up-to-date without using an IRC client, you can check out the experimental IRC Logs server (completely written in the Raku Programming Language).

Looking forward

So what will the coming year(s) bring? That is a good question.

The Raku Programming Language is an all volunteer Open Source project without any big financial backing. As such, it is dependent on the time that people put into it voluntarily. That doesn’t mean that plans cannot be made. But sometimes, sometimes even regularly, $work and Real Life take precedence and change the planning. And things take longer than expected.

If you want to make things happen in the Raku Programming Language, you can start by reporting problems in a manner that other people can easily reproduce. Or if it is a documentation problem, create a Pull Request with the way you think it should be. In other words: put some effort into it yourself. It will be recognized and appreciated by other people in the Raku Community.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s have a look at some of the developments now that we ensured the Raku Programming Language is a good base to build more things upon.

new-disp based improvements

The tools that “new-disp” has made available, haven’t really been used all that much yet: the emphasis was on making things work again (after the engine had been ripped out)! So one can expect quite a few performance improvements to come to fruition now that it all works. Which in turn will make some language changes possible that were previously deemed too hard, or affecting the general performance of Raku too much.


Jonathan Worthington‘s focus has been mostly on the “new-disp” work, but the work on RakuAST will be picked up again as well. This should give the Raku Programming Language a very visible boost, by adding full blown macro and after that proper slang support. While making all applications that depend to an extent on generating Raku code and then executing it, much easier to make and maintain (e.g. Cro routing and templates, printf functionality that doesn’t depend on running a grammar every time it is called).

More Cro driven websites

It looks like most, if not all Raku related websites, will be running on Cro in the coming year. With a few new ones as well (no, yours truly will not reveal more at this moment).

A new language level

After the work on RakuAST has become stable enough, a new language level (tentatively still called “6.e”) will become the default. The intent is to come with language levels more frequently than before (the last language level increase was in 2018), targeting a yearly language level increase.

More community

The new #raku-beginner channel has become pretty active. It’s good to see a lot of new names on that channel, also thanks to a Discord bridge (kudos to Wenzel P.P. Peppmeyer for that).

The coming year will see some Raku-only events. First, there is the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM (5-6 February), which will be an online-only event (you can still sign up for a presentation or a lightning talk!). And if all goes ok, there will be an in-person/online hybrid Raku Conference in Riga (August 11-13 2022).

And of course there are other events where Raku users are welcome: the German Perl/Raku Workshop (30 March/1 April in Leipzig), and the Perl and Raku Conference in Houston (21-25 June).

And who knows, once Covid restrictions have been lifted, how many other Raku related events will be organized!


This year saw the loss of a lot of life. Within the Raku Community, we sadly had to say goodbye to Robert Lemmen and David H. Adler. Belated kudos to them for their contributions to what is now the Raku Programming Language, and Open Source in general. You are missed!

Which brings yours truly to instill in all of you again: please be careful, stay healthy and keep up the good work!

Raku Advent Calendar: Day 24 – Packaging and unpackaging real good

Published by jjmerelo on 2021-12-24T01:01:00

After all Rakuing along all Christmas, Santa realizes it’s a pretty good idea to keep things packed and ready to ship whenever it’s needed. So it looks at containers. Not the containers that might or might not actually be doing all the grunt work for bringing gifts to all good boys and girls in the world, but containers that are used to pack Raku and ship it or use it for testing. Something you need to do sooner or later, and need to do real fast.

The base container

The base container needs to be clean, and tiny, and contain only what’s strictly necessary to build your application on. So it needs a bunch of binaries and that’s that. No ancillary utilities, nothing like that. Enter jjmerelo/raku, a very bare bones container, that takes 15 MBytes and contains only the Rakudo compiler, and everything it needs to work. It’s also available from GHCR, if that’s more to your taste.

You only need that to run your Raku programs. For instance, just print all environment variables that are available inside the container:

time podman run --rm -it -e 'say %*ENV'

Which takes around 6 seconds in my machine, most of it devoted to downloading the container. Not a bad deal, really, all things considered.

The thing it, it comes in two flavors. Alternative is called jj/raku-gha, for obvious reasons: It’s the one that will actually work in side GitHub actions, which is where many of you will eventually use it. The difference? Well, a tiny difference, but one that took some time to discover: its default user, called raku, uses 1001 as UID, instead of the default 1000.

Right, I could have directly used 1001 as the single UID for all of them, but then I might have to do some more changes for GitHub Actions, so why bother?

Essentially, the user that runs GitHub actions uses that UID. We want our package user to be in harmony with the GHA user. We achieve harmony with that.

But we want a tiny bit more.

We will probably need zef to install new modules. And while we’re at it, we might also need to use a REPL in an easier way. Enter alpine-raku, once again in two flavors: regular and gha. Same difference as above: different UID for the user.

Also, this is the same jjmerelo/alpine-raku container I have been maintaining for some time. Its plumbing is now completely different, but its functionality is quite the same. Only it’s slimmer, so faster to download. Again

time podman run --rm -it -e 'say %*ENV'

Will take a bit north of 7 seconds, with exactly the same result. But we will see an interesting bit in that result:

{ENV => /home/raku/.profile, HOME => /home/raku, HOSTNAME => 2b6b1ac50f73, PATH => /home/raku/.raku/bin:/home/raku/.raku/share/perl6/site/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin, PKGS => git, PKGS_TMP => make gcc linux-headers musl-dev, RAKULIB => inst#/home/raku/.raku, TERM => xterm, container => podman}

And that’s the RAKULIB bit. What I’m saying it is that, no matter what the environment says, we’re gonna have an installation of Raku in that precise directory. Which is the home directory, and it should work, right? Only it does not, because GitHub Actions change arbitrarily the HOME variable, which is where Raku picks it from.

This was again something that required a bit of work and understanding where Rakudo picks its configuration. If we run

raku -e 'dd $*REPO.repo-chain'

We will obtain something like this:

( => "/home/jmerelo/.raku"), => "/home/jmerelo/.rakubrew/versions/moar-2021.10/install/share/perl6/site"), => "/home/jmerelo/.rakubrew/versions/moar-2021.10/install/share/perl6/vendor"), => "/home/jmerelo/.rakubrew/versions/moar-2021.10/install/share/perl6/core"), => => => CompUnit::Repository))), => => CompUnit::Repository)), => CompUnit::Repository))

We’re talking about the repository chain, where Raku (through Rakudo) keeps the information or where to find the, effectively, CompUnit repositories or the libraries, precompiled (those are the CompUnit::Repository::Installation) or not (CompUnit::Repository::AbsolutePath). But let’s look at the first one, which is where it will start looking. It’s effectively our home directory, or more precisely, a subdirectory where things are installed in the normal course of things. Where does Rakudo picks that from? Let’s change the HOME environment variable and we’ll see, or rather not, because depending on the installation, it will simply hang. With the RAKULIB defined as above, however, say $*REPO.repo-chain will print

(inst#/home/raku/.raku inst#/tmp/.raku inst#/usr/share/perl6/site inst#/usr/share/perl6/vendor inst#/usr/share/perl6/core ap# nqp# perl5#)

Our CompUnit::Repository::Installation become here inst#/home/raku/.raku, but, what’s more important, the HOME environment variable gets tacked a .raku in the end and an inst# in front, implying that’s the place where Rakudo expects to find it.

This brings us back again to GitHub actions, which change that variable for no good reason, leaving our Rakudo installation effectively unusable. But no fear, a simple environment variable baked in the alpine-raku container (and its GHCR variants) will keep the actual Rakudo installation in check for GitHub actions to come.

Now we’re all set

And we can write our own GitHub actions using this image. Directly run all our stuff inside a container that has Raku. For instance, this way:

name: "Test in a Raku container"
on: [ push, pull_request ]
runs-on: ubuntu-latest
packages: read
name: Checkout
uses: actions/[email protected]
name: Install modules
run: zef install .
name: Test
run: zef –debug test .
view raw raku-test.yaml hosted with ❤ by GitHub
GHA used in Pod::Load

This is decevingly simply, doing exactly what you would do in your console. Install, and then test, right? That’s it. Underneath, however the fact that the container is using the right UID and Raku knows where to find its own installation despite all the moving and shaking that’s going on is what makes it run.

You can even do a bit more. Use Raku as a shell for running anything. Add this step:

  - name: Use Raku to run
    shell: raku {0}
    run: say $*REPO.repo-chain

And with the shell magic, it will actually run that directly on the Raku interpreter. You can do anything else you want: install stuff, run Cro if you want. All within the GitHub action! For instance, do you want to chart how many files were changed in the latest commits using Raku? Here you go:

name: Install Text::Chart
run: zef install Text::Chart
name: Chart files changed latest commits
shell: raku {0}
run: |
use Text::Chart;
my @changed-files = qx<git log –oneline –shortstat -$COMMITS>
.lines.grep( /file/ )
.map( * ~~ /$<files>=(\d+) \s+ file/ )
.map: +*<files>;
say vertical(
:max( @changed-files[0..*-2].max),
This can be added to the action above

Couple of easy steps: install whatever you need, and then use Text::Chart to chart those files. This needs a bit of explaining, or maybe directly checking the source to have the complete picture: it’s using an environment variable called COMMITS, which is one more than the commits we want to chart, has been used to check out all those commits, and then, of course, we need to pop the last one since it’s a squashed commit that contains all older changes in the repo, uglifying our chart (which we don’t want). Essentially, however, is a pipe that takes the text content of the log that includes the number of file changed, extracts that number via a regex match, and feeds it into the vertical function to create the text chart. Which will show something like this (click on the > sign to show the chart):

Files changed in the last 10 commits in Pod::Load

With thousands of files at your disposal, the sky’s the limit. Do you want to install fez and upload automatically when tagging? Why not? Just do it. Upload your secret, and Bob’s your uncle. Do you want to do some complicated analytics on the source using Raku or generate thumbnails? Go ahead!

Happy packaging!

After this, Santa was incredibly happy, since all his Raku stuff was properly checked, and even containerized if needed! So he sit down to enjoy his corncob pipe, which Meta-Santa brought for him last Christmas.

And, with that, Merry Christmas to all and everyone of you!

Raku Advent Calendar: Day 23 – The Life of Raku Module Authoring

Published by liztormato on 2021-12-23T01:01:00

by Tony O’Dell

Hello, world! This article is a lot about fez and how you can get started writing your first module and making it available to other users. Presuming you have rakudo and zef installed, install fez!

$ zef install fez
===> Searching for: fez
===> Updating fez mirror:
===> Updated fez mirror:
===> Testing: fez:ver<32>:auth<zef:tony-o>:api<0>
[fez]   Fez - Raku / Perl6 package utility
[fez]   USAGE
[fez]     fez command [args]
[fez]   COMMANDS
[fez]     register              registers you up for a new account
[fez]     login                 logs you in and saves your key info
[fez]     upload                creates a distribution tarball and uploads
[fez]     meta                  update your public meta info (website, email, name)
[fez]     reset-password        initiates a password reset using the email
[fez]                           that you registered with
[fez]     list                  lists the dists for the currently logged in user
[fez]     remove                removes a dist from the ecosystem (requires fully
[fez]                           qualified dist name, copy from `list` if in doubt)
[fez]     org                   org actions, use `fez org help` for more info
[fez]     FEZ_CONFIG            if you need to modify your config, set this env var
[fez]   CONFIGURATION (using: /home/tonyo/.fez-config.json)
[fez]     Copy this to a cool location and write your own requestors/bundlers or
[fez]     ignore it and use the default curl/wget/git tools for great success.
===> Testing [OK] for fez:ver<32>:auth<zef:tony-o>:api<0>
===> Installing: fez:ver<32>:auth<zef:tony-o>:api<0>

1 bin/ script [fez] installed to:

Make sure that the last line is in your $PATH so the next set of commands all run smoothly. Now we can start writing the actual module, let’s write ROT13 since it’s a fairly easy problem to solve and this article really is less about module content than how to get working with fez.

Writing the Module

Our module directory structure:

├── lib
│   └── ROT13.rakumod
├── t
│   ├── 00-use.rakutest
│   └── 01-tests.rakutest
└── META6.json

lib is the main content of your module, it’s where all of your module’s utilities, helpers, and organization happens. Each file corresponds to one or more modules or classes, more on in the META6.json paragraph below.

META6.json is how zef knows what the module is, it’s how fez knows what it’s uploading, and it’s how rakudo knows how to load what and from where. Let’s take a look at the structure of META6.json:

t contains all of your module’s tests. If you have “author only” tests then you’d also have a directory xt and that directory works roughly the same. For your users’ sanity WRITE TESTS!

  "name": "ROT13",
  "auth": "zef:tony-o",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "api": 0,

  "provides": {
    "ROT13": "lib/ROT13.rakumod"

  "depends":       [],
  "build-depends": [],
  "test-depends":  [],

  "tags":        [ "ROT13", "crypto" ],
  "description": "ROT13 everything!"

A quick discussion about dists. A dist is the fully qualified name of your module and it contains the name, auth, and version. It’s how zef can differentiate your ROT13 module from mine. It works in conjunction with use, such as use ROT13:auth<zef:tony-o>, and in zef: zef install ROT13:auth<tony-o>:ver<0.0.1>. The dist string is always qualified with both the :auth and the :ver internally to raku and the ecosystem, but the end user isn’t required to type the fully qualified dist if they’re less picky about what version/author of the module they’d like. In use statements you can combine auth and ver to get the author or version you’re expecting or you can omit one or both.

It’s better practice to fully qualify your use statements; as more modules hit the ecosystem with the same name, this practice will help keep your modules running smoothly.

Let’s whip up a quick ROT13 module, in lib/ROT13.rakumod dump the following

unit module ROT13;

sub rot13(Str() $text) is export {

Great, you can test it now (from the root of your module directory) with raku -I. -e 'use ROT13; say rot13("hello, WoRlD!");. You should get output of uryyb, JbEyQ!.

Now fill in your test files and run the tests with zef test .

Publishing Your Module


If you’re not registered with fez, now’s the time!

$ fez register
>>= Email: [email protected]
>>= Username: tony-o
>>= Password:
>>= Registration successful, requesting auth key
>>= Username: tony-o
>>= Password:
>>= Login successful, you can now upload dists

Check Yourself

$ fez checkbuild
>>= Inspecting ./META6.json
>>= meta<provides> looks OK
>>= meta<resources> looks OK
>>= ROT13:ver<0.0.1>:auth<zef:tony-o> looks OK

Oh snap, we’re lookin’ good!


$ fez upload
>>= Hey! You did it! Your dist will be indexed shortly.

Only thing to note here is that if there’s a problem indexing your module then you’ll receive an email with the gripe.

Further Reading

You can read more about fez here:

Perhaps you’d prefer listening:

That’s it! If there’s other things you’d like to know about fez, zef, or ecosystems then send tony-o some chat in IRC or an email! Rakudo compiler, Release #152 (2021.12)

Published on 2021-12-23T00:00:00

Raku Advent Calendar: Day 22 – Santa Claus is Rakuing Along

Published by Tom Browder (@tbrowder) on 2021-12-22T01:01:00

Part 4 – The Santa Claus Reports


A Christmas ditty sung to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

 He’s making a list,
 He’s checking it closely,
 He’s gonna find out who’s Rakuing mostly,
 Santa Claus is Rakuing along.

Santa Claus Operations Update 2021

Part 1 of this article reported on the new journaling process for Santa’s employees and how they keep their individual work logs. Part 2 was a side step to show how to better manage Santa’s code by using the new Zef module repository. Part 3 was another side step because Santa was running out of time.

This article, written by yours truly, junior Elf Rodney, will attempt to showcase the use of Raku’s built-in date, time, and sorting functions along with the ease of class construction to handle the new journals in the aggregate to automate many of the reports that used to take goodly amounts of time. They can now be prepared quickly and thus free resources to research more deeply-observed problem areas.

The Reporting System

The journals are frequently read and manipulated by system-wide programs (most found in the Raku module SantaClaus::Utils) run by root. Individual journals are periodically shortened by extracting older entries which are then concatenated onto hidden .journal.YYYY.MM files (owned by root but readable by all) in the user’s home directory.

The data in the journal files are converted to class instances which are deployed for the moment in two global Raku hashes keyed by task-id and user-id, respectively. (When the new persistent types in Raku are ready, they will be a natural fit to form a large on-disk database).

Before designing classes to use with the journals let’s take a quick look at how we want the data to be accessed and used.

First, the raw data give us, for each user and his assigned task (which may be a sub-task):

Second, the raw data give us, for each task and sub-task

It seems that the data we have so far collected don’t yield the task/sub-task relations, but that is solved with a task-id system designed with that in mind. As a start, the task-id is a two-field number with the first field being the task number and the second field being the sub-task number. Supervisors will normally use the task number and their subordinates the sub-task number.

For example, a task number might be 103458 with sub-tasks of 200 and 202. The three numbers entered by the different employees working them would enter:

The final system could be as detailed as desired, but the two-level task-id is sufficient for now.

[Sorry, this article will  be finished later–I am needed for last minute jobs in the factory!]


Santa now has a personnel and task reporting system that automatically produces continuously updated reports on current tasks and the personnel resources used for them. Raku’s built-in date, time, and sorting functions help ease the work of the IT department in their job of programming and maintaining the system.

Santa’s Epilogue

Don’t forget the “reason for the season:” ✝

As I always end these jottings, in the words of Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim, “may God bless Us , Every one! [1]”


  1. A Christmas Carol, a short story by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), a well-known and popular Victorian author whose many works include The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities.

Rakudo Weekly News: 2021.51 Transiting

Published by liztormato on 2021-12-20T18:53:30

Arne Sommer was inspired by public transport developments in their native Oslo. This resulted in a cool new module Transit::Network, but also a serious blog post: Planning Public Transportation with Raku (/r/rakulang comments), a semi-serious Reindeer Express blog post, and a followup on the original: Bugs R Us – A Transit::Network Update (/r/rakulang comments). And Arne was still being able to find the time to do a blog post for the Weekly Challenge: Stealthy Calculator.

Adventing Continues

It’s also still Advent Calendar time! These are the entries of the past week:

If you’re up to it, there is still one slot available!

FOSDEM 2022 CFP expanded

The Call for Participation for the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM 2022 is still open! The deadline has been moved to 31 December! This means you will have more time to consider your Raku presentation as there is still time to submit your proposal (comments on /r/rakulang: 1, 2)!

Fez Orgs Arrive

Tony O’Dell has implemented organizations in the zef ecosystem, which allow multiple people to be responsible for a distribution (which will be handy when moving Raku Community Modules to the zef ecosystem). Tony explains in Fez Orgs – A Winter Solstice Miracle!


Tomasz Wegrzanowski decided to take the Raku Programming Language for a spin in episode 26 of the 100 Languages Speedrun. This resulted in some discussions on /r/rakulang and in the comments section of the blog post itself.

NNFS with Raku

Khalid Elboray has started a series of implementing Neural Networks with Raku. The first part: NNFS with Raku, was already published three weeks ago, but had somehow escaped detection by yours truly. My apologies!

Flavio’s Corner

Flavio Poletti was again very inspired by the Weekly Challenge and the Advent of Code 2021:


Weekly Challenge #144 is available for your perusal.

New Pull Requests

Core Developments

Questions about Raku

Meanwhile on Twitter

Meanwhile on the mailing list

Comments about Raku

New Raku modules

Updated Raku Modules

Winding down

Again, a Rakudo Weekly News with the emphasis on blog posts! And with a new wave coming up, it still can not be repeated often enough: stay healthy and stay safe! See you next week for the last Rakudo News, of 2021!

Rakudo Weekly News: 2021.50 _ for Micros

Published by liztormato on 2021-12-13T20:56:37

Daniel Sockwell wrote two advent blog posts (1, 2) about the problem of dependencies. This resulted in the release of the _ module (aka “lowbar” module), a growing collection of micro packages of less than 70 lines of code. This caused quite some discussion on Hacker News and made it to the top posts list! Good to see the Raku Programming Language in the news!


It’s still Advent Calendar time! These are the entries of the past week:

If you’re up to it, there are still one or two slots available if you would like to contribute!

FOSDEM 2022 Call For Participation

The Call for Participation for the Raku DevRoom at FOSDEM 2022 is now officially open! Please submit your presentation proposals before 20 December! If you feel your Raku presentation could be done in another DevRoom or on the Main Track, then this is also the time to submit your proposal.

Wenzel’s Corner

Wenzel P.P. Peppmeyer wrote quite a few blog posts:

Flavio’s Corner

Flavio Poletti was again inspired by the Weekly Challenge and the Advent of Code 2021:


Weekly Challenge #143 is available for your perusal.

New Pull Requests

Core Developments

Questions about Raku

Meanwhile on Twitter

Meanwhile on the mailing list

Comments about Raku

New Raku modules

Updated Raku Modules

Winding down

Again, quite the Weekly to make! A lot to read and take in this week again! And it still can’t be said often enough: stay healthy and stay safe! See you next week for more Rakudo news!

gfldex: Recursive caves

Published by gfldex on 2021-12-13T14:47:08

Day 12 asks to find paths in a directed cyclic graph, whereby the root and the outer most leaf are only visited once. This is basically a call-tree of a recursive function.

sub day12(:$verbose) {
    my @caves =
        <start-A start-b A-c A-b b-d A-end b-end>,
        <dc-end HN-start start-kj dc-start dc-HN LN-dc HN-end kj-sa kj-HN kj-dc>,
        <fs-end he-DX fs-he start-DX pj-DX end-zg zg-sl zg-pj pj-he RW-he fs-DX pj-RW zg-RW start-pj he-WI zg-he pj-fs start-RW>;

    my @number-of-paths;
    for @caves -> @cave {
        say ‚Cave ‘ ~ ++$ ~ ‚:‘ if $verbose;
        my %connections.append: @cave».split('-').map(-> [$a, $b] { $a => $b, $b => $a }).flat;

        my \paths = gather {
            sub walk($node, @so-far is copy, %seen is copy) {
                return if %seen{$node}:exists;
                @so-far.push: $node;
                (take @so-far; return) if $node eq 'end';

                %seen{$node} = True if $node eq $;

                .&walk(@so-far, %seen) for %connections{$node}.flat;

            walk 'start', [], %()

        paths.&{@number-of-paths.push(.elems); $_}.sort».join(',')».&{.say if $verbose};

    printf(„There are %d paths in cave %d.\n“, |$_) for (@number-of-paths Z ++$ xx ∞);

There isn’t much trickery going on here. I build a list of cave networks and a Hash for each of them, where the keys are cave names and the leafs are lists of cave names. This mapping has to happen in both ways, because I can’t easily flip keys and values, if the values are lists. If you would watch the call stack, you could see that paths show up in walk($name, ...). Raku wont let us walk back the call stack to collect all the $names, so I keep my own stack in @so-far. Once the “end” cave is hit, I exfiltrate that stack with take.

This is a straight forward solution that comes with a lot of problems. The biggest problem is, that I rarely use any language features that Raku got and lesser languages don’t. After all, the purpose of AoC is to show off. Also, blogposts that state the obvious are a waste-of-time². I don’t need to write them and you don’t need to read them. So let’s have a different version of this program.

sub day12(:$verbose) {
    my @caves = <start-A start-b A-c A-b b-d A-end b-end>,
                <dc-end HN-start start-kj dc-start dc-HN LN-dc HN-end kj-sa kj-HN kj-dc>,
                <fs-end he-DX fs-he start-DX pj-DX end-zg zg-sl zg-pj pj-he RW-he fs-DX pj-RW zg-RW start-pj he-WI zg-he pj-fs start-RW>;

    my \connections = { $_».split('-').map(-> [$a, $b] { $a => $b, $b => $a }).flat.classify(*.key, :as(*.value)) }

    my @number-of-paths = connections.hyper(:batch(1)).map( -> %connections {
        say ‚Cave ‘ ~ ++$ ~ ‚:‘ if $verbose;

        my \paths = gather {
            for 'start', [], %() -> $node, @so-far, %seen is copy {
                next if %seen{$node}:exists;
                @so-far.push: $node;
                (take @so-far; next) if $node eq 'end';

                %seen{$node} = True if $node eq $;

                %connections{$node}».&?BLOCK(@so-far, %seen)

        paths.sort».join(',')».say if $verbose;

    printf(„There are %d paths in cave %d.\n“, $_, ++$) for @number-of-paths;

The first step is to use immutable data structures where possible. Every cave is defined by its connections. Those connections can live in a Map instead of a Hash. The build-in .map returns a Seq I can bind to. By replacing for with .map that does immutable stuff, I can sneak a .hyper in. By replacing the recursive sub with a recursive &?BLOCK I finally have used a feature, that is unique to Raku (Haskell got auto-threading iteration and the dot-notation, which is equivalent to .hyper and ».).

With the two .hypers the program has not gotten slower. The overhead to setup threading does not exceed the gain in execution speed, even with very short lists. A very good sign that large cave systems would benefit greatly from modern CPUs.

It is not enough to get the presents delivered, we also want to please Santa. Don’t we, Elfs?

gfldex: Lazy fishy

Published by gfldex on 2021-12-08T00:52:47

AoC day 6 is asking us to simulate a swarm of fish that happily reproduces every 6 days after getting mature at 8 days. My first attempt was to keep track of every single fish. For the requested 80 days, that is no problem at all. Calculating the swarm size after 256 days consumes several GB of RAM and takes halve an hour. According to Larry, laziness is a programmers virtue. All fish of the same age behave the same way. Instead of herding all the cats — I mean fish — we only need to keep track of 8 age-groups.

sub day6 {
    my @state = 3,4,3,1,2;

    my %duegroup := @state.BagHash;
    say %duegroup;

    my @swarmsize = lazy gather {
        take [email protected];

        for 1..∞ -> $day {
            my $spawners = %duegroup{0};
            %duegroup{0..5} = %duegroup{1..6};
            %duegroup{6} = %duegroup{7} + $spawners;
            %duegroup{7..8} = |%duegroup{8}, |$spawners;

            take %duegroup.values.sum;

    say „After 80 days the Lanternfish-swarm is @swarmsize[80] fish strong.“;
    say „After 1 year the Lanternfish-swarm is @swarmsize[365] fish strong and fills the entire ocean.“;

I keep the age groups in a BagHash because it does the grouping by days-until-due-for-reproduction automatically. Since I want to use string interpolation at the end of the job, I keep the lazy list in a @-sigiled container.

say %duegroup; # BagHash(1 2 3(2) 4)
               #         ^left side, due in 1 day

To avoid filling it (and all RAM) up with fish-counts, I have to modify the Seq returned by gather with lazy. The result for day 0 is the number of fish in the input list. It holds the remainder of the days until reproduction. Each day we shift the not-due fish one group to the “left”. Those which would fall of the table are added to the new number of fish due in 6 days. I also add newly spawned fish at the “right” side of %duegroup.

