This blog is where I post up various half-baked ideas that I have.

All Posts

18 November 2021

Rustc Reading Club, Take 2

Wow! The response to the last Rustc Reading Club was overwhelming – literally! We maxed out the number of potential zoom attendees and I couldn’t even join the call! It’s clear that there’s a lot of demand here, which is great. We’ve decided to take another stab at running the Rustc Reading Club, but we’re going to try it a bit differently this time. We’re going to start by selecting a smaller group to do it a few times and see how it goes, and then decide how to scale up.

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15 November 2021

CTCFT 2021-11-22 Agenda

The next “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT) meeting will take place next Monday, on 2021-11-22 at 11am US Eastern Time (click to see in your time zone). Note that this is a new time: we are experimenting with rotating in an earlier time that occurs during the European workday. This post covers the agenda. You’ll find the full details (along with a calendar event, zoom details, etc) on the CTCFT website.

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05 November 2021

View types for Rust

I wanted to write about an idea that’s been kicking around in the back of my mind for some time. I call it view types. The basic idea is to give a way for an &mut or & reference to identify which fields it is actually going to access. The main use case for this is having “disjoint” methods that don’t interfere with one another.

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28 October 2021

Rustc Reading Club

Ever wanted to understand how rustc works? Me too! Doc Jones and I have been talking and we had an idea we wanted to try. Inspired by the very cool Code Reading Club, we are launching an experimental Rustc Reading Club. Doc Jones posted an announcement on her blog, so go take a look!

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15 October 2021

Dyn async traits, part 6

A quick update to my last post: first, a better way to do what I was trying to do, and second, a sketch of the crate I’d like to see for experimental purposes.

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14 October 2021

Dyn async traits, part 5

If you’re willing to use nightly, you can already model async functions in traits by using GATs and impl Trait — this is what the Embassy async runtime does, and it’s also what the real-async-trait crate does. One shortcoming, though, is that your trait doesn’t support dynamic dispatch. In the previous posts of this series, I have been exploring some of the reasons for that limitation, and what kind of primitive capabilities need to be exposed in the language to overcome it. My thought was that we could try to stabilize those primitive capabilities with the plan of enabling experimentation. I am still in favor of this plan, but I realized something yesterday: using procedural macros, you can ALMOST do this experimentation today! Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work owing to some relatively obscure rules in the Rust type system (perhaps some clever readers will find a workaround; that said, these are rules I have wanted to change for a while).

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13 October 2021

CTCFT 2021-10-18 Agenda

The next “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT) meeting will take place next Monday, on 2021-10-18 (in your time zone)! This post covers the agenda. You’ll find the full details (along with a calendar event, zoom details, etc) on the CTCFT website.

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07 October 2021

Dyn async traits, part 4

In the previous post, I talked about how we could write our own impl Iterator for dyn Iterator by adding a few primitives. In this post, I want to look at what it would take to extend that to an async iterator trait. As before, I am interested in exploring the “core capabilities” that would be needed to make everything work.

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06 October 2021

Dyn async traits, part 3

In the previous “dyn async traits” posts, I talked about how we can think about the compiler as synthesizing an impl that performed the dynamic dispatch. In this post, I wanted to start explore a theoretical future in which this impl was written manually by the Rust programmer. This is in part a thought exercise, but it’s also a possible ingredient for a future design: if we could give programmers more control over the “impl Trait for dyn Trait” impl, then we could enable a lot of use cases.

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01 October 2021

Dyn async traits, part 2

In the previous post, we uncovered a key challenge for dyn and async traits: the fact that, in Rust today, dyn types have to specify the values for all associated types. This post is going to dive into more background about how dyn traits work today, and in particular it will talk about where that limitation comes from.

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30 September 2021

Dyn async traits, part 1

Over the last few weeks, Tyler Mandry and I have been digging hard into what it will take to implement async fn in traits. Per the new lang team initiative process, we are collecting our design thoughts in an ever-evolving website, the async fundamentals initiative. If you’re interested in the area, you should definitely poke around; you may be interested to read about the MVP that we hope to stabilize first, or the (very much WIP) evaluation doc which covers some of the challenges we are still working out. I am going to be writing a series of blog posts focusing on one particular thing that we have been talking through: the problem of dyn and async fn. This first post introduces the problem and the general goal that we are shooting for (but don’t yet know the best way to reach).

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16 September 2021

Rustacean Principles, continued

RustConf is always a good time for reflecting on the project. For me, the last week has been particularly “reflective”. Since announcing the Rustacean Principles, I’ve been having a number of conversations with members of the community about how they can be improved. I wanted to write a post summarizing some of the feedback I’ve gotten.

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15 September 2021

CTCFT 2021-09-20 Agenda

The next “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT) meeting will take place next Monday, on 2021-09-20 (in your time zone)! This post covers the agenda. You’ll find the full details (along with a calendar event, zoom details, etc) on the CTCFT website.

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08 September 2021

Rustacean Principles

As the web site says, Rust is a language empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software. I think it’s precisely this feeling of empowerment that people love about Rust. As wycats put it recently to me, Rust makes it “feel like things are possible that otherwise feel out of reach”. But what exactly makes Rust feel that way? If we can describe it, then we can use that description to help us improve Rust, and to guide us as we design extensions to Rust.

Besides the language itself, Rust is also an open-source community, one that prides itself on our ability to do collaborative design. But what do we do which makes us able to work well together? If we can describe that, then we can use those descriptions to help ourselves improve, and to instruct new people on how to better work within the community.

This blog post describes a project I and others have been working on called the Rustacean principles. This project is an attempt to enumerate the (heretofore implicit) principles that govern both Rust’s design and the way our community operates. The principles are still in draft form; for the time being, they live in the nikomatsakis/rustacean-principles repository.

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30 August 2021

Next CTCFT Meeting: 2021-09-20

Hold the date! The next Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times meeting will be 2021-09-20. We’ll be using the “Asia-friendly” time slot of 21:00 EST.

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12 July 2021

CTCFT 2021-07-19 Agenda

The next “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT) meeting will take place one week from today, on 2021-07-19 (in your time zone)! What follows are the abstracts for the talks we have planned. You’ll find the full details (along with a calendar event, zoom details, etc) on the CTCFT website.

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18 June 2021

CTCFT Social Hour

Hey everyone! At the CTCFT meeting this Monday (2021-06-21), we’re going to try a “social hour”. The idea is really simple: for the hour after the meeting, we will create breakout rooms in Zoom with different themes. You can join any breakout room you like and hangout.

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14 June 2021

CTCFT 2021-06-21 Agenda

The second “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT) meeting will take place one week from today, on 2021-06-21 (in your time zone)! This post describes the main agenda items for the meeting; you’ll find the full details (along with a calendar event, zoom details, etc) on the CTCFT website.

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26 May 2021

Edition: the song

You may have heard that the Rust 2021 Edition is coming. Along with my daughter Daphne, I have recorded a little song in honor of the occasion! The full lyrics are below – if you feel inspired, please make your own version!1 Enjoy!

  1. OMG, that would be amazing. I’ll update the post with any such links I find. 

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14 May 2021

CTCFTFTW

This Monday I am starting something new: a monthly meeting called the “Cross Team Collaboration Fun Times” (CTCFT)1. Check out our nifty logo2:

  1. In keeping with Rust’s long-standing tradition of ridiculous acronyms. 

  2. Thanks to @Xfactor521! 🙏 

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01 May 2021

[AiC] Vision Docs!

The Async Vision Doc effort has been going now for about 6 weeks. It’s been a fun ride, and I’ve learned a lot. It seems like a good time to take a step back and start talking a bit about the vision doc structure and the process. In this post, I’m going to focus on the role that I see vision docs playing in Rust’s planning and decision making, particularly as compared to RFCs.

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26 April 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions VII

My week is very scheduled, so I am not able to host any public drafting sessions this week – however, Ryan Levick will be hosting two sessions!

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19 April 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions VI

Ryan Levick and I are going to be hosting more Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions this week. We’re not organized enough to have assigned topics yet, so I’m just going to post the dates/times and we’ll be tweeting about the particular topics as we go.

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12 April 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions V

This is an exciting week for the vision doc! As of this week, we are starting to draft “shiny future” stories, and we would like your help! (We are also still working on status quo stories, so there is no need to stop working on those.) There will be a blog post coming out on the main Rust blog soon with all the details, but you can go to the “How to vision: Shiny future” page now.

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07 April 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions IV

My week is very scheduled, so I am not able to host any public drafting sessions this week – however, Ryan Levick will be hosting two sessions!

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02 April 2021

My "shiny future"

I’ve been working on the Rust project for just about ten years. The language has evolved radically in that time, and so has the project governance. When I first started, for example, we communicated primarily over the rust-dev mailing list and the #rust IRC channel. I distinctly remember coming into the Mozilla offices1 one day and brson excitedly telling me, “There were almost a dozen people on the #rust IRC channel last night! Just chatting! About Rust!” It’s funny to think about that now, given the scale Rust is operating at today.

  1. Offices! Remember those? Actually, I’ve been working remotely since 2013, so to be honest I barely do. 

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29 March 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions III

Ryan Levick and I are hosting a number of public drafting sessions scheduled this week. Some of them are scheduled early to cover a wider range of time zones.

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25 March 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions II

I’m scheduling two more public drafting sessions for tomorrow, Match 26th:

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22 March 2021

Async Vision Doc Writing Sessions

Hey folks! As part of the Async Vision Doc effort, I’m planning on holding two public drafting sessions tomorrow, March 23rd:

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30 December 2020

The more things change...

I’ve got an announcement to make. As of Jan 4th, I’m starting at Amazon as the tech lead of their new Rust team. Working at Mozilla has been a great experience, but I’m pretty excited about this change. It’s a chance to help shape what I hope to be an exciting new phase for Rust, where we grow from a project with a single primary sponsor (Mozilla) to an industry standard, supported by a wide array of companies. It’s also a chance to work with some pretty awesome people – both familiar faces from the Rust community1 and some new folks. Finally, I’m hoping it will be an opportunity for me to refocus my attention to some long-standing projects that I really want to see through.

  1. I’ll let them make their own announcements. 

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18 December 2020

Looking back on 2020

I wanted to write a post that looks back over 2020 from a personal perspective. My goal here is to look at the various initiatives that I’ve been involved in and try to get a sense for how they went, what worked and what didn’t, and also what that means for next year. This post is a backdrop for a #niko2021 post that I plan to post sometime before 2021 actually starts, talking about what I expect to be doing in 2021.

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11 December 2020

Rotating the compiler team leads

Since we created the Rust teams, I have been serving as lead of two teams: the compiler team and the language design team (I’ve also been a member of the core team, which has no lead). For those less familiar with Rust’s governance, the compiler team is focused on the maintenance and implementation of the compiler itself (and, more recently, the standard library). The language design team is focused on the design aspects. Over that time, all the Rust teams have grown and evolved, with the compiler team in particular being home to a number of really strong members.

