Tag Archives: php

Performance crisis

The last days were really tough for me because everything started to fall apart — compiler was way too slow to experiment with, programs written in Skila were too slow to run and allocated too much memory. To build DOM tree out of 1MB web page — single web page is taking nowadays over one million bytes? that’s insane — I needed over 0.5GB of memory.

Without solving those issues I would have to stop development of Skila, using other backend for speed and memory has no sense, since I am still experimenting with language features. So I had to blend in with smarter internal wiring.

First I dropped basic types from the backend — Char, Int and Real. They were just wrappers and because of their ubiquity they took a lot of extra space in total. Currently I use native PHP values and redirect them to appropriate static classes — when I know in advance I have for example Int type in hand I call static method for it. When I don’t know what I have I call small dispatcher which checks the types in runtime and makes appropriate call. Luckily PHP makes such task trivial. I saved around 60% memory with this move.

It was promising but not enough — I still had the bottleneck and its name was String (another commonly used type) which was implemented as Skila Array of Chars. When you split 210KB string into an PHP array of characters (since PHP does not have Char type it is an array of strings really) you will get 14MB array — in other words single character takes around 60 bytes. You can reduce the memory a little by converting an array to splFixedArray, but there is no enough gain here (not mentioning time required for all back and forth conversions). So I decided to simply wrap the native string with my type and rewrite all String methods. That move was big time winner — from initial 0.5GB the memory requirement dropped to 7MB and the speed is close to native PHP code, because now in fact it is almost native PHP code.

Currently I am going to make two micro optimizations — postponing parameter default initialization and adding inline functions. Both for sole purpose — speeding up assert execution.

With compiler I was not so successful — I use rich AST with pointers to parent’s node. It is really comfortable to work with such tree (and worse — I got used to it) but there is penalty in performance, you have to clone nodes whenever you would like to share some subtree. I don’t know how I will get rid of it completely, nevertheless the diet is already implemented with positive effect — compile time was reduced by 50%.

A lot of work ahead of me, but at least I managed to get out of trouble — I can continue my journey…

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Hack — smooth evolution

One thing I like about PHP is its hosting ubiquity — you can start away for free. I wonder if Hack will become equally successful.

Hack is a new language from Facebook, and while its syntax does not give me chills:

<?hh
class MyClass {
  const int MyConst = 0;
  private string $x = '';
  public function increment(int $x): int {
    $y = $x + 1;
    return $y;
  }
}

it simply might be good enough to gain acceptance. It is very interesting for sure, and Facebook prepared its website well, there is a interactive tutorial which looks rather like a mini course, and it is fun too.

One thing surprises me — with such effort and solid features, such a lame name? Somebody missed the lesson of “Go”.

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Code injects — collections are getting closer

I see a scary pattern lately. I add new feature to Skila pretty quickly, but when it comes to cleaning the code (sadly, it is messy) I can spend a day on refactoring, polishing, removing dead pieces, and at the end it appears that I cleaned away one thing too many and I have no clue how to fix it while moving forward — so instead I have to rewind the changes, I make half of them again with commit on each step, and then I am too tired to make the second half, so I call it a day (the second one). The weekend just passes and I don’t know when…

I am working on at least one collection to introduce variadic functions in Skila, and this is the time when Skila and target language have to meet in the same code:

class Array<T>
	<?php
	public $data;
	?>

	func construct(size Int) do
		@ = size;
		<?php
		$this->data = array();
		?>
	end  
end

So far I didn’t solved the name matching problem, I rely on common sense of Skila translator, but I am too eager to finally see Skila programs working.