This is quite fast. Calculating the 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fish strong swarm after 1000 years takes 40.345 seconds.


The following version is 12.5x faster and inspired by a Haskellist.

sub day6_2 {
    my @state = 3,4,3,1,2;

    my ($a1, $a2, $a3, $a4, $a5, $a6, $a7, $a8, $a9) = @state.Bag{0..8};

    for 1..(365*1000) -> $day {
        ($a1, $a2, $a3, $a4, $a5, $a6, $a7, $a8, $a9) = ($a2, $a3, $a4, $a5, $a6, $a7, $a8 + $a1, $a9, $a1)

    say [+] ($a1, $a2, $a3, $a4, $a5, $a6, $a7, $a8, $a9);

No wonder one can travel faster without baggage!

gfldex: MAIN course

Published by gfldex on 2021-12-06T20:47:59

On IRC vasko asked how to handle a --verbose-flag. This is quite simple.

sub debug($level, |c) {
    say(|c) if $*VERBOSE && $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ $level;

sub MAIN(:v(:verbose($*VERBOSE)), :D(:debug-level($*DEBUG-LEVEL))) {
    debug 1, 'FYI, all is fine';

I can spot two pieces laying on our boilerplate. If you do a lot of shell-scripting, supporting -v and -D might be quite common. Also, every time we call debug we type a space and a comma to many.

proto sub MAIN(Bool :v(:verbose($*VERBOSE)) = False, Int :D(:debuglevel($*DEBUG-LEVEL)) = 1, |) is export {
    &debug1 = &debug.assuming(1) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 1;
    &debug2 = &debug.assuming(2) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 2;
    &debug3 = &debug.assuming(3) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 3;
    &debug4 = &debug.assuming(4) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 4;
    &debug5 = &debug.assuming(5) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 5;
    &debug6 = &debug.assuming(6) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 6;
    &debug7 = &debug.assuming(7) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 7;
    &debug8 = &debug.assuming(8) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 8;
    &debug9 = &debug.assuming(9) if $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ 9;

    my &*debug1 = &debug.assuming(1);


sub debug($level, |c) {
    say(|c) if $*VERBOSE; # and $*DEBUG-LEVEL ≥ $level;

my (&debug1, &debug2, &debug3, &debug4, &debug5, &debug6, &debug7, &debug8, &debug9) X= {;};

sub EXPORT() { '&debug1' => &debug1, '&debug2' => &debug2, '&debug3' => &debug3, '&debug4' => &debug4, '&debug5' => &debug5, '&debug6' => &debug6, '&debug7' => &debug7, '&debug8' => &debug8, '&debug9' => &debug9

This module exports a sub for each log-level. Those default to an empty block, until MAIN is called. Depending on the log-level, we rebind them to the actual sub debug with a fitting .assuming. We also wire up the dynvar $*VERBOSE. I wrote them in all caps to indicate they are constant-ish. This all works because an export of the form '&debug1' => &debug1 does export an &-sigiled container, which we can change even after sub EXPORT and the use-statement have finished their work.

use fancy-debug;

multi sub MAIN(*%_) {
    debug1 'level1';
    debug2 'level2';

    say 'i haz a done!';

Since we supply extra named arguments that are handled in the proto, we have to please the dispatcher with *%_. Repeating the named arguments would work too.

Thanks to vasko, I could identify dynvars in argument aliases as an ENODOC and found a way new way to remove the MAIN-course from my boilerplate.

p6steve: raku at Monterey Docks (part II)

Published by p6steve on 2021-11-27T13:20:12

Title: Building on fabled Cannery Row, Monterey, California – Wikimedia Commons


In Part I of this post, I started on my macOS tool chain rebuild, I want this to work for all my languages (Python, Perl, JavaScript, Raku and so on including specific compiler build versions and combinations such as Inline::Perl5) … coming off the disappointing Apple induced cliff edge for M1 machines upgrading from Big Sur to Monterey OS versions.

In that thrilling episode, I turned the corner and was starting to make progress – seeing how I can get the speed benefits of M1 and apply them to my raku projects:

BUT – as mentioned and commented, this way I have to install all my module dependencies on every test run … surely there must be a better, faster way… 


Now before I dig in, I must say that I was feeling a bit lonely out here with my opinion that macOS Monterey is a sign that Apple is defocusing on the wider developer community …. then I found this comment that cheered my up a bit:

smoldesu 5 months ago | root | parent | prev | next [–]

It was impressive back when OSX debuted, but now it feels like Apple is lacking in both regards. Their shell utilities are all horribly outdated/mismatched, and their UI design took a nosedive with Big Sur. Modern MacOS reminds me of what Ubuntu felt like 10 years ago: it’s a confused and scared operating system that doesn’t quite know where to go from here. I mean, look at what Monterrey introduced; basically better Facetime and some new wallpapers. I’m getting the feeling that Apple has painted themselves into a corner here. They spent the past 2 decades focusing on vertical growth, only to discover that the next 50 years are going to be ruled by better interop and protocols.

And, to be fair, I think that good support for VMs is probably a fork in the road for all desktop OS providers … then (spoiler alert) a decent VM side-load means that the general (ie. non Apple) developer can have complete control and Apple can build their wall higher and need to pander to fewer requirements (goodbye perl 5 on Mac?)

Vector One – Docker Desktop & AWS Ubuntu

False Steps

First, I naively decided to add a couple of lines to the raku-test Dockerfile cloned from JJ’s repo:

RUN zef install XML::Writer SVG SVG::Plot

and then rebuild from the Dockerfile pwd with:

docker build -t new-test .

But, this did not work via the zsh CLI provided by Docker Desktop on macOS:

Then, I took out my changes and just tried to clone and run an unchanged alpine-raku:

Hmmm, I dug a bit deeper into the CI commands in JJ’s github repo and realised that he was building these variants of alpine-raku on ubuntu …. so while alpine-raku is a fantastic lightweight container image for test, right now alpine-raku can’t be build on Docker Desktop on macOS Monterey M1. (Mumble mumble bloody bleeding edge.)

SO – I needed to get a clean ubuntu build environment – with a workflow that goes:

Rent a Build

Right now I am on the free 5 day trial of the subscription based “Run Docker on Ubuntu 20.04 with latest Ubuntu Image” by Code Creator (just search for this AMI in the AWS marketplace)

  1. first blind alley was to try and build rakubrew from scratch (ie. run the base alpine-raku Dockerfile) as this would fail to build with make/echo errors
  2. then I realised that I can just use the derivative raku-test Dockerfile and embed the additional zef install lines in here – BINGO!

Now all I have to do is prebuild the variants of zef installs that I need, tag these new Docker images and push to the Docker image repository.

Here’s an example Dockerfile (see each module eg. Physics::Unit ):

FROM jjmerelo/alpine-raku:latest
LABEL version="6.0.2" maintainer="JJ Merelo <[email protected]>"

ARG DIR="/test"
USER root

# Add raku-physics-unit dependencies
RUN zef install SVG::Plot

# Set up dirs
RUN mkdir $DIR && chown raku $DIR
COPY --chown=raku /home/raku

# Change to non-privileged user
USER raku

# Will run this
ENTRYPOINT ["/home/raku/"]

Here’s my CLI incantation to do the build:

git clone

sudo docker build -t arp-unit-deps .
sudo docker run -t -v /home/ubuntu/raku-Physics-Unit:/test arp-unit-deps --verbose
sudo docker tag arp-unit-deps p6steve/alpine-raku-physics:arp-unit-deps
sudo docker push p6steve/alpine-raku-physics:arp-unit-deps

And to run it on the macOS Docker Desktop client:

docker pull p6steve/alpine-raku-physics:arp-unit-deps
docker run -t -v //path-to/raku-Physics-Measure:/test p6steve/alpine-raku-physics:arp-unit-deps --verbose

Here’s the list of images that I built – in each case, the image is built with the module dependencies since it is used for faster testing of the module…

These are all now built and pushed to – enjoy!

Vector Two: Dump Docker Desktop

So – this has proven the point and determined a general need for a clean ubuntu build environment for adjustments to my images, I felt that I was limited by going to AWS and a paid build for this step and still felt unnecessarily hemmed in and slowed down in by the macOS Docker Desktop confection.

A bit more research turned up vftools … and this excellent recipe from Jan Mikeš… take a look to see how Jan describes 40x load speed improvements (from 160s to 3.7s).

Here’s what it has provided for me (ymmv):

So now I can start my ubuntu-vm with docker in the morning and reach for something like:

docker pull --platform linux/arm64 rakudo-star
docker run -it --entrypoint sh -l -c rakudo-star

Line 2 of this takes about 1s to get a raku REPL prompt. Yessssss!

So now I am off to scratch my head with:

Please do leave any feedback and comments (click here & scroll down) …


p6steve: raku at the Monterey Docks

Published by p6steve on 2021-11-18T21:36:29

Title: Building on fabled Cannery Row, Monterey, California – Wikimedia Commons

The Problem…

There I was just being tidy and getting the latest macOS release (Monterey) for my pricey new M1 laptop – expecting the usual seamless upgrade. Then bang! <<Homebrew is not supported on ARM processors>>. This is NOT (just) a raku thing. In my case, the proximate cause seems to be lack of support for M1 for ruby <<No Homebrew ruby 2.6.8 available for arm64 processors!>>. My swag is that Monterey is stepping down rosetta mollycoddling vs BigSur and wo-betide anyone who wants to run non native via a terminal. Well what did you expect with an architecture change.


This may well be the way I have set up my setup on my machine – you made never experience any of this. I would also mention that I am not a core dev and I am a bit out on a limb building from source – I can do it fine if it works… and all of what follows has a good measure of uninstall/reinstall which can leave a bit of a mess.

… gets Worse

This made me mad. So I factory reset my machine, installed Xcode (this is safer than xcode-select --install), rosetta2 (leaving the “open with rosetta 2” option unchecked, since I want to go faster) and Docker Desktop and tried several things on a clean macOS machine. My failings included:

I would love it if any of these methods would work for me … and encourage you to comment if you have fared better / know the incantation that I missed!

And this is not to cast aspersions on the excellent raku toolchain – I am sure if I wait a couple of months and get off the bleeding edge, then all will be fixed. In the meantime, I realised that macOS is a bit of a sideshow for raku which is developed on ubuntu.

Back to the Drawing Board (aka Docker Desktop)

Since I have been wondering about the best way to test against multiple raku versions and to maintain a tight system configuration around raku to support Python::Inline and Perl5::Inline, I choose to see the silver lining in my cloud and go for Docker. So I installed the newly GA Docker Desktop for Apple Silicon.

This method is very forgiving – Docker Desktop will warn, then run AMD64 (on rosetta) using platform detection if need be, regardless of the settings.

Now to work out the workload … well I have been working on the various Physics::Measure modules using jnthn’s excellent CommaCP for a while, so I was very keen to get testing working for these.

I also have been using JJ’s excellent alpine-raku and raku-alpine-test on the voracious TravisCI service so it seemed natural to go with that. Here are the steps that worked for me:

Path 1: Basic Module Test

Starting by running a module test from the Docker command line (raku-test is a specialised derivative, with a Dockerfile that starts FROM alpine-raku:latest):

docker run -t -v /path/to/module-dir:/test jjmerelo/raku-test

This will pull the image from the Docker repo and run it… you just specify the local path to your module.

Nice! I am alive once more with local test harness and the ability to apply multiple raku versions – BUT this is on AMD64 (aka Intel) … so all that money spent on M1 is wasted!

Path 2: Run any raku script

Stepping this up, I can use alpine-raku to run scripts directly (following the documentation):

docker run –rm -t jjmerelo/alpine-raku -e “mkdir ‘raku-app’; say ‘raku-app’.IO.absolute;”
docker run -t -v pwd:/home/raku/raku-app jjmerelo/alpine-raku /home/raku/raku-app/pell.p 6

Path 3: Run Math::Polygons via the existing Dockerfile

Since I already had made a Dockerfile to run this module in interactive mode in a Jupiter notebook, I gave it a try …

git clone
cd raku-Math-Polygons
docker build -t rmp .

This takes a while (20mins+) as it does on Jupyter binder since it is building a full raku ubuntu image from scratch – when running you can access via the browser button on Docker Desktop.

Putting Docker and Comma together

To wrap this story up, how nice it would be to get Docker and Comma working together … lo and behold, CommaIDE has a plugin just for this…

And Finally!

So, now all is well – Docker Desktop is up and running and I can ring all the changes from the command line:

docker run -it jjmerelo/alpine-raku
docker run -it jjmerelo/alpine-raku:2021.04
docker run -t jjmerelo/alpine-raku -e “say ‘hello þor'”
docker run -it –entrypoint sh -l -c jjmerelo/alpine-raku [container persists eg. zef modules]
docker run -v pwd:/app -it jjmerelo/alpine-raku /app/Tree.p6

BUT – this way I have to install all my module dependencies on every test run … surely there must be a better, faster way… (just wait for the next gripping instalment)

Please do leave any feedback and comments …


vrurg: Merging Symbols Issue

Published by Vadim Belman on 2021-10-05T00:00:00

First of all, I’d like to apologize for all the errors in this post. I just haven’t got time to properly proof-read it.

A while ago I was trying to fix a problem in Rakudo which, under certain conditions, causes some external symbols to become invisible for importing code, even if explicit use statement is used. And, indeed, it is really confusing when:

use L1::L2::L3::Class;;

fails with “Class symbol doesn’t exists in L1::L2::L3” error! It’s ok if use throws when there is no corresponding module. But .new??

Skip This Unless You Know What A Package Is

This section is needed to understand the rest of the post. A package in Raku is a typeobject which has a symbol table attached. The table is called stash (stands for “symbol table hash”) and is represented by an instance of Stash class, which is, basically, is a hash with minor tweaks. Normally each package instance has its own stash. For example, it is possible to manually create two different packages with the same name:

my $p1a := Metamodel::PackageHOW.new_type(:name<P1>); 
my $p1b := Metamodel::PackageHOW.new_type(:name<P1>); 
say $p1a.WHICH, " ", $p1a.WHO.WHICH; # P1|U140722834897656 Stash|140723638807008
say $p1b.WHICH, " ", $p1b.WHO.WHICH; # P1|U140722834897800 Stash|140723638818544

Note that they have different stashes as well.

A package is barely used in Raku as is. Usually we deal with packagy things like modules and classes.

Back On The Track

Back then I managed to trace the problem down to deserialization process within MoarVM backend. At that point I realized that somehow it pulls in packagy objects which are supposed to be the same thing, but they happen to be different and have different stashes. Because MoarVM doesn’t (and must not) have any idea about the structure of high-level Raku objects, there is no way it could properly handle this situation. Instead it considers one of the conflicting stashes as “the winner” and drops the other one. Apparently, symbols unique to the “loser” are lost then.

It took me time to find out what exactly happens. But not until a couple of days ago I realized what is the root cause and how to get around the bug.

Package Tree

What happens when we do something like:

module Foo {
    module Bar {

How do we access Bar, speaking of the technical side of things? Foo::Bar syntax basically maps into Foo.WHO<Bar>. In other words, Bar gets installed as a symbol into Foo stash. We can also rewrite it with special syntax sugar: Foo::<Bar> because Foo:: is a representation for Foo stash.

So far, so good; but where do we find Foo itself? In Raku there is a special symbol called GLOBAL which is the root namespace (or a package if you wish) of any code. GLOBAL::, or GLOBAL.WHO is where one finds all the top-level symbols.

Say, we have a few packages like L11::L21, L11::L22, L12::L21, L12::L22. Then the namespace structure would be represented by this tree:

`- L11
   `- L21
   `- L22
`- L12
   `- L21
   `- L22

Normally there is one per-process GLOBAL symbol and it belongs to the compunit which used to start the program. Normally it’s a .raku file, or a string supplied on command line with -e option, etc. But each compunit also gets its own GLOBALish package which acts as compunit’s GLOBAL until it is fully incorporated into the main code. Say, we declare a module in file Foo.rakumod:

unit module Foo;
sub print-GLOBAL($when) is export {
    say "$when: ", GLOBAL.WHICH, " ", GLOBALish.WHICH;
print-GLOBAL 'LOAD';

And use it in a script:

use Foo;
print-GLOBAL 'RUN ';

Then we can get an ouput like this:

LOAD: GLOBAL|U140694020262024 GLOBAL|U140694020262024
RUN : GLOBAL|U140694284972696 GLOBAL|U140694020262024

Notice that GLOBALish symbol remains the same object, whereas GLOBAL gets different. If we add a line to the script which also prints GLOBAL.WHICH then we’re going to get something like:

MAIN: GLOBAL|U140694284972696

Let’s get done with this part of the story for a while a move onto another subject.

Compunit Compilation

This is going to be a shorter story. It is not a secret that however powerful Raku’s grammars are, they need some core developer’s attention to make them really fast. In the meanwhile, compilation speed is somewhat suboptimal. It means that if a project consist of many compunits (think of modules, for example), it would make sense to try to compile them in parallel if possible. Unfortunately, the compiler is not thread-safe either. To resolve this complication Rakudo implementation parallelizes compilation by spawning individual processes per each compunit.

For example, let’s refer back to the module tree example above and imagine that all modules are used by a script. In this case there is a chance that we would end up with six rakudo processes, each compiling its own L* module. Apparently, things get slightly more complicated if there are cross-module uses, like L11::L21 could refer to L21, which, in turn, refers to L11::L22, or whatever. In this case we need to use topological sort to determine in what order the modules are to be compiled; but that’s not the point.

The point is that since each process does independent compilation, each compunit needs independent GLOBAL to manage its symbols. For the time being, what we later know as GLOBALish serves this duty for the compiler.

Later, when all pre-compiled modules are getting incorporated into the code which uses them, symbols installed into each individual GLOBAL are getting merged together to form the final namespace, available for our program. There are even methods in the source, using merge_global in their names.


(Note the clickable section header; I love the guy!)

Now, you can feel the catch. Somebody might have even guessed what it is. It crossed my mind after I was trying to implement legal symbol auto-registration which doesn’t involve using QAST to install a phaser. At some point I got an idea of using GLOBAL to hold a register object which would keep track of specially flagged roles. Apparently it failed due to the parallelized compilation mentioned above. It doesn’t matter, why; but at that point I started building a mental model of what happens when merge is taking place. And one detail drew my special attention: what happens if a package in a long name is not explicitly declared?

Say, there is a class named Foo::Bar::Baz one creates as:

unit class Foo::Bar;
class Baz { }

In this case the compiler creates a stub package for Foo. The stub is used to install class Bar. Then it all gets serialized into bytecode.

At the same time there is another module with another class:

unit class Foo::Bar::Fubar;

It is not aware of Foo::Bar::Baz, and the compiler has to create two stubs: Foo and Foo::Bar. And not only two versions of Foo are different and have different stashes; but so are the two versions of Bar where one is a real class, the other is a stub package.

Most of the time the compiler does damn good job of merging symbols in such cases. It took me stripping down a real-life code to golf it down to some minimal set of modules which reproduces the situation where a require call comes back with a Failure and a symbol becomes missing. The remaining part of this post will be dedicated to this example. In particular, this whole text is dedicated to one line.

Before we proceed further, I’d like to state that I might be speculating about some aspects of the problem cause because some details are gone from my memory and I don’t have time to re-investigate them. Still, so far my theory is backed by working workaround presented at the end.

To make it a bit easier to analyze the case, let’s start with namespace tree:

`- L1
   `- App
   `- L2
      `- Collection
         `- Driver
         `- FS

Rough purpose is for application to deal with some kind of collection which stores its items with help of a driver which is loaded dynamically, depending, say, on a user configuration. We have only driver implemented: File System (FS).

If you checkout the repository and try raku -Ilib symbol-merge.raku in the examples/2021-10-05-merge-symbols directory, you will see some output ending up with a line like Failure|140208738884744 (certainly true for up until Rakudo v2021.09 and likely to be so for at least a couple of versions later).

The key conflict in this example are modules Collection and Driver. The full name of Collection is L1::L2::Collection. L1 and L2 are both stubs. Driver is L1::L2::Collection::Driver and because it imports L1::L2, L2 is a class; but L1 remains to be a stub. By commenting out the import we’d get the bug resolved and the script would end up with something like:


This means that the driver module was successfully loaded and the driver class symbol is available.

Ok, uncomment the import and start the script again. And then once again to get rid of the output produced by compilation-time processes. We should see something like this:

[7329] L1 in L1::L2         : L1|U140360937889112
[7329] L1 in Driver         : L1|U140361742786216
[7329] L1 in Collection     : L1|U140361742786480
[7329] L1 in App            : L1|U140361742786720
[7329] L1 in MAIN           : L1|U140361742786720
[7329] L1 in FS             : L1|U140361742788136

We already know that L1 is a stub. Dumping object IDs also reveals that each compunit has its own copy of L1, except for App and the script (marked as MAIN). This is pretty much expected because each L1 symbol is installed at compile-time into per-compunit GLOBALish. This is where each module finds it. App is different because it is directly imported by the script and was compiled by the same compiler process, and shared its GLOBAL with the script.

Now comes the black magic. Open lib/L1/L2/Collection/FS.rakumod and uncomment the last line in the file. Then give it a try. The output would seem impossible at first; hell with it, even at second glance it is still impossible:

[17579] Runtime Collection syms      : (Driver)

Remember, this line belongs to L1::L2::Collection::FS! How come we don’t see FS in Collection stash?? No wonder that when the package cannot see itself others cannot see it too!

Here comes a bit of my speculation based on what I vaguely remember from the times ~2 years ago when I was trying to resolve this bug for the first time.

When Driver imports L1::L2, Collection gets installed into L2 stash, and Driver is recorded in Collection stash. Then it all gets serialized with Driver compunit.

Now, when FS imports Driver to consume the role, it gets the stash of L2 serialized at the previous stage. But its own L2 is a stub under L1 stub. So, it gets replaced with the serialized “real thing” which doesn’t have FS under Collection! Bingo and oops…

A Workaround

Walk through all the example files and uncomment use L1 statement. That’s it. All compunits will now have a common anchor to which their namespaces will be attached.

The common rule would state that if a problem of the kind occurs then make sure there’re no stub packages in the chain from GLOBAL down to the “missing” symbol. In particular, commenting out use L1::L2 in Driver will get our error back because it would create a “hole” between L1 and Collection and get us back into the situation where conflicting Collection namespaces are created because they’re bound to different L2 packages.

It doesn’t really matter how exactly the stubs are avoided. For example, we can easily move use L1::L2 into Collection and make sure that use L1 is still part of L2. So, for simplicity a child package may import its parent; and parent may then import its parent; and so on.

Sure, this adds to the boilerplate. But I hope the situation is temporary and there will be a fix.


The one I was playing with required a compunit to serialize its own GLOBALish stash at the end of the compilation in a location where it would not be at risk of overwriting. Basically, it means cloning and storing it locally on the compunit (the package stash is part of the low-level VM structures). Then compunit mainline code would invoke a method on the Stash class which would forcibly merge the recorded symbols back right after deserialization of compunit’s bytecode. It was seemingly working, but looked more of a kind of a hack, than a real fix. This and a few smaller issues (like a segfault which I failed to track down) caused it to be frozen.

As I was thinking of it lately, more proper fix must be based upon a common GLOBAL shared by all compunits of a process. In this case there will be no worry about multiple stub generated for the same package because each stub will be shared by all compunits until, perhaps, the real package is found in one of them.

Unfortunately, the complexity of implementing the ‘single GLOBAL’ approach is such that I’m unsure if anybody with appropriate skill could fit it into their schedule.

6guts: The new MoarVM dispatch mechanism is here!

Published by jnthnwrthngtn on 2021-09-29T16:16:31

Around 18 months ago, I set about working on the largest set of architectural changes that Raku runtime MoarVM has seen since its inception. The work was most directly triggered by the realization that we had no good way to fix a certain semantic bug in dispatch without either causing huge performance impacts across the board or increasingly complexity even further in optimizations that were already riding their luck. However, the need for something like this had been apparent for a while: a persistent struggle to optimize certain Raku language features, the pain of a bunch of performance mechanisms that were all solving the same kind of problem but each for a specific situation, and a sense that, with everything learned since I founded MoarVM, it was possible to do better.

The result is the development of a new generalized dispatch mechanism. An overview can be found in my Raku Conference talk about it (slidesvideo); in short, it gives us a far more uniform architecture for all kinds of dispatch, allowing us to deliver better performance on a range of language features that have thus far been glacial, as well as opening up opportunities for new optimizations.

Today, this work has been merged, along with the matching changes in NQP (the Raku subset we use for bootstrapping and to implement the compiler) and Rakudo (the full Raku compiler and standard library implementation). This means that it will ship in the October 2021 releases.

In this post, I’ll give an overview of what you can expect to observe right away, and what you might expect in the future as we continue to build upon the possibilities that the new dispatch architecture has to offer.

The big wins

The biggest improvements involve language features that we’d really not had the architecture to do better on before. They involved dispatch – that is, getting a call linked to a destination efficiently – but the runtime didn’t provide us with a way to “explain” to it that it was looking at a dispatch, let alone with the information needed to have a shot at optimizing it.