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09 July 2020

Async Interview #8: Stjepan Glavina

Several months ago, on May 1st, I spoke to Stjepan Glavina about his (at the time) new crate, smol. Stjepan is, or ought to be, a pretty well-known figure in the Rust universe. He is one of the primary authors of the various crossbeam crates, which provide core parallel building blocks that are both efficient and very ergonomic to use. He was one of the initial designers for the async-std runtime. And so when I read stjepang’s blog post describing a new async runtime smol that he was toying with, I knew I wanted to learn more about it. After all, what could make stjepang say:

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30 April 2020

Async interviews: my take thus far

The point of the async interview series, in the end, was to help figure out what we should be doing next when it comes to Async I/O. I thought it would be good then to step back and, rather than interviewing someone else, give my opinion on some of the immediate next steps, and a bit about the medium to longer term. I’m also going to talk a bit about what I see as some of the practical challenges.

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09 April 2020

Library-ification and analyzing Rust

I’ve noticed that the ideas that I post on my blog are getting much more “well rounded”. That is a problem. It means I’m waiting too long to write about things. So I want to post about something that’s a bit more half-baked – it’s an idea that I’ve been kicking around to create a kind of informal “analysis API” for rustc.

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10 March 2020

Async Interview #7: Withoutboats

Hello everyone! I’m happy to be posting a transcript of my [async interview] with withoutboats. This particularly interview took place way back on January 14th, but the intervening months have been a bit crazy and I didn’t get around to writing it up till now.

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11 February 2020

Async Interview #6: Eliza Weisman

Hello! For the latest async interview, I spoke with Eliza Weisman (hawkw, mycoliza on twitter). Eliza first came to my attention as the author of the tracing crate, which is a nifty crate for doing application level tracing. However, she is also a core maintainer of tokio, and she works at Buoyant on the linkerd system. linkerd is one of a small set of large applications that were build using 0.1 futures – i.e., before async-await. This range of experience gives Eliza an interesting “overview” perspective on async-await and Rust more generally.

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20 January 2020

Async Interview #5: Steven Fackler

Hello! For the latest async interview, I spoke with Steven Fackler (sfackler). sfackler has been involved in Rust for a long time and is a member of the Rust libs team. He is also the author of [a lot of crates], most notably tokio-postgres.

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13 January 2020

Async Interview #4: Florian Gilcher

Hello! For the latest async interview, I spoke with Florian Gilcher (skade). Florian is involved in the async-std project, but he’s also one of the founders of Ferrous Systems, a Rust consulting firm that also does a lot of trainings. In that capacity, he’s been teaching people to use async Rust now since Rust’s 1.0 release.

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09 January 2020

Towards a Rust foundation

In my #rust2020 blog post, I mentioned rather off-handedly that I think the time has come for us to talk about forming a Rust foundation. I wanted to come back to this topic and talk in more detail about what I think a Rust foundation might look like. And, since I don’t claim to have the final answer to that question by any means, I’d also like to talk about how I think we should have this conversation going forward.

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23 December 2019

Async Interview #3: Carl Lerche

Hello! For the latest async interview, I spoke with Carl Lerche (carllerche). Among many other crates1, Carl is perhaps best known as one of the key authors behind tokio and mio. These two crates are quite widely used through the async ecosystem. Carl and I spoke on December 3rd.

  1. I think [loom] looks particularly cool. 

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11 December 2019

Async Interview #2: cramertj, part 3

This blog post is continuing my conversation with cramertj. This will be the last post.

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10 December 2019

Async Interview #2: cramertj, part 2

This blog post is continuing my conversation with cramertj.

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09 December 2019

Async Interview #2: cramertj

For the second async interview, I spoke with Taylor Cramer – or cramertj, as I’ll refer to him. cramertj is a member of the compiler and lang teams and was – until recently – working on Fuchsia at Google. He’s been a key player in Rust’s Async I/O design and in the discussions around it. He was also responsible for a lot of the implementation work to make async fn a reality.

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03 December 2019

AiC: Improving the pre-RFC process

I want to write about an idea that Josh Triplett and I have been iterating on to revamp the lang team RFC process. I have written a draft of an RFC already, but this blog post aims to introduce the idea and some of the motivations. The key idea of the RFC is formalize the steps leading up to an RFC, as well as to capture the lang team operations around project groups. The hope is that, if this process works well, it can apply to teams beyond the lang team as well.

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02 December 2019

Rust 2020

Technically speaking, it’s past the deadline for #rust2020 posts, but I’m running late this year, and I’m going to post something anyway. In this post, I am focusing on what I see as the “largest scale” issues, and not on technical initiatives. If I have time, I will try to post a follow-up talking about some of the key technical initiatives that I think we should focus on as well.

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28 November 2019

Async Interview #1: Alex and Nick talk about async I/O and WebAssembly

Hello from Iceland! (I’m on vacation.) I’ve just uploaded the first of the Async Interviews to YouTube. It is a conversation with Alex Crichton (alexcrichton) and Nick Fitzgerald (fitzgen) about how WebAssembly and Rust’s Async I/O system interact. When you watch it, you will probably notice two things:

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22 November 2019

Announcing the Async Interviews

Hello all! I’m going to be trying something new, which I call the “Async Interviews”. These interviews are going to be a series of recorded video calls with various “luminaries” from Rust’s Async I/O effort. In each one, I’m going to be asking roughly the same question: Now that the async-await MVP is stable, what should we be doing next? After each call, I’ll post the recording from the interview, along with a blog post that leaves a brief summary.

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26 October 2019

why async fn in traits are hard

After reading boat’s excellent post on asynchronous destructors, I thought it might be a good idea to write some about async fn in traits. Support for async fn in traits is probably the single most common feature request that I hear about. It’s also one of the more complex topics. So I thought it’d be nice to do a blog post kind of giving the “lay of the land” on that feature – what makes it complicated? What questions remain open?

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11 September 2019

AiC: Shepherds 3.0

I would like to describe an idea that’s been kicking around in my head. I’m calling this idea “shepherds 3.0” – the 3.0 is to distinguish it from the other places we’ve used the term in the past. This proposal actually supplants both of the previous uses of the term, replacing them with what I believe to be a preferred alternative (more on that later).

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10 July 2019

AiC: Unbounded queues and lang design

I have been thinking about how language feature development works in Rust1. I wanted to write a post about what I see as one of the key problems: too much concurrency in our design process, without any kind of “back-pressure” to help keep the number of “open efforts” under control. This setup does enable us to get a lot of things done sometimes, but I believe it also leads to a number of problems.

  1. I’m coming at this from the perspective of the lang team, but I think a lot of this applies more generally. 

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08 July 2019

Async-await status report #2

I wanted to give an update on the status of the “async-await foundations” working group. This post aims to cover three things:

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26 April 2019

AiC: Language-design team meta working group

On internals, I just announced the formation of the language-design team meta working group. The role of the meta working group is to figure out how other language-design team working groups should work. The plan is to begin by enumerating some of our goals – the problems we aim to solve, the good things we aim to keep – and then move on to draw up more details plans. I expect this discussion will intersect the RFC process quite heavily (at least when it comes to language design changes). Should be interesting! It’s all happening in the open, and a major goal of mine is for this to be easy to follow along with from the outside – so if talking about talking is your thing, you should check it out.

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22 April 2019

AiC: Collaborative summary documents

In my previous post, I talked about the idea of mapping the solution space:

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19 April 2019

AiC: Adventures in consensus

In the talk I gave at Rust LATAM, I said that the Rust project has always emphasized finding the best solution, rather than winning the argument. I think this is one of our deepest values. It’s also one of the hardest for us to uphold.

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15 April 2019

More than coders

Lately, the compiler team has been changing up the way that we work. Our goal is to make it easier for people to track what we are doing and – hopefully – get involved. This is an ongoing effort, but one thing that has become clear immediately is this: the compiler team needs more than coders.

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01 March 2019

Async-await status report

I wanted to post a quick update on the status of the async-await effort. The short version is that we’re in the home stretch for some kind of stabilization, but there remain some significant questions to overcome.

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22 February 2019

Rust lang team working groups

Now that the Rust 2018 edition has shipped, the language design team has been thinking a lot about what to do in 2019 and over the next few years. I think we’ve got a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon, and I wanted to write about it.

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29 January 2019

Salsa: Incremental recompilation

So for the last couple of months or so, I’ve been hacking in my spare time on this library named salsa, along with a number of awesome other folks. Salsa basically extracts the incremental recompilation techniques that we built for rustc into a general-purpose framework that can be used by other programs. Salsa is developing quickly: with the publishing of v0.10.0, we saw a big step up in the overall ergonomics, and I think the current interface is starting to feel very nice.

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21 January 2019

Polonius and the case of the hereditary harrop predicate

In my previous post about Polonius and subregion obligations, I mentioned that there needs to be a follow-up to deal with higher-ranked subregions. This post digs a bit more into what the problem is in the first place and sketches out the general solution I have in mind, but doesn’t give any concrete algorithms for it.

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17 January 2019

Polonius and region errors

Now that NLL has been shipped, I’ve been doing some work revisiting the Polonius project. Polonius is the project that implements the “alias-based formulation” described in my older blogpost. Polonius has come a long way since that post; it’s now quite fast and also experimentally integrated into rustc, where it passes the full test suite.

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07 January 2019

Rust in 2019: Focus on sustainability

To me, 2018 felt like a big turning point for Rust, and it wasn’t just the edition. Suddenly, it has become “normal” for me to meet people using Rust at their jobs. Rust conferences are growing and starting to have large number of sponsors. Heck, I even met some professional Rust developers amongst the parents at a kid’s birthday party recently. Something has shifted, and I like it.

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10 November 2018

After NLL: Moving from borrowed data and the sentinel pattern

Continuing on with my “After NLL” series, I want to look at another common error that I see and its solution: today’s choice is about moves from borrowed data and the Sentinel Pattern that can be used to enable them.

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08 November 2018

Splash 2018 Mid-Week Report

This week I’ve been attending SPLASH 2018. It’s already been quite an interesting week, and it’s only just begun. I thought I’d write up a quick report on some of the things that have been particularly interesting to me, and some of the ideas that they’ve sparked off.

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01 November 2018

After NLL: Interprocedural conflicts

In my previous post on the status of NLL, I promised to talk about “What is next?” for ownership and borrowing in Rust. I want to lay out the various limitations of Rust’s ownership and borrowing system that I see, as well as – where applicable – current workarounds. I’m curious to get feedback on which problems affect folks the most.

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31 October 2018

MIR-based borrowck is almost here

Now that the final Rust 2018 Release Candidate has shipped, I thought it would be a good idea to do another update on the state of the MIR-based borrow check (aka NLL). The [last update][] was in June, when we were still hard at work on getting things to work.

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27 September 2018

October Office Hour Slots

Just a quick note that the October 2018 office hour slots are now posted. If you’re having a problem with Rust, or have something you’d like to talk out, please sign up!

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24 September 2018

Office Hours #1: Cyclic services

This is a report on the second “office hours”, in which we discussed how to setup a series of services or actors that communicate with one another. This is a classic kind of problem in Rust: how to deal with cyclic data. Usually, the answer is that the cycle is not necessary (as in this case).

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21 September 2018

Office Hours #0: Debugging with GDB

This is a report on the first “office hours”, in which we discussed debugging Rust programs with gdb. I’m very grateful to Ramana Venkata for suggesting the topic, and to Tom Tromey, who joined in. (Tom has been doing a lot of the work of integrating rustc into gdb and lldb lately.)

