[erlang-questions] Updates, lenses, and why cross-module inlining would be nice

Pierre Fenoll pierrefenoll@REDACTED
Mon Feb 15 16:38:17 CET 2016

This is surely a very naive idea on how to one day get cross-module inlining
or at least enlarge the range of possibilities for the JIT.

A lot of inlining is impossible due to the possibility to hot-swap code.
But what about in the context of a release?

When creating a release (or updating an old one),
the compiler/relx/whatever is generating the release has a clear and finite
of all the code that will be shipped and run.
Maybe not a clear idea of extra dependencies or resources,
but at least all the Erlang code should be there.
Then a compiler would be able to do supercompilation, agressive inlining, …

I was thinking that we could then get a release that resembles an executable
and if we can link external dependencies (OpenSSL, …)
we would then have a somewhat standalone binary that kind of works like

Is my reasoning right?
Where am I on the scale from extremely naive all the way up to ROK?

Pierre Fenoll

On 7 December 2015 at 05:45, Richard A. O'Keefe <ok@REDACTED> wrote:

> On 3/12/2015, at 8:11 pm, Michael Truog <mjtruog@REDACTED> wrote:
> > If we had header files that were only allowed to contain functions and
> > types that we called "template files" for lack of a better name
> > (ideally, they would have their own export statements to help
> > distinguish between private functions/types and the interface for modules
> > to use)
> > AND
> > we had the include files (and template files) versioned within the beam
> > output (to address the untracked dependency problem).
> >
> > Wouldn't that approach be preferable when compared
> > to trying to manage the module dependency graph during a
> > runtime code upgrades?  Why would the "template files" approach
> > not be sufficient?
> These are the differences I can see between 'template files'
> and 'import_static modules'.
> (1) 'template files' would not be modules.
>     Having their own export directives would make them
>     modul*ar*, but they could not use 'fun M:F/A' to refer
>     to their own functions, having no M they could use.
>     This does not seem like a good thing.
> (2) Headers can be nested.  If 'template files' were to be
>     like headers, this would create nested scopes for top
>     level functions, and the possibility of multiple
>     distinct functions with the same name and arity and
>     in some sense "in" the very same module.
>     I don't see that as an insuperable problem, but it's a
>     very big change to the language in order to avoid what
>     is really not likely to be a practical problem.
> (3) 'template files' are copied into the including module,
>     which allows different modules to have included
>     different versions of a 'template file'.
>     Like headers, this DOES NOT SOLVE the dependency and
>     version skew problems, IT CREATES THOSE PROBLEMS.
> So with 'template files', either you have precisely the
> same problems you have with headers plus a whole lot of
> extra complexity, or you have to track dependencies anyway.
> If we can take a step away from Erlang,
> we can see that we have a fundamental problem.
> Resource A is prepared from foundations x and c.
> Resource B is prepared from foundations y and c.
> Resources A and B have to "fit together" in some fashion.
> Common foundation c has something to do with how that
> fitting together works.
> c is revised to c'.
> A is re-prepared to A'.
> If B were re-prepared, B' and A' would be compatible,
> just as B and A were compatible.
> But B and A' are not compatible.
> As far as I can see, there are three general ways to
> deal with this kind of problem.
> 1.  Detection.  When you try to use A' and B together,
>     detect that they were prepared from c' and c and
>     refuse to allow this use.
>     This requires dependency tracking.
> 2.  Prevention.  When c is revised to c', use dependencies
>     forward and queue A and B for rebuilding.
>     This requires dependency tracking.
> 3.  Avoidance.  Make the preparation step fairly trivial
>     so that whenever A (B) makes references to c, the
>     latest version of c is used.
>     In programming language terms, this is not even lazy
>     evaluation, it's call-by-name.  It's the way Erlang
>     currently handles remote calls.  (More or less.)
>     As a rule of thumb, early binding is the route to
>     efficiency (and early error detection), late binding
>     is the route to flexibility (and late error detection).
>     The performance cost may be anywhere between slight and
>     scary depending on the application.
> 3'. It is only necessary to provide the *appearance* of late
>     binding.  I have a faint and probably unreliable memory
>     that the SPITBOL implementation of SNOBOL4 could generate
>     "optimised" code but could back it out and recompile it
>     when the assumptions it had made turned out to be wrong.
>     Amongst other things, this requires the system to keep
>     track of this-depends-on-that at run time, so it's still
>     dependency tracking, but it need not be visible to the
>     programmer.
>     What might be noticeable would be a performance blip as
>     loading c' caused everything that had been run-time compiled
>     against c to be de-optimised.  TANSTAAFL.
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