The following graph captures a number of these cases, and shows the level of improvement, ranging from a factor of 3.3 to 13.3 times faster.

Graph showing benchmark results, described textually below

Let’s take a quick look at each of these. The first, new-buf, asks how quickly we can allocate Bufs.

for ^10_000_000 {

Why is this a dispatch benchmark? Because Buf is not a class, but rather a role. When we try to make an instance of a role, it is “punned” into a class. Up until now, it works as follows:

  1. We look up the new method
  2. The find_method method would, if needed, create a pun of the role and cache it
  3. It would return a forwarding closure that takes the arguments and gives them to the same method called on the punned class, or spelt in Raku code, -> $role-discarded, |args { $pun."$name"(|args) }
  4. This closure would be invoked with the arguments

This had a number of undesirable consequences:

  1. While the pun was cached, we still had a bit of overhead to check if we’d made it already
  2. The arguments got slurped and flattened, which costs something, and…
  3. …the loss of callsite shape meant we couldn’t look up a type specialization of the method, and thus lost a chance to inline it too

With the new dispatch mechanism, we have a means to cache constants at a given program location and to replace arguments. So the first time we encounter the call, we:

  1. Get the role pun produced if needed
  2. Resolve the new method on the class punned from the role
  3. Produce a dispatch program that caches this resolved method and also replaces the role argument with the pun

For the next thousands of calls, we interpret this dispatch program. It’s still some cost, but the method we’re calling is already resolved, and the argument list rewriting is fairly cheap. Meanwhile, after we get into some hundreds of iterations, on a background thread, the optimizer gets to work. The argument re-ordering cost goes away completely at this point, and new is so small it gets inlined – at which point the buffer allocation is determined dead and so goes away too. Some remaining missed opportunities mean we still are left with a loop that’s not quite empty: it busies itself making sure it’s really OK to do nothing, rather than just doing nothing.

Next up, multiple dispatch with where clauses.

multi fac($n where $n <= 1) { 1 }
multi fac($n) { $n * fac($n - 1) }
for ^1_000_000 {

These were really slow before, since:

  1. We couldn’t apply the multi-dispatch caching mechanism at all as soon as we had a where clause involved
  2. We would run where clauses twice in the event the candidate was chosen: once to see if we should choose that multi candidate, and once again when we entered it

With the new mechanism, we:

  1. On the first call, calculate a multiple dispatch plan: a linked list of candidates to work through
  2. Invoke the one with the where clause, in a mode whereby if the signature fails to bind, it triggers a dispatch resumption. (If it does bind, it runs to completion)
  3. In the event of a bind failure, the dispatch resumption triggers, and we attempt the next candidate

Once again, after the setup phase, we interpret the dispatch programs. In fact, that’s as far as we get with running this faster for now, because the specializer doesn’t yet know how to translate and further optimize this kind of dispatch program. (That’s how I know it currently stands no chance of turning this whole thing into another empty loop!) So there’s more to be had here also; in the meantime, I’m afraid you’ll just have to settle for a factor of ten speedup.

Here’s the next one:

proto with-proto(Int $n) { 2 * {*} }
multi with-proto(Int $n) { $n + 1 }
sub invoking-nontrivial-proto() {
    for ^10_000_000 {

Again, on top form, we’d turn this into an empty loop too, but we don’t quite get there yet. This case wasn’t so terrible before: we did get to use the multiple dispatch cache, however to do that we also ended up having to allocate an argument capture. The need for this also blocked any chance of inlining the proto into the caller. Now that is possible. Since we cannot yet translate dispatch programs that resume an in-progress dispatch, we don’t yet get to further inline the called multi candidate into the proto. However, we now have a design that will let us implement that.

This whole notion of a dispatch resumption – where we start doing a dispatch, and later need to access arguments or other pre-calculated data in order to do a next step of it – has turned out to be a great unification. The initial idea for it came from considering things like callsame:

class Parent {
    method m() { 1 }
class Child is Parent {
    method m() { 1 + callsame }
for ^10_000_000 {

Once I started looking at this, and then considering that a complex proto also wants to continue with a dispatch at the {*}, and in the case a where clauses fails in a multi it also wants to continue with a dispatch, I realized this was going to be useful for quite a lot of things. It will be a bit of a headache to teach the optimizer and JIT to do nice things with resumes – but a great relief that doing that once will benefit multiple language features!

Anyway, back to the benchmark. This is another “if we were smart, it’d be an empty loop” one. Previously, callsame was very costly, because each time we invoked it, it would have to calculate what kind of dispatch we were resuming and the set of methods to call. We also had to be able to locate the arguments. Dynamic variables were involved, which cost a bit to look up too, and – despite being an implementation details – these also leaked out in introspection, which wasn’t ideal. The new dispatch mechanism makes this all rather more efficient: we can cache the calculated set of methods (or wrappers and multi candidates, depending on the context) and then walk through it, and there’s no dynamic variables involved (and thus no leakage of them). This sees the biggest speedup of the lot – and since we cannot yet inline away the callsame, it’s (for now) measuring the speedup one might expect on using this language feature. In the future, it’s destined to optimize away to an empty loop.

A module that makes use of callsame on a relatively hot path is OO::Monitors,, so I figured it would be interesting to see if there is a speedup there also.

use OO::Monitors;
monitor TestMonitor {
    method m() { 1 }
my $mon =;
for ^1_000_000 {

monitor is a class that acquires a lock around each method call. The module provides a custom meta-class that adds a lock attribute to the class and then wraps each method such that it acquires the lock. There are certainly costly things in there besides the involvement of callsame, but the improvement to callsame is already enough to see a 3.3x speedup in this benchmark. Since OO::Monitors is used in quite a few applications and modules (for example, Cro uses it), this is welcome (and yes, a larger improvement will be possible here too).

Caller side decontainerization

I’ve seen some less impressive, but still welcome, improvements across a good number of other microbenchmarks. Even a basic multi dispatch on the + op:

my $i = 0;
for ^10_000_000 {
    $i = $i + $_;

Comes out with a factor of 1.6x speedup, thanks primarily to us producing far tighter code with fewer guards. Previously, we ended up with duplicate guards in this seemingly straightforward case. The infix:<+> multi candidate would be specialized for the case of its first argument being an Int in a Scalar container and its second argument being an immutable Int. Since a Scalar is mutable, the specialization would need to read it and then guard the value read before proceeding, otherwise it may change, and we’d risk memory safety. When we wanted to inline this candidate, we’d also want to do a check that the candidate really applies, and so also would deference the Scalar and guard its content to do that. We can and do eliminate duplicate guards – but these guards are on two distinct reads of the value, so that wouldn’t help.

Since in the new dispatch mechanism we can rewrite arguments, we can now quite easily do caller-side removal of Scalar containers around values. So easily, in fact, that the change to do it took me just a couple of hours. This gives a lot of benefits. Since dispatch programs automatically eliminate duplicate reads and guards, the read and guard by the multi-dispatcher and the read in order to pass the decontainerized value are coalesced. This means less repeated work prior to specialization and JIT compilation, and also only a single read and guard in the specialized code after it. With the value to be passed already guarded, we can trivially select a candidate taking two bare Int values, which means there’s no further reads and guards needed in the callee either.

A less obvious benefit, but one that will become important with planned future work, is that this means Scalar containers escape to callees far less often. This creates further opportunities for escape analysis. While the MoarVM escape analyzer and scalar replacer is currently quite limited, I hope to return to working on it in the near future, and expect it will be able to give us even more value now than it would have been able to before.

Further results

The benchmarks shown earlier are mostly of the “how close are we to realizing that we’ve got an empty loop” nature, which is interesting for assessing how well the optimizer can “see through” dispatches. Here are a few further results on more “traditional” microbenchmarks:

Graph showing benchmark results, described textually below

The complex number benchmark is as follows:

my $total-re = 0e0;
for ^2_000_000 {
    my $x = 5 + 2i;
    my $y = 10 + 3i;
    my $z = $x * $x + $y;
    $total-re = $total-re + $
say $total-re;

That is, just a bunch of operators (multi dispatch) and method calls, where we really do use the result. For now, we’re tied with Python and a little behind Ruby on this benchmark (and a surprising 48 times faster than the same thing done with Perl’s Math::Complex), but this is also a case that stands to see a huge benefit from escape analysis and scalar replacement in the future.

The hash read benchmark is:

my %h = a => 10, b => 12;
my $total = 0;
for ^10_000_000 {
    $total = $total + %h<a> + %h<b>;

And the hash store one is:

my @keys = 'a'..'z';
for ^500_000 {
    my %h;
    for @keys {
        %h{$_} = 42;

The improvements are nothing whatsoever to do with hashing itself, but instead look to be mostly thanks to much tighter code all around due to caller-side decontainerization. That can have a secondary effect of bringing things under the size limit for inlining, which is also a big help. Speedup factors of 2x and 1.85x are welcome, although we could really do with the same level of improvement again for me to be reasonably happy with our results.

The line-reading benchmark is:

my $fh = open "longfile";
my $chars = 0;
for $fh.lines { $chars = $chars + .chars };
say $chars

Again, nothing specific to I/O got faster, but when dispatch – the glue that puts together all the pieces – gets a boost, it helps all over the place. (We are also decently competitive on this benchmark, although tend to be slower the moment the UTF-8 decoder can’t take it’s “NFG can’t possibly apply” fast path.)

And in less micro things…

I’ve also started looking at larger programs, and hearing results from others about theirs. It’s mostly encouraging:

Smaller profiler output

One unpredicted (by me), but also welcome, improvement is that profiler output has become significantly smaller. Likely reasons for this include:

  1. The dispatch mechanism supports producing value results (either from constants, input arguments, or attributes read from input arguments). It entirely replaces an earlier mechanism, “specializer plugins”, which could map guards to a target to invoke, but always required a call to something – even if that something was the identity function. The logic was that this didn’t matter for any really hot code, since the identity function will trivially be inlined away. However, since profile size of the instrumenting profiler is a function of the number of paths through the call tree, trimming loads of calls to the identity function out of the tree makes it much smaller.
  2. We used to make lots of calls to the sink method when a value was in sink context. Now, if we see that the type simply inherits that method from Mu, we elide the call entirely (again, it would inline away, but a smaller call graph is a smaller profile).
  3. Multiple dispatch caching would previously always call the proto when the cache was missed, but would then not call an onlystar proto again when it got cache hits in the future. This meant the call tree under many multiple dispatches was duplicated in the profile. This wasn’t just a size issue; it was a bit annoying to have this effect show up in the profile reports too.

To give an example of the difference, I took profiles from Agrammon to study why it might have become slower. The one from before the dispatcher work weighed in at 87MB; the one with the new dispatch mechanism is under 30MB. That means less memory used while profiling, less time to write the profile out to disk afterwards, and less time for tools to load the profiler output. So now it’s faster to work out how to make things faster.

Is there any bad news?

I’m afraid so. Startup time has suffered. While the new dispatch mechanism is more powerful, pushes more complexity out of the VM into high level code, and is more conducive to reaching higher peak performance, it also has a higher warmup time. At the time of writing, the impact on startup time seems to be around 25%. I expect we can claw some of that back ahead of the October release.

What will be broken?

Changes of this scale always come with an amount of risk. We’re merging this some weeks ahead of the next scheduled monthly release in order to have time for more testing, and to address any regressions that get reported. However, even before reaching the point of merging it, we have:

What happens next?

As I’ve alluded to in a number of places in this post, while there are improvements to be enjoyed right away, there are also new opportunities for further improvement. Some things that are on my mind include:

Thank you

I would like to thank TPF and their donors for providing the funding that has made it possible for me to spend a good amount of my working time on this effort.

While I’m to blame for the overall design and much of the implementation of the new dispatch mechanism, plenty of work has also been put in by other MoarVM and Rakudo contributors – especially over the last few months as the final pieces fell into place, and we turned our attention to getting it production ready. I’m thankful to them not only for the code and debugging contributions, but also much support and encouragement along the way. It feels good to have this merged, and I look forward to building upon it in the months and years to come.

vrurg: Secure JSONification?

Published by Vadim Belman on 2021-09-14T00:00:00

There was an interesting discussion on IRC today. In brief, it was about exposing one’s database structures over API and security implications of this approach. I’d recommend reading the whole thing because Altreus delivers a good (and somewhat emotional 🙂) point on why such practice is most definitely bad design decision. Despite having minor objections, I generally agree to him.

But I’m not wearing out my keyboard on this post just to share that discussion. There was something in it what made me feel as if I miss something. And it came to me a bit later, when I was done with my payjob and got a bit more spare resources for the brain to utilize.

First of all, a bell rang when a hash was mentioned as the mediator between a database and API return value. I’m somewhat wary about using hashes as return values primarily for a reason of performance price and concurrency unsafety.

Anyway, the discussion went on and came to the point where it touched the ground of blacklisting of a DB table fields vs. whitelisting. The latter is really worthy approach of marking those fields we want in a JSON (or a hash) rather than marking those we don’t want because blacklisting requires us to remember to mark any new sensitive field as prohibited explicitly. Apparently, it is easy to forget to stick the mark onto it.

Doesn’t it remind you something? Aren’t we talking about hashes now? Isn’t it what we sometimes blame JavaScript for, that its objects are free-form with barely any reliable control over their structure? Thanks TypeScript for trying to get this fixed in some funky way, which I personally like more than dislike.

That’s when things clicked together. I was giving this answer already on a different occasion: using a class instance is often preferable over a hash. In the light of the JSON/API safety this simple rule gets us to another rather interesting aspect. Here is an example SmokeMachine provided on IRC:

to-json %( name => "{ .first-name } { .last-name }", 
           password => "***" )
    given $model

This was about returning basic user account information to a frontend. This is supposed to replace JSONification of a Red model like the following:

model Account {
    has UInt $.id is serial is json-skip;
    has Str $.username is column{ ... };
    has Str $.password is column{ ... } is json-skip;
    has Str $.first-name is column{ ... };
    has Str $.last-name is column{ ... };

The model example is mine.

By the way, in my opinion, neither first name nor last name do not belong to this model and must be part of a separate table where user’s personal data is kept. In more general case, a name must either be a long single field or an array where one can fit something like “Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso”.

The model clearly demonstrates the blacklist approach with two fields marked as non-JSONifiable. Now, let’s make it the right way, as I see it:

class API::Data::User {
    has Str:D $.username is required;
    has Str $.first-name;
    has Str $.last-name;

    method !FROM-MODEL($model) { username   => .username,
                  first-name => .first-name,
                  last-name  => .last-name
            given $model

    multi method new(Account:D $model) {

    method COERCE(Account:D $model) {

And now, somewhere in our code we can do:

method get-user-info(UInt:D $id) {
    to-json API::Data::User(Account.^load: :$id)

With Cro::RPC::JSON module this could be part of a general API class which would provide common interface to both front- and backend:

use Cro::RPC::JSON;
class API::User {
    method get-user-info(UInt:D $id) is json-rpc {
        API::Data::User(Account.^load: :$id)

With such an implementation our Raku backend would get an instance of API::Data::User. In a TypeScript frontend code of a private project of mine I have something like the following snippet, where connection is an object derived from jayson module:"get-user-info", id).then(
    (user: User | undefined | null) => { ... }

What does it all eventually give us? First, API::Data::User provides the mechanism of whilelisting the fields we do want to expose in API. Note that with properly defined attributes we’re as explicit about that as only possible. And we do it declaratively one single place.

Second, the class prevents us from mistyping field names. It wouldn’t be possible to have something like %( usrname => $model.username, ... ) somewhere else in our codebase. Or, perhaps even more likely, to try %user<frst-name> and wonder where did the first name go? We also get the protection against wrong data types or undefined values.

It is also likely that working with a class instance would be faster than with a hash. I have this subject covered in another post of mine.

Heh, at some point I thought this post could fit into IRC format… 🤷

samcv: I am resigning from The Perl Foundation

Published on 2021-08-07T00:00:00

It is with great sadness that I must announce my resignation as chair of the Perl Foundation’s Community Affairs Team (CAT, the team that responds to Code of Conduct reports), effective immediately. Normally this would be a hard decision to make, but I have no choice given TPF’s recent actions. A Charter and a Code of Conduct could and should have been passed many months ago by the Board of Directors. Sadly this has not happened. The TPF Board of Directors has now unilaterally retracted all of the CAT’s transparency reports of 2021 (first, second). This includes the second transparency report that the TPF Board itself approved the contents and penalties of. Retracting the CAT’s transparency reports sends the message the Board of Directors is not willing to support the CAT, and is not prioritizing the safety of the community. I was not involved in the decision by the Board of Directors.

Remaining on the Community Affairs Team would imply I accept or support TPF’s actions. I do not.

The reason given by the Board of Directors, was that the CAT shouldn’t have acted before a Charter was passed. And since the CAT acted without such a Charter, all of its reports need to be retracted. Even the ones previously approved by the same Board of Directors!

I do not find this reasoning very compelling. While it is important to have a Charter passed and power delegated to a body that can enforce a Code of Conduct, the safety of the community should be more important! If the Board of Directors can pass a ban and transparency report, then later retract it (without involvement of the CAT), it also has the power to pass a Charter for the CAT, AND also have the power to retract the same Charter based on pubic pressure. This is what TPF’s retraction demonstrates to everyone, that even if a Charter is passed, TPF may give in to public pressure and walk back their own past statements. I find this unsettling.

I have put in a large amount of work into creating a Charter for the CAT and a Code of Conduct. I have submitted this to the Board of Directors several times, each time refining it after comments from the Board of Directors. Even if imperfect, it is important to have some kind of Charter to work with! Sadly this has not happened. What has happened instead is backtracking and now finally retracting and erasing the CAT’s past reports.

The #tpf-cat Slack channel was intended to be used by people working to improve the state of the Community Affairs Team and a Code of Conduct within the community. Instead of improving the state of the Community Affairs Team, it has instead been consumed with people trying to tear it down. I have not been on that Slack channel for several weeks now due to the bad behavior and personal attacks I have received there over a period of months. Effectively zero moderation, which I find unacceptable.

I will not do any volunteer work for The Perl Foundation again until a Charter and TPF wide Code of Conduct is passed. I would also need to be confident that the TPF communication channels (be it Slack or whatever platform TPF will use) has an enforced Code of Conduct, moderation playbook, and independent moderators. Let me be clear, a Charter, a Code of Conduct and other documents have already been presented to the Board of Directors. It’s up to the Board of Directors to get it past the finish line, in whatever form it decides to do. Or not.

In any case, it is clear that the Board of Directors is not supporting the Community Affairs Team in its current form, so it is time for me to take my leave. Rakudo compiler, Release #148 (2021.07)

Published on 2021-07-24T00:00:00

Jo Christian Oterhals: What not to do — how to mess up for loops in Raku #rakulang

Published by Jo Christian Oterhals on 2021-07-02T12:31:57

What not to do — how to mess up for loops in Raku #rakulang

I guess that for many of you what I’m about to write is fairly obvious. But I hadn’t really thought about for loops this way before. So you more or less witness my spontaneous reaction.

The other day Joelle Maslak tweeted something that made me think. Joelle pointed out that in Raku the code blocks of for loops are just lambdas — anonymous functions.

 — @jmaslak

After seeing it I have to agree. Not only can I not unsee it, I find that it’s a thing of beauty.

But what it did too was to make me think about what else is possible with for loops. One idea could be to clean up for loops in general. But what’d be more fun was to see if I could create examples that are possible but not things of beauty, i.e. introduce some complexity and worst practises that no one should ever copy.

My first instinct was to check whether the lambdas could be replaced by non-anonymous functions. And they can, provided you flip the order of the for statement and the function:

Now, this isn’t unique in any way. I include the example here just to prove a point: Anonymous blocks can be replaced with named subs. Many programming languages can do this, and you have probably done this lots of times (most of what I show here can be done in, say, JavaScript; but since it was Raku that made me think of this stuff, the examples will be in Raku).

Personally, though, I’ve never thought about replacing for code blocks with subs. Mostly I’ve had a sub first and then called it from a for loop later. As I think about it, it makes sense to think about the sub and the loop simultaneously: Branching out the code loop into a sub can be a good way to shorten and clean up a piece of code. Especially when what happens in the block is a fairly long and maybe convoluted piece of code. It keeps the main code shorter and perhaps, hopefully, more readable.

This way of doing it can also be used with gather/take and similar constructs. I had to use parentheses to make it work:

OK, that was the easy — and perhaps obvious — ones. Now for the uglier stuff.

Since everything in Raku is an object, even sub routines, you can reference subs in lists and arrays. In the example below I’ve got two subs, A and B, and reference them in the array @subs. What this enables us to do, is to loop through the array and invoke the subs from there.

I include this example just as an exercise. Line 15 is basically a way to conditionally pick which sub to call. There may be some practical applications of this, although practicality is beside the point in this article.

In any case — what’s possible with named subs is also possible with anonymous functions.

But it can get even worse than this. Have a look at the following example:

What we do here is creating code conditionally and dynamically (and, honestly, you should never do that). And, again, I haven’t considered whether this has a practical application or not.

So is there a conclusion here? Not in the ordinary sense. But what it does, I guess, is to show that even if something is possible, it’s not necessarily something you should do. It’s the age old recommendation: Do as I say, not as I do.

vrurg: My Work Environment

Published by Vadim Belman on 2021-06-24T00:00:00

Just have noticed that normally I have 4 editors/IDEs running at the same time:

Only Vim I could quit on occasion.

What is your state of affairs?

vrurg: An Error In The Roles Article

Published by Vadim Belman on 2021-06-22T00:00:00

The recently published article contained a factual error, as was pointed out by Elizabeth Mattijsen. I stated that named arguments do not work in role parameterization but it is not true. Yet, what I was certain about is that there is clearly something wrong about them. It took a bit of my time and wandering around Rakudo sources to recover my memories. The actual problem about named parameters is less evident and I dedicated a section of the article to explain what is actually going on.

In this post I will share more detailed explanation of what’s going on for those interested in it. If anybody wish to follow me by watching the code open the src/Perl6/Metamodel/ParametricRoleGroupHOW.nqp file in Rakudo sources. There we start with method parameterize. Remember in the meanwhile, that the code is NQP meaning it looks like Raku but it lacks many features of it.

At the end of the method we find nqp::parameterizetype op. It is described in nqp ops docs. What we must pay attention to is the second parameter of the op which is named as parameter_array. This means one simple thing: the op is only able to recognize positional parameters.

In the documentation we also find out that for a given set of parameters the op will return the same type parameterization. Apparently, this is how we make sure that R[Int, "ok"] will remain the same role currying everywhere.

But what happens when named parameters are involved? To make it possible to dispatch over them ParametricRoleGroupHOW does a trick: it takes the slurpy hash of nameds and uses it as a single positional argument which is appended to the end of @args array of positionals. To be consistent, if there are no nameds are passed in, NO_NAMEDS constant is pushed instead. It is long in text, but short in the code:

nqp::push(@args, %named_args || NO_NAMEDS);

Let’s say, we parameterize over R[Int, Str]. The @args array will be something like:

[Int, Str, NO_NAMEDS]

No matter how many times we meet R[Int, Str] in Raku code, the @args array will remain consistent allowing nqp::parameterize to produce a consistent result.

But as soon as R[Int, Str, :$foo] is used the array will look like:

[Int, Str, %named_args]

where %named_args is a slurpy parameter of the parameterize method:

method parameterize($obj, *@args, *%named_args) {

Each time the method is invoked it will be a different hash object, even if the same named arguments are used! This will effectively make it look like a different set of arguments for the parameterization code. Evidently, a different parametrization will be produced too.

It is theoretically possible for the metamodel code to analyze the hash of nameds, and keep track of them, and re-use a hash if same set of arguments was previously used… But as I mentioned this in the article, the new dispatching should be able to handle things in a better and more performant way. Rakudo compiler, Release #147 (2021.06)

Published on 2021-06-19T00:00:00

vrurg: Did you know that …

Published by Vadim Belman on 2021-06-17T00:00:00

Raku is full of surprises. Sometimes I read something what that me like “oh, really?”. Sometimes I realize than a fact evident for me is not so obvious for others.

Here is one of the kind.

Do you know that labels in Raku are objects? Take this:

FOO: for ^1 { .say }

FOO: is not a syntax construct to place an anchor in code but a way to create a Label instance:

FOO: dd FOO;
BAR: say BAR;

Due to its special and even specific nature class Label doesn’t provide much of an API. And what is available are methods to interact with loops. These are:

Feels somewhat familiar, isn’t?

FOO: for ^10 {

In a way we can say that last FOO is an indirect method invocation, even though it’s not really true as long as the core defines a multi-dispatch routine last, alongside with redo and next subs. But the corresponding routine candidates for labels actually do nothing but call Label’s methods.

Once again, objects are just about everywhere in Raku.

p6steve: Can Raku replace HTML?

Published by p6steve on 2021-06-09T22:03:47

In my last post, I listed three recent posts that got me thinking about Raku and HTML. I wondered if two of these could be used together to streamline the composition of web sites.

Act #1 – LPQ

Is drawn from a great idea of gfldex – Low Profile Quoting. Here’s my interpretation:

method init-qform() {
    my $css = q:to/END/;
    #demoFont {
    font-size: 16px;
    color: #ff0000;
    my $size = <40>;
    my $pattern = <[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+>;
    my $html = §<html>(§<head>(§<title>()),
        §<style>(:type<text/css>, $css),
            §<form>(:action<.action>, :method<post>,
                §<p>('Your Name (required)'),
                §<input>(:type<text>, :required, :name<cf-name>, 
                                      :value<.cf-name>, :$size, :$pattern,),

                §<p>('Your Email (required)'),    #email type validates input
                §<input>(:type<email>, :required, :name<cf-email>, 
                                       :value<.cf-email>, :$size,),
                §<p>('Your Subject (required)'),
                §<input>(:type<text>, :required, :name<cf-subject>, 
                                      :value<.cf-subject>, :$size, :$pattern,),

                §<p>(:id<demoFont>, 'Your Message (required)'),
                §<p>(§<textarea>(:rows<10>, :cols<35>, :required, 
                                      :name<cf-message>, '<.cf-message>', ),),

                §<input>(:type<submit>, :name<cf-submitted>, :value<Send>,),
    spurt "templates/qform.crotmp", pretty-print-html($html);

In the words of the originator “While casting my Raku spells I once again had felt the urge for a simply but convenient way to inline fragments of html in code. The language leans itself to the task with colon pairs and slurpy arrays.