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12 September 2018

Rust office hours

Hello, all! Beginning this Friday (in two days)1, I’m going to start an experiment that I call Rust office hours. The idea is simple: I’ve set aside a few slots per week to help people work through problems they are having learning or using Rust. My goal here is both to be of service but also to gain more insight into the kinds of things people have trouble with. No problem is too big or too small!2

  1. Uh, I meant to post this blog post earlier. But I forgot. 

  2. OK, some problems may be too big. I’m not that clever, and it’s only a 30 minute slot. 

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02 September 2018

Rust pattern: Iterating an over a Rc>

This post examines a particular, seemingly simple problem: given ownership of a Rc<Vec<u32>>, can we write a function that returns an impl Iterator<Item = u32>? It turns out that this is a bit harder than it might at first appear – and, as we’ll see, for good reason. I’ll dig into what’s going on, how you can fix it, and how we might extend the language in the future to try and get past this challenge.

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13 August 2018

Never patterns, exhaustive matching, and uninhabited types (oh my!)

One of the long-standing issues that we’ve been wrestling with in Rust is how to integrate the concept of an “uninhabited type” – that is, a type which has no values at all. Uninhabited types are useful to represent the “result” of some computation you know will never execute – for example, if you have to define an error type for some computation, but this particular computation can never fail, you might use an uninhabited type.

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20 June 2018

Proposal for a staged RFC process

I consider Rust’s RFC process one of our great accomplishments, but it’s no secret that it has a few flaws. At its best, the RFC offers an opportunity for collaborative design that is really exciting to be a part of. At its worst, it can devolve into bickering without any real motion towards consensus. If you’ve not done so already, I strongly recommend reading aturon’s excellent blog posts on this topic.

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15 June 2018

MIR-based borrow check (NLL) status update

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the status of “Non-lexical lifetimes” (NLL) – or, as I prefer to call it these days, the MIR-based borrow checker – so I wanted to post a status update.

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27 April 2018

An alias-based formulation of the borrow checker

Ever since the Rust All Hands, I’ve been experimenting with an alternative formulation of the Rust borrow checker. The goal is to find a formulation that overcomes some shortcomings of the current proposal while hopefully also being faster to compute. I have implemented a prototype for this analysis. It passes the full NLL test suite and also handles a few cases – such as #47680 – that the current NLL analysis cannot handle. However, the performance has a long way to go (it is currently slower than existing analysis). That said, I haven’t even begun to optimize yet, and I know I am doing some naive and inefficient things that can definitely be done better; so I am still optimistic we’ll be able to make big strides there.

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24 April 2018

Rust pattern: Precise closure capture clauses

This is the second in a series of posts about Rust compiler errors. Each one will talk about a particular error that I got recently and try to explain (a) why I am getting it and (b) how I fixed it. The purpose of this series of posts is partly to explain Rust, but partly just to gain data for myself. I may also write posts about errors I’m not getting – basically places where I anticipated an error, and used a pattern to avoid it. I hope that after writing enough of these posts, I or others will be able to synthesize some of these facts to make intermediate Rust material, or perhaps to improve the language itself.

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16 April 2018

Rust pattern: Rooting an Rc handle

I’ve decided to do a little series of posts about Rust compiler errors. Each one will talk about a particular error that I got recently and try to explain (a) why I am getting it and (b) how I fixed it. The purpose of this series of posts is partly to explain Rust, but partly just to gain data for myself. I may also write posts about errors I’m not getting – basically places where I anticipated an error, and used a pattern to avoid it. I hope that after writing enough of these posts, I or others will be able to synthesize some of these facts to make intermediate Rust material, or perhaps to improve the language itself.

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09 February 2018

Maximally minimal specialization: always applicable impls

So aturon wrote this beautiful post about what a good week it has been. In there, they wrote:

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01 February 2018

In Rust, ordinary vectors are values

I’ve been thinking a lot about persistent collections lately and in particular how they relate to Rust, and I wanted to write up some of my observations.1

  1. As it happens, the SLG solver that I wrote about before seems like it would really like to use persistent collections. 

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31 January 2018

An on-demand SLG solver for chalk

In my last Chalk post, I talked about an experimental, SLG-based solver that I wrote for Chalk. That particular design was based very closely on the excellent paper “Efficient top-down computation of queries under the well-founded semantics”, by W. Chen, T. Swift, and D. Warren. It followed a traditional Prolog execution model: this has a lot of strengths, but it probably wasn’t really suitable for use in rustc. The single biggest reason for this was that it didn’t really know when to stop: given a query like exists<T> { T: Sized }, it would happily try to enumerate all sized types in the system. It was also pretty non-obvious to me how to extend that system with things like co-inductive predicates (needed for auto traits) and a few other peculiarities of Rust.

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09 January 2018

#Rust2018

As part of #Rust2018, I thought I would try to writeup my own (current) perspective. I’ll try to keep things brief.

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05 January 2018

Lessons from the impl period

So, as you likely know, we tried something new at the end of 2017. For roughly the final quarter of the year, we essentially stopped doing design work, and instead decided to focus on implementation – what we called the “impl period”. We had two goals for the impl period: (a) get a lot of high-value implementation work done and (b) to do that by expanding the size of our community, and making it easy for new people to get involved. To that end, we spun up about 40 working groups, which is really a tremendous figure when you think about it, each of which was devoted to a particular task.

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21 October 2017

Chalk meets SLG

For the last month or so, I’ve gotten kind of obsessed with exploring a new evaluation model for Chalk. Specifically, I’ve been looking at adapting the SLG algorithm, which is used in the XSB Prolog engine. I recently opened a PR that adds this SLG-based solver as an alternative, and this blog post is an effort to describe how that PR works, and explore some of the advantages and disadvantages I see in this approach relative to the current solver that I described in my previous post.

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12 September 2017

Cyclic queries in chalk

In my last post about chalk queries, I discussed how the query model in chalk. Since that writing, there have been some updates, and I thought it’d be nice to do a new post covering the current model. This post will also cover the tabling technique that scalexm implemented for handling cyclic relations and show how that enables us to implement implied bounds and other long-desired features in an elegant way. (Nice work, scalexm!)

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11 July 2017

Non-lexical lifetimes: draft RFC and prototype available

I’ve been hard at work the last month or so on trying to complete the non-lexical lifetimes RFC. I’m pretty excited about how it’s shaping up. I wanted to write a kind of “meta” blog post talking about the current state of the proposal – almost there! – and how you could get involved with helping to push it over the finish line.

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25 May 2017

Query structure in chalk

For my next post discussing chalk, I want to take kind of a different turn. I want to talk about the general struct of chalk queries and how chalk handles them right now. (If you’ve never heard of chalk, it’s sort of “reference implementation” for Rust’s trait system, as well as an attempt to describe Rust’s trait system in terms of its logical underpinnings; see this post for an introduction to the big idea.)

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02 May 2017

gnome-class: Integrating Rust and the GNOME object system

I recently participated in the GNOME / Rust “dev sprint” in Mexico City. (A thousand thanks to Federico and Joaquin for organizing!) While there I spent some time working on the gnome-class plugin. The goal of gnome-class was to make it easy to write GObject implementations in Rust which would fully interoperate with C code.

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23 April 2017

Unification in Chalk, part 2

In my previous post, I talked over the basics of how unification works and showed how that “mathematical version” winds up being expressed in chalk. I want to go a bit further now and extend that base system to cover associated types. These turn out to be a pretty non-trival extension.

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06 April 2017

Rayon 0.7 released

We just released Rayon 0.7. This is a pretty exciting release, because it marks the official first step towards Rayon 1.0. In addition, it marks the first release where Rayon’s parallel iterators reach “feature parity” with the standard sequential iterators! To mark the moment, I thought I’d post the release notes here on the blog:

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25 March 2017

Unification in Chalk, part 1

So in my first post on chalk, I mentioned that unification and normalization of associated types were interesting topics. I’m going to write a two-part blog post series covering that. This first part begins with an overview of how ordinary type unification works during compilation. The next post will add in associated types and we can see what kinds of mischief they bring with them.

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17 March 2017

The Lane Table algorithm

For some time now I’ve been interested in better ways to construct LR(1) parsers. LALRPOP currently allows users to choose between the full LR(1) algorithm or the LALR(1) subset. Neither of these choices is very satisfying:

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01 March 2017

Nested method calls via two-phase borrowing

In my previous post, I outlined a plan for non-lexical lifetimes. I wanted to write a follow-up post today that discusses different ways that we can extend the system to support nested mutable calls. The ideas here are based on some the ideas that emerged in a recent discussion on internals, although what I describe here is a somewhat simplified variant. If you want more background, it’s worth reading at least the top post in the thread, where I laid out a lot of the history here. I’ll try to summarize the key bits as I go.

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21 February 2017

Non-lexical lifetimes using liveness and location

At the recent compiler design sprint, we spent some time discussing non-lexical lifetimes, the plan to make Rust’s lifetime system significantly more advanced. I want to write-up those plans here, and give some examples of the kinds of programs that would now type-check, along with some that still will not (for better or worse).

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17 February 2017

Project idea: datalog output from rustc

I want to have a tool that would enable us to answer all kinds of queries about the structure of Rust code that exists in the wild. This should cover everything from synctactic queries like “How often do people write let x = if { ... } else { match foo { ... } }?” to semantic queries like “How often do people call unsafe functions in another module?” I have some ideas about how to build such a tool, but (I suspect) not enough time to pursue them. I’m looking for people who might be interested in working on it!

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12 February 2017

Compiler design sprint summary

This last week we had the rustc compiler team design sprint. This was our second rustc compiler team sprint; the first one (last year) we simply worked on pushing various projects over the finish line (for example, in an epic effort, arielb1 completed dynamic drop during that sprint).

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01 February 2017

Unsafe code and shared references

In a previous post, I talked about a proposed approach to drafting the unsafe code guidelines. Specifically, I want to the approach of having an executable specification of Rust with additional checks that will signal when undefined behavior has occurred. In this post, I want to try to dive into that idea a bit more and give some more specifics of the approach I have in mind. I’m going to focus on this post on the matter of the proper use of shared references &T – I’ll completely ignore &mut T for now, since those are much more complicated (because they require a notion of uniqueness).

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26 January 2017

Lowering Rust traits to logic

Over the last year or two (man, it’s scary how time flies), I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking about Rust’s trait system. I’ve been looking for a way to correct a number of flaws and shortcomings in the current implementation, not the least of which is that it’s performance is not that great. But also, I’ve been wanting to get a relatively clear, normative definition of how the trait system works, so that we can better judge possible extensions. After a number of false starts, I think I’m finally getting somewhere, so I wanted to start writing about it.

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22 January 2017

Assigning blame to unsafe code

While I was at POPL the last few days, I was reminded of an idea regarding how to bring more struture to the unsafe code guidelines process that I’ve been kicking around lately, but which I have yet to write about publicly. The idea is fresh on my mind because while at POPL I realized that there is an interesting opportunity to leverage the “blame” calculation techniques from gradual typing research. But before I get to blame, let me back up and give some context.

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14 November 2016

Parallel iterators, part 3: Consumers

This post is the (long awaited, or at least long promised) third post in my series on Rayon’s parallel iterators. The previous two posts were some time ago, but I’ve been feeling inspired to push more on Rayon lately, and I remembered that I had never finished this blog post series.

