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pmichaud (6013)

pmichaud
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http://www.pmichaud.com/

Patrick Michaud is the pumpking for the Rakudo Perl 6 compiler. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and was formerly a Professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He is currently a software developer and consultant focused on open source development and applications, including Perl, PmWiki, and Linux.

Journal of pmichaud (6013)

Sunday July 26, 2009
11:47 PM

Rakudo Day: install, quoting, and string operators

[ #39356 ]

Since I was busy at OSCON all this week, it was difficult to find a single day to dedicate to my Vienna.pm grant. But I did manage to get several major tasks done from my hotel room, so I'm going to bundle those together and count them as my "Rakudo day" for the week.

The biggest accomplishment was to finally get Rakudo so that it can build from an installed Parrot. Prior to Parrot 1.4.0 this has been exceedingly difficult, as an installed copy of Parrot did not provide all of the tools needed to compile dynamic PMCs and dynamic opcodes on our target platforms. But over the past few weeks Allison Randal and Will Coleda have gotten it to work for ParTcl, and now I've been able to adapt those techniques to work with Rakudo. The current state of building Rakudo from an installed Parrot is in the "ins2" branch of the github repository, if you wish to give it a try. (See below for instructions.) Note that some of the spectests will fail if you try "make spectest"; because the "ins2" branch is using an older version of Rakudo and some spectests have been added to the test suite since then. Since we're really just testing build/install, "make test" is sufficient here (and I'll clean up any spectest issues when I merge it back to the master branch).

Some may ask why we don't simply merge it back to master now; I haven't wanted to merge the ins2 branch back into trunk until we have verification that it builds properly on a variety of platforms. So far I've only had it fully tested on a couple of versions of Linux; I don't want to end up cutting out other operating systems from playing with Rakudo.

One of the downsides of building Rakudo from an installed Parrot is that we effectively lose the ability to easily build Rakudo from a build-tree copy of Parrot (like we do now). Part of the problem is that the filesystem layout of a build-tree copy of Parrot is very different from the filesystem layout of an installed Parrot. So at a minimum we would need a lot of code that says "if installed Parrot use this path, if Parrot build use this other path". This is true not only for file locations, but also for the tools used to build dynamically loaded PMCs and opcodes. Instead of trying to support both layouts, I'd prefer to just stick with using an installed Parrot for now.

(Note that it doesn't have to be a system-installed Parrot, the --gen-parrot option to Rakudo's Configure.pl will make a local install of Parrot and then build Rakudo from that.)

We're not abandoning the ability to build Rakudo from a build-copy of Parrot, we're just switching gears for a while. Based on conversations with other Parrot team members at YAPC::NA Pittsburgh and online, we've decided that of building (but not installing) Parrot should result in something that directly mimics the filesystem layout of an installed Parrot. When this is done, it will be easier for HLL languages and other tools built on Parrot to work from either a build tree or install tree version of Parrot.

In other areas, during Monday's OSCON tutorial sessions I sat in on Damian Conway's "Perl 6: Why? What? How?" tutorial. I wanted to see the tutorial itself, but I was also curious to know what problems would arise during the tutorial so that I could work on fixing them quickly. One of the problems that was quickly identified was that the << ... >> quoting operator wasn't handling comments properly. In other words, the following code

    my $a = <<
        do         # a deer
        re         # a drop of golden sun
        mi         # a name I call myself
    >>;

would act like a list of eighteen words instead of three. To be honest, I had overlooked that comments were allowed here, so that evening I quickly updated the parser to skip over comments as well as whitespace, and now the above works the way it is supposed to. Note that it even skips embedded and pod comments:

    my $a = << do #(a deer) re #(a drop of golden sun) >>;  # ("do", "re")

We had quite a few tickets dealing with places where operations end up returning Parrot String objects instead of Perl 6 Str objects. The easiest way to detect when this happens is to attempt to perform .trans on the string -- the .trans method for Parrot strings doesn't work the same as Rakudo's .trans method. So I converted a few settings functions (e.g., .uc, .flip, .lc, etc.) to explicitly call prefix:<~> on the result value; this guarantees that we end up with a Perl 6 Str object.

When we ultimately switch Rakudo to use HLL mapping of Parrot types, these explicit coercions won't be needed. However, at the moment using HLL mapping imposes a significant speed penalty on Rakudo (we're working on this), and given that things are on the slow side already I'd rather keep the speed and maintain workarounds for the time being.

I also fixed up stringification of several of the builtin types, especially Int, Num, and Junction. Previously printing a Junction object would produce a string like "Junction()<0x7fb898cb42b0>", which is almost certainly not what is wanted. So I updated Junction.Str to simply return its .perl representation.

Finally, Rakudo had been misparsing function names that began with a keyword followed by an apostrophe or hyphen. For example:

    sub do-something() { say 'hello'; }

    do-something();

Because do is a keyword, Rakudo would often end up parsing the above as do -something(), which of course wouldn't work properly. Similar issues existed with other keywords such as if, for, while, etc.

Having a longest-token matcher in the parser can avoid a lot of these misparses, but it's not always a complete solution. The STD grammar (as well as Rakudo's grammar) has a special <.nofun> lookahed subrule that can be used to verify that the keyword we just scanned is actually a keyword and not simply the lead-in to a function call. I went ahead and added a few <.nofun> calls to Rakudo's grammar, and now subroutine names that begin with keywords work like they're supposed to. (Thus making them a lot more fun. :-)

There were other fixes here and there throughout the week, and of course Moritz Lenz did the Rakudo #19 release on Thursday (which I describe in another post. I also worked with Jonathan on improving our internal object metamodel and introspection capabilities, and he and I worked out some ideas for refactoring our handling of lexicals. And all of this took place while I was attending OSCON, giving various presentations, and engaging in useful hallway discussions with other Perl folks. So it's been a busy and good week.

As always, my thanks go to Vienna.pm for sponsoring the work I did on the above tasks. Because of all of the travel and conferences I'm a bit behind on Rakudo days, so I will likely try to double-up on them for a few weeks until I'm caught up.

Pm

To test the ins2 branch:

    $ git clone git://github.com/rakudo/rakudo.git
    $ git branch ins2 origin/ins2
    $ git checkout ins2
    $ perl Configure.pl --gen-parrot
    $ make test

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  • This needs at least a "cd rakduo" somewhere in there, right? I did that right after the first line. But (not knowing git, really) I was thoroughly unconvinced that git had actually switched to the branch -- there wasn't any real feedback like when doing a "git pull". (It gave the appearance of having logically switched to the branch without having updated files, if that makes any sense.) Still, it built and passed make test under OS X 10.5.6. Is there any way to verify that it was the correct branch