This Week on perl5-porters - 16-22 October 2006

This Week on perl5-porters - 16-22 October 2006

"And if the best we can come up with is numeric error codes then I'm going to break out the bell bottoms and have a disco party, you groove machine." -- Michael G. Schwern, shaking his bootie at chromatic's suggestion for solving the diagnostics dilemma.

Topics of Interest

New version diagnostic breaks a bunch of modules

Last week, we learnt that changes in version caused failures in some of Michael G. Schwern's modules, and John Peacock chided him gently for hard-wiring the exact text into his test suites.

This week, chromatic floated the idea of assigning numeric codes to each diagnostic, in order to return a string or numeric value depending on the context.

The discussion touched on the issues of localisation of diagnostics and ways of insulating client code from changes in them. Yves Orton pointed out that many messages have changed in blead to provide more information.

Michael pondered the fact that $@ could be extended to include method calls, which might be a way of obtaining more information about error conditions.

By the end of the week, a potential design involving and errorcode module had been sketched out.

Regexp substitution failures on VMS

Craig A. Berry had a closer look at change #28770, applied by Nicholas Clark late last month, which has been causing test failures on VMS ever since. Since the problems don't appear to be happening on other platforms, Craig wondered if alignment issues were rearing their ugly heads.

Nicholas proposed a patch that he hoped would fix the problem. Which in fact, it did. It turned out that the problem was no so much one of alignment, but that the bool datatype turned out to consume 32 bits, since it fails to be configured as anything smaller at configure time.

Perl (5.8.4) process spinning in perl_destruct and consuming all available CPU

Karsten Sperling was having problems with a proprietary application written in Perl getting wedged during perl_destruct, and sucking all the CPU out of the machine.

Dave Mitchell thought that the symptoms didn't sound familiar, and outlined a couple of scenarios that might be happening, and how to examine them. Karsten, fortunately a dab hand with gdb was able to peer inside the application and see what was going on.

Unfortunately, he lacked the knowledge to interpret a CV structure that looked suspicious. Dave gave him a couple of tips for that as well, and cheerfully suggested that when the problem is understood, the bug will be in the proprietary XS code.

Bug in regexec.c - invalid pointer saved on stack?

David Bailey was encountering problem of corrupted memory with 5.8.8. He believed that it was due a complex regular expression with evaluated substitutions causing Perl's stack to be relocated during the substitution. This causes bad things to go haywire when the code pops out the other side.

He even went as far as identifying the line that he thought was the source of the problem, and asked for help to get it fixed.

  *crickets chirping*

Regular expression performance benchmarks

H.Merijn Brand benchmarked the various combination of matching with /g, capturing, and list/scalar context and wondered why there were two orders of magnitude of difference between the two worst all all the other combinations.

John W. Krahn proposed a better benchmark that exercised list context more accurately. In his version, the spread was no more than a quarter from best to worst. Sadahiro Tomoyuki had a number of interesting insights into how captures and /g interact.

The _ prototype, first round

After last week's nudge from Yves Orton, Rafaël Garcia-Suarez landed the first first of the _ (underscore) prototype character, which indicates that a routine operates on $_ by default.

He added various fixes and tests in a subsequent update, and announced that he intended to modify the prototype() function to return '_' where needed.

stack assumptions broken

Someone over in Debian land wrote some very sick Perl that caused the interpreter to panic. And Nicholas Clark couldn't see an easy way to fix it (that is, that doesn't have an impact on performance).

  The discussion

  The bug report

UTF-8 regexp performance problem

Ben Evans identified a performance problem with the regular expression engine, if the UTF-8 flag is set on the scalar being matched against.

Nicholas Clark profiled the code and applied this obvious fix. This caused the non-linear performance slide back to close to linear. Unfortunately a number of regression tests started failing as a result, which means that the fix is at simple or easy as Nicholas had first hoped.

At fault is the \C regexp directive, which Yves Orton hates and wished it could be removed.

Dave Mitchell realised that the problem is caused by a zero match length, which causes strlen() to be called at some point, and proposed a fix. He did agree with Yves in that \C should be deprecated, and said that 5.10 should issue a compile-time warning.

Yves suggested a tweak to Dave's patch, which Dave applied. Mike Guy then suggested a clever tweak to the tweak.

Other mutterings in the thread were heard, suggesting the deprecation of pack's C0/U0 directives.

Tels thought that the regexp was screwed up anyway, and suggested a superior approach, and that a bug report should be filed with Net::SMTP (which is where the pattern hails from).

Change 29050: Memory leak fix, by Jarkko

Yves Orton spent some time trying to figure out why Windows-specific code in blead was ending up calling Unix IO routines, with obviously unhappy results. Similarly, Jan Dubois noticed a memory leak provoked a bad problem with Perl IO layers on Windows, especially threads.

This prompted Craig Berry to note that the build-up and tear-down code for this business was also a bit of a mess on VMS as well.

Nicholas was already working on the problem, and asked if the patch he was working on solve the problem for VMS.

blead valgrind finding

Jarkko found a leak thanks to valgrind, and this was applied (not the same change as discussed above). Unfortunately, it came to grief on a 6-CPU SMP box. Jarkko sighed, and vowed to study the memory pool code more closely.

Perl support for sfio

JD Brennan filed bug report #40568 to say that the documentation concerning sfio (Safe, Fast I/O) pointed to an URI that no longer existed, and supplied a working address.

Andy Dougherty pointed out that it is no longer documented in the INSTALL file (although the code for it hasn't been removed from the codebase yet). What is needed is for someone (JD?) to express an interest in maintaining it, otherwise the writing is on the wall.

  Where's my chainsaw?