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09 November 2016

Associated type constructors, part 4: Unifying ATC and HKT

This post is a continuation of my posts discussing the topic of associated type constructors (ATC) and higher-kinded types (HKT):

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04 November 2016

Associated type constructors, part 3: What higher-kinded types might look like

This post is a continuation of my posts discussing the topic of associated type constructors (ATC) and higher-kinded types (HKT):

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03 November 2016

Associated type constructors, part 2: family traits

Hello. This post is a continuation of my posts discussing the topic of associated type constructors (ATC) and higher-kinded types (HKT):

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02 November 2016

Associated type constructors, part 1: basic concepts and introduction

So for the end of last week, I was at Rust Belt Rust. This was awesome. And not only because the speakers and attendees at Rust Belt Rust were awesome, though they were. But also because it gave aturon, withoutboats, and I a chance to talk over a lot of stuff in person. We covered a lot of territory and so I wanted to do a series of blog posts trying to write down some of the things we were thinking so as to get other people’s input.

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01 November 2016

Switching to Jekyll

If you visit the site today, you’ll notice it looks quite a bit different. I’ve decided to switch from my old antiquated Octopress to a plain Jekyll-based one. The most immediate of this is that Rust code highlighting looks much better, and I get access to modern Github-flavored markdown. =) Since I understand plain Jekyll a bit more, I’ll hopefully also be able to customize the appearance somewhat – but for now I’m just going with the basic theme.

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24 October 2016

Supporting blanket impls in specialization

In my previous post, I talked about how we can separate out specialization into two distinct concepts: reuse and override. Doing so makes because the conditions that make reuse possible are more stringent than those that make override possible. In this post, I want to extend this idea to talk about a new rule for specialization that allow overriding in more cases. These rules are a big enabler for specialization, allowing it to accommodate many use cases that we couldn’t handle before. In particular, they enable us to add blanket impls like impl<T: Copy> Clone for T in a backwards compatible fashion, though only under certain conditions.

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02 October 2016

Observational equivalence and unsafe code

I spent a really interesting day last week at Northeastern University. First, I saw a fun talk by Philip Haller covering LaCasa, which is a set of extensions to Scala that enable it to track ownership. Many of the techniques reminded me very much of Rust (e.g., the use of “spores”, which are closures that can limit the types of things they close over); if I have time, I’ll try to write up a more detailed comparison in some later post.

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30 September 2016

Announcing intorust.com

For the past year or so, I and a few others have been iterating on some tutorial slides for learning Rust. I’ve given this tutorial here at the local Boston Rust Meetup a few times, and we used the same basic approach at RustConf; I’ve been pretty happy with the results. But until now it’s been limited to “in person” events.

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29 September 2016

Distinguishing reuse from override

In my previous post, I started discussing the idea of intersection impls, which are a possible extension to specialization. I am specifically looking at the idea of making it possible to add blanket impls to (e.g.) implement Clone for any Copy type. We saw that intersection impls, while useful, do not enable us to do this in a backwards compatible way.

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24 September 2016

Intersection Impls

As some of you are probably aware, on the nightly Rust builds, we currently offer a feature called specialization, which was defined in RFC 1210. The idea of specialization is to improve Rust’s existing coherence rules to allow for overlap between impls, so long as one of the overlapping impls can be considered more specific. Specialization is hotly desired because it can enable powerful optimizations, but also because it is an important component for modeling object-oriented designs.

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12 September 2016

Thoughts on trusting types and unsafe code

I’ve been thinking about the unsafe code guidelines a lot in the back of my mind. In particular, I’ve been trying to think through what it means to “trust types” – if you recall from the Tootsie Pop Model (TPM) blog post, one of the key examples that I was wrestling with was the RefCell-Ref example. I want to revisit a variation on that example now, but from a different angle. (This by the way is one of those “Niko thinks out loud” blog posts, not one of those “Niko writes up a proposal” blog posts.)

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18 August 2016

'Tootsie Pop' Followup

A little while back, I wrote up a tentative proposal I called the “Tootsie Pop” model for unsafe code. It’s safe to say that this model was not universally popular. =) There was quite a long and fruitful discussion on discuss. I wanted to write a quick post summarizing my main take-away from that discussion and to talk a bit about the plans to push the unsafe discussion forward.

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27 May 2016

The 'Tootsie Pop' model for unsafe code

In my previous post, I spent some time talking about the idea of unsafe abstractions. At the end of the post, I mentioned that Rust does not really have any kind of official guidelines for what kind of code is legal in an unsafe block and what is not.What this means in practice is that people wind up writing what “seems reasonable” and checking it against what the compiler does today. This is of course a risky proposition since it means that if we start doing more optimization in the compiler, we may well wind up breaking unsafe code (the code would still compile; it would just not execute like it used to).

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23 May 2016

Unsafe abstractions

The unsafe keyword is a crucial part of Rust’s design. For those not familiar with it, the unsafe keyword is basically a way to bypass Rust’s type checker; it essentially allows you to write something more like C code, but using Rust syntax.

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09 May 2016

Non-lexical lifetimes: adding the outlives relation

This is the third post in my series on non-lexical lifetimes. Here I want to dive into Problem Case #3 from the introduction. This is an interesting case because exploring it is what led me to move away from the continuous lifetimes proposed as part of RFC 396.

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04 May 2016

Non-lexical lifetimes based on liveness

In my previous post I outlined several cases that we would like to improve with Rust’s current borrow checker. This post discusses one possible scheme for solving those. The heart of the post is two key ideas:

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27 April 2016

Non-lexical lifetimes: introduction

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been devoting my free time to fleshing out the theory behind non-lexical lifetimes (NLL). I think I’ve arrived at a pretty good point and I plan to write various posts talking about it. Before getting into the details, though, I wanted to start out with a post that lays out roughly how today’s lexical lifetimes work and gives several examples of problem cases that we would like to solve.

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02 March 2016

Nice errors in LALRPOP

For the last couple of weeks, my mornings have been occupied with a pretty serious revamping of LALRPOP’s error message output. I will probably wind up doing a series of blog posts about the internal details of how it works, but I wanted to write a little post to advertise this work.

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25 February 2016

Parallel Iterators Part 2: Producers

This post is the second post in my series on Rayon’s parallel iterators. The goal of this series is to explain how parallel iterators are implemented internally, so I’m going to be going over a lot of details and giving a lot of little code examples in Rust. If all you want to do is use parallel iterators, you don’t really have to understand any of this stuff.

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19 February 2016

Parallel Iterators Part 1: Foundations

Since giving a talk about Rayon at the Bay Area Rust meetup, I’ve been working off and on on the support for parallel iterators. The basic idea of a parallel iterator is that I should be able to take an existing iterator chain, which operates sequentially, and easily convert it to work in parallel. As a simple example, consider this bit of code that computes the dot-product of two vectors:

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18 December 2015

Rayon: data parallelism in Rust

Over the last week or so, I’ve been working on an update to Rayon, my experimental library for data parallelism in Rust. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s been going, so I wanted to write a blog post to explain what I’ve got so far.

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08 October 2015

Virtual Structs Part 4: Extended Enums And Thin Traits

So, aturon wrote this interesting post on an alternative “virtual structs” approach, and, more-or-less since he wrote it, I’ve been wanting to write up my thoughts. I finally got them down.

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14 September 2015

LALRPOP

Around four years ago, when I had first decided to start at Mozilla research, I had planned to write an LR(1) parser generator. It seemed like a good way to get to know Rust. However, I found that newborns actually occupy somewhat more time than anticipated (read: I was lucky to squeeze in a shower), and hence that never came to pass.

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20 August 2015

Virtual Structs Part 3: Bringing Enums and Structs Together

So, in previous posts, I discussed the pros and cons of two different approaches to modeling variants: Rust-style enums and C++-style classes. In those posts, I explained why I see Rust enums and OO-style class hierarchies as more alike than different (I personally credit Scala for opening my eyes to this, though I’m sure it’s been understood by others for much longer). The key points were as follows:

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29 May 2015

Virtual Structs Part 2: Classes strike back

This is the second post summarizing my current thoughts about ideas related to “virtual structs”. In the last post, I described how, when coding C++, I find myself missing Rust’s enum type. In this post, I want to turn it around. I’m going to describe why the class model can be great, and something that’s actually kind of missing from Rust. In the next post, I’ll talk about how I think we can get the best of both worlds for Rust. As in the first post, I’m focusing here primarily on the data layout side of the equation; I’ll discuss virtual dispatch afterwards.

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05 May 2015

Virtual Structs Part 1: Where Rust's enum shines

One priority for Rust after 1.0 is going to be incorporating some kind of support for “efficient inheritance” or “virtual structs”. In order to motivate and explain this design, I am writing a series of blog posts examining how Rust’s current abstractions compare with those found in other languages.

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30 April 2015

A few more remarks on reference-counting and leaks

So there has been a lot of really interesting discussion in response to my blog post. I wanted to highlight some of the comments I’ve seen, because I think they raise good points that I failed to address in the blog post itself. My comments here are lightly edited versions of what I wrote elsewhere.

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29 April 2015

On reference-counting and leaks

What’s a 1.0 release without a little drama? Recently, we discovered that there was an oversight in one of the standard library APIs that we had intended to stabilize. In particular, we recently added an API for scoped threads – that is, child threads which have access to the stack frame of their parent thread.

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06 April 2015

Modeling graphs in Rust using vector indices

After reading nrc’s blog post about graphs, I felt inspired to write up an alternative way to code graphs in Rust, based on vectors and indicates. This encoding has certain advantages over using Rc and RefCell; in particular, I think it’s a closer fit to Rust’s ownership model. (Of course, it has disadvantages too.)

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14 January 2015

Little Orphan Impls

We’ve recently been doing a lot of work on Rust’s orphan rules, which are an important part of our system for guaranteeing trait coherence. The idea of trait coherence is that, given a trait and some set of types for its type parameters, there should be exactly one impl that applies. So if we think of the trait Show, we want to guarantee that if we have a trait reference like MyType : Show, we can uniquely identify a particular impl. (The alternative to coherence is to have some way for users to identify which impls are in scope at any time. It has its own complications; if you’re curious for more background on why we use coherence, you might find this rust-dev thread from a while back to be interesting reading.)

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26 November 2014

Purging proc

The so-called “unboxed closure” implementation in Rust has reached the point where it is time to start using it in the standard library. As a starting point, I have a pull request that removes proc from the language. I started on this because I thought it’d be easier than replacing closures, but it turns out that there are a few subtle points to this transition.

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14 November 2014

Allocators in Rust

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Rust’s allocator story, and in particular our relationship to jemalloc. I’ve been trying to catch up, and I wanted to try and summarize my understanding and explain for others what is going on. I am trying to be as factually precise in this post as possible. If you see a factual error, please do not hesitate to let me know.

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30 September 2014

Multi- and conditional dispatch in traits

I’ve been working on a branch that implements both multidispatch (selecting the impl for a trait based on more than one input type) and conditional dispatch (selecting the impl for a trait based on where clauses). I wound up taking a direction that is slightly different from what is described in the trait reform RFC, and I wanted to take a chance to explain what I did and why. The main difference is that in the branch we move away from the crate concatenability property in exchange for better inference and less complexity.

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11 September 2014

Attribute and macro syntax

A few weeks back pcwalton introduced a PR that aimed to move the attribute and macro syntax to use a leading @ sigil. This means that one would write macros like:

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09 July 2014

An experimental new type inference scheme for Rust

While on vacation, I’ve been working on an alternate type inference scheme for rustc. (Actually, I got it 99% working on the plane, and have been slowly poking at it ever since.) This scheme simplifies the code of the type inferencer dramatically and (I think) helps to meet our intutions (as I will explain). It is however somewhat less flexible than the existing inference scheme, though all of rustc and all the libraries compile without any changes. The scheme will (I believe) make it much simpler to implement to proper one-way matching for traits (explained later).