The full code is available at for your perusal. Here we have configured Raku with a §<html> shortcut that replaces the usual HTML <open attr=”value”>payload</close> tags. (The syntax magic is that ‘§’ is defined as a Class with Associative accessor.)

So what can this do for me?

Act #2 – Cro

BUT – how can Act #1 co-exist with the Cro::WebApp::Template concepts? Sharp eyed readers may have noticed that the HTML above has a couple of examples of that already:

I thoroughly recommend the curious reader to review the Raku Cro services documentation

So the above init-qform method generates this .crotmp code:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<style type="text/css">#demoFont {
font-size: 16px;
color: #ff0000;
<form action="<.action>" method="post">
<p>Your Name (required)</p>
<input type="text" size="40" required pattern="[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+" value="<.cf-name>" name="cf-name" />
<p>Your Email (required)</p>
<input size="40" required value="<.cf-email>" type="email" name="cf-email" />
<p>Your Subject (required)</p>
<input value="<.cf-subject>" required name="cf-subject" type="text" pattern="[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+" size="40" />
<p id="demoFont">Your Message (required)</p>
<textarea name="cf-message" rows="10" required cols="35">
<input name="cf-submitted" type="submit" value="Send" />

Then we can set up a context:

class Context {
    has $.action = 'mailto:[email protected]';
    has $.cf-name = 'p6steve';
    has $.cf-email = '[email protected]';
    has $.cf-subject = 'Raku does HTML';
    has $.cf-message = 'Describe some of your feelings about this...';

And apply the context to process the template in a Cro::Routes files;

use Cro::HTTP::Router;
use Cro::WebApp::Template;
use Cro::TemplateTest::Workshop;

my Workshop $ws =;

sub routes() is export {
    route {
        get -> 'qform' {
            my $context = $ws.context;
            template 'templates/qform.crotmp', $context;

Best of Both

This post illustrates how Raku can combine detailed syntax control to smoothly embed HTML within code logic. This helps to refactor awkward syntax islands so that the underlying problem-solution logic can be encapsulated and clearly expressed, It demonstrated the practical combination of the Cro template language with innate Raku power-of-expression to drive more comprehensible, consistent and maintainable code.

Comments and feedback very welcome…


p6steve: Doing Some Funky HTML Sh*t with Raku

Published by p6steve on 2021-06-04T11:45:38

Came across some pretty funky PHP/HTML the other day. No, I did not write it! (btw using echo is considered bad practice)

function html_form_code() {
    echo '<form action="' . esc_url( $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] ) . '" method="post">';
    echo '<p>';
    echo 'Your Name (required) <br />';
    echo '<input type="text" name="cf-name" pattern="[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+" 
                    value="' . ( isset( $_POST["cf-name"] ) ? esc_attr( $_POST["cf-name"] ) : '' ) . '" size="40" />';
    echo '</p>';
    echo '<p>';
    echo 'Your Email (required) <br />';
    echo '<input type="email" name="cf-email" value="' . ( isset( $_POST["cf-email"] ) ? esc_attr( $_POST["cf-email"] ) : '' ) . '" size="40" />';
    echo '</p>';
    echo '<p>';
    echo 'Subject (required) <br />';
    echo '<input type="text" name="cf-subject" pattern="[a-zA-Z ]+" 
                     value="' . ( isset( $_POST["cf-subject"] ) ? esc_attr( $_POST["cf-subject"] ) : '' ) . '" size="40" />';
    echo '</p>';
    echo '<p>';
    echo 'Your Message (required) <br />';
    echo '<textarea rows="10" cols="35" name="cf-message">' . ( isset( $_POST["cf-message"] ) ? esc_attr( $_POST["cf-message"] ) : '' ) . '</textarea>';
    echo '</p>';
    echo '<p><input type="submit" name="cf-submitted" value="Send"/></p>';
    echo '</form>';

By coincidence, three HTML-ish Raku ideas have recently popped into my inbox courtesy of the Raku Weekly rag:

So this all got me wondering what my funky PHP/HTML sample would look like in a fully fledged Cro / Raku style… in the spirit of keeping this post briefish, I will skip the Cro Templates and CSS parsing for now and hope to cover them in subsequent missives…

First, here is gfldex’s code copied to my source file:

constant term:<␣> = ' ';
constant term:<¶> = $?NL;

constant term:<§> = class :: does Associative {
    sub qh($s) {
        $s.trans([ '<'   , '>'   , '&' ] =>
                 [ '&lt;', '&gt;', '&amp;' ])

    role NON-QUOTE {}

    method AT-KEY($key) {
        when $key ~~ /^ '&' / { 
            $key does NON-QUOTE
        when $key ~~ /\w+/ {
            sub (*@a, *%_) {
                ##dd @a; 
                ('<' ~ $key ~ (+%_ ?? ␣ !! '') 
                ~{ .key ~ '="' ~ .value ~ '"'  }).join(' ') ~ '>' 
                ~{ $^e ~~ NON-QUOTE ?? $^e !! $^e.&qh }).join('')
                ~ '</' ~ $key ~ '>') does NON-QUOTE

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I have made one change … replacing the constant ‘html’ with term: < § > … this is called the section symbol and lurks towards the top left of your keyboard. I find this greatly improves the readability of my embedded html.

So, here’s how my PHP example looks in modern Raku stylee:

my $action = 'mailto:[email protected]';
my $cf-name = 'p6steve';
my $cf-email = '[email protected]';
my $cf-subject = 'Raku does HTML';
my $cf-message = 'Describe your feelings about this...';

my $size = <40>;
my $pattern = <[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+>;

put '<!DOCTYPE html>';
§<html>( ¶,  
    §<body>( ¶,
        §<form>(:$action, :method<post>, ¶,       
            §<p>('Your Name (required)'), ¶,
            §<input>(:type<text>, :required, :name<cf-name>, 
                                  :value($cf-name), :$size, :$pattern,), ¶,

            §<p>('Your Email (required)'), ¶,     #email type validates input
            §<input>(:type<email>, :required, :name<cf-email>, 
                                   :value($cf-email), :$size), ¶,  

            §<p>('Your Subject (required)'), ¶,
            §<input>(:type<text>, :required, :name<cf-subject>, 
                                  :value($cf-subject), :$size, :$pattern,), ¶,

            §<p>('Your Message (required)'), ¶,
            §<p>(§<textarea>(:rows<10>, :cols<35>, :required, 
                             :name<cf-message>, $cf-message, ),), ¶,

            §<input>(:type<submit>, :name<cf-submitted>, :value<Send>,), ¶,

Thoughtfully glfdex includes a para character ¶ term, to make line breaks in the output html source to keep it human friendly. And here is the html output:

<DOCTYPE html>
<form action="mailto:[email protected]" method="post">
<p>Your Name (required)</p>
<input pattern="[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+" type="text" name="cf-name" size="40" required="True" value="p6steve"></input>
<p>Your Email (required)</p>
<input size="40" value="[email protected]" type="email" required="True" name="cf-email"></input>
<p>Your Subject (required)</p>
<input name="cf-subject" pattern="[a-zA-Z0-9 ]+" type="text" size="40" value="Raku does HTML" required="True"></input>
<p>Your Message (required)</p>
<p><textarea required="True" cols="35" rows="10" name="cf-message">Describe your feelings about this...</textarea></p>
<input name="cf-submitted" value="Send" type="submit"></input>

Personally I love to write (and read) html when done in this kind of programmatic style. Not least it has cut 19 lines of embedded code to 10 lines (and that means I can squish more code into my screen and into my brain). No longer do I have to dance my right pinkie around the < / > keys or worry about leaving out the closing end tags!! Another neat helper is the Raku pair syntax, so if I define a scalar with the same name as the attribute name, I can avoid repetitive typing and the consequent opportunity to make a mistake… e.g. the :$action attribute in the form tag.

Hopefully in the next instalment, I will be able to combine the power of Cro::Web::Template to apply the substitution and escape pieces…

Please do leave any thoughts and comments below.

Jo Christian Oterhals: Tim Cook and the slow-burning revolution

Published by Jo Christian Oterhals on 2021-05-14T11:28:48

It’s almost 10 years since Tim Cook took the reins at Apple. A lot has happened since. But many still talk about him as if he’s just taken over, often lamenting that Apple is not as innovative now as it was under Steve Jobs.

Tim Apple as Donald Trump once called him. Photo from

I for one don’t understand why people would think that. It is an undeserved underestimation of him.

Yes, Cook is substantially more grey and dull than Jobs. But something good must have happened in his period as CEO — arguably even something better than under Jobs. Because at the time Cook took over Apple’s market cap was $354 billion. At the time of writing — May 14, 2021 — Apple’s worth $2048 billion. Tim’s Apple is in other words almost 6x as valuable as Steve’s Apple. You don’t get that kind of growth and valuation by only being a pencil pusher.

So why does he get so little credit? There have arguably been a couple of revolutions under him too, but they are not as easy to spot as before. It all comes down to style. Let’s start with a couple of examples.

New consumer products

The Apple Watch and the AirPods are Cook products. They may not have defined a new segment (Apple products seldom do), and they may not have impressed initially (more on that later), but they’ve grown to dominate the wearables segment with a 51 % market share. In 2019 Apple claimed that their wearable product segment alone was the size of a Fortune 200 company.

The difference from the Jobs days, however, is that new product launches now use a few years to find their roles. Jobs was a master at defining what something was from the get go, whereas Cook’s Apple uses time and patience to let the new products find their place in the world.

Take the Apple Watch as an example. Starting as a run-of-the-mill smart watch — although a beautiful one — the Apple Watch has iterated into a health focused power house. It is on the brink of revolutionising how we monitor and predict health issues in a way we’ve never been able to before. There were smartwatches before Apple, but the Apple product put the rest of the industry in a catch-up mode.

The AirPods have a similar story. Starting as run-of-the-mill earbuds they’ve grown into feature rich gizmos with spatial sound, Siri integration, and lots of other stuff. As was the case with Apple Watch, they once again put other dominant firms (Sony springs to mind) in catch-up mode.

The invisible underpinnings

Lastly their ARM based chip designs are what made these other gadgets possible. No AirPods without the S1 system-on-a-chip. No Apple Watch without the U1. Initially they built the iPhones on third-party chip sets. But they (and the iPad) wouldn’t have grown into what they are now without the A series chips. The high-end iPads and the Macs have just gotten the proprietary M1 chipset. One can just speculate as to what these products can become when things settle down a bit.

I don’t own either of these gadgets and is a casual iPhone user at best. So I can’t be accused of being a fan boy. But even so I find it hard to underestimate the Cook era Apple. As you see I think Apple is just as revolutionary now as it was under Jobs. Their products are, eventually, just as groundbreaking. It’s just that Cook plays the long game and sees the revolution play out over time.

The two couldn’t be more different. But you’d be hard pressed to find flaws in their respective results.

This article started as a comment to Erik Engheim’s article Apple is Turning Into the Next Microsoft.

6guts: Raku multiple dispatch with the new MoarVM dispatcher

Published by jnthnwrthngtn on 2021-04-15T09:54:30

I recently wrote about the new MoarVM dispatch mechanism, and in that post noted that I still had a good bit of Raku’s multiple dispatch semantics left to implement in terms of it. Since then, I’ve made a decent amount of progress in that direction. This post contains an overview of the approach taken, and some very rough performance measurements.

My goodness, that’s a lot of semantics

Of all the kinds of dispatch we find in Raku, multiple dispatch is the most complex. Multiple dispatch allows us to write a set of candidates, which are then selected by the number of arguments:

multi ok($condition, $desc) {
    say ($condition ?? 'ok' !! 'not ok') ~ " - $desc";
multi ok($condition) {
    ok($condition, '');

Or the types of arguments:

multi to-json(Int $i) { ~$i }
multi to-json(Bool $b) { $b ?? 'true' !! 'false' }

And not just one argument, but potentially many:

multi truncate(Str $str, Int $chars) {
    $str.chars < $chars ?? $str !! $str.substr(0, $chars) ~ '...'
multi truncate(Str $str, Str $after) {
    with $str.index($after) -> $pos {
        $str.substr(0, $pos) ~ '...'
    else {

We may write where clauses to differentiate candidates on properties that are not captured by nominal types:

multi fac($n where $n <= 1) { 1 }
multi fac($n) { $n * fac($n - 1) }

Every time we write a set of multi candidates like this, the compiler will automatically produce a proto routine. This is what is installed in the symbol table, and holds the candidate list. However, we can also write our own proto, and use the special term {*} to decide at which point we do the dispatch, if at all.

proto mean($collection) {
    $collection.elems == 0 ?? Nil !! {*}
multi mean(@arr) {
    @arr.sum / @arr.elems
multi mean(%hash) {
    %hash.values.sum / %hash.elems

Candidates are ranked by narrowness (using topological sorting). If multiple candidates match, but they are equally narrow, then that’s an ambiguity error. Otherwise, we call narrowest one. The candidate we choose may then use callsame and friends to defer to the next narrowest candidate, which may do the same, until we reach the most general matching one.

Multiple dispatch is everywhere

Raku leans heavily on multiple dispatch. Most operators in Raku are compiled into calls to multiple dispatch subroutines. Even $a + $b will be a multiple dispatch. This means doing multiple dispatch efficiently is really important for performance. Given the riches of its semantics, this is potentially a bit concerning. However, there’s good news too.

Most multiple dispatches are boring

The overwhelmingly common case is that we have:

This isn’t to say the other cases are unimportant; they are really quite useful, and it’s desirable for them to perform well. However, it’s also desirable to make what savings we can in the common case. For example, we don’t want to eagerly calculate the full set of possible candidates for every single multiple dispatch, because the majority of the time only the first one matters. This is not just a time concern: recall that the new dispatch mechanism stores dispatch programs at each callsite, and if we store the list of all matching candidates at each of those, we’ll waste a lot of memory too.

How do we do today?

The situation in Rakudo today is as follows:

Effectively, the situation today is that you simply don’t use where clauses in a multiple dispatch if its anywhere near a hot path (well, and if you know where the hot paths are, and know that this kind of dispatch is slow). Ditto for callsame, although that’s less commonly reached for. The question is, can we do better with the new dispatcher?

Guard the types

Let’s start out with seeing how the simplest cases are dealt with, and build from there. (This is actually what I did in terms of the implementation, but at the same time I had a rough idea where I was hoping to end up.)

Recall this pair of candidates:

multi truncate(Str $str, Int $chars) {
    $str.chars < $chars ?? $str !! $str.substr(0, $chars) ~ '...'
multi truncate(Str $str, Str $after) {
    with $str.index($after) -> $pos {
        $str.substr(0, $pos) ~ '...'
    else {

We then have a call truncate($message, "\n"), where $message is a Str. Under the new dispatch mechanism, the call is made using the raku-call dispatcher, which identifies that this is a multiple dispatch, and thus delegates to raku-multi. (Multi-method dispatch ends up there too.)

The record phase of the dispatch – on the first time we reach this callsite – will proceed as follows:

  1. Iterate over the candidates
  2. If a candidate doesn’t match on argument count, just discard it. Since the shape of a callsite is a constant, and we calculate dispatch programs at each callsite, we don’t need to establish any guards for this.
  3. If it matches on types and concreteness, note which parameters are involved and what kinds of guards they need.
  4. If there was no match or an ambiguity, report the error without producing a dispatch program.
  5. Otherwise, having established the type guards, delegate to the raku-invoke dispatcher with the chosen candidate.

When we reach the same callsite again, we can run the dispatch program, which quickly checks if the argument types match those we saw last time, and if they do, we know which candidate to invoke. These checks are very cheap – far cheaper than walking through all of the candidates and examining each of them for a match. The optimizer may later be able to prove that the checks will always come out true and eliminate them.

Thus the whole of the dispatch processes – at least for this simple case where we only have types and arity – can be “explained” to the virtual machine as “if the arguments have these exact types, invoke this routine”. It’s pretty much the same as we were doing for method dispatch, except there we only cared about the type of the first argument – the invocant – and the value of the method name. (Also recall from the previous post that if it’s a multi-method dispatch, then both method dispatch and multiple dispatch will guard the type of the first argument, but the duplication is eliminated, so only one check is done.)

That goes in the resumption hole

Coming up with good abstractions is difficult, and therein lies much of the challenge of the new dispatch mechanism. Raku has quite a number of different dispatch-like things. However, encoding all of them directly in the virtual machine leads to high complexity, which makes building reliable optimizations (or even reliable unoptimized implementations!) challenging. Thus the aim is to work out a comparatively small set of primitives that allow for dispatches to be “explained” to the virtual machine in such a way that it can deliver decent performance.

It’s fairly clear that callsame is a kind of dispatch resumption, but what about the custom proto case and the where clause case? It turns out that these can both be neatly expressed in terms of dispatch resumption too (the where clause case needing one small addition at the virtual machine level, which in time is likely to be useful for other things too). Not only that, but encoding these features in terms of dispatch resumption is also quite direct, and thus should be efficient. Every trick we teach the specializer about doing better with dispatch resumptions can benefit all of the language features that are implemented using them, too.

Custom protos

Recall this example:

proto mean($collection) {
    $collection.elems == 0 ?? Nil !! {*}

Here, we want to run the body of the proto, and then proceed to the chosen candidate at the point of the {*}. By contrast, when we don’t have a custom proto, we’d like to simply get on with calling the correct multi.

To achieve this, I first moved the multi candidate selection logic from the raku-multi dispatcher to the raku-multi-core dispatcher. The raku-multi dispatcher then checks if we have an “onlystar” proto (one that does not need us to run it). If so, it delegates immediately to raku-multi-core. If not, it saves the arguments to the dispatch as the resumption initialization state, and then calls the proto. The proto‘s {*} is compiled into a dispatch resumption. The resumption then delegates to raku-multi-core. Or, in code:

nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'raku-multi',
    # Initial dispatch, only setting up resumption if we need to invoke the
    # proto.
    -> $capture {
        my $callee := nqp::captureposarg($capture, 0);
        my int $onlystar := nqp::getattr_i($callee, Routine, '$!onlystar');
        if $onlystar {
            # Don't need to invoke the proto itself, so just get on with the
            # candidate dispatch.
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-multi-core', $capture);
        else {
            # Set resume init args and run the proto.
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-set-resume-init-args', $capture);
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-invoke', $capture);
    # Resumption means that we have reached the {*} in the proto and so now
    # should go ahead and do the dispatch. Make sure we only do this if we
    # are signalled to that it's a resume for an onlystar (resumption kind 5).
    -> $capture {
        my $track_kind := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $capture, 0);
        nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal', $track_kind);
        my int $kind := nqp::captureposarg_i($capture, 0);
        if $kind == 5 {
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-multi-core',
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-get-resume-init-args'));
        elsif !nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-next-resumption') {
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'boot-constant',
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj',
                    $capture, 0, Nil));

Two become one

Deferring to the next candidate (for example with callsame) and trying the next candidate because a where clause failed look very similar: both involve walking through a list of possible candidates. There’s some details, but they have a great deal in common, and it’d be nice if that could be reflected in how multiple dispatch is implemented using the new dispatcher.

Before that, a slightly terrible detail about how things work in Rakudo today when we have where clauses. First, the dispatcher does a “trial bind”, where it asks the question: would this signature bind? To do this, it has to evaluate all of the where clauses. Worse, it has to use the slow-path signature binder too, which interprets the signature, even though we can in many cases compile it. If the candidate matches, great, we select it, and then invoke it…which runs the where clauses a second time, as part of the compiled signature binding code. There is nothing efficient about this at all, except for it being by far more efficient on developer time, which is why it happened that way.

Anyway, it goes without saying that I’m rather keen to avoid this duplicate work and the slow-path binder where possible as I re-implement this using the new dispatcher. And, happily, a small addition provides a solution. There is an op assertparamcheck, which any kind of parameter checking compiles into (be it type checking, where clause checking, etc.) This triggers a call to a function that gets the arguments, the thing we were trying to call, and can then pick through them to produce an error message. The trick is to provide a way to invoke a routine such that a bind failure, instead of calling the error reporting function, will leave the routine and then do a dispatch resumption! This means we can turn failure to pass where clause checks into a dispatch resumption, which will then walk to the next candidate and try it instead.

Trivial vs. non-trivial

This gets us most of the way to a solution, but there’s still the question of being memory and time efficient in the common case, where there is no resumption and no where clauses. I coined the term “trivial multiple dispatch” for this situation, which makes the other situation “non-trivial”. In fact, I even made a dispatcher called raku-multi-non-trivial! There are two ways we can end up there.

  1. The initial attempt to find a matching candidate determines that we’ll have to consider where clauses. As soon as we see this is the case, we go ahead and produce a full list of possible candidates that could match. This is a linked list (see my previous post for why).
  2. The initial attempt to find a matching candidate finds one that can be picked based purely on argument count and nominal types. We stop there, instead of trying to build a full candidate list, and run the matching candidate. In the event that a callsame happens, we end up in the trivial dispatch resumption handler, which – since this situation is now non-trivial – builds the full candidate list, snips the first item off it (because we already ran that), and delegates to raku-multi-non-trivial.

Lost in this description is another significant improvement: today, when there are where clauses, we entirely lose the ability to use the MoarVM multiple dispatch cache, but under the new dispatcher, we store a type-filtered list of candidates at the callsite, and then cheap type guards are used to check it is valid to use.

Preliminary results

I did a few benchmarks to see how the new dispatch mechanism did with a couple of situations known to be sub-optimal in Rakudo today. These numbers do not reflect what is possible, because at the moment the specializer does not have much of an understanding of the new dispatcher. Rather, they reflect the minimal improvement we can expect.

Consider this benchmark using a multi with a where clause to recursively implement factorial.

multi fac($n where $n <= 1) { 1 }
multi fac($n) { $n * fac($n - 1) }
for ^100_000 {
say now - INIT now;

This needs some tweaks (and to be run under an environment variable) to use the new dispatcher; these are temporary, until such a time I switch Rakudo over to using the new dispatcher by default:

use nqp;
multi fac($n where $n <= 1) { 1 }
multi fac($n) { $n * nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &fac, $n - 1) }
for ^100_000 {
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &fac, 10);
say now - INIT now;

On my machine, the first runs in 4.86s, the second in 1.34s. Thus under the new dispatcher this runs in little over a quarter of the time it used to – a quite significant improvement already.

A case involving callsame is also interesting to consider. Here it is without using the new dispatcher:

multi fallback(Any $x) { "a$x" }
multi fallback(Numeric $x) { "n" ~ callsame }
multi fallback(Real $x) { "r" ~ callsame }
multi fallback(Int $x) { "i" ~ callsame }
for ^1_000_000 {
say now - INIT now;

And with the temporary tweaks to use the new dispatcher:

use nqp;
multi fallback(Any $x) { "a$x" }
multi fallback(Numeric $x) { "n" ~ new-disp-callsame }
multi fallback(Real $x) { "r" ~ new-disp-callsame }
multi fallback(Int $x) { "i" ~ new-disp-callsame }
for ^1_000_000 {
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &fallback, 4+2i);
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &fallback, 4.2);
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &fallback, 42);
say now - INIT now;

On my machine, the first runs in 31.3s, the second in 11.5s, meaning that with the new dispatcher we manage it in a little over a third of the time that current Rakudo does.

These are both quite encouraging, but as previously mentioned, a majority of multiple dispatches are of the trivial kind, not using these features. If I make the most common case worse on the way to making other things better, that would be bad. It’s not yet possible to make a fair comparison of this: trivial multiple dispatches already receive a lot of attention in the specializer, and it doesn’t yet optimize code using the new dispatcher well. Of note, in an example like this:

multi m(Int) { }
multi m(Str) { }
for ^1_000_000 {
say now - INIT now;

Inlining and other optimizations will turn this into an empty loop, which is hard to beat. There is one thing we can already do, though: run it with the specializer disabled. The new dispatcher version looks like this:

use nqp;
multi m(Int) { }
multi m(Str) { }
for ^1_000_000 {
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &m, 1);
    nqp::dispatch('raku-call', &m, "x");
say now - INIT now;

The results are 0.463s and 0.332s respectively. Thus, the baseline execution time – before the specializer does its magic – is less using the new general dispatch mechanism than it is using the special-case multiple dispatch cache that we currently use. I wasn’t sure what to expect here before I did the measurement. Given we’re going from a specialized mechanism that has been profiled and tweaked to a new general mechanism that hasn’t received such attention, I was quite ready to be doing a little bit worse initially, and would have been happy with parity. Running in 70% of the time was a bigger improvement than I expected at this point.

I expect that once the specializer understands the new dispatch mechanism better, it will be able to also turn the above into an empty loop – however, since more iterations can be done per-optimization, this should still show up as a win for the new dispatcher.

Final thoughts

With one relatively small addition, the new dispatch mechanism is already handling most of the Raku multiple dispatch semantics. Furthermore, even without the specializer and JIT really being able to make a good job of it, some microbenchmarks already show a factor of 3x-4x improvement. That’s a pretty good starting point.

There’s still a good bit to do before we ship a Rakudo release using the new dispatcher. However, multiple dispatch was the biggest remaining threat to the design: it’s rather more involved than other kinds of dispatch, and it was quite possible that an unexpected shortcoming could trigger another round of design work, or reveal that the general mechanism was going to struggle to perform compared to the more specialized one in the baseline unoptimized, case. So far, there’s no indication of either of these, and I’m cautiously optimistic that the overall design is about right.

p6steve: raku:34 python:19 extreme math

Published by p6steve on 2021-04-02T17:56:04

Coming off the excellent raku weekly news, my curiosity was piqued by a tweet about big-endian smells that referenced a blog about “extreme math”. After getting my fill of COBOL mainframe nostalgia, the example of Muller’s Recurrence got me thinking.

