[erlang-questions] Quickcheck/PropEr: List generator not working as expected
Wed Oct 19 23:17:39 CEST 2011
On 10/19/11 15:29, Ward Bekker wrote:
> See git@REDACTED:wardbekker/proper_test.git , src/test.erl for a runnable demo app. Start with ./shell from the projects root
> When I test the property `proper:quickcheck(test:prop_ends_with_double_cons_is_true()).` The following error is outputted to console:
> Error: Couldn't produce an instance that satisfies all strict constraints after 50 tries.
> Is seems that `?SUCHTHAT(Drow, list(consonant()), length(Drow)> 2)` can't generate valid values.
> When I output the values generated by `list(consonant())` I notice that only zero or one length lists are generated. Why is that?
First of all, regarding PropEr, you may be getting better/faster answers
if you use the e-mail address in the cc: of this mail instead of the
erlang-questions. This is because only few of the PropEr developers read
Now, concerning your question, you already got some answers that helped
you fix the problem you are facing, but I am not sure they are the
proper (TM) answers, so let me also give it a try.
I see that in your program you have the following:
-define(VOWELS, [$a, $e, $i, $o, $u, $y]).
So far so good. Then you define the following:
-spec consonant() -> proper:test().
?SUCHTHAT(Char, char(), lists:all(fun(C) -> Char /= C end, ?VOWELS)).
Let mention that the above:
1. does not define a proper test; instead, it defines a generator
2. seems a complicated (and a bit weird) way of writing a definition
However, these remarks are besides the point here.
What you should keep in mind about generators is that they are *lazy*.
This is very important here. What this means is that they do not get
evaluated to some concrete value (say $c) but instead they produce a
closure which knows how to generate (new) values when needed. So, your
?SUCHTHAT(Drow, list(consonant()), length(Drow) > 2)
basically does the following:
1. It sees the consonant() and list(consonant()) generators and
generates symbolic terms for them.
2. To be able to see whether the term generated for list(consonant())
satisfies the length(Drow) > 2 condition, the generator gets evaluated.
Let's assume that the term that the consonant() generator gets evaluated
is $c. Then a list($c) will be generated and since lists start small,
these are quite often the empty list  or the list [$c] with just one
3. Since for the above the ?SUCHTHAT condition is not satisfied,
PropEr will try to generate a new term for the list(consonant()) generator.
4. Now, you may think that hey, the consonant() generator has already
been evaluated to a value, namely $c, so a new list of $c's will be
generated next, and since the empty list and the one element list have
already been generated, a bigger list of $c's will be generated next.
However, that's NOT what's happening here!
5. Instead, the consonant() generator is re-evaluated so a new term
gets produced, let's say $d, and a new list($d) generator will be
Now, I hope that you can see where this is heading... list($d) is a
totally new generator and has similarly equal probability of generating
a small list (empty or just one element) as the previous generator
Anyway, the point is that the consonant() generator may look like an
Erlang function, but it's not evaluated to a value once and for all.
Instead, it's evaluated lazily. You should keep this in mind because
it's a subtle point in an otherwise eager language like Erlang.
Hope this helps,
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