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06 July 2014

Implied bounds

I am on vacation for a few weeks. I wanted to take some time to jot down an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. I plan to submit an RFC at some point on this topic, but not yet, so I thought I’d start out by writing a blog post. Also, my poor blog has been neglected for some time. Consider this a draft RFC. Some important details about references are omitted and will come in a follow-up blog post.

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14 May 2014

Follow up to Focusing on Ownership

This post withdrawn: it was posted by accident and was incomplete.

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13 May 2014

Focusing on ownership

Over time, I’ve become convinced that it would be better to drop the distinction between mutable and immutable local variables in Rust. Many people are highly skeptical, to say the least. I wanted to lay out my argument in public. I’ll give various motivations: a philosophical one, an eductional one, and a practical one, and also address the main defense of the current system. (Note: I considered submitting this as a Rust RFC, but decided that the tone was better suited to a blog post, and I don’t have the time to rewrite it now.)

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24 April 2014

Parallel pipelines for JS

I’ve been thinking about an alternative way to factor the PJS API. Until now, we’ve had these methods like mapPar(), filterPar() and so forth. They work mostly like their sequential namesakes but execute in parallel. This API has the advantage of being easy to explain and relatively clear, but it’s also not especially flexible nor elegant.

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01 April 2014

Value types in JavaScript

Here is the current state of my thinking with respect to value types and value objects. Some of you may have seen Brendan’s slides where he discusses value objects. This post is about the same topic, but it is focused on just the initial part of the work – what it means to be a value object and how we could define value types and integrate them into the standard. I am not going to discuss new syntax or operators yet. I have thoughts on those too but I wanted to start by laying out the foundations.

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01 April 2014

Typed Objects Status Report

I recently wrote up a paper describing the current version of the Typed Objects API. Anyone who is interested in the current state of the art in that specification should take a look. It’s not too long and intended to be an easy read. This is just a draft copy, and feedback is naturally very welcome – in particular, I expect that before we submit it, the implementation section will change, since it will be much further along.

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28 February 2014

Rust RFC: Opt-in builtin traits

In today’s Rust, there are a number of builtin traits (sometimes called “kinds”): Send, Freeze, Share, and Pod (in the future, perhaps Sized). These are expressed as traits, but they are quite unlike other traits in certain ways. One way is that they do not have any methods; instead, implementing a trait like Freeze indicates that the type has certain properties (defined below). The biggest difference, though, is that these traits are not implemented manually by users. Instead, the compiler decides automatically whether or not a type implements them based on the contents of the type.

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25 February 2014

Rust RFC: Stronger guarantees for mutable borrows

Today, if you do a mutable borrow of a local variable, you lose the ability to write to that variable except through the new reference you just created:

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04 February 2014

Closures and the borrow checker

I have been working on making the borrow checker treat closures in a sound way. I hope to land this patch very soon. I want to describe the impact of these changes and summarize what we might do in the future.

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09 January 2014

Rvalue lifetimes in Rust

I’ve been working on Issue #3511, which is an effort to rationalize the lifetimes of temporary values in Rust. This issue has been a thorn in the side of Rust users for a while, because the current lifetimes are rather haphazard and frequently too short. Some time ago, I did some thinking on this issue and then let it lie while other things took priority.

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05 January 2014

DST, Take 5

I believe I have come to the point where I am ready to make a final proposal for DST. Ironically, this proposal is quite similar to where I started, but somewhat more expansive. It seems to be one of those unusual cases where supporting more features actually makes things easier. Thanks to Eridius on IRC for pointing this out to me. I intend for this post to stand alone, so I’m going to start from the beginning in the description.

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12 December 2013

Structural arrays in Typed Objects

Dave Herman and I were tossing around ideas the other day for a revision of the typed object specification in which we remove nominal array types. The goal is to address some of the awkwardness that we have encountered in designing the PJS API due to nominal array types. I thought I’d try writing it out. This is to some extent a thought experiment.

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02 December 2013

Thoughts on DST, Part 4

Over the Thanksgiving break I’ve been devoting a lot of time to thinking about DST and Rust’s approach to vector and object types. As before, this is very much still churning in my mind so I’m just going to toss out some semi-structured thoughts.

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27 November 2013

Thoughts on DST, Part 3

After posting part 2 of my DST series, I realized that I had focusing too much on the pure “type system” aspect and ignoring some of the more…mundane semantics, and in particular the impact of monomorphization. I realize now that – without some further changes – we would not be able to compile and execute the second proposal (which I will dub statically sized typed (SST) from here on out). Let me first explain the problem and then show how my first thoughts on how it might be addressed.

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27 November 2013

Thoughts on DST, Part 2

In the previous post I elaborated a bit on DSTs and how they could be created and used. I want to look a bit now at an alternate way to support the combination of vector types and smart pointers (e.g., RC<[uint]>). This approach avoids the use of DSTs. We’ll see that it also addresses some of the rough patches of DST, but doesn’t work quite as well for object types.

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26 November 2013

Thoughts on DST, Part 1

In the past, I’ve been quite the champion of dynamically sized types (DST). Specifically what this means is that things like [T] and Trait would be “types” in the Rust type system. Lately I’ve been investing a lot of effort thinking through the ramifications of offering better support for smart pointers, and in particular how this interacts with dynamically sized types, and I am no longer persuaded that DST offer the best way forward. I’m a bit unsure, though, and the topic is complicated, so I wanted to stop and write up a short series of posts laying out my thought process thus far. This post will describe what it would mean to offer DST in more detail. I don’t plan to give a lot of Rust background, since there’s enough to talk about.

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22 November 2013

Optimizing SIMD, part 2

A quick follow-up to my previous post. The approach I suggested (“generate boxing instructions but bypass them when possible”) is in some sense pessimistic: we generate the instructions we need for the worst case and then cleanup. Like many problems in computer science, it has an optimistic dual. We could generate unboxed data and then insert boxes where needed. In fact, we have an existing mechanism for doing that, called the type policies. Basically, there is a phase where each MIR opcode goes through and examines the types of its inputs, attempting to reconcile those types with what it needs, either by boxing or unboxing as needed.

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21 November 2013

Optimizing SIMD

There is currently some ongoing effort to implement the proposed JavaScript SIMD API in Firefox. The basic idea of the API is to introduce explicit vector value types called float32x4 and int32x4. These types fit into the typed objects hierarchy, so you can create arrays of them, embed them in structs, and so forth.

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20 November 2013

Parameter coercion in Rust

Alex Chrichton recently sent a message to the rust-dev mailing list discussing the fate of parameter coercion in Rust. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and feeling conflicted. As is my wont, I decided to try and write up a blog post explaining precisely what’s under debate and exporing the tradeoffs.

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14 November 2013

Treating vectors like any other container

Some astute comments on a recent thread to rust-dev got me thinking about our approach to vectors. Until now, we have focused on having built-in support for vectors via the vector type (~[T]) and slice types (&[T]). However, another possible approach would be to move vector support out of the language (almost) entirely and into standard libraries. I wanted to write out a post exploring this idea; I find it brings some simplifications and reduces the need for DST. Seems like an idea worth considering. Consider this a thought experiment, not exactly a proposal.

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04 November 2013

Optimizing complex typed object assignments

I want to optimize assignments to struct-typed fields in typed objects. This post is an effort to work through my optimization plan.

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04 November 2013

Intermingled parameter lists, take 2

I got a lot of feedback on my post about intermingled parameter lists – most of it negative – and I’ve been thinking about the issue over the weekend. Truth is, I wasn’t terribly fond of the proposal myself – making the position in the list significant feels wrong – but I felt it was the least bad of the various options. However, I’ve had a change of heart, and thus have a new “least bad” proposal.

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29 October 2013

PJS Roadmap

I think someone reading this blog would be forgiven for thinking that I must spend most of my energy thinking about Rust. In fact I spend a good part of my working hours hammering on PJS. I thought I’d try to write up a bit of a preview of the things we are working on.

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29 October 2013

Intermingled parameter lists

I’ve been hard at work finishing up work on Rust’s “new” syntax for lifetimes – I put “new” in quotes because the syntax has been in use for some time, but in rustc itself the change was only half-baked. In effect, the new syntax was a kind of “bridge” to code that was designed for the older type system. This resulted in some artificial limitations: for example, types could only have a single lifetime parameter, and it had to be named 'self. Under my pull request, these limitations are lifted. However, in the process of implementing things, I realized one minor problem with the new syntax that must be rectified. In this post I describe the problem and my proposed solution.

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24 October 2013

Iterators yielding mutable references, take 2

OK, after writing the post on iterators that yield mutable references, and discussing with some folk on IRC, I remembered something I had forgotten. There is actually a way to phrase the mutable vector iterator differently such that it is safe. Actually, the end result still has some unsafe code, but it takes the form of a simple helper function, and it’s quite plausible to imagine that code becoming safe eventually. Even better, the approach generalizes to other data structures.

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24 October 2013

Single inheritance

The following is a draft proposal to support a form of single inheritance, similar to that found in object-oriented languages. The goal is to enable servo to efficiently support structures like the DOM. The proposal is not completely rounded out, but I wanted to put it up in its current form so as to gather any comments.

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24 October 2013

Iterators yielding mutable references

There is a known bug with the borrowck rules that causes it to be overly permissive. The fix is relatively simple but it unfortunately affects some of our Iterator implementations, specifically those iterators that iterate over &mut values. The short version is that while it is possible to expose a safe interface for iterating over &mut values, it is not possible to implement such iterators without an unsafe block.

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18 October 2013

Typed object handles

Yesterday Dmitry Lomov and I had a discussion about the typed objects API. Much of the discussion revolved around the specific issue of handles. In this post I will summarize the issues we discussed and review the various design options.

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10 October 2013

Fn types in Rust, take 3

As some of you may recall, the fate of function types in Rust has been somewhat uncertain. It all began when I realized that we could not soundly permit closures to recurse, which implies that closures must be tracked in a linear fashion. This caused interactions with the prior plans we had for dynamically sized types, and led to several alternative proposals. The most radical involved keeping only one closure type for borrowed closures and then using macros and object types to represent all other use cases.

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03 September 2013

Type specifications in Parallel JS

Since I last wrote, we’ve made great progress with the work on the Parallel JS and Typed Objects (nee Binary Data) implementation. In particular, as of this morning, preliminary support for typed objects has landed in Mozilla Nightly, although what’s currently checked in is not fully conformant with the current version of the standard (for this reason, support is limited to Nightly and not available in Aurora or Beta builds).

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19 July 2013

Integrating binary data and type inference in SpiderMonkey

Since the new version of PJS is going to be based on binary data, we are going to need to have a well-optimized binary data implementation. Nikhil Marathe has prepared an initial implementation, but it is limited to the interpreter. I am looking now at how to integrate binary data into the JIT. The goal is to have accesses get compiled to very efficient generated code. In this blog post, I specifically want to cover the plan for integrating our type inference with binary data.

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18 July 2013

Rust presentation at Northeastern

Today I had the honor of giving a presentation on Rust at the Northeastern University PL Seminar. It was a lot of fun, and I also had a lot of good conversations afterwards with some of the professors and PhD students there. For those who are interested, I am uploading the slides from my talk. The talk takes the same approach that I would like to use for the next Rust paper. It was kind of a dry run to see if that approach would be understandable and would flow logically; overall, I thought it worked reasonably well.

