Parrot Embed Grant Update #3 : Now with Dragons

| | TrackBacks (0)

The quest to improve test coverage for src/extend_vtable.c has continued. Some dragons were slayed, a few trolls were paid tolls to cross creaky bridges of abstraction and many siren calls to hack on other code were dutifully ignored (mostly).

This TPF grant has forced me to become very familiar with Parrot vtables (virtual tables), which is basically an API for talking to Parrot PMCs (really just objects with a funny name). PMC can stand for Parrot Magic Cookie or PolyMorphic Container. Take your pick.

Firstly, vtable is already slang for "vtable function", which expands to "virtual table function." What the junk is a "virtual table function" ? I find that the simplest way to think about it is that every PMC has slots or buckets with standardized names such as get_bool (get Boolean value) or elements (how many elements does this PMC have?)

All PMCs inherit sensible defaults for most vtables, but they are allowed to override them. Why would you want to override them? As a simple example, let us assume there is a vtable called length (there isn't actually, but it makes an easy example to explain these concepts). Our length vtable will act just like elements and tell us how many elements a PMC has. If we had a complex number PMC that was really just an FixedFloatArray PMC of two numbers underneath, the length would always return 2 for every complex number. Not very useful.

A much more useful length vtable would use the coefficients a and b from a + b*i and compute the Euclidean distance (length from the origin) sqrt(a^2 + b^2). Hopefully you now have a taste for what what vtables are about. Parrot PMCs have over 100 vtables that can be overridden to provide custom functionality.

I recently ran across the hashvalue vtable and couldn't find any tests for it in Parrot core (outside of the test that I had written for it in extend_vtable.t) or any use of it in Rakudo Perl 6. Oh noes! It seemed like an unused/untested feature, so I created a Trac Ticket to mark it as deprecated so it could be removed in a future release.

The discussion about the ticket was fierce. NotFound++ explained why the vtable was important and the mighty coding robot known as bacek++ manifested tests quickly.

Yet another case of this grant work having a positive impact on the Parrot codebase, even outside the embed/extend interface. I also improved an error message in the PMCProxy PMC, which arises when something goes bad during a partial re-compile. Yay for improved debuggability!

According to the current code coverage statistics, extend_vtable.c is up to 54% coverage from 43%, which is not quite where I predicted from my last update. No doubt this has something to do with me packing and preparing to move to a new house this month. My velocity didn't decrease so much as the amount of time that I had to work on this grant.

I am greatly enjoying working on this grant and even if it is going a bit slower than I had planned, I am very confident that it will be completed in the next few months and hopefully sooner.

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Parrot Embed Grant Update #3 : Now with Dragons.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://leto.net/mt/mt-tb.cgi/195

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jonathan Leto published on February 27, 2011 10:44 PM.

Parrot Embed Grant Update #2 was the previous entry in this blog.

Parrot Embed Grant Update #4 : The Journey Continues is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Clicky Web Analytics 42