As it turned out, JD had no luck building Perl 5.8.8 with sfio on Solaris. The trouble appears to stem from the fact that the sfio code appears to be completely ignorant of all the work that has gone into IO layers in the past few years. Perhaps the clearest sign yet that bitrot has begun to set in.

  Paging all sfio gurus

Changing the internal encoding

Juerd Waalboer wanted to know, following on from the UTF-8 regexp performance thread, how easy it would be to change the internal Unicode encoding used, and suggested that bitwise negated UTF-8 would be an excellent way of smoking out implicit assumptions in the code base.

The short answer is that, while this would be desirable, it would take a considerable amount of effort. Even existing non-mainstream internal encoding systems, like UTF-EBCDIC are still bringing bugs in core to light.

Managing changes to dual-lifed modules

Jerry D. Hedden wondered why some of the changes he made to the threads modules were omitted when blead was updated, and wondered what the reason was.

This led to considerable debate as to how changes should be made to dual-lifed modules should be made, and how blead and maint are kept synchronised.

make test.valgrind capable of running cachegrind

Jim Cromie sent in a patch that tweaked the core test harness to make test.valgrind run cachegrind, which apparently calculates the cache miss rates of executed code.

Why aren't %Carp::Internal and %Carp::CarpInternal documented?

Ben Tilly had a number of problems with the way the Carp module was documented, as it could lead to people doing things in a sub-optimal manner. After a slight prodding, he coughed up an excellent documentation cleanup, and some tests for the test suite.

This discussion followed on from last week's thread about Carp::Clan. Ben Tilly suggested that one of the main things needed to be done first up was to dual-life Carp, which would then allow Carp::Clan to specify it as a dependency.

Patch statistics

H.Merijn Brand went on a munging spree on the patch database and discovered that Jarkko Hietaniemi was the most prolific patcher, having produced about as many as everyone else combined.

The most patches were added in 2001, although things have picked up since 2004.

Patches of Interest

Taking a stab at UNITCHECK blocks

Alex Gough delivered a first cut at adding UNITCHECK blocks (code which is run just after the file or unit has been compiled. Joshua ben Jore wanted to know why they weren't named CHECK, as in Perl 6.

As it turns out, CHECK blocks already exist in Perl 5, but they aren't quite as exactly useful as people hoped, because they don't serve the purpose that people think they do. Perl 6, with the benefit of hindsight, gets it right, but to add this functionality to Perl 5 means that the blocks need a another name.

Rafael applied the changes to blead. Alex then patched B to teach it how to deal with them.

Inheriting from yourself

Curtis "Ovid" Poe wasted more time than he cared to admit when he declared a package, and then declared it to be a base package of itself, (which meant that it would try to inherit from itself). The trouble was that it didn't work, and no diagnostics were issued which would have shed light on the issue.

(I marvel that after all this time, bugs like this, that seem so blindingly obvious in hindsight, still pop up from time to time).

So he patched to kick out an error message when this happens, and he also updated the test suite to test for it. Rafael applied the change to blead.

  I am the son and the heir

Configure patch for 5.\d\d.\d+

H.Merijn Brand delivered a first cut at getting Configure to sort 5.8.10 and 5.10.0 into their correct places, in the grand scheme of Perl releases.

New and old bugs from RT

pipe doesn't set close-on-exec (#1724)

Steve Peters noted that this bug was resolved in 5.6.1.

  about time, too!

(;$) prototype still doesn't work properly (#3497)

Rafaël noted that this has been fixed in blead, with the addition of the (_) prototype.

Solaris 10 x86 semctl() unimplemented error due to Configure IPC_STAT test (#40547)

A sysadmin at noticed that semctl() was incorrectly reported as being unimplemented on his platform. He tracked the problem down to a missing #define in config.h, and was then in business. Rafaël assumed that this was a bag in the Solaris hints file that needed to be fixed.

Andy Dougherty was surprised, because his Solaris machine figured this out all by itself. He extracted the configure test out into a stand-alone test, and asked the original poster to report what it does on his machine. Alas, we didn't hear back from him.

regexec.c saves context stack position improperly (#40557)

Windows fork emulation's child pseudo process cannot restore local scalar values (#40565)

Eirik Berg Hanssen posted a well thought out bug report, showing that a variable that is localised (via local) in a block loses its previous definition when it come out of the block (but the code works as expected if run in the parent).

At best, one gets an an undef, but play your cards right, and you can wind up with an Attempt to free unreferenced scalar. Adding to Eirik's perplexity was the fact that arrays, hashes and globs display the correct behaviour.

  Paging all Win32 experts

++side effects++ (#40570)

Dr. Ruud wondered why 0 + ++$x + $x++ is not the same as ++$x + $x++. Dave Mitchell gave a cogent explanation about what happens in the internals in such constructs (basically, there's a performance optimisation that cheats a bit).

Nicholas Clark came down in favour on maintaining the current situation, pointing out that such horrendously bad code should be caught in a code review.

Perl5 Bug Summary

  3 up, 2 down, 1527 total

New Core Modules

  • Log::Message and Log::Message::Simple have been added to the core.
  • CPANPLUS 0.077_02, propagating to a mirror near you soon.

In Brief

Yves Orton corrected the off-by-one error in the trie code, and fixed up a problem with Nicholas Clark applied both patches.

Yuval Yaari noticed that's documentation had not caught up with the new behaviour.

About this summary

This summary was written by David Landgren. There will be no summary next week -- I already know I won't have the time to do it. The following summary will cover the fortnight.

Weekly summaries are published on and posted on a mailing list, (subscription: The archive is at Corrections and comments are welcome.

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