The simple claim made in the tweet thread was:

Near the end it [the blog] states that no modern language has fixed point, but Raku (formerly Perl6) has a built in rational type which is quite an interesting comparison. It keeps two integers for the numerator and the denominator and no loss of precision occurs.

I have also covered some of the benefits of the raku approach to math in a previous blog Machine Math and Raku, often the example given is 0.1 + 0.2 =>0.3 which trips up a lot of languages. I like this example, but I am not entirely convinced by it – sure it can be odd when a programming newbie sees a slightly different result caused by floating point conversions – but it is too mickey mouse to be a serious concern.

The Muller Extreme Challenge

This challenge starts with seemingly innocuous equations and quickly descends into very substantial errors. To quote from the Technical Archaelogist blog:

Jean-Michel Muller is a French computer scientist with perhaps the best computer science job in the world. He finds ways to break computers using math. I’m sure he would say he studies reliability and accuracy problems, but no no no: He designs math problems that break computers. One such problem is his recurrence formula. Which looks something like this:

That doesn’t look so scary does it? The recurrence problem is useful for our purposes because:

And here’s a quick python script that produces floating point and fixed point versions of Muller’s Recurrence side by side:

from decimal import Decimal

def rec(y, z):
 return 108 - ((815-1500/z)/y)
def floatpt(N):
 x = [4, 4.25]
 for i in range(2, N+1):
  x.append(rec(x[i-1], x[i-2]))
 return x
def fixedpt(N):
 x = [Decimal(4), Decimal(17)/Decimal(4)]
 for i in range(2, N+1):
  x.append(rec(x[i-1], x[i-2]))
 return x

N = 30
flt = floatpt(N)
fxd = fixedpt(N)

for i in range(N):
 print( str(i) + ' | '+str(flt[i])+' | '+str(fxd[I]) )

Which gives us the following output:

i  | floating pt    | fixed pt
-- | -------------- | ---------------------------
0  | 4              | 4
1  | 4.25           | 4.25
2  | 4.47058823529  | 4.4705882352941176470588235
3  | 4.64473684211  | 4.6447368421052631578947362
4  | 4.77053824363  | 4.7705382436260623229461618
5  | 4.85570071257  | 4.8557007125890736342039857
6  | 4.91084749866  | 4.9108474990827932004342938
7  | 4.94553739553  | 4.9455374041239167246519529
8  | 4.96696240804  | 4.9669625817627005962571288
9  | 4.98004220429  | 4.9800457013556311118526582
10 | 4.9879092328   | 4.9879794484783912679439415
11 | 4.99136264131  | 4.9927702880620482067468253
12 | 4.96745509555  | 4.9956558915062356478184985
13 | 4.42969049831  | 4.9973912683733697540253088
14 | -7.81723657846 | 4.9984339437852482376781601
15 | 168.939167671  | 4.9990600687785413938424188
16 | 102.039963152  | 4.9994358732880376990501184
17 | 100.099947516  | 4.9996602467866575821700634
18 | 100.004992041  | 4.9997713526716167817979714
19 | 100.000249579  | 4.9993671517118171375788238
20 | 100.00001247862016 | 4.9897059157620938291040004
21 | 100.00000062392161 | 4.7951151851630947311130380
22 | 100.0000000311958  | 0.7281074924258006736651754
23 | 100.00000000155978 | -581.7081261405031229400219627
24 | 100.00000000007799 | 105.8595186892360167901632650
25 | 100.0000000000039  | 100.2767586430669099906187869
26 | 100.0000000000002  | 100.0137997241561168045699158
27 | 100.00000000000001 | 100.0006898905241097140861868
28 | 100.0 | 100.0000344942738135445216746
29 | 100.0 | 100.0000017247126631766583580
30 | 100.0 | 100.0000000862356186943169827

Up until about the 12th iteration the rounding error seems more or less negligible but things quickly go off the rails. Floating point math converges around a number twenty times the value of what the same calculation with fixed point math produces.

Least you think it is unlikely that anyone would do a recursive calculation so many times over. This is exactly what happened in 1991 when the Patriot Missile control system miscalculated the time and killed 28 people. And it turns out floating point math has blown lots of stuff up completely by accident. Mark Stadtherr gave an incredible talk about this called High Performance Computing: are we just getting wrong answers faster? You should read it if you want more examples and a more detailed history of the issue than I can offer here.


So, basically, python Float dies at iteration #12 and python Fixed/Decimal dies at iteration #19. According to the source text COBOL dies at iteration #18. Then the argument focuses on the need for the Decimal library.

How does raku Measure Up?

I do not buy the no loss of precision occurs claim made on twitter beyond the simpler examples, but I do think that Rats should fare well in the face of this kind of challenge. Here’s my code with raku default math:

my \N = 30;
my \x = []; 
x[0] = 4; 
x[1] = 4.25;

sub f(\y,\z) { 
    108 - ( (815 - 1500/z ) / y ) }

for 2..N -> \i { 
    x[i] = f(x[i-1],x[i-2])   }

for 0..N -> \i {
    say( i ~ ' | ' ~ x[i] )   }

Quick impression is that raku is a little more faithful to the mathematical description and a little less cramped than the python.

The raku output gives:

0 | 4
1 | 4.25
2 | 4.470588
3 | 4.644737
4 | 4.770538
5 | 4.855701
6 | 4.910847
7 | 4.945537
8 | 4.9669626
9 | 4.9800457
10 | 4.98797945
11 | 4.992770288
12 | 4.9956558915
13 | 4.9973912684
14 | 4.99843394394
15 | 4.999060071971
16 | 4.999435937147
17 | 4.9996615241038
18 | 4.99979690071342
19 | 4.99987813547793
20 | 4.9999268795046
21 | 4.9999561270611577
22 | 4.99997367600571244
23 | 4.99998420552027271
24 | 4.999990523282227659
25 | 4.9999943139585595936
26 | 4.9999965883712560237
27 | 4.99999795302135690799
28 | 4.999998771812315
29 | 4.99999926308729
30 | 4.999999557853926

So, 30 iterations with no loss of precision – and with the native raku math defaults. Nice!

Eventually raku breaks at 34 iterations, so raku:34, python:19.


PS. And to reflect the harsh reality of life, Victor Ejikhout’s comment can have the final word: so know your own limits!

This is not a problem of fixed point vs floating point. I think your examples favor Fix because you give it more digit of accuracy. What would happen if you used a Float format where the mantissa is equally long as the total Fix length? Objection #2: I think Cobol / Fix would converge away from 5 if you ran more iterations. The Muller equation has three fixed points: x_n==3, x_n==5, and x_n==100. If you start close enough to 5 it will converge there for a while, but (I’m guessing here; didn’t run all the tests) it will converge to the 100 solution. Since you give the float solution less precision it simply converges there faster.The only real lesson here is not to code unstable recursions.

Pawel bbkr Pabian: Asynchronous, parallel and... dead. My Perl 6 daily bread.

Published by Pawel bbkr Pabian on 2015-09-06T14:00:56

I love Perl 6 asynchronous features. They are so easy to use and can give instant boost by changing few lines of code that I got addicted to them. I became asynchronous junkie. And finally overdosed. Here is my story...

I was processing a document that was divided into chapters, sub-chapters, sub-sub-chapters and so on. Parsed to data structure it looked like this:

    my %document = (
        '1' => {
            '1.1' => 'Lorem ipsum',
            '1.2' => {
                '1.2.1' => 'Lorem ipsum',
                '1.2.2' => 'Lorem ipsum'
        '2' => {
            '2.1' => {
                '2.1.1' => 'Lorem ipsum'

Every chapter required processing of its children before it could be processed. Also processing of each chapter was quite time consuming - no matter which level it was and how many children did it have. So I started by writing recursive function to do it:

    sub process (%chapters) {
        for %chapters.kv -> $number, $content {
            note "Chapter $number started";
            &?ROUTINE.($content) if $content ~~ Hash;
            sleep 1; # here the chapter itself is processed
            note "Chapter $number finished";

So nothing fancy here. Maybe except current &?ROUTINE variable which makes recursive code less error prone - there is no need to repeat subroutine name explicitly. After running it I got expected DFS (Depth First Search) flow:

    $ time perl6
    Chapter 1 started
    Chapter 1.1 started
    Chapter 1.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2 started
    Chapter 1.2.1 started
    Chapter 1.2.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2.2 started
    Chapter 1.2.2 finished
    Chapter 1.2 finished
    Chapter 1 finished
    Chapter 2 started
    Chapter 2.1 started
    Chapter 2.1.1 started
    Chapter 2.1.1 finished
    Chapter 2.1 finished
    Chapter 2 finished
    real    0m8.184s

It worked perfectly, but that was too slow. Because 1 second was required to process each chapter in serial manner it ran for 8 seconds total. So without hesitation I reached for Perl 6 asynchronous goodies to process chapters in parallel.

    sub process (%chapters) {
        await do for %chapters.kv -> $number, $content {
            start {
                note "Chapter $number started";
                &?ROUTINE.outer.($content) if $content ~~ Hash;
                sleep 1; # here the chapter itself is processed
                note "Chapter $number finished";

Now every chapter is processed asynchronously in parallel and first waits for its children to be also processed asynchronously in parallel. Note that after wrapping processing in await/start construct &?ROUTINE must now point to outer scope.

    $ time perl6
    Chapter 1 started
    Chapter 2 started
    Chapter 1.1 started
    Chapter 1.2 started
    Chapter 2.1 started
    Chapter 1.2.1 started
    Chapter 2.1.1 started
    Chapter 1.2.2 started
    Chapter 1.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2.2 finished
    Chapter 2.1.1 finished
    Chapter 2.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2 finished
    Chapter 1 finished
    Chapter 2 finished
    real    0m3.171s

Perfect. Time dropped to expected 3 seconds - it was not possible to go any faster because document had 3 nesting levels and each required 1 second to process. Still smiling I threw bigger document at my beautiful script - 10 chapters, each with 10 sub-chapters, each with 10 sub-sub-chapters. It started processing, run for a while... and DEADLOCKED.

Friedrich Nietzsche said that "when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you". Same rule applies to code. After few minutes me and my code were staring at each other. And I couldn't find why it worked perfectly for small documents but was deadlocking in random moments for big ones. Half an hour later I blinked and got defeated by my own code in staring contest. So it was time for debugging.

I noticed that when it was deadlocking there was always constant amount of 16 chapters that were still in progress. And that number looked familiar to me - thread pool!

    $ perl6 -e 'say start { }'
        scheduler =>
            initial_threads => 0,
            max_threads => 16,
            uncaught_handler => Callable
        status => PromiseStatus::Kept

Every asynchronous task that is planned needs free thread so it can be executed. And on my system only 16 concurrent threads are allowed as shown above. To analyze what happened let's use document from first example but also assume thread pool is limited to 4:

    $ perl6          # 4 threads available by default
    Chapter 1 started       # 3 threads available
    Chapter 1.1 started     # 2 threads available
    Chapter 2 started       # 1 thread available
    Chapter 1.1 finished    # 2 threads available again
    Chapter 1.2 started     # 1 thread available
    Chapter 1.2.1 started   # 0 threads available
                            # deadlock!

At this moment chapter 1 subtree holds three threads and waits for one more for chapter 1.2.2 to complete everything and start ascending from recursion. And subtree of chapter 2 holds one thread and waits for one more for chapter 2.1 to descend into recursion. In result processing gets to a point where at least one more thread is required to proceed but all threads are taken and none can be returned to thread pool. Script deadlocks and stops here forever.

How to solve this problem and maintain parallel processing? There are many ways to do it :)
The key to the solution is to process asynchronously only those chapters that do not have unprocessed chapters on lower level.

Luckily Perl 6 offers perfect tool - promise junctions. It is possible to create a promise that waits for other promises to be kept and until it happens it is not sent to thread pool for execution. Following code illustrates that:

    my $p = Promise.allof(, );
    sleep 1;
    say "Promise after 1 second: " ~ $p.perl;
    sleep 3;
    say "Promise after 4 seconds: " ~ $p.perl;


    Promise after 1 second:
        ..., status => PromiseStatus::Planned
    Promise after 4 seconds:
        ..., status => PromiseStatus::Kept

Let's rewrite processing using this cool property:

    sub process (%chapters) {
        return Promise.allof(
            do for %chapters.kv -> $number, $content {
                my $current = {
                    note "Chapter $number started";
                    sleep 1; # here the chapter itself is processed
                    note "Chapter $number finished";
                if $content ~~ Hash {
                    Promise.allof( &?ROUTINE.($content) )
                        .then( $current );
                else {
                    Promise.start( $current );
    await process(%document);

It solves the problem when chapter was competing with its sub-chapters for free threads but at the same time it needed those sub-chapters before it can process itself. Now awaiting for sub-chapters to complete does not require free thread. Let's run it:

    $ perl6
    Chapter 1.1 started
    Chapter 1.2.1 started
    Chapter 1.2.2 started
    Chapter 2.1.1 started
    Chapter 1.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2.1 finished
    Chapter 1.2.2 finished
    Chapter 1.2 started
    Chapter 2.1.1 finished
    Chapter 2.1 started
    Chapter 1.2 finished
    Chapter 1 started
    Chapter 2.1 finished
    Chapter 2 started
    Chapter 1 finished
    Chapter 2 finished
    real    0m3.454s

I've added separator for each second passed so it is easier to understand. When script starts chapters 1.1, 1.2.1, 1.2.2 and 2.1.1 do not have sub-chapters at all. So they can take threads from thread pool immediately. When they are completed after one second then Promises that were awaiting for all of them are kept and chapters 1.2 and 2.1 can be processed safely on thread pool. It keeps going until getting out of recursion.

After trying big document again it was processed flawlessly in 72 seconds instead of linear 1000.

I'm high on asynchronous processing again!

You can download script here and try different data sizes and algorithms for yourself (params are taken from command line).

6guts: Towards a new general dispatch mechanism in MoarVM

Published by jnthnwrthngtn on 2021-03-15T02:08:42

My goodness, it appears I’m writing my first Raku internals blog post in over two years. Of course, two years ago it wasn’t even called Raku. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get on with this shared brainache.

What is dispatch?

I use “dispatch” to mean a process by which we take a set of arguments and end up with some action being taken based upon them. Some familiar examples include:

At first glance, perhaps the first two seem fairly easy and the third a bit more of a handful – which is sort of true. However, Raku has a number of other features that make dispatch rather more, well, interesting. For example:

Thanks to this, dispatch – at least in Raku – is not always something we do and produce an outcome, but rather a process that we may be asked to continue with multiple times!

Finally, while the examples I’ve written above can all quite clearly be seen as examples of dispatch, a number of other common constructs in Raku can be expressed as a kind of dispatch too. Assignment is one example: the semantics of it depend on the target of the assignment and the value being assigned, and thus we need to pick the correct semantics. Coercion is another example, and return value type-checking yet another.

Why does dispatch matter?

Dispatch is everywhere in our programs, quietly tieing together the code that wants stuff done with the code that does stuff. Its ubiquity means it plays a significant role in program performance. In the best case, we can reduce the cost to zero. In the worst case, the cost of the dispatch is high enough to exceed that of the work done as a result of the dispatch.

To a first approximation, when the runtime “understands” the dispatch the performance tends to be at least somewhat decent, but when it doesn’t there’s a high chance of it being awful. Dispatches tend to involve an amount of work that can be cached, often with some cheap guards to verify the validity of the cached outcome. For example, in a method dispatch, naively we need to walk a linearization of the inheritance graph and ask each class we encounter along the way if it has a method of the specified name. Clearly, this is not going to be terribly fast if we do it on every method call. However, a particular method name on a particular type (identified precisely, without regard to subclassing) will resolve to the same method each time. Thus, we can cache the outcome of the lookup, and use it whenever the type of the invocant matches that used to produce the cached result.

Specialized vs. generalized mechanisms in language runtimes

When one starts building a runtime aimed at a particular language, and has to do it on a pretty tight budget, the most obvious way to get somewhat tolerable performance is to bake various hot-path language semantics into the runtime. This is exactly how MoarVM started out. Thus, if we look at MoarVM as it stood several years ago, we find things like:

These are all still there today, however are also all on the way out. What’s most telling about this list is what isn’t included. Things like:

A few years back I started to partially address this, with the introduction of a mechanism I called “specializer plugins”. But first, what is the specializer?

When MoarVM started out, it was a relatively straightforward interpreter of bytecode. It only had to be fast enough to beat the Parrot VM in order to get a decent amount of usage, which I saw as important to have before going on to implement some more interesting optimizations (back then we didn’t have the kind of pre-release automated testing infrastructure we have today, and so depended much more on feedback from early adopters). Anyway, soon after being able to run pretty much as much of the Raku language as any other backend, I started on the dynamic optimizer. It gathered type statistics as the program was interpreted, identified hot code, put it into SSA form, used the type statistics to insert guards, used those together with static properties of the bytecode to analyze and optimize, and produced specialized bytecode for the function in question. This bytecode could elide type checks and various lookups, as well as using a range of internal ops that make all kinds of assumptions, which were safe because of the program properties that were proved by the optimizer. This is called specialized bytecode because it has had a lot of its genericity – which would allow it to work correctly on all types of value that we might encounter – removed, in favor of working in a particular special case that actually occurs at runtime. (Code, especially in more dynamic languages, is generally far more generic in theory than it ever turns out to be in practice.)

This component – the specializer, known internally as “spesh” – delivered a significant further improvement in the performance of Raku programs, and with time its sophistication has grown, taking in optimizations such as inlining and escape analysis with scalar replacement. These aren’t easy things to build – but once a runtime has them, they create design possibilities that didn’t previously exist, and make decisions made in their absence look sub-optimal.

Of note, those special-cased language-specific mechanisms, baked into the runtime to get some speed in the early days, instead become something of a liability and a bottleneck. They have complex semantics, which means they are either opaque to the optimizer (so it can’t reason about them, meaning optimization is inhibited) or they need special casing in the optimizer (a liability).

So, back to specializer plugins. I reached a point where I wanted to take on the performance of things like $obj.?meth (the “call me maybe” dispatch), $obj.SomeType::meth() (dispatch qualified with a class to start looking in), and private method calls in roles (which can’t be resolved statically). At the same time, I was getting ready to implement some amount of escape analysis, but realized that it was going to be of very limited utility because assignment had also been special-cased in the VM, with a chunk of opaque C code doing the hot path stuff.

But why did we have the C code doing that hot-path stuff? Well, because it’d be too espensive to have every assignment call a VM-level function that does a bunch of checks and logic. Why is that costly? Because of function call overhead and the costs of interpretation. This was all true once upon a time. But, some years of development later:

I solved the assignment problem and the dispatch problems mentioned above with the introduction of a single new mechanism: specializer plugins. They work as follows:

The vast majority of cases are monomorphic, meaning that only one set of guards are produced and they always succeed thereafter. The specializer can thus compile those guards into the specialized bytecode and then assume the given target invocant is what will be invoked. (Further, duplicate guards can be eliminated, so the guards a particular plugin introduces may reduce to zero.)

Specializer plugins felt pretty great. One new mechanism solved multiple optimization headaches.

The new MoarVM dispatch mechanism is the answer to a fairly simple question: what if we get rid of all the dispatch-related special-case mechanisms in favor of something a bit like specializer plugins? The resulting mechanism would need to be a more powerful than specializer plugins. Further, I could learn from some of the shortcomings of specializer plugins. Thus, while they will go away after a relatively short lifetime, I think it’s fair to say that I would not have been in a place to design the new MoarVM dispatch mechanism without that experience.

The dispatch op and the bootstrap dispatchers

All the method caching. All the multi dispatch caching. All the specializer plugins. All the invocation protocol stuff for unwrapping the bytecode handle in a code object. It’s all going away, in favor of a single new dispatch instruction. Its name is, boringly enough, dispatch. It looks like this:

dispatch_o result, 'dispatcher-name', callsite, arg0, arg1, ..., argN

Which means:

(Aside: this implies a new calling convention, whereby we no longer copy the arguments into an argument buffer, but instead pass the base of the register set and a pointer into the bytecode where the register argument map is found, and then do a lookup registers[map[argument_index]] to get the value for an argument. That alone is a saving when we interpret, because we no longer need a loop around the interpreter per argument.)

Some of the arguments might be things we’d traditionally call arguments. Some are aimed at the dispatch process itself. It doesn’t really matter – but it is more optimal if we arrange to put arguments that are only for the dispatch first (for example, the method name), and those for the target of the dispatch afterwards (for example, the method parameters).

The new bootstrap mechanism provides a small number of built-in dispatchers, whose names start with “boot-“. They are:

That’s pretty much it. Every dispatcher we build, to teach the runtime about some other kind of dispatch behavior, eventually terminates in one of these.

Building on the bootstrap

Teaching MoarVM about different kinds of dispatch is done using nothing less than the dispatch mechanism itself! For the most part, boot-syscall is used in order to register a dispatcher, set up the guards, and provide the result that goes with them.

Here is a minimal example, taken from the dispatcher test suite, showing how a dispatcher that provides the identity function would look:

nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'identity', -> $capture {
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'boot-value', $capture);
sub identity($x) {
    nqp::dispatch('identity', $x)
ok(identity(42) == 42, 'Can define identity dispatch (1)');
ok(identity('foo') eq 'foo', 'Can define identity dispatch (2)');

In the first statement, we call the dispatcher-register MoarVM system call, passing a name for the dispatcher along with a closure, which will be called each time we need to handle the dispatch (which I tend to refer to as the “dispatch callback”). It receives a single argument, which is a capture of arguments (not actually a Raku-level Capture, but the idea – an object containing a set of call arguments – is the same).

Every user-defined dispatcher should eventually use dispatcher-delegate in order to identify another dispatcher to pass control along to. In this case, it delegates immediately to boot-value – meaning it really is nothing except a wrapper around the boot-value built-in dispatcher.

The sub identity contains a single static occurrence of the dispatch op. Given we call the sub twice, we will encounter this op twice at runtime, but the two times are very different.

The first time is the “record” phase. The arguments are formed into a capture and the callback runs, which in turn passes it along to the boot-value dispatcher, which produces the result. This results in an extremely simple dispatch program, which says that the result should be the first argument in the capture. Since there’s no guards, this will always be a valid result.

The second time we encounter the dispatch op, it already has a dispatch program recorded there, so we are in run mode. Turning on a debugging mode in the MoarVM source, we can see the dispatch program that results looks like this:

Dispatch program (1 temporaries)
    Load argument 0 into temporary 0
    Set result object value from temporary 0

That is, it reads argument 0 into a temporary location and then sets that as the result of the dispatch. Notice how there is no mention of the fact that we went through an extra layer of dispatch; those have zero cost in the resulting dispatch program.

Capture manipulation

Argument captures are immutable. Various VM syscalls exist to transform them into new argument captures with some tweak, for example dropping or inserting arguments. Here’s a further example from the test suite:

nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'drop-first', -> $capture {
    my $capture-derived := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg', $capture, 0);
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'boot-value', $capture-derived);
ok(nqp::dispatch('drop-first', 'first', 'second') eq 'second',
    'dispatcher-drop-arg works');

This drops the first argument before passing the capture on to the boot-value dispatcher – meaning that it will return the second argument. Glance back at the previous dispatch program for the identity function. Can you guess how this one will look?

Well, here it is:

Dispatch program (1 temporaries)
    Load argument 1 into temporary 0
    Set result string value from temporary 0

Again, while in the record phase of such a dispatcher we really do create capture objects and make a dispatcher delegation, the resulting dispatch program is far simpler.

Here’s a slightly more involved example:

my $target := -> $x { $x + 1 }
nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'call-on-target', -> $capture {
    my $capture-derived := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall',
            'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj', $capture, 0, $target);
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate',
            'boot-code-constant', $capture-derived);
sub cot() { nqp::dispatch('call-on-target', 49) }
ok(cot() == 50,
    'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj works at start of capture');
ok(cot() == 50,
    'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj works at start of capture after link too');

Here, we have a closure stored in a variable $target. We insert it as the first argument of the capture, and then delegate to boot-code-constant, which will invoke that code object and pass the other dispatch arguments to it. Once again, at the record phase, we really do something like:

And the resulting dispatch program? It’s this:

Dispatch program (1 temporaries)
    Load collectable constant at index 0 into temporary 0
    Skip first 0 args of incoming capture; callsite from 0
    Invoke MVMCode in temporary 0

That is, load the constant bytecode handle that we’re going to invoke, set up the args (which are in this case equal to those of the incoming capture), and then invoke the bytecode with those arguments. The argument shuffling is, once again, gone. In general, whenever the arguments we do an eventual bytecode invocation with are a tail of the initial dispatch arguments, the arguments transform becomes no more than a pointer addition.


All of the dispatch programs seen so far have been unconditional: once recorded at a given callsite, they shall always be used. The big missing piece to make such a mechanism have practical utility is guards. Guards assert properties such as the type of an argument or if the argument is definite (Int:D) or not (Int:U).

Here’s a somewhat longer test case, with some explanations placed throughout it.

# A couple of classes for test purposes
my class C1 { }
my class C2 { }

# A counter used to make sure we're only invokving the dispatch callback as
# many times as we expect.
my $count := 0;

# A type-name dispatcher that maps a type into a constant string value that
# is its name. This isn't terribly useful, but it is a decent small example.
nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'type-name', -> $capture {
    # Bump the counter, just for testing purposes.

