Debugging concurrent systems is pretty hard, and we worked already for a while to make things a bit better. However, a big remaining problem is that bugs are not easily reproduced.
Programming languages naturally come with a library of containers or collection types. They allow us to easily work with arbitrary number of elements, which is something all major languages care about. Unfortunately, it seems like there is not much writing on how to design such libraries. Even asking a few people that worked for a long time on collection libraries did not yield much of a structured approach to such a central element for our languages. The one major piece of writing we found is the Scala people describing their experience with bit rot and how they redesigned their collection implementation to avoid it.
When we have to debug applications that use concurrency, perhaps written in Java, all we get from the debugger is a list of threads, perhaps some information about held locks, and the ability to step through each thread separately.
This post, the fourth in the series, is about my current work on concurrency and tooling. As mentioned before, I believe that there is not a single concurrency model that is suitable for all problems we might want to solve. Actually, I think, this can be stated even stronger: Not a single concurrency model is appropriate for a majority of the problems we want to solve.
The third post of this series is about how I started using Truffle and Graal, pretty much 4 years ago. It might be in parts ranty, but I started using it when it was in a very early stage. So, things are a lot better today.
Last week, I started a series of posts to go over some of the projects I was involved in during my first 10 years working on language implementations. Today’s post focuses on my time as PhD student.
Since SOMns is a pure research project, we aren’t usually doing releases for SOMns yet. However, we added many different concurrency abstractions since December and have plans for bigger changes. So, it seems like a good time to wrap up another step, and get it into a somewhat stable shape.
One possible way for modeling concurrent systems is Tony Hoare’s classic approach of having isolated processes communicate via channels, which is called Communicating Sequential Processes (CSP). Today, we see the approach used for instance in Go and Clojure.
Next weekend starts one of the major conferences of the programming languages research community. The conference hosts many events including our Meta’16 workshop on Metaprogramming, SPLASH-I with research and industry talks, the Dynamic Languages Symposium, and the OOPSLA research track.
With the Truffle language implementation framework, we got a powerful foundation for implementing languages as simple interpreters. In combination with the Graal compiler, Truffle interpreters execute their programs as very efficient native code.
Now that we got just-in-time compilation essentially “for free”, can we get IDE integration for our Truffle languages as well?
Beside the great performance after just-in-time compilation, the Truffle Language implementation framework provides a few other highly interesting features to language implementers. One of them is the instrumentation framework, which includes a REPL, profiler, and debugger.
Last December, we got a research project proposal accepted for a collaboration between the Software Languages Lab in Brussels and the Institute for System Software here in Linz. Together, we will be working on tooling for complex concurrent systems. And with that I mean systems that use multiple concurrency models in combination to solve different problems, each with the appropriate abstraction. I have been working on these issues already for a while. Some pointers are available here in an earlier post: Why Is Concurrent Programming Hard? And What Can We Do about It?
Continuing a little bit with writing notes on Truffle and Graal, this one is based on my observations in SOMns and changes to its message dispatch mechanism. Specifically, I refactored the main message dispatch chain in SOMns. As in Self and Newspeak, all interactions with objects are message sends. Thus, field access and method invocation is essentially the same. This means that message sending is a key to good performance.
The year leading up to SPLASH has been pretty busy. Beside my own talks on Tracing vs. Partial Evaluation and Optimizing Communicating Event-Loop Languages with Truffle, there are going to be three other presentations on work I was involved in.
The past few month, I have been busy implementing a fast actor language for the JVM. The language is essentially Newspeak with a smaller class library and without proving access to the underlying platform, which can lead to violations of the language’s guarantees.
Runtime metaprogramming and reflection are slow. That’s a common wisdom. Unfortunately. Using refection for instance with Java’s reflection API, its dynamic proxies, Ruby’s
#method_missing, PHP’s magic methods such as
DynamicObjects, or really any metaprogramming abstraction in modern languages unfortunately comes at a price. The fewest language implementations optimize these operations. For instance, on Java’s HotSpot VM, reflective method invocation and dynamic proxies have an overhead of 6-7x compared to direct operations.
To prepare some experiments with Pharo’s new compiler infrastructure and a simple AST interpreter, I ported my implementation of the Ownership-based Metaobject Protocol (OMOP) to the Pharo 3. Loading the OMOP into an image will give you an STM implementation, a basic actor system, communicating sequential processes, Clojure-like agents, and active objects. Eventually, the goal is to provide a more extensive set of such concurrent programming mechanisms on top of the OMOP, but for now these five should already give an impression of how the OMOP itself works.
Today at FOSDEM, I gave a brief talk on implementing SOM, a little Smalltalk, with RPython and Truffle. RPython, probably best known for the PyPy implementation, uses meta-tracing JIT compilation to make simple interpreters fast. Truffle, a research project of Oracle Lab, is an approach for building self-optimizing interpreters and in combination with Graal, it gives a JIT compiler for AST-like interpreters. In the talk, I briefly sketch both of them, without going into many details.
Last Friday, I defended my PhD dissertation. Finally, after 4 years and a bit, I am done. Finally. I am very grateful to all the people supporting me along the way and of course to my colleagues for their help.
My second talk at Smalltalks 2012 was most likely the reason why the organizers invited me in the first place. It was a slightly extended version of the Sly and RoarVM talk for the FOSDEM Smalltalk Dev Room from the beginning of the year, reporting on the Renaissance Project.
Yesterday was the first day of Smalltalks 2012 in Puerto Madryn. The organizers invited my to give a keynote on a topic of my choice, which I gladly did. Having just handed in my thesis draft, I chose to put my research into the context of Smalltalk and try to relate it to one of the main open questions: How do we actually want to program multicore systems.
My paper, on how to support various concurrency models, with an ownership-based meta-object protocol (MOP) was accepted at TOOLS’12. Below, you will find a preprint version of the paper. A later post will provide details on how to use it and how to experiment with the MOP in Pharo 1.3.
Today, FOSDEM featured that first incarnation of a Smalltalk developer room. Unfortunately, FOSDEM is always packed with interesting talks, so, I only managed to attend a couple of talks. Most notably the talk on Spoon.
Welcome to Academia. That is how I take this one…
Today, I gave a talk at the ExaScience Lab, Intel Labs Europe in Leuven at IMEC. I talked mainly about the idea of nondeterministic programming, the Sly programming language and some details on our Smalltalk manycore virtual machine that enables those experiments. Thus, tried to spread the word about our Renaissance project at bit further.
The following introduction and analysis of the Sly3 programming language was written by Pablo Inostroza Valdera as part of his course work for the Multicore Programming course of Tom Van Cutsem. The assignment was to write a blog post about a topic of their own choice, and I repost Pablo’s work here with his permission to spread the word about Sly a bit wider. We made his article also available as part of his work for the Renaissance project itself.
Just a brief heads up before the actual announcement of RoarVM.
Already quite a while ago, I was involved in writing a workshop paper about an actor model for virtual machines. Actually, the main idea was to find a concurrency model for a VM which supports multi-dimensional separation of concerns. However, AOP is not that interesting for me at the moment, so I am focussing on the concurrency, especially the actor-based VM model.
Along the way to measure the performance of a Smalltalk implementation for commodity multi-core systems, I tried to use Pharo as a more convenient development platform. Well, and I failed in the first attempt…