This Week on p5p 2000/06/18


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This week's report is a little early, because I am going to San Diego Usenix tomorrow. Next week's report will cover anything I missed this week, and may be late, since I will just have gotten back from YAPC.

A really mixed bag this week. Great work from Doug McEachern, Nicholas Clark, and Simon Cozens, and a lot of wasted yakkity yak from some other people.

Method Call Speedups

Doug McEachern wrote a patch to implement a compile-time optimization: Class method calls, and method calls on variables that have a declared class (as with my Dog $spot) have the code for the method call rewritten as if you had requested an ordinary subroutine call. For example, if you have

        my Class $obj = ...;

and the method that gets called is actually Parent::method, then Perl will pretend that you actually wrote

        my Class $obj = ...;
        Parent::method($obj, ...)

instead. Doug found that the method calls did get much faster---in some cases faster than regular subroutine calls. (I don't understand how this can possibly be the case, however.) One side benefit (or maybe it's a malefit?) of Doug's approach is that you can now enable prototype checking on method calls.

A lot of work remains to be done here. Doug's patch does not actually speed up method calls; it replaces method calls with regular subroutine calls. It would be good to see some work done on actually making method calls faster.

The patch.

More Attempts to Make B::Bytecode Faster

The whole point of B::Bytecode is to speed up the startup time of Perl programs. Two weeks ago Benjamin Stuhl reported that bytecoded files are actually slower than regular source files, probably because the bytecoded files are so big that it takes a lot of time to read them in.

Previous Summary

Nicholas Clark looked into compressing the bytecode files. He fixed [Byteloader.xs] so that it was a true filter, and could be installed atop another filter; in this case one that decompressed gzipped data.

It didn't work; the decompression overhead made the compressed bytecode files even slower than the uncompressed byecode files. Time Bunce pointed out that this is a bad test, since a lot of the modules that the byte compiler and byte loader will load are things that a larger script would have needed anyway, but that were not present at all in Nicholas' test.

Nickolas Clark:
  1. Currently byte code is far to large compared with its script. (I think someone else mailed the list with improvements that reducethe amount of op tree information saved as bytecode, which should help)
  2. For a simple script bytecode is slower than pure perl.
  3. Using a general purpose data compression algorithm (zipdeflation) Bytecode only compresses by a factor of 3, which still leaves it much larger than its script.
  4. Decompression filters written in perl run very slowly. (butare much easier to write than those in C)
  5. Although a decompression filter written in C is much faster, it still doesn't quite match the speed of reading and parsing thebytecode, let alone the original script (for this example). However, it'sclose to uncompressed bytecode.

Nicholas' message contained many other interesting details about bytecodes.

Read about it.

Byte-Order Marks Continue

Simon produced another revision to his patch to make Perl automatically handle source code written in various flavors of Unicodings. He went to a lot of work to get the lexer to recognize the BOMs only at the very beginning of the file. (One startling trivium here: If you have

        ...some code here...
        #line 1
        #!/usr/bin/perl -wT
        ...more code...

The #line 1 fools the lexer into thinking that what follows is the first line, and then Perl interprets the `command-line' options on the following comment even though they're not really on the first line of the file.)

Simon:Yes, the part in pp_ctl does have to be this complicated and order is important. If you're going to lie to the lexer, you have to be pretty damned convincing.

Apparently Simon later posted a different revision that was simpler and used tell to see if the BOM was really at the beginning of the file, but it didn't appear on p5p.

Slurp Bug

Last month Joey Hess reported a bug in Perl's slurping; it was reading line by line and it shouldn't have been.

Original report and test case.

Nobody has investigated this yet, and Sarathy said that was a pity, which I think whould be interpreted as a hint that someone should have a look at it.


Olaf Flebbe posted some enhancements to his port for EPOC, which is an OS for palmtops and mobile phones. (See README.epoc in the Perl distribution for more details.)

The patch.


Jeff Okamoto contributed a new one.

Here it is.

Paths in MacPerl

Last week Peter Prymmer contributed a large patch that attempts to make the test suite work better on Macintoshes by replacing a lot of Unix-style pathnames like '../lib' with constructions of the form ($^O eq 'MacOS') ? '::lib:' : '../lib'. This sparked a discussion about better ways to approach this problem. Chris Nandor suggested a file which the suite could retquire that would set up the path strings correctly. He pointed out that if this library were in the same directory as the script that required it, the require would work on any platform. He also said that having native support for path translations was probably a bad idea. (This would mean that require 'foo/' would actually load, which is the 'right thing' unless what you actually wanted was to require a file named foo/

Matthias reported on what he actually does do in MacPerl.

It appeared that the issue about what to do about the test suite went unresolved. I do not know yet if Peter's big patch went in.

Non-destructed anonymous functions

Last week Rocco Caputo reported that his blessed coderefs were not being DESTROYed, even at interpreter shutdown time. Nick Ing-Simmons produced an explanation. I suppose it could be called a feature.

The explanation.

Extensions required for regression tests

Nicholas Clark pointed out that if you don't build all the Perl standard extension modules, some of the regression tests fail, and that the regression tests shouldn't depend on the extension modules unless they are explicitly testing the extension modules.

For example, the io/openpid.t test file wants to use the Fcntl module; if you decided not to build Fcntl, it barfs. Nick offered to make a patch, and Sarathy agreed it owuld be a good idea. I have not seen the patch appear yet.

Eudora Problem

The problem with Eudora mangling patch files turns out to be more complicated than I originally reported. If you use Eudora, you should probably read the following discussion.

Eudora discussion.

crypt docs

Ben Tilly made a trivial change to the documentation for the crypt function that sparked a long and irrelevant discussion about password security policy.

Magic Auto-Decrement

The idle and pointless magic decrement discussion continued.


A large collection of bug reports, bug fixes, non-bug reports, questions, answers, and a small amount and spam. I think there was flamage, but it was in the thread I skipped.

Until next week I remain, your humble and obedient servant,

Mark-Jason Dominus
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