    # Obtain the value of the argument from the capture (using an existing
    # MoarVM op, though in the future this may go away in place of a syscall)
    # and then obtain the string typename also.
    my $arg-val := nqp::captureposarg($capture, 0);
    my str $name := $$arg-val);

    # This outcome is only going to be valid for a particular type. We track
    # the argument (which gives us an object back that we can use to guard
    # it) and then add the type guard.
    my $arg := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $capture, 0);
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-type', $arg);

    # Finally, insert the type name at the start of the capture and then
    # delegate to the boot-constant dispatcher.
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'boot-constant',
        nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-str',
            $capture, 0, $name));

# A use of the dispatch for the tests. Put into a sub so there's a single
# static dispatch op, which all dispatch programs will hang off.
sub type-name($obj) {
    nqp::dispatch('type-name', $obj)

# Check with the first type, making sure the guard matches when it should
# (although this test would pass if the guard were ignored too).
ok(type-name(C1) eq 'C1', 'Dispatcher setting guard works');
ok($count == 1, 'Dispatch callback ran once');
ok(type-name(C1) eq 'C1', 'Can use it another time with the same type');
ok($count == 1, 'Dispatch callback was not run again');

# Test it with a second type, both record and run modes. This ensures the
# guard really is being checked.
ok(type-name(C2) eq 'C2', 'Can handle polymorphic sites when guard fails');
ok($count == 2, 'Dispatch callback ran a second time for new type');
ok(type-name(C2) eq 'C2', 'Second call with new type works');

# Check that we can use it with the original type too, and it has stacked
# the dispatch programs up at the same callsite.
ok(type-name(C1) eq 'C1', 'Call with original type still works');
ok($count == 2, 'Dispatch callback only ran a total of 2 times');

This time two dispatch programs get produced, one for C1:

Dispatch program (1 temporaries)
    Guard arg 0 (type=C1)
    Load collectable constant at index 1 into temporary 0
    Set result string value from temporary 0

And another for C2:

Dispatch program (1 temporaries)
    Guard arg 0 (type=C2)
    Load collectable constant at index 1 into temporary 0
    Set result string value from temporary 0

Once again, no leftovers from capture manipulation, tracking, or dispatcher delegation; the dispatch program does a type guard against an argument, then produces the result string. The whole call to $$arg-val) is elided, the dispatcher we wrote encoding the knowledge – in a way that the VM can understand – that a type’s name can be considered immutable.

This example is a bit contrived, but now consider that we instead look up a method and guard on the invocant type: that’s a method cache! Guard the types of more of the arguments, and we have a multi cache! Do both, and we have a multi-method cache.

The latter is interesting in so far as both the method dispatch and the multi dispatch want to guard on the invocant. In fact, in MoarVM today there will be two such type tests until we get to the point where the specializer does its work and eliminates these duplicated guards. However, the new dispatcher does not treat the dispatcher-guard-type as a kind of imperative operation that writes a guard into the resultant dispatch program. Instead, it declares that the argument in question must be guarded. If some other dispatcher already did that, it’s idempotent. The guards are emitted once all dispatch programs we delegate through, on the path to a final outcome, have had their say.

Fun aside: those being especially attentive will have noticed that the dispatch mechanism is used as part of implementing new dispatchers too, and indeed, this ultimately will mean that the specializer can specialize the dispatchers and have them JIT-compiled into something more efficient too. After all, from the perspective of MoarVM, it’s all just bytecode to run; it’s just that some of it is bytecode that tells the VM how to execute Raku programs more efficiently!

Dispatch resumption

A resumable dispatcher needs to do two things:

  1. Provide a resume callback as well as a dispatch one when registering the dispatcher
  2. In the dispatch callback, specify a capture, which will form the resume initialization state

When a resumption happens, the resume callback will be called, with any arguments for the resumption. It can also obtain the resume initialization state that was set in the dispatch callback. The resume initialization state contains the things needed in order to continue with the dispatch the first time it is resumed. We’ll take a look at how this works for method dispatch to see a concrete example. I’ll also, at this point, switch to looking at the real Rakudo dispatchers, rather than simplified test cases.

The Rakudo dispatchers take advantage of delegation, duplicate guards, and capture manipulations all having no runtime cost in the resulting dispatch program to, in my mind at least, quite nicely factor what is a somewhat involved dispatch process. There are multiple entry points to method dispatch: the normal boring $obj.meth(), the qualified $obj.Type::meth(), and the call me maybe $obj.?meth(). These have common resumption semantics – or at least, they can be made to provided we always carry a starting type in the resume initialization state, which is the type of the object that we do the method dispatch on.

Here is the entry point to dispatch for a normal method dispatch, with the boring details of reporting missing method errors stripped out.

# A standard method call of the form $obj.meth($arg); also used for the
# indirect form $obj."$name"($arg). It receives the decontainerized invocant,
# the method name, and the the args (starting with the invocant including any
# container).
nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'raku-meth-call', -> $capture {
    # Try to resolve the method call using the MOP.
    my $obj := nqp::captureposarg($capture, 0);
    my str $name := nqp::captureposarg_s($capture, 1);
    my $meth := $obj.HOW.find_method($obj, $name);

    # Report an error if there is no such method.
    unless nqp::isconcrete($meth) {
        !!! 'Error reporting logic elided for brevity';

    # Establish a guard on the invocant type and method name (however the name
    # may well be a literal, in which case this is free).
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-type',
        nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $capture, 0));
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal',
        nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $capture, 1));

    # Add the resolved method and delegate to the resolved method dispatcher.
    my $capture-delegate := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall',
        'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj', $capture, 0, $meth);
    nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate',
        'raku-meth-call-resolved', $capture-delegate);

Now for the resolved method dispatcher, which is where the resumption is handled. First, let’s look at the normal dispatch callback (the resumption callback is included but empty; I’ll show it a little later).

# Resolved method call dispatcher. This is used to call a method, once we have
# already resolved it to a callee. Its first arg is the callee, the second and
# third are the type and name (used in deferral), and the rest are the args to
# the method.
nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'raku-meth-call-resolved',
    # Initial dispatch
    -> $capture {
        # Save dispatch state for resumption. We don't need the method that will
        # be called now, so drop it.
        my $resume-capture := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg',
            $capture, 0);
        nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-set-resume-init-args', $resume-capture);

        # Drop the dispatch start type and name, and delegate to multi-dispatch or
        # just invoke if it's single dispatch.
        my $delegate_capture := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg',
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg', $capture, 1), 1);
        my $method := nqp::captureposarg($delegate_capture, 0);
        if nqp::istype($method, Routine) && $method.is_dispatcher {
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-multi', $delegate_capture);
        else {
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-invoke', $delegate_capture);
    # Resumption
    -> $capture {
        ... 'Will be shown later';

There’s an arguable cheat in raku-meth-call: it doesn’t actually insert the type object of the invocant in place of the invocant. It turns out that it doesn’t really matter. Otherwise, I think the comments (which are to be found in the real implementation also) tell the story pretty well.

One important point that may not be clear – but follows a repeating theme – is that the setting of the resume initialization state is also more of a declarative rather than an imperative thing: there isn’t a runtime cost at the time of the dispatch, but rather we keep enough information around in order to be able to reconstruct the resume initialization state at the point we need it. (In fact, when we are in the run phase of a resume, we don’t even have to reconstruct it in the sense of creating a capture object.)

Now for the resumption. I’m going to present a heavily stripped down version that only deals with the callsame semantics (the full thing has to deal with such delights as lastcall and nextcallee too). The resume initialization state exists to seed the resumption process. Once we know we actually do have to deal with resumption, we can do things like calculating the full list of methods in the inheritance graph that we want to walk through. Each resumable dispatcher gets a single storage slot on the call stack that it can use for its state. It can initialize this in the first step of resumption, and then update it as we go. Or more precisely, it can set up a dispatch program that will do this when run.

A linked list turns out to be a very convenient data structure for the chain of candidates we will walk through. We can work our way through a linked list by keeping track of the current node, meaning that there need only be a single thing that mutates, which is the current state of the dispatch. The dispatch program mechanism also provides a way to read an attribute from an object, and that is enough to express traversing a linked list into the dispatch program. This also means zero allocations.

So, without further ado, here is the linked list (rather less pretty in NQP, the restricted Raku subset, than it would be in full Raku):

# A linked list is used to model the state of a dispatch that is deferring
# through a set of methods, multi candidates, or wrappers. The Exhausted class
# is used as a sentinel for the end of the chain. The current state of the
# dispatch points into the linked list at the appropriate point; the chain
# itself is immutable, and shared over (runtime) dispatches.
my class DeferralChain {
    has $!code;
    has $!next;
    method new($code, $next) {
        my $obj := nqp::create(self);
        nqp::bindattr($obj, DeferralChain, '$!code', $code);
        nqp::bindattr($obj, DeferralChain, '$!next', $next);
    method code() { $!code }
    method next() { $!next }
my class Exhausted {};

And finally, the resumption handling.

nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-register', 'raku-meth-call-resolved',
    # Initial dispatch
    -> $capture {
        ... 'Presented earlier;
    # Resumption. The resume init capture's first two arguments are the type
    # that we initially did a method dispatch against and the method name
    # respectively.
    -> $capture {
        # Work out the next method to call, if any. This depends on if we have
        # an existing dispatch state (that is, a method deferral is already in
        # progress).
        my $init := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-get-resume-init-args');
        my $state := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-get-resume-state');
        my $next_method;
        if nqp::isnull($state) {
            # No state, so just starting the resumption. Guard on the
            # invocant type and name.
            my $track_start_type := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $init, 0);
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-type', $track_start_type);
            my $track_name := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-arg', $init, 1);
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal', $track_name);

            # Also guard on there being no dispatch state.
            my $track_state := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-resume-state');
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal', $track_state);

            # Build up the list of methods to defer through.
            my $start_type := nqp::captureposarg($init, 0);
            my str $name := nqp::captureposarg_s($init, 1);
            my @mro := nqp::can($start_type.HOW, 'mro_unhidden')
                ?? $start_type.HOW.mro_unhidden($start_type)
                !! $start_type.HOW.mro($start_type);
            my @methods;
            for @mro {
                my %mt := nqp::hllize($_.HOW.method_table($_));
                if nqp::existskey(%mt, $name) {

            # If there's nothing to defer to, we'll evaluate to Nil (just don't set
            # the next method, and it happens below).
            if nqp::elems(@methods) >= 2 {
                # We can defer. Populate next method.
                @methods.shift; # Discard the first one, which we initially called
                $next_method := @methods.shift; # The immediate next one

                # Build chain of further methods and set it as the state.
                my $chain := Exhausted;
                while @methods {
                    $chain :=, $chain);
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-set-resume-state-literal', $chain);
        elsif !nqp::istype($state, Exhausted) {
            # Already working through a chain of method deferrals. Obtain
            # the tracking object for the dispatch state, and guard against
            # the next code object to run.
            my $track_state := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-resume-state');
            my $track_method := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-attr',
                $track_state, DeferralChain, '$!code');
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal', $track_method);

            # Update dispatch state to point to next method.
            my $track_next := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-attr',
                $track_state, DeferralChain, '$!next');
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-set-resume-state', $track_next);

            # Set next method, which we shall defer to.
            $next_method := $state.code;
        else {
            # Dispatch already exhausted; guard on that and fall through to returning
            # Nil.
            my $track_state := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-track-resume-state');
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-guard-literal', $track_state);

        # If we found a next method...
        if nqp::isconcrete($next_method) {
            # Call with same (that is, original) arguments. Invoke with those.
            # We drop the first two arguments (which are only there for the
            # resumption), add the code object to invoke, and then leave it
            # to the invoke or multi dispatcher.
            my $just_args := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg',
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-drop-arg', $init, 0),
            my $delegate_capture := nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall',
                'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj', $just_args, 0, $next_method);
            if nqp::istype($next_method, Routine) && $next_method.is_dispatcher {
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-multi',
            else {
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'raku-invoke',
        else {
            # No method, so evaluate to Nil (boot-constant disregards all but
            # the first argument).
            nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-delegate', 'boot-constant',
                nqp::dispatch('boot-syscall', 'dispatcher-insert-arg-literal-obj',
                    $capture, 0, Nil));

That’s quite a bit to take in, and quite a bit of code. Remember, however, that this is only run for the record phase of a dispatch resumption. It also produces a dispatch program at the callsite of the callsame, with the usual guards and outcome. Implicit guards are created for the dispatcher that we are resuming at that point. In the most common case this will end up monomorphic or bimorphic, although situations involving nestings of multiple dispatch or method dispatch could produce a more morphic callsite.

The design I’ve picked forces resume callbacks to deal with two situations: the first resumption and the latter resumptions. This is not ideal in a couple of ways:

  1. It’s a bit inconvenient for those writing dispatch resume callbacks. However, it’s not like this is a particularly common activity!
  2. The difference results in two dispatch programs being stacked up at a callsite that might otherwise get just one

Only the second of these really matters. The reason for the non-uniformity is to make sure that the overwhelming majority of calls, which never lead to a dispatch resumption, incur no per-dispatch cost for a feature that they never end up using. If the result is a little more cost for those using the feature, so be it. In fact, early benchmarking shows callsame with wrap and method calls seems to be up to 10 times faster using the new dispatcher than in current Rakudo, and that’s before the specializer understands enough about it to improve things further!

What’s done so far

Everything I’ve discussed above is implemented, except that I may have given the impression somewhere that multiple dispatch is fully implemented using the new dispatcher, and that is not the case yet (no handling of where clauses and no dispatch resumption support).

Next steps

Getting the missing bits of multiple dispatch fully implemented is the obvious next step. The other missing semantic piece is support for callwith and nextwith, where we wish to change the arguments that are being used when moving to the next candidate. A few other minor bits aside, that in theory will get all of the Raku dispatch semantics at least supported.

Currently, all standard method calls ($obj.meth()) and other calls (foo() and $foo()) go via the existing dispatch mechanism, not the new dispatcher. Those will need to be migrated to use the new dispatcher also, and any bugs that are uncovered will need fixing. That will get things to the point where the new dispatcher is semantically ready.

After that comes performance work: making sure that the specializer is able to deal with dispatch program guards and outcomes. The goal, initially, is to get steady state performance of common calling forms to perform at least as well as in the current master branch of Rakudo. It’s already clear enough there will be some big wins for some things that to date have been glacial, but it should not come at the cost of regression on the most common kinds of dispatch, which have received plenty of optimization effort before now.

Furthermore, NQP – the restricted form of Raku that the Rakudo compiler and other bits of the runtime guts are written in – also needs to be migrated to use the new dispatcher. Only when that is done will it be possible to rip out the current method cache, multiple dispatch cache, and so forth from MoarVM.

An open question is how to deal with backends other than MoarVM. Ideally, the new dispatch mechanism will be ported to those. A decent amount of it should be possible to express in terms of the JVM’s invokedynamic (and this would all probably play quite well with a Truffle-based Raku implementation, although I’m not sure there is a current active effort in that area).

Future opportunities

While my current focus is to ship a Rakudo and MoarVM release that uses the new dispatcher mechanism, that won’t be the end of the journey. Some immediate ideas:

Some new language features may also be possible to provide in an efficient way with the help of the new dispatch mechanism. For example, there’s currently not a reliable way to try to invoke a piece of code, just run it if the signature binds, or to do something else if it doesn’t. Instead, things like the Cro router have to first do a trial bind of the signature, and then do the invoke, which makes routing rather more costly. There’s also the long suggested idea of providing pattern matching via signatures with the when construct (for example, when * -> ($x) {}; when * -> ($x, *@tail) { }), which is pretty much the same need, just in a less dynamic setting.

In closing…

Working on the new dispatch mechanism has been a longer journey than I first expected. The resumption part of the design was especially challenging, and there’s still a few important details to attend to there. Something like four potential approaches were discarded along the way (although elements of all of them influenced what I’ve described in this post). Abstractions that hold up are really, really, hard.

I also ended up having to take a couple of months away from doing Raku work at all, felt a bit crushed during some others, and have been juggling this with the equally important RakuAST project (which will be simplified by being able to assume the presence of the new dispatcher, and also offers me a range of softer Raku hacking tasks, whereas the dispatcher work offers few easy pickings).

Given all that, I’m glad to finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The work that remains is enumerable, and the day we ship a Rakudo and MoarVM release using the new dispatcher feels a small number of months away (and I hope writing that is not tempting fate!)

The new dispatcher is probably the most significant change to MoarVM since I founded it, in so far as it sees us removing a bunch of things that have been there pretty much since the start. RakuAST will also deliver the greatest architectural change to the Rakudo compiler in a decade. Both are an opportunity to fold years of learning things the hard way into the runtime and compiler. I hope when I look back at it all in another decade’s time, I’ll at least feel I made more interesting mistakes this time around.

brrt to the future: Why bother with Scripting?

Published by Bart Wiegmans on 2021-03-14T14:33:00

Many years back, Larry Wall shared his thesis on the nature of scripting. Since recently even Java gained 'script' support I thought it would be fitting to revisit the topic, and hopefully relevant to the perl and raku language community.

The weakness of Larry's treatment (which, to be fair to the author, I think is more intended to be enlightening than to be complete) is the contrast of scripting with programming. This contrast does not permit a clear separation because scripts are programs. That is to say, no matter how long or short, scripts are written commands for a machine to execute, and I think that's a pretty decent definition of a program in general.

A more useful contrast - and, I think, the intended one - is between scripts and other sorts of programs, because that allows us to compare scripting (writing scripts) with 'programming' (writing non-script programs). And to do that we need to know what other sorts of programs there are.

The short version of that answer is - systems and applications, and a bunch of other things that aren't really relevant to the working programmer, like (embedded) control algorithms, spreadsheets and database queries. (The definition I provided above is very broad, by design, because I don't want to get stuck on boundary questions). Most programmers write applications, some write systems, virtually all write scripts once in a while, though plenty of people who aren't professional programmers also write scripts.

I think the defining features of applications and systems are, respectively:

Consider for instance a mail client (like thunderbird) in comparison to a mailer daemon (like sendmail) - one provides an interface to read and write e-mails (the model) and the other provides functionality to send that e-mail to other servers.

Note that under this (again, broad) definition, libraries are also system software, which makes sense, considering that their users are developers (just as for, say, PostgreSQL) who care about things like performance, reliability, and correctness. Incidentally, libraries as well as 'typical' system software (such as database engines and operating system kernels) tend to be written in languages like C and C++ for much the same reasons.

What then, are the differences between scripts, applications, and systems? I think the following is a good list:

Obviously these distinctions aren't really binary - 'short' versus 'long', 'ad-hoc' versus 'general purpose'  - and can't be used to conclusively settle the question whether something is a script or an application. (If, indeed, that question ever comes up). More important is that for the 10 or so scripts I've written over the past year - some professionally, some not - all or most of these properties held, and I'd be surprised if the same isn't true for most readers. 

And - finally coming at the point that I'm trying to make today - these features point to a specific niche of programs more than to a specific technology (or set of technologies). To be exact, scripts are (mostly) short, custom programs to automate ad-hoc tasks, tasks that are either to specific or too small to develop and distribute another program for.

This has further implications on the preferred features of a scripting language (taken to mean, a language designed to enable the development of scripts). In particular:

As an example of the last point - Python 3 requires users to be exact about the encoding of their input, causing all sorts of trouble for unsuspecting scripters when they accidentally try to read ISO-8551 data as UTF-8, or vice versa. Python 2 did not, and for most scripts - not applications - I actually think that is the right choice.

This niche doesn't always exist. In computing environments where everything of interest is adequately captured by an application, or which lacks the ability to effectively automate ad-hoc tasks (I'm thinking in particular of Windows before PowerShell), the practice of scripting tends to not develop. Similarily, in a modern 'cloud' environment, where system setup is controlled by a state machine hosted by another organization, scripting doesn't really have much of a future.

To put it another way, scripting only thrives in an environment that has a lot of 'scriptable' tasks; meaning tasks for which there isn't already a pre-made solution available, environments that have powerful facilities available for a script to access, and whose users are empowered to automate those tasks. Such qualities are common on Unix/Linux 'workstations' but rather less so on smartphones and (as noted before) cloud computing environments.

Truth be told I'm a little worried about that development. I could point to, and expound on, the development and popularity of languages like go and rust, which aren't exactly scripting languages, or the replacement of Javascript with TypeScript, to make the point further, but I don't think that's necessary. At the same time I could point to the development of data science as a discipline to demonstrate that scripting is alive and well (and indeed perhaps more economically relevant than before).

What should be the conclusion for perl 5/7 and raku? I'm not quite sure, mostly because I'm not quite sure whether the broader perl/raku community would prefer their sister languages to be scripting or application languages. (As implied above, I think the Python community chose that they wanted Python 3 to be an application language, and this was not without consequences to their users). 

Raku adds a number of features common to application languages (I'm thinking of it's powerful type system in particular), continuing a trend that perl 5 arguably pioneered. This is indeed a very powerful strategy - a language can be introduced for scripts and some of those scripts are then extended into applications (or even systems), thereby ensuring its continued usage. But for it to work, a new perl family language must be introduced on its scripting merits, and there must be a plentiful supply of scriptable tasks to automate, some of which - or a combination of which - grow into an application.

For myself, I would like to see scripting have a bright future. Not just because scripting is the most accessible form of programming, but also because an environment that permits, even requires scripting, is one were not all interesting problems have been solved, one where it's users ask it to do tasks so diverse that there isn't an app for that, yet. One where the true potential of the wonderful devices that surround is can be explored.

In such a world there might well be a bright future for scripting.

Andrew Shitov: Computing factorials using Raku

Published by Andrew Shitov on 2021-01-31T18:19:33

In this post, I’d like to demonstrate a few ways of computing factorials using the Raku programming language.

1 — reduction

Let me start with the basic and the most effective (non necessarily the most efficient) form of computing the factorial of a given integer number:

say [*] 1..10; # 3628800

In the below examples, we mostly will be dealing with the factorial of 10, so remember the result. But to make the programs more versatile, let us read the number from the command line:

unit sub MAIN($n);

say [*] 1..$n;

To run the program, pass the number:

$ raku 00-cmd.raku 10

The program uses the reduction meta-operator [ ] with the main operator * in it.

You can also start with 2 (you can even compute 0! and 1! this way).

unit sub MAIN($n);

say [*] 2..$n;

2 — for

The second solution is using a postfix for loop to multiply the numbers in the range:

unit sub MAIN($n);

my $f = 1;
$f *= $_ for 2..$n;

say $f;

This solution is not that expressive but still demonstrates quite a clear code.

3 — map

You can also use map that is applied to a range:

unit sub MAIN($n);

my $f = 1;
(2..$n).map: $f *= *;

say $f;

Refer to my article All the stars of Perl 6, or * ** * to learn more about how to read *= *.

4 — recursion

Let’s implement a recursive solution.

unit sub MAIN($n);

sub factorial($n) {
    if $n < 2 {
        return 1;
    else {
        return $n * factorial($n - 1);

say factorial(n);

There are two branches, one of which terminates recursion.

5 — better recursion

The previous program can be rewritten to make a code with less punctuation:

unit sub MAIN($n);

sub factorial($n) {
    return 1 if $n < 2;
    return $n * factorial($n - 1);

say factorial($n);

Here, the first return is managed by a postfix if, and the second return can only be reached if the condition in if is false. So, neither an additional Boolean test nor else is needed.

6 — big numbers

What if you need to compute a factorial of a relatively big number? No worries, Raku will just do it:

say [*] 1..500;

The speed is more than acceptable for any practical application:

raku 06-long-factorial.raku  0.14s user 0.02s system 124% cpu 0.127 total

7 — small numbers

Let’s try something opposite and compute a factorial, which can fit a native integer:

unit sub MAIN($n);

my int $f = 1;
$f *= $_ for 2..$n;

say $f;

I am using a for loop here, but notice that the type of $f is a native integer (thus, 4 bytes). This program works with the numbers up to 20:

$ raku 07-int-factorial.raku 20

8 — sequence

The fun fact is that you can add a dot to the first program 🙂

unit sub MAIN($n);

say [*] 1 ... $n;

Now, 1 ... $n is a sequence. You can start it with 2 if you are not planning to compute a factorials of 0 and 1.

9 — reversed sequence

Unlike the solution with a range, it is possible to swap the ends of the sequence:

unit sub MAIN($n);

say [*] $n ... 1;

10 — sequence with definition

Nothing stops us from defining the elements of the sequence with a code block. The next program shows how you do it:

unit sub MAIN($n);

my @f = 1, * * ++$ ... *;
say @f[$n];

This time, the program generates a sequence of factorials from 1! to $n!, and to print the only one we need, we take the value from the array as @f[$n]. Notice that the sequence itself is lazy and its right end is undefined, so you can’t use @f[*-1], for example.

The rule here is * * ++$ (multiply the last computed value by the incremented index); it is using the built-in state variable $.

11 — multi functions

The idea of the solutions 4 and 5 with two branches can be further transformed to using multi-functions:

unit sub MAIN($n);

multi sub factorial(1)  { 1 }
multi sub factorial($n) { $n * factorial($n - 1) }

say factorial($n);

For the numbers above 1, Raku calls the second variant of the function. When the number comes down to 1, recursion stops, because the first variant is called. Notice how easily you can create a variant of a function that only reacts to the given value.

12 — where

The previous program loops infinitely if you try to set $n to 0. One of the simplest solution is to add a where clause to catch that case too.

unit sub MAIN($n);

multi sub factorial($n where $n < 2)  { 1 }
multi sub factorial($n) { $n * factorial($n - 1) }

say factorial($n);

13 — operator

Here’s another classical Raku solution: modifying its grammar to allow mathematical notation $n!.

unit sub MAIN($n);

sub postfix:<!>($n) {
    [*] 1..$n

say $n!;

14 — methodop

A rarely seen Raku’s feature called methodop (method operator) that allows you to call a function as it if was a method:

unit sub MAIN($n);

sub factorial($n) { 
    [*] 1..$n

say $n.&factorial;

15 — cached

Recursive solutions are perfect subjects for result caching. The following program demonstrates this approach.

unit sub MAIN($n);

use experimental :cached;

sub f($n) is cached {
    say "Called f($n)";
    return 1 if $n < 2;
    return $n * f($n - 1);

say f($n div 2);
say f(10);

This program first computes a factorial of the half of the input number, and then of the number itself. The program logs all the calls of the function. You can clearly see that, say, the factorial of 10 is using the results that were already computed for the factorial of 5:

$ raku 15-cached-factorial.raku 10
Called f(5)
Called f(4)
Called f(3)
Called f(2)
Called f(1)
Called f(10)
Called f(9)
Called f(8)
Called f(7)
Called f(6)

Note that the feature is experimental.