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11 June 2013

On the connection between memory management and data-race freedom

As I alluded in the previous post, I have noticed an interesting connection between memory management and data-race freedom. I want to take a moment to elaborate on this, becaause the connection was not obvious to me at first, but it ultimately drives a lot of the Rust design decisions.

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11 June 2013

Data Parallelism in Rust

Rust currently has very strong support for concurrency in the form of actors which exchange messages and do not share memory. However, there are many tasks for which actors are not a good fit. The unbounded lifetime of actors means that they cannot safely access stack-allocated memory from another task, even if it is immutable. Actors cannot share memory except through the relatively clumsy (and somewhat expensive) mechanism of Arc structures (which stands for “atomic reference count”), meaning that if there are large data structures they can be a pain to access. Arc is also inapplicable to data structures that transition between mutable and immutable and back again.

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06 June 2013

Reducing DST Annotation

So Ben Blum has doing some investigation into the full implications of the Sized bound that I proposed as part of the dynamically sized types post. It’s clear that, if we change nothing else, the impact of Sized will be somewhat greater than I thought. He estimates somewhere around 40% of the files in libstd need at least one Sized bound; the actual number may wind up being somewhat higher.

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03 June 2013

More on fns

I have been thinking about my previous proposal for fn types. I wanted to offer some refinements and further thoughts.

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30 May 2013

Removing procs

I’ve been thinking more about my proposal to split the current fn type into fn and proc. I have come to the conclusion that we just don’t need proc at all. I think we can get by with two types:

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29 May 2013

Integrating binary data and PJs

We’ve been making a lot of conceptual progress with the PJS API that has not been written down anywhere, so I want to cover some of that work. This post focuses on the integration of parallel methods with the binary data API. It shows how the new API approach allows users to avoid allocation for higher efficiency.

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14 May 2013

Procedures, continued

So, I didn’t actually mean to post that previous post, I had intended to think more on the idea. But oh well, cat’s out of the bag. In any case, I’ve been thinking about the “closures” vs “procedures” idea that I jotted down there and decided to try and elaborate on it a bit more, since I find it has a lot of appeal. In particular I think that the current collection of closure types is addressing too many distinct use cases and the result is confusing.

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13 May 2013

Mutable fn alternatives

I’ve been thinking about what I wrote in my last post regarding closures and I am beginning to change my opinion about the correct solution. fn~ just seems so unfortunate. So, besides writing fn~, what are the other options? I just thought I’d write down a few of the other ideas I’ve come up with for later reference. Not saying any of the ideas in this post are good yet.

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13 May 2013

Recurring closures and dynamically sized types

I realized today that there is an unfortunate interaction between the proposal for dynamically sized types and closure types. In particular, in the case of the recurring closure, I described the soundness issues that arise in our language when closures are able to recurse.

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30 April 2013

Dynamically sized types, revisited

Recently, separate discussions with pnkfelix and graydon have prompted me to think a bit about “dynamically sized types” once again. Those who know Rust well know all about the sometimes annoying discrepancy between a type like ~T (owned pointer to T) and ~[S] (owned vector of S instances)—in particular, despite the visual similarity, there is no type [S], so ~[S] is not an instance of ~T for any T. This design was the outcome of a lot of back-and-forth and I think it has generally served us well, but I’ve always had this nagging feeling that we can do better. Recently it occurred to me how we could, though it’s not without its price.

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30 April 2013

Parallelizable JavaScript Subset

I want to look at an interesting topic: what subset of JavaScript do we intend to support for parallel execution, and how long will it take to get that working? As my dear and loyal readers already know, our current engine supports a simple subset of JavaScript but we will want to expand it and make the result more predictable.

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30 April 2013

The Case of the Recurring Closure

Yesterday I realized that you can violate Rust’s memory safety guarantees by using “stack closures”, meaning closures that are allocated on the stack which have can refer to and manipulate the local variables of the enclosing stack frame. Such closures are ubiquitous in Rust, since every for loop makes use of them (and virtually every higher-order function). Luckily, this hole can be fixed with (I think) very little pain—in fact, I think fixing it can also help us make other analyses a little less strict.

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04 April 2013

Nested lifetimes

While working on issue #5656 I encountered an interesting problem that I had not anticipated. The result is a neat little extension to the region type system that increases its expressive power. The change is completely internal to the type rules and involves no user-visible syntax or anything like that, though there are some (basically nonsensical) programs that will no longer compile. Anyway I found it interesting and thought I would share.

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04 April 2013

A tour of the Parallel JS implementation (Part 2)

In my last post about ParallelJS, I discussed the ForkJoin() intrinsic and showed how it was used to implement the parallel map operation. Today I want to write about the high-level changes to IonMonkey that are needed to support ForkJoin(). IonMonkey, of course, is our JavaScript engine.

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03 April 2013

Associated items continued

I want to finish my discussion of associated items by taking a look at how they are handled in Haskell, and what that might mean in Rust.

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02 April 2013

Associated items

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Rust’s trait system lately. The current system is a bit uneven: it offers a lot of power, but the implementation is inconsistent and incomplete, and in some cases we haven’t thought hard enough about precisely what should be allowed and what should not. I’m going to write a series of posts looking at various aspects of the trait system and trying to suss out what we should be doing in each case. In particular I want to be sure that our trait design is forwards compatible: that is, I expect that we will defer final decisions about various aspects of the trait system until after 1.0, but we should look now and try to anticipate any future difficulties we may encounter.

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21 March 2013

Guaranteeing parallel execution

One common criticism of the work on ParallelJS is that the API itself does not guarantee parallel execution. Instead, our approach has been to offer methods whose definition makes parallel execution possible, but we have left it up to the engines to define the exact set of JavaScript that will be safe for parallel execution.

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20 March 2013

A tour of the Parallel JS implementation (Part 1)

I am going to write a series of blog posts giving a tour of the current Parallel JS implementation in SpiderMonkey. These posts are intended to serve partly as documentation for the code. The plan is to begin high level and work my way down to the nitty gritty details, so here we go!

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20 March 2013

Parallel JS lands

The first version of our work on ParallelJS has just been promoted to mozilla-central and thus will soon be appearing in a Nightly Firefox build near you. I find this pretty exciting. In honor of the occassion, I wanted to take a moment to step back and look both at what has landed now, what we expect to land soon, and the overall trajectory we are aiming for.

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26 February 2013

Splitting the PJs API

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ParallelJS API that we want to expose. In particular, I’ve been considering offering methods on the normal array type for basic parallel operations. I think this opens up some interesting doors.

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22 February 2013

Interfacing with C functions in Rust

One of the things that I’ve been working on for some time now is the proper integration of C functions. As with virtually every other facet of the design of Rust, we’ve been slowly moving from a model where Rust tried to hide low-level details for you to one where Rust offers tight control over what’s going on, with the type system intervening only as needed to prevent segfaults or other strange behavior. This blog post details what I consider to be the best proposal so far; some of the finer points are a bit vague, however.

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17 January 2013

Destructors and finalizers in Rust

Rust features destructors and, as of this moment, they are simply not sound with respect to many other features of the language, such as borrowed and managed pointers. The problem is that destructors are granted unlimited access to arbitrary data, but the type system and runtime do not take that into account. I propose to fix this by limiting destructors to owned types, meaning types that don’t contain borrowed or managed pointers.

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16 January 2013

Revised for loop protocol

In Rust today, there is a special for syntax designed to support interruptible loops. Since we introduced it, this has proven to be a remarkable success. However, I think we can improve it very slightly.

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15 January 2013

Lifetime notation redux

In a previous post I outlined some of the options for updating our lifetime syntax. I want to revist those examples after having given the matter more thought, and also after some discussions in the comments and on IRC.

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03 January 2013

The case FOR deterministic results

In my last post, I made the case against having a deterministic semantics. I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback saying that, for a Web API, introducing nondeterminism is a very risky idea. Certainly the arguments are strong. Therefore, I want to take a moment and make the case for determinism.

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02 January 2013

Deterministic or not?

One of the interesting questions with respect to Parallel JS is what the semantics ought to be if you attempt a parallel operation with a kernel function that has side-effects. There are basically three reasonable options:

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30 December 2012

Lifetime notation

I’ve been thinking for a while that our lifetime notation has too many defaults which can be more confusing than helpful. A recent spate of e-mails on rust-dev brought this back to my mind. I’ve been wanting to take a look at these defaults for a while, so I thought I’d write up a quick exploration of the “syntactic space”. A warning: this is not really an exciting post to read. I hope to have a few of those coming up very soon. This one is mostly just a list of syntactic options I wanted to document for future reference and to serve as a starting point for discussion.

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06 December 2012

Improving our parallel intrinsic

I mentioned in my previous post that we are using a single primitive parallel operation to implement PJs. It turns out that I am not very satisfied with what we currently have and I have been thinking about some alternatives. In this post I’ll describe briefly how things are setup, what problems I see, and then sketch out how I think we could improve it.

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05 December 2012

Self-hosted Parallel JS

The blog has been silent for a while. The reason is that I’ve been hard at work on Parallel JS. It’s come a long way: in fact, the goal is to land an initial version in the next couple weeks!

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18 November 2012

Imagine never hearing the phrase 'aliasable, mutable' again

I’ve been thinking of a radical change we could make to the treatment of mutability and borrowed pointers in Rust. The goal is to eliminate all of the error messages about “aliasable, mutable data” that the borrow checker currently issues. The idea is somewhat inspired by writing a recent paper on Rust’s current system—writing a paper on something never fails to get me thinking about how to improve it, though it sometimes fails to stimulate ideas which are actually good—and also somewhat inspired by recent conversations on IRC and in person.

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24 October 2012

Restrict pointers

I am considering whether we should add a way to borrow something but retain uniqueness. This would address a shortcoming of the borrowing system that has been bothering me for some time, and it would enable a few patterns that are difficult or awkward today.

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24 October 2012

Purity in Parallel JavaScript

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve started to think that Parallel JS (nee Rivertrail) should not demand pure callbacks to functions like map() and so forth. Rather it should just accept arbitrary functions. Previously, I thought that it was important that ParallelArray methods should only accept functions which, at least in a perfect world, would be safely parallelizable. But I am no longer so sure why that is an important goal. Here is my reasoning.

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23 October 2012

Function and object types

My big goal for 0.5 is to straighten out our function types (yet again). I’ve been tossing the design for these over in my head since the summer and I wanted to lay out my plan. This is a variation of something that Ben Blum and I sketched out on a whiteboard.

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12 October 2012

Extending the definition of purity in Rust

In this post I propose an extension of Rust’s purity rules. The short version is that pure functions would be allowed to mutate data owned by their &mut parameters. This extends the current Rust purity rules which allow pure functions to invoke impure closures so long as they are an argument to the function. The principle is the same: pure functions are functions whose side-effects can be completely determined by examining their parameters (for the more formally minded among you, this is effectively an effect-parametric system with very lightweight notation). The rest of the post is an elaboration and justification of this idea.

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10 October 2012

Rivertrail

I have started work on implementing Rivertrail, Intel’s proposal for data parallelism in JS. I am excited about this project, it seems like it’s going to be great fun. The initial version that we produce is going to be focused on Intel’s specification, but I hope we can eventually combine it with the more general stuff I’ve been doing as part of PJs. There is an awful lot of overlap between the two, though also a few minor differences that will need to be ironed out.