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Implicit generics and pinned constructors

It is preliminary step of enhanced generics we know from C# and I hope all things finally clicked in for implementing this feature. Consider such code:

public class ClassModifier : TreeNode
{
  public bool IsAbstract { get; private set; }
  public bool IsVirtual { get; private set; }
  public bool IsStatic { get; private set; }

  private ClassModifier(NodeCoords coords)
    : base(coords)
  {
  }

  public static ClassModifier Abstract(NodeCoords coords)
  {
    return new ClassModifier(coords) 
      { IsAbstract = true };
  }
  ...

and

public class MethodModifier : TreeNode
{
  public bool IsAbstract { get; private set; }
  public bool IsVirtual { get; private set; }
  public bool IsStatic { get; private set; }
  public bool IsNew { get; private set; }
  public bool IsOverride { get; private set; }

  private MethodModifier(NodeCoords coords)
    : base(coords)
  {
  }

  public static MethodModifier Abstract(NodeCoords coords)
  {
    return new MethodModifier(coords) 
      { IsAbstract = true };
  }
...

Factory methods as usual, nothing special except the code is highly redundant. In PHP it can be expressed nicely because it has static constructor with late binding — it works like static polymorphism. It can be shortened in C# too, but with ugly twists.

However Skila is meant to be expressive and compiled language.

So I came up with idea of pinned constructor for the beginning. Once added to any class such constructor has to be overridden in every descendant class (or automatically upgraded). Secondly special keyword to express static polymorphism is needed — “SELF” sounds just right. With those two enhancements the code becomes much shorter (it is not Skila yet):

public class ClassModifier : TreeNode
{
  public bool IsAbstract { get; protected set; }
  public bool IsVirtual { get; protected set; }
  public bool IsStatic { get; protected set; }

  protected pinned ClassModifier(NodeCoords coords)
    : base(coords)
  {
  }

  public static SELF Abstract(NodeCoords coords)
  {
    return new SELF(coords) 
      { IsAbstract = true };
  }
  ...

public class MethodModifier : ClassModifier
{
  public bool IsNew { get; private set; }
  public bool IsOverride { get; private set; }
  ...
}

Thanks to pinned constructor it is safe to write “new SELF(coords)” — every class has to support such call. And because “SELF” works as implicit generics when I call “MethodModifier.Abstract()” I will get “MethodModifier”, not “ClassModifier” despite the fact the method is static and it is defined in “ClassModifier” class.

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Modern constructor — how does it look?

For sure the way the constructors are written in C++ has to go — starting from naming constructor not by a name of the class, but simply “__construct” (like in PHP) or “init” (I would also like to add ability to return a value, but it is a minor thing as well). The real problem is how to initialize object fields in a constructor — briefly, yet in informative way?

Scala integrated constructor went too far — the code is very concise, true, but at the expense of the readability. Entire body of a class becomes a constructor and this means constructor parameters are leaking directly into all class methods.

C# is much better in this regard, I love its syntax:

new Person()
  {
    FirstName = "Joe",
    LastName = "Doe"
  };

The problem? It is not a constructor really (just the first line is). It is not only the matter of the name though, there are technical implications as well — “FirstName” and “LastName” cannot be readonly properties for example. But the clarity is hard to beat.

So the question for Skila is really this — how to bring C# syntax and make it real constructor? So far I came up only with an idea of macro constructor…

Mark the fields of the class which can be initialized by simple assignment and call constructor as usual — all parameters for marked fields are passed via magical “ini” tuple and initialized in one assignment.

class Foo
  var FirstName <- String("John");
  var LastName <- String;
  var BirthYear Int;

  def init(birthYear Int, $ini)
  do
    this.BirthYear = birthYear;
    this.$ini = $ini;
  end
end

new Foo(1918, FirstName : "Joe",
              LastName : "Doe");

Some of the features of macro constructor:

  • field pseudo-initialization serves as indication of optional argument, i.e. you could omit “FirstName” here when creating “Foo” object; it is not field initilization like in C#
  • when passing arguments via “ini” you have to name all arguments — in other words “ini” expands to a list of forced named parameters, and thanks to that it can always be safely placed as the last (pseudo) parameter,
  • because assignment in constructor is explicit you can decide when to call it.

Is this the best what can be done in 2013? Do you have better ideas?

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