16 — triangular reduction

The reduction operator that we already used has a special variant [\ ] that allows to keep all the intermediate results. This is somewhat similar to using a sequence in the example 10.

unit sub MAIN($n);

my @f = [\*] 1..$n;

say @f[$n - 1];

17 — division of factorials

Now a few programs that go beyond the factorials themselves. The first program computes the value of the expression a! / b!, where both a and b are integer numbers, and a is not less than b.

The idea is to optimise the solution to skip the overlapping parts of the multiplication sequences. For example, 10! / 5! is 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10.

To have more fun, let us modify Raku’s grammar so that it really parses the above expression.

unit sub MAIN($a, $b where $a >= $b);

class F {
    has $.n;    

sub postfix:<!>(Int $n) { => $n)

sub infix:</>(F $a, F $b) { 
    [*] $b.n ^.. $a.n

say $a! / $b!;

We already have seen the postfix:<!> operator. To catch division, another operator is defined, but to prevent catching the division of data of other types, a proxy class F is introduced.

To keep proper processing of expression such as 4 / 5, define another / operator that catches things which are not F. Don’t forget to add multi to both options. The callsame built-in routine dispatches control to built-in operator definitions.

. . .

multi sub infix:</>(F $a, F $b) { 
    [*] $b.n ^.. $a.n

multi sub infix:</>($a, $b) {

say $a! / $b!;
say 4 / 5;

18 — optimisation

Let’s try to reduce the number of multiplications. Take a factorial of 10:

10 * 9 * 8 * 7 * 6 * 5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1

Now, take one number from each end, multiply them, and repeat the procedure:

10 * 1 = 10
 9 * 2 = 18
 8 * 3 = 24
 7 * 4 = 28
 6 * 5 = 30

You can see that every such result is bigger than the previous one by 8, 6, 4, and 2. In other words, the difference reduces by 2 on each iteration, starting from 10, which is the input number.

The whole program that implements this algorithm is shown below:

unit sub MAIN(
    $n is copy where $n %% 2 #= Even numbers only

my $f = $n;

my $d = $n - 2;
my $m = $n + $d;

while $d > 0 {
    $f *= $m;
    $d -= 2;
    $m += $d;

say $f;

It only works for even input numbers, so it contains a restriction reflected in the where clause of the MAIN function. As homework, modify the program to accept odd numbers too.

19 — integral

Before wrapping up, let’s look at a couple of exotic methods, which, however, can be used to compute factorials of non-integer numbers (or, to be stricter, to compute what can be called extended definition of it).

The proper way would be to use the Gamma function, but let me illustrate the method with a simpler formula:

An integral is a sum by definition, so let’s make a straightforward loop:

unit sub MAIN($n);

my num $f = 0E0;
my num $dx = 1E-6;
loop (my $x = $dx; $x <= 1; $x += $dx) {
    $f += (-log($x)) ** $n;

say $f * $dx;

With the given step of 1E-6, the result is not that exact:

$ raku 19-integral-factorial.raku 10

But you can compute a ‘factorial’ of a floating-point number. For example, 5! is 120 and 6! is 720, but what is 5.5!?

$ raku 19-integral-factorial.raku 5.5

20 — another formula

And finally, the Stirling’s formula for the rescue. The bigger the n, the more correct is the result.

The implementation can be as simple as this:

unit sub MAIN($n);

# τ = 2 * π
say (τ * $n).sqrt * ($n / e) ** $n;

But you can make it a bit more outstanding if you have a fixed $n:

say sqrt(τ * 10) * (10 / e)¹⁰;

* * *

And that’s it for now. You can find the source code of all the programs shown here in the GitHub repository

Andrew Shitov: The course of Raku

Published by Andrew Shitov on 2021-01-13T08:44:00

I am happy to report that the first part of the Raku course is completed and published. The course is available at

The grant was approved a year and a half ago right before the PerlCon conference in Rīga. I was the organiser of the event, so I had to postpone the course due to high load. During the conference, it was proposed to rename Perl 6, which, together with other stuff, made me think if the course is needed.

After months, the name was settled, the distinction between Perl and Raku became clearer, and, more importantly, external resourses and services, e.g., Rosettacode and started using the new name. So, now I think it is still a good idea to create the course that I dreamed about a couple of years ago. I started the main work in the middle of November 2020, and by the beginning of January 2021, I had the first part ready.

The current plan includes five parts:

  1. Raku essentials
  2. Advanced Raku subjects
  3. Object-oriented programming in Raku
  4. Regexes and grammars
  5. Functional, concurrent, and reactive programming

It differs a bit from the original plan published in the grant proposal. While the material stays the same, I decided to split it differently. Initially, I was going to go through all the topics one after another. Now, the first sections reveal the basics of some topics, and we will return to the same topics on the next level in the second part.

For example, in the first part, I only talk about the basic data types: IntRatNumStrRangeArrayList, and Hash and basic usage of them. The rest, including other types (e.g., Date or DateTime) and the methods such as @array.rotate or %hash.kv is delayed until the second part.

Contrary, functions were a subject of the second part initially, but they are now discussed in the first part. So, we now have Part 1 “Raku essentials” and Part 2 “Advanced Raku topics”. This shuffling allowed me to create a liner flow in such a way that the reader can start writing real programs already after they finish the first part of the course.

I must say that it is quite a tricky task to organise the material without backward links. In the ideal course, any topic may only be based on the previously explained information. A couple of the most challenging cases were ranges and typed variables. They both causes a few chicken-and-egg loops.

During the work on the first part, I also prepared a ‘framework’ that generates the navigation through the site and helps with quiz automation. It is hosted as GitHub Pages and uses Jekyll and Liquid for generating static pages, and a couple of Raku programs to automate the process of adding new exercises and highlighting code snippets. Syntax highlighting is done with Pygments.

Returning the to course itself, it includes pages of a few different types:

The quizzes were not part of the grant proposal, but I think they help making a better user experience. All the quizzes have answers and comments. All the exercises are solved and published with the comments to explain the solution, or even to highlight some theoretical aspects.

The first part covers 91 topics and includes 73 quizzes and 65 exercises (with 70 solutions :-). There are about 330 pages in total. The sources are kept in a GitHub repository, so people can send pull requiest, etc.

At this point, the first part is fully ready. I may slightly update it if the following parts require additional information about the topics covered in Part 1.

This text is a grant report, and it is also (a bit modified) published at on 13 January 2021.

Jo Christian Oterhals: What did we learn from an astronomer’s hacker hunt in the 80's? Apparently, not too much

Published by Jo Christian Oterhals on 2020-12-29T19:55:31

C omputer security has seen its share of mind-boggling news lately. None more mind boggling than the news about how alleged Russian hackers installed a backdoor into the IT monitoring product Solarwind Orion. Through this they got got entrance into the computer systems of several US agencies and departments — ironically even into the systems of a cyber security company (Fireeye) and Microsoft itself . The news made me think of my own history with computer security, and down memory lane I went.

One particular day in late July or early August 1989 my parents, sister and me were driving home from a short summer vacation. At a short stop in a largish city, I had found a newsstand carrying foreign magazines. There I’d bought a copy of PC/Computing’s September issue (to this day I don’t understand why American magazines are on sale a couple of months before the cover date) so that I had something to make time in the backseat pass faster.

Among articles about the relatively new MS-DOS replacement OS/2 (an OS co-developed with IBM that Microsoft would come to orphan the minute they launched Windows 3.0 and understood the magnitude of the success they had on their hands) and networking solutions from Novell (which Windows would kill as well, albeit more indirectly), the magazine brought an excerpt of the book “The Cuckoo’s Egg” by a guy named Clifford Stoll. Although I had bought the magazine for the technical information such as the stuff mentioned above, this excerpt stood out. It was a mesmerising story about how an astronomer-turned-IT-guy stumbled over a hacker, and how he, aided by interest but virtually no support from the FBI, CIA and NSA, almost single handedly traced the hacker’s origins back to a sinister government sponsored organisation in the then communist East Germany.

This is the exact moment I discovered that my passion — computers — could form the basis of a great story.

Coastal Norway where I grew up is probably as far from the author’s native San Francisco as anything; at least our book stores were. So it wasn’t until the advent of some years later that I was able to order a copy of the book. Luckily, the years passed had not diminished the story. Granted, the Internet described by the author Clifford Stoll was a little more clunky than the slightly more modern dial-up internet I ordered the book on. But subtract the World Wide Web from the equation and the difference between his late eighties internet and my mid-nineties modem version weren’t all that big. My Internet was as much a monochrome world of telnet and text-only servers as it was a colourful web. Email, for instance, was something I managed by telnetting into a HP Unix server and using the command line utility pine to read and send messages.

What struck me with the story was that the hacker’s success very often was enabled by sloppy system administration; one could arguably say that naïve or ignorant assumptions by sysadmins all across the US made the hack possible. Why sloppy administration and ignorant assumptions? Well, some of the reason was that the Internet was largely run by academia back then. Academia was (and is) a culture of open research and sharing of ideas and information. As such it’s not strange that sysadmins of that time assumed that users of the computer systems had good intentions too.

But no one had considered that the combination of several (open) sources of information and documents stored on these servers, could end in very comprehensive insight into, say, the Space Shuttle program or military nuclear research. Actually, the main downside to unauthorised usage had to do with cost: processing power was expensive at the time and far from a commodity. Users were billed by for their computer usage. So billing was actually the reason why Stoll started his hacker hunt. There was a few cents worth of computer time that couldn’t be accounted for. Finding out whether this was caused by a bug or something else, was the primary goal of Mr. Stoll’s hunt. What the hacker had spent this time on was — at first — a secondary issue at best.

With that in mind it’s maybe not so strange that one of the most common errors made was not changing default passwords on multi-user computers connected to the internet. One of the systems having a default password was the now virtually extinct VAX/VMS operating system for Digital’s microcomputer series VAX. This was one of the things Mr. Stoll found out by logging each and every interaction the hacker, using Stoll’s compromised system as a gateway, had with other systems (the description of how he logged all this by wiring printers up to physical ports on the microcomputer, rewiring the whole thing every time the hacker logged on through another port, is by itself worth reading the book for). Using the backdoor, the hacker did not only gain access to that computer — they got root privileges as well.

In the 30+ years passed since I read the book I’ve convinced myself about two things: 1) we’ve learned to not use default passwords anymore, and 2) that VMS systems exhibiting this kind of backdoor are long gone.

Well, I believed these things until a few weeks ago. That’s when I stumbled on to a reddit post — now deleted, but there still is a cached version available on Waybackmachine. Here the redditor explained how he’d identified 33 remaining VAX/VMS systems still on the Internet:

About a year ago I read the book “A Cuckoo’s Egg”, written in 1989. It included quite a bit of information pertaining to older systems such as the VAX/VMS. I went to Censys (when their big data was still accessible easily and for free) and downloaded a set of the telnet (port 23) data. A quick grep later and I had isolated all the VAX/VMS targets on the net. Low and behold, of the 33 targets (I know, really scraping the bottom of the barrel here) more than half of them were still susceptible to default password attacks literally listed in a book from almost 3 decades ago. After creating super user accounts I contacted these places to let them know that that they were sporting internet facing machines using default logins from 1989. All but one locked me out. This is 31 years later… The future will be a mess, kids

I applaud the redditor that discovered this. Because isn’t what he found a testament of something breathtakingly incompetent and impressive at the same time? Impressive in the sense that someone’s been able to keep these ancient systems alive on the internet for decades; incompetent because the sysadmins has ignored patching the most well documented security flaw of those systems for well over a quarter century?

So maybe this starts to answer question posed in the title: Did we learn anything from this?

Yes, of course we did. If we look past the VMS enthusiast out there, computer security is very different now than back then. Unencrypted communication is almost not used anywhere anymore. Security is provided by multilayered hardware and software solutions. In addition are not only password policies widely enforced on users, but two-factor and other extra layers of authentication is used as well.

But the answer is also No. While my organisations such as my workplace — which is not in the business of having secrets — has implemented lots of the newest security measures, this autumn we learned that the Norwegian parliament — which is in the business of having secrets — haven’t. They had weak password policies and no two-factor authentication for their email system.

Consequently they recently became an easy target for Russian hackers. I obviously don’t know what was the reasoning behind having weak security implemented. But my guess is that the IT department assessed the digital competence of the parliament members and concluded that it was too low for them to handle strong passwords and managing two-factor authentication.

And this is perhaps the point where the security of yesteryear and security today differs the most: As we’re closing in on 2021, weak security is a conscious choice; but it is the same as leaving the door wide open, and any good sysadmin knows it.

The ignorance exhibited in the case of the Norwegian parliament borders, in my opinion, on criminal ignorance — although I guess no one will ever have to take the consquence. What it does prove, however, is that while systems can be as good as anything, people are still the weakest link in any such system.

In sum I think my answer to the initial question is an uneasy Maybe. We still have some way to go before what Cliff Stoll taught us 32 years ago has become second nature.

Andrew Shitov: Raku Challenge, Week 92, Issue 1

Published by Andrew Shitov on 2020-12-22T08:24:00

This week’s task has an interesting solution in Raku. So, here’s the task:

You are given two strings $A and $B. Write a script to check if the given strings are Isomorphic. Print 1 if they are otherwise 0.

OK, so if the two strings are isomorphic, their characters are mapped: for each character from the first string, the character at the same position in the second string is always the same.

In the stings abc and def, a always corresponds to d, b to e, and c to f. That’s a trivial case. But then for the string abca, the corresponding string must be defd.

The letters do not need to go sequentially, so the strings aeiou and bcdfg are isomorphic too, as well as aeiou and gxypq. But also aaeeiioouu and bbccddffgg, or the pair aeaieoiuo and gxgyxpyqp.

The definition also means that the number of different characters is equal in both strings. But it also means that if we make the pairs of corresponding letters, the number of unique pairs is also the same, right? If a matches x, there cannot be any other pair with the first letter a.

Let’s exploit these observation:

sub is-isomorphic($a, $b) {
    +(([==] ($a, $b)>>.chars) && 
      ([==] ($a.comb, $b.comb, ($a.comb Z~ $b.comb))>>.unique));

First of all, the strings must have the same length.

Then, the strings are split into characters, and the number of unique characters should also be equal. But the collection of the unique pairs from the corresponding letters from both strings should also be of the same size.

Test it:

use Test;

# . . .

is(is-isomorphic('abc', 'def'), 1);
is(is-isomorphic('abb', 'xyy'), 1);
is(is-isomorphic('sum', 'add'), 0);
is(is-isomorphic('ACAB', 'XCXY'), 1);
is(is-isomorphic('AAB', 'XYZ'), 0);
is(is-isomorphic('AAB', 'XXZ'), 1);
is(is-isomorphic('abc', 'abc'), 1);
is(is-isomorphic('abc', 'ab'), 0);

* * *

→ GitHub repository
→ Navigation to the Raku challenges post series

Andrew Shitov: Advent of Code 2020 Day 18/25 in the Raku programming language

Published by Andrew Shitov on 2020-12-18T22:07:44

Today there’s a chance to demonstrate powerful features of Raku on the solution of Day 18 of this year’s Advent of Code.

The task is to print the sum of a list of expressions with +, *, and parentheses, but the precedence of the operations is equal in the first part of the problem, and is opposite to the standard precedence in the second part.

In other words, 3 + 4 * 5 + 6 is (((3 + 4) * 5) + 6) in the first case and (3 + 4) * (5 + 6) in the second.

Here is the solution. I hope you are impressed too.

sub infix:<m>($a, $b) { $a * $b }

say [+] ('input.txt' *.trans('*' => 'm')).map: {EVAL($_)}

The lines with the expressions come from the file input.txt. For each line, I am replacing * with m, which I earlier made an infix operator that actually does multiplication.

For the second part, we need our m to have lower precedence than +. There’s nothing simpler:

sub infix:<m>($a, $b) is looser<+> { $a * $b }

Parsing and evaluation are done using EVAL.

* * *

→ Browse the code on GitHub
→ See all blog posts on Advent of Code 2020

Andrew Shitov: The second wave of

Published by Andrew Shitov on 2020-12-15T22:15:33

When I started about seven months ago, I thought there would be no need to update it after about 3-4 months. In reality, we are approaching to the end of the year, and I will have to fix the graphs which display data per week, as the week numbers will very soon make a loop.

All this time, more data arrived, and I also made it even more by adding a separate statistics for the regions of Russia, with its 85 subdivisions, which brought the total count of countries and regions up to almost 400.

mysql> select count(distinct cc) from totals;
| count(distinct cc) |
|                392 |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Due to frequent updates that changes data in the past, it is not that easy to make incremental update of statistics, and again, I did not expect that I’ll run the site for so long.

mysql> select count(distinct date) from daily_totals;
| count(distinct date) |
|                  329 |
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

The bottom line is that daily generation became clumsy and not smooth. Before summer, the whole website could be regenerated in less than 15 minutes, but now it turned to 40-50 minutes. And I tend to do it twice a day, as a fresh portion of today’s Russian data arrives a few hours after we’ve got a daily update by the Johns Hopkins University (for yesterday’s stats).

But the most scary signals began after the program started crashing with quite unpleasant errors.

Latest JHU data on 12/12/20
Latest RU data on 12/13/20
Generating impact timeline...
Generating world data...
MoarVM panic: Unable to initialize event loop
Failed to open file /Users/ash/Projects/ Too many open files
Generating impact timeline...
Generating world data...
Not enough positional arguments; needed at least 4
  in sub per-capita-data at /Users/ash/Projects/ (CovidObserver::Statistics) line 1906

The errors were not consistent, and I managed to re-run the program by pieces to get the update. But none of the errors were easily explainable.

MoarVM panic gives no explanation, but it completely disappears if I run the program in two parts:

$ ./covid.raku fetch
$ ./covid.raku generate

instead of a combined run that both fetches the data and generates the statistics:

$ ./covid.raku update

The Too many open files is a strange one as while I process the files in loops, I do not intentionally keep them open. But that error seems to be solved by changing system settings:

$ ulimit -n 10000

The final error, Not enough positional arguments; needed at least 4, is the weirdest. Such thing happens when you call a function that expects a different number of arguments. That never occurred for months after all bugs were found and fixed. It can only be explained by the new piece of data. Indeed, it may happen that some data is missing, but I believe I already found all the cases where I need to provide the function calls with default zero values.

Having all that, and the fact that the program run takes dozens of minutes before you can catch an error, it was quite frustrating.

And here comes Liz!

She proposed to look into the things and actually spent the whole day by first installing the code and all its requirements and then by actually doing that job to run, debug, and re-run. By the end of the day she created a pull request, which made the program twice as fast!

Let’s look at the changes. There are three of them (but no, they do not directly answer the above-mentioned three error messages).

The first two changes introduce parallel processing of countries (remember, there are about 400 of what is considered a unique $cc in the program).

my %country-stats = get-known-countries<>.race(:1batch,:8degree).map: -> $cc {
   $cc => generate-country-stats($cc, %CO, :%mortality, :%crude, :$skip-excel)

Calling .race on the result of get-known-countries() function improves the previously sequential processing of countries. Indeed, their stats are computed independently, so there’s no reason for one country to wait for another. The parameters of race, the batch size and the number of workers, can probably be tuned to fit your hardware.

The second change is similar, but for another part of the code where the continents are processed in a loop:

for %continents.keys.race(:1batch,:8degree) -> $cont {
   generate-continent-stats($cont, %CO, :$skip-excel);

Finally, the third change is to make some counters native integers instead of Raku Ints:

my int $c = $confirmed[$index] // 0;
my int $f = $failed[$index] // 0;
my int $r = $recovered[$index] // 0;
my int $a = $active[$index] // 0;

I understand that this reduces both the memory and the processing time of these variables, but for some reason it also eliminated the error in counting function parameters.

And finally, I want to mention the <> thing that you may have noticed in the first code change. This is the so-called decontainerization operator. What it does is illustrated by this example from the documentation:

use JSON::Tiny;

my $config = from-json('{ "files": 3, "path": "/home/some-user/raku.pod6" }');

say $config.raku;
# OUTPUT: «${:files(3), :path("/home/some-user/raku.pod6")}» 

my %config-hash = $config<>;
say %config-hash.raku;
# OUTPUT: «{:files(3), :path("/home/some-user/raku.pod6")}»

The $config variable is a scalar variable that keeps a hash. To work with it as with a hash, the variable is decontainerized as $config<>. This gives us a proper hash %config-hash.

I think that’s it for now. The main advantage of the above changes is that the program now needs less than 25 minutes to re-generate the whole site and it does not fail.

Well, but it became a bit louder too as Rakudo uses more cores 🙂

Thanks, Liz!

Jo Christian Oterhals: Five books on swimming

Published by Jo Christian Oterhals on 2020-11-16T20:20:28

Five books on open water swimming

Recently I have read a lot of books on swimming — which, if you knew me, would seem unexpected. Having a fear of water after a near-drowning accident as a child, I never became a swimmer. Not even a so-so swimmer: I managed to learn what we in Norway call “Grandma swimming”, a sort of laborious and slow breast swimming with the head as high above water as humanly possible and the feet similarly low beneath.

But many years later, as an adult and a father, this slowly changed when my oldest son started attending swim practice. Even before taking up swimming as a sport, he had surpassed my abilities by a decent margin. After he became serious about training he almost instantly dwarfed me and my abilities.

As parents of swimmers know, being a swim parent involves lots of driving to-and-from and perhaps even more waiting. Sometimes I killed time waiting for him outside the pool area, looking in through the large glass windows that separated spectators —aka annoying parents — from swimmers. From a distance I was amazed by the progress he made month by month.

One summer day a year into his training I stood on a lake’s edge watching him swim happily towards the opposite side. When he passed the middle a couple of hundred feet out, I was struck by an uncomfortable thought: If anything happened to him now, I wouldn’t be able to help. And had I tried, I would probably need help myself.

In that very moment I decided to something about it. I immediately signed up for a beginner’s swim course for adults. But ten weeks and ten lessons in, hanging from the pool side panting uncontrollably, I was struck by a second thought: The progress I’d seen in the children was impossible to match for us, the slightly overweigh 40+ year old newbies. It would take time and patience to become even a so-so swimmer. And, as it turned out, it would take a lot of patience: A few years have passed and only recently have I started to feel that I master freestyle slightly — if swimming 50 meters freestyle without passing out constitutes mastering, that is. My technique is still laughable, breath continues to be an issue, and I haven’t begun to tumble turn or back stroke yet.

So now I know: This takes time.

But to boost my motivation I turned to books — like I do every time I start becoming interested in a new subject. These are not instructional or teach-yourself books, but inspirational books about the topic I’m interested in. In this case about swimmers that does unimaginable feats and/or about the history and cultural impact of swimming.

As they work as inspiration for me, maybe they will for you too. That’s why I give you quick reviews of five swimming related books I’ve read the last months. They are: Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox, The art of resilience by Ross Edgley, Why we swim by Bonnie Tsui, Open Water by Mikael Rosén, and Grayson, also by Lynne Cox.

Lynne Cox: Swimming to Antarctica

This is the autobiography of the accomplished open water swimmer Lynne Cox. It starts in the seventies when Lynne’s family moves from the US east coast to California, so that the children can maximise their swim training. It’s here Lynne discovers that she’s a better long distance swimmer than a sprint swimmer and gradually switches to open water swimming.

Soon she participates in her first long distance swim —a 20 mile swim from Catalina island to mainland Los Angeles— and discovers that she has the potential for record-breaking pace. It seems like she’s a natural at the discipline. Later she will learn that her body is unique in preserving body heat in cold water conditions.

Next up are more feats, such as swimming the English channel. That one earns her an invitation to Cairo to swim the Nile, etc. While all this is happening, she starts to form an idea of becoming the first to swim from the US to the Soviet Union. Lynne sees this as a way to establish bonds and reduce tension between the people of the two countries. Alas, hardly anyone shares her enthusiasm, so large parts of the book covers the quest of getting the necessary permits to cross between two island on the Alaskan and Siberian side of the Bering strait.

Lynne Cox swimming the Cook strait in New Zealand (1975)

That process took maybe ten years and is, to me, the book’s heart and soul. Swimming aside, this tenaciousness is a testament of her ability to persevere not only in open water but also the intricacy and bureaucracy that is international politics. As such I think Swimming through the Iron Curtain would be a more fitting title than Swimming to Antarctica. But the book is written chronologically and ends with a swim to the Antarctica, so I guess that’s why they chose the book’s title.

A weakness with the book is that it’s unusually light, almost coy, is when it comes to Lynne’s relation to other humans. Her parents, which must have been an important part of her support, is peculiarly described as almost faceless entities in her vicinity. As for romantic relations, she occasionally alludes rather vaguely to how she enjoys the company of a certain individual or how she admires the muscular body of a fellow swimmer, etc. But relations are never described deeper than that, and never more than with a few sentences. That means that this autobiography is unusually auto: Her book is a story about herself and her inner journey powered by external journeys — swims that most people can only dream of.

But no matter what the story is called or what weaknesses it may have, it’s a great read about an extraordinary human. That’s why I recommend this book.

Ross Edgley: The art of resilience

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Ross Edgeley and his “Great British Swim”, but I guess Google’s impenetrable algorithms had something to do with it. Regardless of how — when I did discover him (2018) he had just started his Red Bull sponsored swim around Great Britain, and posted weekly videos about his progress on YouTube. He synchronised his efforts to the tides for the duration of the swim: For 157 days he swam with the currents for six hours and rested the following six hours aboard his support boat. Non stop. For the entirety of the journey he never once set foot on land.

When he started the journey the farewell was rather low key, as the turnout consisted of family and friends. When he finished he’d become a household name and was welcomed by hundreds of other open water swimmer as well as large crowds on the beach. And that was well earned, if you ask me: 157 days — initially they thought they use half of that time — and 2884 kilometers (1792 miles) later, he (and his crew) had completed a feat that I think will stay uncontested for a long time.