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05 October 2012

Termination of trait matching

So, the condition that was supposed to ensure termination in my previous post is most certainly wrong. The idea was to prevent tautological impls like the following:

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04 October 2012

A postscript on traits and impls

I was thinking more about type classes as I walked down the street. In my prior post I wrote that the rules I proposed resulted in a system where traits loosely fit the following Haskell template:

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04 October 2012

Refining traits and impls

Currently, the Rust compiler accepts all manner of trait, impl, and bound declarations. In fact, it accepts plenty of declarations that later phases of the compiler are not sophisticated enough to handle. In other words, the syntax is writing checks the semantics can’t cash. (An aside: I just love saying that phrase for some perverse reason. I really wish however that checks, like rotary dial telephones, were something that younger people vaguely understood but which no longer had relevance in the modern era. The Swiss Einzahlungschein truly opened my eyes! Anyhow.)

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01 October 2012

Moves based on type

I have been trying to come up with a reasonable set of rules for deciding when a pattern binding ought to be a move and when it ought to be a copy and utterly failing. Simultaneously, pcwalton, brson, and I kind of simultaneously arrived at an alternate design that tries to simplify the copy/move distinction. I think that it also solves the question of when to copy/move pattern bindings in a nice way. Therefore, I wanted to write up this proposal.

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26 September 2012

Type system for borrowing permissions

Well, I have not done too well with my goal of reading a research paper a day on the train (actually my initial goal was two papers, but seeing as how I’ve failed so spectacularly, I’ve dialed it back some). However, I’ve decided to give it another go. I’ve bought a printer now so I can print papers out (double-sided, no less!) at home (I had initially planned to buy an iPad or something, but a decent printer is only $100, and paper is still nicer to read and write notes on…you do the math). As additional motivation, I’m working again on the paper on Rust’s new borrowed pointers and so I have to catch up on a lot of related work.

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15 September 2012

Rvalue lifetimes

We need to clarify our story on rvalue lifetimes. This is related to issue #3387 and also various recent and not-so-recent discussions on IRC.

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24 August 2012

Datasort refinements

One of the things that is sometimes frustrating in Rust is the inability to define a type that indicates some subset of enum variants. For example, it is very common to have a pattern like this:

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30 July 2012

Type inference in Spidermonkey

I’ve been slowly learning how type inference works in SpiderMonkey. As I understand it, SpiderMonkey’s type inference scheme is the brain child of one Brian “Hack-it”, coder extraordinaire. You may have seen a recent PLDI publication on the topic. You may, like me, have read that publication. You may, also like me, have walked away thinking, “um, I don’t really understand how that works.” In that case, dear reader, this blog post is for you. Well, actually, it’s for me, to try and document what I gleaned from a conversation or two. It it is almost certainly not entirely accurate and it may or may not be helpful.

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24 July 2012

Generalizing inherited mutability

I have been working on a change to the definition of mutability in Rust. This is a much smaller change than my previous thought experiments, which were aimed at achieving better parameterization (those are still percolating; I think the best approach is a modified version of the latest proposal where not all types have mutability but type parameters do…but that’s a problem for another day with many complications). The goal of these changes is to enable operations like “freeze” and “thaw”.

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19 July 2012

Yet another tutorial on borrowed pointers

Here is my latest stab at a tutorial on borrowed pointers. I know, I know, enough with the borrowed pointer tutorials already! Hopefully this will be my last post in this vein for a while. I am much happier with this version. It is still too long to serve as a chapter in the general Rust tutorial, but I think it’s more approachable than the previous attempt, which was more of a reference document. As always, feedback welcome! I have tried to incorporate what people wrote in the comments into this version.

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17 July 2012

About that 'tutorial'...

One thing I didn’t make clear regarding my last post: I am not especially satisfied with the way the “tutorial” was turning out. I use scare quotes here because I think it resembles a reference manual more than a tutorial. Nonetheless I think there are some sections that are quite good; and a document like it probably ought to exist. So I figured I’d post it anyhow and I can mine it for material later. I intend to start afresh however with something that dives at the core ideas, which I think are relatively simple.

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17 July 2012

Borrowed pointer tutorial

Here is a (much) more complete draft of the tutorial on borrowed pointers. It is becoming more in-depth than I intended. I hope to later extract a much shorter subset. But I thought I’d post what I’ve got so far.

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13 July 2012

Concurrent maps

I had a very interesting discussion with Sriram and Terrence (of Kilim and ANTLR fame, respectively—two smart dudes) yesterday. One of the things we talked about was adapting shared-memory data structures like concurrent hash maps into an actor setting.

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12 July 2012

Fn types

I am trying to mop up some of the remaining work for regions now. One of the big remaining areas is dealing with function and iface types. This proposal is certainly influenced by my previous proposals. However, we have backed away from the idea of dynamically-sized types for vectors and so I will do the same here.

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10 July 2012

Borrowed Pointer Tutorial

This is a draft of (the first section of) a new Rust tutorial on borrowed pointers (the official name for “regions”). Comments welcome.

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11 June 2012

HotPar

Last Thursday and Friday I had the good fortune of presenting a paper of mine at HotPar 2012. The paper is called Parallel Closures: A New Twist on an Old Idea; it basically describes what has evolved to become the PJs (Parallel JavaScript) model, though it does so in the context of a static checker built in Java.

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10 June 2012

Unifying patterns in alts and lets

This is a proposal to unify the mechanics of alt and destructuring assignment. It was born out of discussion between erickt, pcwalton, and I amidst various bugs in the bug tracker but I wanted to float it around to a larger audience. I’d like to discuss this on Tuesday, because one of the logical next steps for the regions work is to begin deciding precisely what to do about the types of identifiers in alts.

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31 May 2012

Mutability

OK, I’ve been thinking more about the mutability issue and I think I have found a formulation that I am happy with. The basic idea is that we refactor types like so:

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30 May 2012

Mutability idea retracted

I have been thinking a bit more about the approach to mutability I recently discussed. It seemed a bit too good to be true (too clean) and I think I’ve realized a problem.

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29 May 2012

Simple effect system

Currently, Rust has an effect system but refuses to admit it. In an effort to broaden the set of things that can be safely done in the face of extant aliases into the heap, I have been experimenting with a lightweight extension to Rust’s system. So far I think it is promising but also no magic bullet.

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28 May 2012

Moving mutability into the type

I am dissatisfied with how mutability is treated in the Rust type system. The current system is that a type is not prefixed mutable; rather, lvalues are. That is, a type T is defined like so:

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14 May 2012

Vectors, slices, and functions, oh my!

I wanted to bring together the various ideas around vectors and function types into one post. The goals of these changes are

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08 May 2012

Iface types

Yesterday I wrote about my scheme for paring down our set of function types to one type, fn:kind(S) -> T. When I finished writing the post, I was feeling somewhat uncertain about the merits of the idea, but I’m feeling somewhat better about it today. I really like the idea that top-level items have the type fn:kind(S) -> T and that you therefore give them an explicit sigil to use them in an expression; this allows us to remove the “bare function” type altogether without any complex hacks in the inference scheme.

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07 May 2012

Fn types

As you loyal readers know, I am on a quest to make the Rust type system more orthogonal with respect to the kind of pointer in use, by which I mean that I want to have the three pointer sigils (@, &, and ~) indicate where memory is located and the other types indicate what value is to be found at that memory. Right now there are a few cases where we conflate the two things into one type. The first, vectors and slices, I discused in a recent post. This post discusses the second case: function and interface types.

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05 May 2012

Borrowing errors

I implemented a simple, non-flow-sensitive version of the reference checker which I described in my previous post. Of course it does not accept the Rust codebase; however, the lack of flow-sensitivity is not the problem, but rather our extensive use of unique vectors. I thought I’d write a post first showing the problem that you run into and then the various options for solving it.

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01 May 2012

Borrowing

I’ve been working for the last few days on the proper safety conditions for borrowing. I am coming into a situation where I am not sure what would be the best approach. The question boils down to how coarse-grained and approximate our algorithm ought to be: in particular, ought it to be flow sensitive? But let me back up a bit, first, and provide a bit of background.

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27 April 2012

In favor of types of unknown size

I’m still thinking about vector and string types in Rust and I think I’ve decided what I feel is the best approach. I thought I’d summarize it here and make the case for it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see this post for more background. I’ll forward this to the mailing list as well; I’m sorry if it seems like I’m harping on this issue. I just think vectors and strings are kind of central data structures so we want them to be as nice as possible, both in terms of what you can do with them and in terms of the notations we use to work with them.

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25 April 2012

Permission regions for race-free parallelism

I’ve been making a point of reading academic papers on the train as I ride home. It’s so easy to get behind with the sheer quantity of work that is being produced. Anyway, it occurred to me that I ought to try and summarize the papers I read on this blog so that I can I remember my reactions to them.

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25 April 2012

References

I want to do an introduction to the regions system I’ve been working on. This is work-in-progress, so some of the details are likely to change. Also, I’m going to try some new terminology on for size: although it has a long history in the literature, I think the term “region” is not particularly accurate, so I am going to use the term “lifetime” or “pointer lifetime” and see how it fits.

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23 April 2012

Vectors, strings, and slices

We’ve been discussing a lot about how to manage vectors and strings in Rust. Graydon sent out an excellent proposal which allows for a great number of use cases to be elegant handled. However, I find the syntax somewhat misleading. I’ve proposed one alternative on the mailing list, but I now find I don’t like it, so I thought I’d brainstorm a bit and try to find something better.

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23 April 2012

On types and type schemes

After my recent dalliance in Matters of a Truly Trivial Nature, I’d like to return to Matters Most Deep and Profound. I’m running up against an interesting question with regions that has to do with the nature of function types like fn(&int): up until now, I’ve assumed that this refers to a function that takes an integer pointer in some region that is specified by the caller. That is, it is a kind of shorthand for a type that might be written like fn<r>(&r.int), where the <r> indicates that the function type is parameterized by the region r.

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15 April 2012

Syntax matters...?

For a long time, it was considered fairly obvious, I think, that syntax didn’t really matter. It was just the surface skin over the underlying ideas. In recent times, though, the prevailing wisdom has reversed, and it is now quite common to hear people talk about how “syntax matters”.

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11 April 2012

DOA: Don't overabstract

I’d like to propose a term for code that has been “over-DRY’d” (dessicated?). I occasionally run across some method which just seems horribly complex. Reading it closer, it usually turns out that what happened is that two or three independent operations got collected into one subroutine. Perhaps they started out as doing almost the same thing—but before long, they diverged, and now the subroutine has grown a hundred parameters and has a control-flow path that requires a whiteboard and a ultra-super-fine-point marker to follow. But, just as often, you can tear this routine apart into two or three routines that read just fine, even if they share a line or two of code in common. So I’m going to start calling such routines “DOA”, though the acronym has a bit of a different expansion when used as an adjective.

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10 April 2012

Declared vs duckish typing

One of the questions in our object system is what precisely how “declared” we want things to be when it comes to interfaces and implementations. In a discussion on IRC, graydon suggested it’d be nice to have terms like “duck-typing” defined more precisely in a Rust syntax, and he is correct. So here is my effort.