Ross Edgley at Margate having just finished his swim around Great Britain (2018)

In short, Ross’s story is an exciting one and he writes really well about it. That part of the book is impeccable. Strangely, the weakest parts are where Ross’s background as a sports scientist comes in. He’s eager to share theories about how to train, explain how endurance vs strength works, suggest workouts, etc. Every chapter ends with these science based musings. But they’re not integrated well into the storyline — yes, these too are filled with Ross’s enthusiasm, but all they do for me is punctuate and slow down an otherwise engaging story.

What I find peculiar, however, is that if you never watched the youtube videos, in the book it seems as if he got the idea and that everything fell into place by itself. In real life a Red Bull sponsorship was what made the swim possible. They kept him fed and enabled him to keep a boat and a four person crew with him at all times during the 157 days (but he’s gratuitous towards the boat’s captain and attributes much of the success to him).

It’s also interesting that this book is the opposite of Lynne Cox’s memoirs in the sense that what Ross is mostly concerned with is the external journey itself. There are some hints of musings about how the swim influenced his personal development, but they are few and far between.

In the grand scheme of things, though, these are small flaws. If you manage to fight through the sports science this is a great read!

Lynne Cox: Grayson

This book covers one very special day in Lynne Cox’s life — a day that weren’t covered in her autobiography. One early morning around daybreak, the seventeen year old Lynne is midway through a solitary open water swim practice. Suddenly she experiences unusual disturbances in the water, only to discover that it’s caused by a baby gray whale.

What seems to be a fun encounter quickly turns into a more serious matter: Communicating with an experienced elderly man on shore, she realises that the baby whale has been separated from his mother. If she swims ashore the infant will follow her, strand and die. The story details how Lynne slowly coaches the whale out to deeper water in the hope that they’ll by chance will find his mother.

Where Swimming to Antartica was a book as much about Lynne’s inner journeys as her outer, Grayson is even more of an inner journey. The book’s style reflects this. Grayson has a far more lyrical, introspective and even pensive form than her first book.

That’s not only positive. As mentioned it covers the events of this one morning only. The only perspective is Lynne’s told in the present tense. To stretch a small story about one morning from one person’s perspective to the necessary 150 pages, a lot of the text is inner monologue. In my opinion that slows the narrative down, and not in a good way. The inner monologues become fillers that doesn’t drive story.

What’s worse is that much of the inner monologue doesn’t seem entirely believable. The amount of depth and detail that Lynne allegedly remembers events and thoughts with, is more than anyone — with the possible expection of Marilu Henner — can recall some 30 odd years later. In addition many of the thoughts and reflections the 17 year old Lynne supposedly has, are astonishingly mature and filled with knowledge she possibly couldn’t have had at the moment . Scientific facts about gray whales, for instance. These are the thoughts and retrospections of a person in their late forties. There’s nothing wrong with thoughts and retrospections from late forty-somethings — after all I’m one myself. And had they been presented as such, as present day reflections of that extraordinary morning in her teens, this would probably not feel alien to the story at all. But the the choice to attribute the thoughts of a soon-to-be 50 year old to a 17-year old ends — to me —up as a significant stylistic crash.

With that in mind, I can’t help but think that if her editor had cut most of this, they’d end up with a tight and great story driven book for adolescents/young adults. As it is now, it’s not. But if you’re a less critical reader than me you’ll get a reasonably engaging book about the inner and outer journey of an almost superhuman swimmer. Should you only want to read only one book by Lynne Cox, however, Swimming to Antartica is the better choice.

Mikael Rosén: Open Water

Swedish author Mikael Rosén’s Open Water is not only about swimming itself, but also about swimming’s history, technique, science, cultural implications, racial issues, and more. Although you’d imagine that a mashup of all that would end up… well… mashy, the book is surprisingly clear and interesting despite juggling many sprawling subject. As such the book really delivers on its subtitle The History and Technique of Swimming.

Although this book talks about specific swimmers such as the pre-WW2 olympian Johnny Weissmuller, the first man to swim across the English channel, captain Matthew Webb, or modern athletes like Michael Phelphs, this is really not a book about individuals. These people are used to illustrate topics such as improvement in sports science (Weissmuller vs the Japanese swimmers that followed) or the history of open water swimming (captain Webb). Consistently interesting throughout, the most interesting part may be the second of the total eight chapter. That section explores prejudice — how female swimmers started to appear on the scene and suddenly break records previously held by men, or how a white, racist population’s negative reaction to black swimmers at public pools contributed to the establishment and strengthening of segregation laws in the southern states of the USA.

This tour de force of interesting and surprising facts reads a little like if Bill Bryson had written a book about swimming, though less humorous. But still, it’s almost on that level. Most books are not perfect, however, and this book is no exception: Written three years before Ross Edgeley’s The Art of Resilience, it shares the latter’s insistence of closing each chapter with a little sports science, training programs, suggestions of drills, etc. They don’t bother me as much in this book — as opposed to Ross’s — as this book is not a chronological story driven narrative. Therefore the training parts fits a little better into the whole. But the book wouldn’t suffer if they’d been edited out.

All in all that’s minor critisism, so I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Bonnie Tsui: Why we swim

It’s not a coincidence that this book comes last. The reason is that this book is best described in the context of the previously mentioned books.

Why we swim is in a way an amalgamation of the science/history aspects of Mikael Rosén’s Open Water and the introspection of Lynne Cox’s books. But where the latter describes her personal growth in retrospect, Bonnie Tsui documents her quest for personal growth through swimming more or less as it happens — as a part of the process of writing the book itself it seems.

Bonnie Tsui kicks her book off with the story of Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a fisherman that was the sole survivor after a fishing vessel sank in the frigid winter waters off Iceland. Together with two mates he started to swim towards land, but not long after he was the only one still swimming. Against all odds Friðþórsson survived a six hour swim in six degree celcius water.

For Tsui this becomes the entry point to the history of swimming. Her book is structured around five main topics, going from Survival, Well-Being, Community, Competition and ultimately to the more metaphysical and meditative subject of Flow. She takes on a tour of swimming history, starting in the stone age and the first documentation we have of humans swimming, ending with personal musings about not why we swim, but why she swims.

And this inclusion of a very visible I throughout the book — the chapter about Friðþórsson is not only about Friðþórsson but also about her meeting him and her participation in a swim honoring him—means that you can’t separate her personal journey from her exploration of the history, culture and science of swimming. Granted, Open Water is more hard core when it comes to facts, but the unique interspersion of the author personal story and the overarching topics of the book, makes this the most beautifully written of the five books I’ve mentioned here. Read it!

So… do you become a better swimmer by reading? Of course not. Only practice can improve swimming (although you may pick up some valuable hints to how you can improve through pure instructional books, such as Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion).

But this being November 2020, the year of Covid-19, all swimming pools are closed and I’m unable to practice and improve for a while. This may be the case for you too. But while you wait for the pools to open again or the summer to heat up the sea to a more welcoming temperature, spending some time on one or more of these books wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll come back to the water more inspired than before.

6guts: Taking a break from Raku core development

Published by jnthnwrthngtn on 2020-10-05T19:44:26

I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me in the recent Raku Steering Council elections. By this point, I’ve been working on the language for well over a decade, first to help turn a language design I found fascinating into a working implementation, and since the Christmas release to make that implementation more robust and performant. Overall, it’s been as fun as it has been challenging – in a large part because I’ve found myself sharing the journey with a lot of really great people. I’ve also tried to do my bit to keep the community around the language kind and considerate. Receiving a vote from around 90% of those who participated in the Steering Council elections was humbling.

Alas, I’ve today submitted my resignation to the Steering Council, on personal health grounds. For the same reason, I’ll be taking a step back from Raku core development (Raku, MoarVM, language design, etc.) Please don’t worry too much; I’ll almost certainly be fine. It may be I’m ready to continue working on Raku things in a month or two. It may also be longer. Either way, I think Raku will be better off with a fully sized Steering Council in place, and I’ll be better off without the anxiety that I’m holding a role that I’m not in a place to fulfill. Rakudo Star Release 2020.01

Published on 2020-02-24T00:00:00

Jo Christian Oterhals: Perl 6 small stuff #21: it’s a date! …or: learn from an overly complex solution to a simple task

Published by Jo Christian Oterhals on 2019-07-31T13:23:17

Perl 6 small stuff #21: it’s a date! …or: learn from an overly complex solution to a simple task

This week’s Perl Weekly Challenge (#19) has two tasks. The first is to find all months with five weekends in the years from 1900 through 2019. The second is to program an implementation of word wrap using the greedy algorithm.

Both are pretty straight-forward tasks, and the solutions to them can (and should) be as well. This time, however, I’m also going to do the opposite and incrementally turn the easy solution into an unnecessarily complex one. Because in this particular case we can learn more by doing things the unnecessarily hard way. So this post will take a look at Dates and date manipulation in Perl 6, using PWC #19 task 1 as an example:

Write a script to display months from the year 1900 to 2019 where you find 5 weekends i.e. 5 Friday, 5 Saturday and 5 Sunday.

Let’s start by finding five-weekend months the easy way:

#!/usr/bin/env perl6
say join "\n", grep *.day-of-week == 5, map { |$_, 1 }, do 1900..2019 X 1,3,5,7,8,10,12;

The algorithm for figuring this out is simple. Given the prerequisite that there must be five occurrences of not only Saturday and Sunday but also Friday, you A) *must* have 31 days to cram five weekends into. And when you know that you’ll also see that B) the last day of the month MUST be a Sunday and C) the first day of the month MUST be a Friday (you don’t have to check for both; if A is true and B is true, C is automatically true too).

The code above implements B and employs a few tricks. You read it from right to left (unless you write it from left to right, like this… say do 1900..2019 X 1,3,5,7,8,10,12 ==> map { |$_, 1 } ==> grep *.day-of-week == 5 ==> join “\n”; )

Using the X operator I create a cross product of all the years in the range 1900–2019 and the months 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12 (31-day months). In return I get a sequence containing all year-month pairs of the period.

The map function iterates through the Seq. There it instantiates a Date object. A little song and dance is necessary: As takes three unnamed integer parameters, year, month and day, I have to do something to what I have — a Pair with year and month. I therefore use the | operator to “explode” the pair into two integer parameters for year and month.

You can always use this for calling a sub routine with fixed parameters, using an array with parameter values rather than having separate variables for each parameter. The code below exemplifies usage:

my @list = 1, 2, 3;
sub explode-parameters($one, $two, $three) { 
…do something…
#traditional call 
explode-parameters(@list[0], @list[1], @list[2]);
# …or using | 

Back to the business at hand — the .grep filters out the months where the 1st is a Friday, and those are our 5 weekend months. So the output of the one-liner above looks something like this:


This is a solution as good as any, and if a solution was all we wanted, we could have stopped here. But using this task as an example I want to explore ways to utilise the Date class. Example: The one-liner above does the job, but strictly speaking it doesn’t output the months but the first day of those months. Correcting this is easy, because the Date class supports something called formatters and use the sprintf syntax. To do this you utilise the named parameter “formatter” when instantiating the object.

say join "\n", grep *.day-of-week == 5, map { |$_, 1, formatter => { sprintf "%04d/%02d", .year, .month } }, do 1900..2019 X 1,3,5,7,8,10,12;

Every time a routine pulls a stringified version of the date, the formatter object is invoked. In our case the output has been changed to…


Formatters are powerful. Look into them.

Now to the overly complex solution. This is the unthinking programmer’s solution, as we don’t suppose anything. The program isn’t told that 5 weekend months only can occur on 31 day months. It doesn’t know that the 1st of such months must be a Friday. All it knows is that if the last day of the month is not Sunday, it figures out the date of the last Sunday (this is not very relevant when counting three-day weekends, but could be if you want to find Saturday+Sunday weekends, or only Sundays).

#!/usr/bin/env perl6
my $format-it = sub ($self) {
sprintf "%04d month %02d", .year, .month given $self;
sub MAIN(Int :$from-year = 1900, Int :$to-year where * > $from-year = 2019, Int :$weekend-length where * ~~ 1..3 = 3) {
my $date-loop =$from-year, 1, 1, formatter => $format-it);
while ($date-loop.year <= $to-year) {
my $date = $date-loop.later(day => $date-loop.days-in-month);
$date = $date.truncated-to('week').pred if $ != 7;
my @weekend = do for 0..^$weekend-length -> $w {
$date.earlier(day => $w).weekday-of-month;
say $date-loop if ([+] @weekend) / @weekend == 5;
$date-loop = $date-loop.later(:1month);

This code can solve the task both for three day weekends, but also for weekends consisting of Saturday + Sunday, as well as only Sundays. You control that with the command line parameter weekend-length=[1..3].

This code finds the last Sunday of each month and counts whether it has occured five times that month. It does the same for Saturday (if weekend-length=2) and Friday (if weekend-length=3). Like this:

my @weekend = do for 0..^$weekend-length -> $w { 
$date.earlier(day => $w).weekday-of-month;

The code then calculcates the average weekday-of-month for these three days like this:

say $date-loop if ([+] @weekend) / @weekend == 5;

This line uses the reduction operator [+] on the @weekend list to find the sum of all elements. That sum is divided by the number of elements. If the result is 5, then you have a five day weekend.

As for fun stuff to do with the Date object:

.later(day|month|year => Int) — adds the given number of time units to the current date. There’s also an earlier method for subtracting.

.days-in-months — tells you how many days there are in the current month of the Date object. The value may be 31, 30, 29 (february, leap year) or 28 (february).

.truncated-to(week|month|day|year) — rolls the date back to the first day of the week, month, day or year.

.weekday-of-month — figures out what day of week the current date is and calculates how many of that day there has been so far in that month.

Apart from this you’ll see that I added the formatter in a different way this time. This is probably cleaner looking and easier to maintain.

In the end this post maybe isn’t about dates and date manipulation at all, but rather is a call for all of us to use the documentation even more. It’s often I think that Perl 6 should have a function for x, y or z — .weekday-of-month is one such example — and the documentation tells me that it actually does!

It’s very easy to pick up Perl 6 and program it as you would have programmed Perl 5 or other languages you know well. But the documentation has lots of info of things you didn’t have before and that will make programming easier and more fun when you’ve learnt about them.

I guess you don’t need and excuse to delve into the docs, but if you do the Perl Weekly Challenge is an excellent excuse for spending time in the docs! Rakudo Star Release 2019.03

Published on 2019-03-30T00:00:00

brrt to the future: Reverse Linear Scan Allocation is probably a good idea

Published by Bart Wiegmans on 2019-03-21T15:52:00

Hi hackers! Today First of all, I want to thank everybody who gave such useful feedback on my last post.  For instance, I found out that the similarity between the expression JIT IR and the Testarossa Trees IR is quite remarkable, and that they have a fix for the problem that is quite different from what I had in mind.

Today I want to write something about register allocation, however. Register allocation is probably not my favorite problem, on account of being both messy and thankless. It is a messy problem because - aside from being NP-hard to solve optimally - hardware instruction sets and software ABI's introduce all sorts of annoying constraints. And it is a thankless problem because the case in which a good register allocator is useful - for instance, when there's lots of intermediate values used over a long stretch of code - are fairly rare. Much more common are the cases in which either there are trivially sufficient registers, or ABI constraints force a spill to memory anyway (e.g. when calling a function, almost all registers can be overwritten).

So, on account of this being not my favorite problem, and also because I promised to implement optimizations in the register allocator, I've been researching if there is a way to do better. And what better place to look than one of the fastest dynamic language implementations arround, LuaJIT? So that's what I did, and this post is about what I learned from that.

Truth be told, LuaJIT is not at all a learners' codebase (and I don't think it's author would claim this). It uses a rather terse style of C and lots and lots of preprocessor macros. I had somewhat gotten used to the style from hacking dynasm though, so that wasn't so bad. What was more surprising is that some of the steps in code generation that are distinct and separate in the MoarVM JIT - instruction selection, register allocation and emitting bytecode - were all blended together in LuaJIT. Over multiple backend architectures, too. And what's more - all these steps were done in reverse order - from the end of the program (trace) to the beginning. Now that's interesting...

I have no intention of combining all phases of code generation like LuaJIT has. But processing the IR in reverse seems to have some interesting properties. To understand why that is, I'll first have to explain how linear scan allocation currently works in MoarVM, and is most commonly described:

  1. First, the live ranges of program values are computed. Like the name indicates, these represent the range of the program code in which a value is both defined and may be used. Note that for the purpose of register allocation, the notion of a value shifts somewhat. In the expression DAG IR, a value is the result of a single computation. But for the purposes of register allocation, a value includes all its copies, as well as values computed from different conditional branches. This is necessary because when we actually start allocating registers, we need to know when a value is no longer in use (so we can reuse the register) and how long a value will remain in use -
  2. Because a value may be computed from distinct conditional branches, it is necessary to compute the holes in the live ranges. Holes exists because if a value is defined in both sides of a conditional branch, the range will cover both the earlier (in code order) branch and the later branch - but from the start of the later branch to its definition that value doesn't actually exist. We need this information to prevent the register allocator from trying to spill-and-load a nonexistent value, for instance.
  3. Only then can we allocate and assign the actual registers to instructions. Because we might have to spill values to memory, and because values now can have multiple definitions, this is a somewhat subtle problem. Also, we'll have to resolve all architecture specific register requirements in this step.
In the MoarVM register allocator, there's a fourth step and a fifth step. The fourth step exists to ensure that instructions conform to x86 two-operand form (Rather than return the result of an instruction in a third register, x86 reuses one of the input registers as the output register. E.g. all operators are of the form a = op(a, b)  rather than a = op(b, c). This saves on instruction encoding space). The fifth step inserts instructions that are introduced by the third step; this is done so that each instruction has a fixed address in the stream while the stream is being processed.

Altogether this is quite a bit of complexity and work, even for what is arguably the simplest correct global register allocation algorithm. So when I started thinking of the reverse linear scan algorithm employed by LuaJIT, the advantages became clear:
There are downsides as well, of course. Not knowing exactly how long a value will be live while processing it may cause the algorithm to make worse choices in which values to spill. But I don't think that's really a great concern, since figuring out the best possible value is practically impossible anyway, and the most commonly cited heuristic - evict the value that is live furthest in the future, because this will release a register over a longer range of code, reducing the chance that we'll need to evict again - is still available. (After all, we do always know the last use, even if we don't necessarily know the first definition).

Altogether, I'm quite excited about this algorithm; I think it will be a real simplification over the current implementation. Whether that will work out remains to be seen of course. I'll let you know!

brrt to the future: Something about IR optimization

Published by Bart Wiegmans on 2019-03-17T06:23:00

Hi hackers! Today I want to write about optimizing IR in the MoarVM JIT, and also a little bit about IR design itself.

One of the (major) design goals for the expression JIT was to have the ability to optimize code over the boundaries of individual MoarVM instructions. To enable this, the expression JIT first expands each VM instruction into a graph of lower-level operators. Optimization then means pattern-matching those graphs and replacing them with more efficient expressions.

As a running example, consider the idx operator. This operator takes two inputs (base and element) and a constant parameter scale and computes base+element*scale. This represents one of the operands of an  'indexed load' instruction on x86, typically used to process arrays. Such instructions allow one instruction to be used for what would otherwise be two operations (computing an address and loading a value). However, if the element of the idx operator is a constant, we can replace it instead with the addr instruction, which just adds a constant to a pointer. This is an improvement over idx because we no longer need to load the value of element into a register. This saves both an instruction and valuable register space.

Unfortunately this optimization introduces a bug. (Or, depending on your point of view, brings an existing bug out into the open). The expression JIT code generation process selects instructions for subtrees (tile) of the graph in a bottom-up fashion. These instructions represent the value computed or work performed by that subgraph. (For instance, a tree like (load (addr ? 8) 8) becomes mov ?, qword [?+8]; the question marks are filled in during register allocation). Because an instruction is always represents a tree, and because the graph is an arbitrary directed acyclic graph, the code generator projects that graph as a tree by visiting each operator node only once. So each value is computed once, and that computed value is reused by all later references.

It is worth going into some detail into why the expression graph is not a tree. Aside from transformations that might be introduced by optimizations (e.g. common subexpression elimination), a template may introduce a value that has multiple references via the let: pseudo-operator. See for instance the following (simplified) template:

(let: (($foo (load (local))))
    (add $foo (sub $foo (const 1))))

Both ADD and SUB refer to the same LOAD node

In this case, both references to $foo point directly to the same load operator. Thus, the graph is not a tree. Another case in which this occurs is during linking of templates into the graph. The output of an instruction is used, if possible, directly as the input for another instruction. (This is the primary way that the expression JIT can get rid of unnecessary memory operations). But there can be multiple instructions that use a value, in which case an operator can have multiple references. Finally, instruction operands are inserted by the compiler and these can have multiple references as well.

If each operator is visited only once during code generation, then this may introduce a problem when combined with another feature - conditional expressions. For instance, if two branches of a conditional expression both refer to the same value (represented by name $foo) then the code generator will only emit code to compute its value when it encounters the first reference. When the code generator encounters $foo for the second time in the other branch, no code will be emitted. This means that in the second branch, $foo will effectively have no defined value (because the code in the first branch is never executed), and wrong values or memory corruption is then the predictable result.

This bug has always existed for as long as the expression JIT has been under development, and in the past the solution has been not to write templates which have this problem. This is made a little easier by a feature the let: operator, in that it inserts a do operator which orders the values that are declared to be computed before the code that references them. So that this is in fact non-buggy:

(let: (($foo (load (local))) # code to compute $foo is emitted here
  (if (...)  
    (add $foo (const 1)) # $foo is just a reference
    (sub $foo (const 2)) # and here as well

The DO node is inserted for the LET operator. It ensures that the value of the LOAD node is computed before the reference in either branch

Alternatively, if a value $foo is used in the condition of the if operator, you can also be sure that it is available in both sides of the condition.

All these methods rely on the programmer being able to predict when a value will be first referenced and hence evaluated. An optimizer breaks this by design. This means that if I want the JIT optimizer to be successful, my options are:

  1. Fix the optimizer so as to not remove references that are critical for the correctness of the program
  2. Modify the input tree so that such references are either copied or moved forward
  3. Fix the code generator to emit code for a value, if it determines that an earlier reference is not available from the current block.
In other words, I first need to decide where this bug really belongs - in the optimizer, the code generator, or even the IR structure itself. The weakness of the expression IR is that expressions don't really impose a particular order. (This is unlike the spesh IR, which is instruction-based, and in which every instruction has a 'previous' and 'next' pointer). Thus, there really isn't a 'first' reference to a value, before the code generator introduces the concept. This is property is in fact quite handy for optimization (for instance, we can evaluate operands in whatever order is best, rather than being fixed by the input order) - so I'd really like to preserve it. But it also means that the property we're interested in - a value is computed before it is used in, in all possible code flow paths - isn't really expressible by the IR. And there is no obvious local invariant that can be maintained to ensure that this bug does not happen, so any correctness check may have to check the entire graph, which is quite impractical.

I hope this post explains why this is such a tricky problem! I have some ideas for how to get out of this, but I'll reserve those for a later post, since this one has gotten quite long enough. Until next time!

brrt to the future: A short post about types and polymorphism

Published by Bart Wiegmans on 2019-01-14T13:34:00

Hi all. I usually write somewhat long-winded posts, but today I'm going to try and make an exception. Today I want to talk about the expression template language used to map the high-level MoarVM instructions to low-level constructs that the JIT compiler can easily work with:

This 'language' was designed back in 2015 subject to three constraints:
Recently I've been working on adding support for floating point operations, and  this means working on the type system of the expression language. Because floating point instructions operate on a distinct set of registers from integer instructions, a floating point operator is not interchangeable with an integer (or pointer) operator.

This type system is enforced in two ways. First, by the template compiler, which attempts to check if you've used all operands correctly. This operates during development, which is convenient. Second, by instruction selection, as there will simply not be any instructions available that have the wrong combinations of types. Unfortunately, that happens at runtime, and such errors so annoying to debug that it motivated the development of the first type checker.

However, this presents two problems. One of the advantages of the expression IR is that, by virtue of having a small number of operators, it is fairly easy to analyze. Having a distinct set of operators for each type would undo that. But more importantly, there are several MoarVM instructions that are generic, i.e. that operate on integer, floating point, and pointer values. (For example, the set, getlex and bindlex instructions are generic in this way). This makes it impossible to know whether its values will be integers, pointers, or floats.

This is no problem for the interpreter since it can treat values as bags-of-bits (i.e., it can simply copy the union MVMRegister type that holds all values of all supported types). But the expression JIT works differently - it assumes that it can place any value in a register, and that it can reorder and potentially skip storing them to memory. (This saves work when the value would soon be overwritten anyway). So we need to know what register class that is, and we need to have the correct operators to manipulate a value in the right register class.

To summarize, the problem is:
There are two ways around this, and I chose to use both. First, we know as a fact for each local or lexical value in a MoarVM frame (subroutine) what type it should have. So even a generic operator like set can be resolved to a specific type at runtime, at which point we can select the correct operators. Second, we can introduce generic operators of our own. This is possible so long as we can select the correct instruction for an operator based on the types of the operands.

For instance, the store operator takes two operands, an address and a value. Depending on the type of the value (reg or num), we can always select the correct instruction (mov or movsd). It is however not possible to select different instructions for the load operator based on the type required, because instruction selection works from the bottom up. So we need a special load_num operator, but a store_num operator is not necessary. And this is true for a lot more operators than I had initially thought. For instance, aside from the (naturally generic) do and if operators, all arithmetic operators and comparison operators are generic in this way.

I realize that, despite my best efforts, this has become a rather long-winded post anyway.....

Anyway. For the next week, I'll be taking a slight detour, and I aim to generalize the two-operand form conversion that is necessary on x86. I'll try to write a blog about it as well, and maybe it'll be short and to the point. See you later!