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09 April 2012

Rust's object system

On the rust-dev mailing list, someone pointed out another “BitC retrospective” post by Jonathon Shapiro concerning typeclasses. The Rust object system provides interesting solutions to some of the problems he raises. We also manage to combine traditional class-oriented OOP with Haskell’s type classes in a way that feels seamless to me. I thought I would describe the object system as I see it in a post. However, it turns out that this will take me far too long to fit into a single blog post, so I’m going to do a series. This first one just describes the basics.

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06 April 2012

For loops

First off, I want to welcome Brian Anderson to the Rust blog-o-sphere (which so far consists primarily of myself). His first post does a great job of explaining how to use the new for syntax that was recently added to Rust: this syntax allows for break, ret, and cont from within user-defined loops, which is very nice.

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28 March 2012

Servo design

Yesterday we had a hackathon/meeting to discuss the overarching design of Servo, the project to build a next-generation rendering engine. We didn’t ultimately do much hacking (though we did a little), but mostly we tried to hammer out the big picture so that we can actually get to writing code. I wanted to try and write up what I understood as the consensus (for the moment, anyway).

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28 March 2012

Avoiding region explosion in Rust

pcwalton and I (but mostly pcwalton) have been hard at work implementing regions in Rust. We are hoping to use regions to avoid a lot of memory allocation overhead in the compiler—the idea is to use memory pools (a.k.a. arenas) so that we can cheaply allocate the data needed to process a given function and then release it all in one shot. It is well known that arenas are great fit for the memory allocation patterns of a compiler, which tend to produce a lot of data that lives for the duration of a pass but is not needed afterwards.

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03 March 2012

Progress on inlining

Cross-crate inlining has come a long way and is now basically functional (I have yet to write a comprehensive test suite, so I’m sure it will fail when exercising various corners of the language).

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25 February 2012

Serialization without type information via impls

My current implementation of the auto-serialization code generator requires full type information. This is a drag. First, macros and syntax extension currently run before the type checker, so requiring full type information prevents the auto-serialization code from being implemented in the compiler, as it should be. At first I wanted to change how the compiler works to provide type information, but after numerous discussions with pcwalton and dherman, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a bad idea: it requires exposing an API for the AST and for type information and introduces numerous other complications.

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22 February 2012

Regions tradeoffs

In the last few posts I’ve been discussing various options for regions. I’ve come to see region support as a kind of continuum, where the current system of reference modes lies at one end and a full-blown region system with explicit parameterized types and user-defined memory pools lies at the other. In between there are various options. To better explore these tradeoffs, I wrote up a document that outlines various possible schemes and also details use cases that are enabled by these schemes. I don’t claim this to be a comprehensive list of all possible schemes, just the ones I’ve thought about so far. In some cases, the descriptions are quite hand-wavy. I also think some of them don’t hang together so well.

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18 February 2012

Versioning considered OK

Marijn pointed out to me that our current setup should avoid the worst of the versioning problems I was afraid of. In the snapshot, we package up a copy of the compiler along with its associated libraries, and use this compiler to produce the new compiler. The new compiler can then compilers its own target libraries, thus avoiding the need to interact with libraries produced by the snapshot.

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17 February 2012

CCI and versioning

I’ve been busily implementing the Cross-Crate Inlining stuff, but one area I haven’t looked at much is versioning. In particular, if we are going to be serializing the AST, we need a plan for what to do when the AST changes. Actually, if inlining were only to be used for performance, we wouldn’t really need to have a plan: we could just not inline when the AST appeared to be stored in some form we don’t understand. However, if we fully monomorphize, we will not have that luxury: without type descriptors, the only way to compile cross-crate, generic calls will be by inlining.

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16 February 2012

Returning refs

One commonly requested feature for regions is the ability to return references to the inside of structures. I did not allow that in the proposal in my previous post because I did not want to have any region annotations beyond a simple &. I think, however, that if you want to allow returning references to the interior of a parameter, you need a way for the user to denote region names explicitly.

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15 February 2012

Regions-lite...ish

I was talking to brson today about the possibility of moving Rust to a regions system. He pointed out that the complexity costs may be high. I was trying to make a slimmer version where explicit region names were never required. This is what I came up with. The truth is, it’s not that different from the original: adding back region names wouldn’t change much. But I’m posting it anyway because it includes a description of how to handle regions in types and I think it’s the most complete and correct proposal at the moment.

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14 February 2012

Using futures in the task API

Brian pointed out to me a nice solution to the Task API problem that I have overlooked, though it’s fairly obvious. Basically, I had rejected a “builder” style API for tasks because there is often a need for the child task to be able to send some data back to its parent after it has been spawned, and a builder API cannot easily accommodate this. Brian’s idea was to encapsulate these using futures. It’s still not perfect but it’s better I think and more composable than my first, limited proposal. It still requires that the actor pattern be a separate module.

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13 February 2012

Task API

One of the thorny API problems I’ve been thinking about lately is the task API for Rust. I originally had in mind this fancy and very flexible aproach based on bind. When I spelled it out I found it was very powerful and flexible but also completely unworkable in practice.

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09 February 2012

Auto-serialization in Rust

I’ve been working on implementing Cross-Crate Inlining. The major task here is to serialize the AST. This is conceptually trivial but in practice a major pain. It’s an interesting fact that the more tightly you type your data, the more of a pain it (generally) is to work with in a generic fashion. Of functional-ish languages that I’ve used, Scala actually makes things relatively easy by using a combination of reflection and dynamic typing (interfaces like Product come to mind).

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02 February 2012

Breaking out is hard to do

One of the things I’d like to do for the iteration library is settle on a convention for breaking and continuing within loops. There is a bug on this issue (#1619) and it seems like the general approach is clear but some of the particulars are less so. So I thought I’d try to enumerate how code will look under the various alternatives and then maybe we can settle on one: they’re all fairly similar. Who knows, maybe just writing things out will settle my mind.

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02 February 2012

Cross-crate inlining

Cross-crate inlining (CCI) refers to the ability to inline a function across crate boundaries. In Rust, a “crate” is the unit of compilation, rather than an individual file as in C or C++. A crate basically corresponds to a single library or executable, but it may contain any number of modules and source files internally. CCI is important for performance due to the ubiquitous use of small methods like vec::iter() in our source code. Such methods have proven to be a very scalable way to define iteration abstracts, but performance is currently somewhat lacking.

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01 February 2012

Update

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on the blog! A lot has been going on in the meantime, both in Rust, parallel JavaScript, and personally…I hate to write a big update post but I gotta’ catch up somehow!

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11 January 2012

Proposed JS parallelism vs actors

In one of the comments on yesterday’s post, Tushar Pokle asked why I would champion my model over an Erlang model of strict data separation. There are several answers to this question. The simplest answer is that Web Workers already provide an actors model, though they do not make tasks particularly cheap (it’s possible to work around this by creating a fixed number of workers and sending tasks for them to execute).

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09 January 2012

Parallel Javascript

Lately the ideas for a parallel, shared memory JavaScript have begun to take shape. I’ve been discussing with various JavaScript luminaries and it seems like a design is starting to emerge. This post serves as a documentation of the basic ideas; I’m sure the details will change as we go along.

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29 December 2011

Composing blocks

The original Rust design included iterators very similar to Python’s generators. As I understand it, these were stripped out in favor of Ruby-esque blocks, partially because nobody could agree on the best way to implement iterators. I like blocks, but it seems like it’s more natural to compose iterators, so I wanted to think a bit about how one might use blocks to achieve similar things. I’m sure this is nothing new; there must be hundreds of libraries in Haskell that do the same things I’m talking about here.

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29 December 2011

Block sugar in expressions

UPDATE: I found some more complications. Updates inline.

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21 December 2011

Tone and criticism

So, I worry that my various posts about Rust give the impression that I’m dissatisfied with the language. It’s true that there are several things I’d like to change—and those are what I’ve focused on—but I want to clarify that I quite like Rust the way it is and I find the overall feel of the language to be very good. When it comes to the big decisions, I think Rust gets it right:

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20 December 2011

Dynamic race detection

In the context of thinking about parallelism for Rust, I have been reminded of an older idea I had for a lightweight, predictable dynamic race detection monitoring system based around block-scoped parallelism. I should think this would be suitable for (an extended version of) a dynamic language like Python, JavaScript, or Lua. I will write in a Python-like syntax since I know it best, but I am debating about exploring this for JavaScript.

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16 December 2011

Implementing unique closures

I landed a preliminary version of unique closures (which I am currently calling sendable fns) on the trunk last night. I wanted to briefly document what I did to alter the design of closures to get this working (of course there is a comment in the code too, but who reads that?).

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13 December 2011

Const vs Mutable

I keep thinking about parallel blocks although I know I probably shouldn’t; but so long as I write these notes while rustc builds, everybody wins, right?

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13 December 2011

Partially ordered unique closures

On a call with other Rust developers, I realized that I was thinking about unique closures all wrong. I had in mind a total ordering:

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12 December 2011

Challengines implementing unique closures

Update: See the recent post addressing the solution to this problem.

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09 December 2011

Pure blocks

I’ve been thinking a lot about “parallel blocks” recently and I am beginning to think they can be made to work very simply. The main thing that is needed is a type qualifier const that means “read-only”. This would be a type prefix with very low precedence, just like immutable and shared in D. The type const T would refer to an instance of T that cannot be modified. This is a deep property, so, given some record types defined like:

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08 December 2011

Why not modes?

Marijn asked me what it is that I dislike about parameter modes. I thought I might as well explain here.

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08 December 2011

Sendable functions

One of the last remaining tasks for Rust 0.1 is to find a way to address issues #1128 and #1038. The key problem is that, right now, we can only spawn a task with a bare function, which is to say a function that carries no closure or environment. Due to the way that Rust is implemented, this even excludes generic functions. I have been wanting to lift this restriction but have been stymied by trying to make it accessible.

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07 December 2011

Rust usability problems

I recently implemented a new hashtable module for Rust. This was actually the first piece of code written in Rust which I started from scratch. I ran into some difficulties. Some of these are just things you have to get used to; some might be worth trying to correct. Just not entirely sure which problem falls into which category yet.

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06 December 2011

Coroutines for Rust

I have been thinking about unique closures, one of the last blocker items for the Rust 0.1 release. The original idea of a unique closure was that it should be a closure that can only access uniquely owned state, and which can therefore be sent to other tasks. However, I’ve come to have my doubts about this idea. In particular, a unique closure, like any closure, is a function, and can therefore be invoked many times: but this imposes some limits on what such a closure can safely do.

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05 December 2011

Statement-level parallelism

The primary means of parallel programming in Rust is tasks. Our task support is good: as good or better than any other language I’ve seen (good support for unique types and unique closures) but we have virtually no support for intra-task parallelism. The classic example is iterating over an array and processing each element in parallel. To be fair, this is a hard problem.

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03 December 2011

Rust without implicit copies

I just posted a draft of a proposal for Rust that aims to eliminate implicit copies. At the moment, it is not the final version; there are some flaws I need to correct. For one thing, I need to address implicit capturing of variables by lambdas.

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02 December 2011

Why case classes are better than variant types

One of the better features from functional programming languages are variant types (a.k.a. algebraic data types). Basically they are a way of enumerating a small set of possibilities and then making sure that you handle every possible case. However, in real world use variant types tend to run into a few annoying problems. While working on the Harmonic compiler, I found that Scala’s case classes addressed some of these shortcomings.

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