This Week on p5p 2000/11/27



Notes

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This week was very busy, and saw nearly 400 posts. Unfortunately, I was also very busy, so this report is slightly late.

Regexp Engine

First, Jarkko has this to say about his progress with the polymorphic regular expression node problem:

To this I can add that if so far I had been happily bouncing around the strange lands of Reg-Ex and shouting back "Dragons? What dragons?" to people frantically waving their hands (safely beyond the borders, funny that)... now I can attest to nasty monsters being fully alive, and full of flame ... the match variables are now under control (I *think*) -- but the character classes are mean, mostly because the data structures implementing them are so different between the byte and character cases, merging the code using them is, errrm, fun? I'm currently dodging core dumps falling from the sky, but I think I'm running in generally right direction ...

Ilya also questioned the methodology of merging character and byte nodes, and Jarkko explained further what he was doing. Read about it.

SOCKS and Sockets

Jens Hamisch noticed a problem with the SOCKS support: Perl had aliased close to fclose without making a distinction between file and socket cases. SOCKS provides wrapper functions around a lot of the I/O library, but it expects people to call close rather than fclose on sockets.

Jens provided a patch, but it only seemed to scratch the surface, so Nick suggested that, since others had pointed out that playing stdio on sockets was not exactly recommended, we should work the SOCKS support into our stdio emulation as part of PerlIO.

The thread continued to discuss the finer intricacies of PerlIO, stdio and SOCKS support; if that's your thing, Read about it.

for, map and grep

There was a long discussion, prompted by Jarkko, about how it would be nice if for could be used more like map or grep, and vice versa, allowing you to say things like:

    map $a { $_ += $a } @array
    grep $a { ... grep $b { $a + $b } } @array

and also

    for (@a) { ... } if $thing
    $total += $_ for @a if $thing
    
This led to a general discussion of dream syntax for post-expression
modifiers, including things such as:

    do_this if $that unless $the_other

There was no concensus or any patches, but it was fun anyway.

It also spawned an interesting sub-thread, which related to the fact that the implementation of qw// has changed and now the values it produces are read-only in a for loop, hence things like

    map { s/foo/bar/; $_ } qw(good food) 

now produce an error. Some people thought this was bad, some thought it was good, some thought it was a bug fix, others thought it was an unnecessary semantic change. A suggestion was to have some kind of copy-on-write method so that changing a value in an iterator creates a copy of the value that is no longer read-only.

The whole thread eventually came down to the fact that everyone wants ``Perl to Do What They Mean,'' but ``What They Mean May Not Be What Other People Mean.'' Read about it.

Encode Licensing

Remember I told you that we used the Encode files from Tcl? Well, as Nick was preparing documentation on the file format for the conversion tables, Jarkko spotted the license. Oops!

While Tcl is open-source, the terms it's distributed under aren't the same terms as Perl, so there was some ooh-ing and aah-ing about whether it could be let in there. Sarathy piped up and said we should do the same as we did for File::Glob - include the data, and keep the licensing terms as part of that extension.

PERL5OPT

Dominus noted that the environment variable PERL5OPT, which claims to behave exactly like switches on the Perl command command line, doesn't actually behave like that:

    PERL5OPT=-a -b perl program.pl

actually turns out to be interpreted as

    perl '-a -b' program.pl

which meant that you couldn't have more than one -M clause. It also turned out (as reported to me by Rich Lafferty) that

    PERL5OPT='-Mstrict; print "Hello\n"'

has rather unpleasant results, and there was some discussion as to whether this was a security problem.

Your humble author produced a patch to have the variable interpreted properly, and Dominus came up with a neat set of tests; however, both patch and test appeared to be slightly buggy, so that's not quite resolved just yet.

Unicode on Big Iron

Peter Prymmer has been making OS/390 Perl better; it now passes a whopping 94.12 percent of its tests. However, I complained that the reason that it was passing some of those was that we were hiding the fact that Unicode didn't work. There was some, uhm, heated debate before we all ascertained that we really did want Unicode to work, and we looked into the problems that are stopping it.

The nice thing about Unicode for ASCII machines is that the bottom 128 characters are the same, so you don't even need to think about them. The nasty thing about Unicode for EBCDIC machines is that they're not ASCII machines, and so there has to be some kind of translation going on. The plan is to introduce an array that converts EBCDIC to ASCII, and we'll see where that gets us.

Carp

Ben Tilly has been thinking for a while about the Carp module; it has convoluted and messy internal semantics.

Here's how the problem comes about: Carp has to report errors on behalf of your module - let's call it module A - but from the point of view of code that uses module A. OK, so far?

However, what happens if the error messages are not generated by module A directly, but are lexical warnings produced by the warnings pragma? Obviously, you don't want Carp to be churning out warnings that claim to come from the guts of warnings.pm. So, Carp has to know to skip over certain modules that are internal to Perl, and go further up the stack. There's an undocumented variable that allows you to skip over stack frames, but Ben considers this messy, and with good reason.

Worse, it's possible to get infinite loops when package inheritance comes into play. Ben is working on ideas on how to get around it, and Hugo and others have been helping him think about this. Read about it.

SvTEMP

If you say

        sub foo { "a" } @foo=(foo())[0,0];

you might be surprised to find that your array only has one element. The problem is that when a subroutine returns a list, the SV members of the list are marked as temporary, on the assumption that something is going to scoop them up and use them. This saves us making copies of the SVs and then throwing them away later. Unfortunately, what happened here is that foo returned a single value, which something did indeed scoop up and use. When the second part of the slice tries to take another value, there's nothing on the list.

Benjamin Holzman had a look at this and produced a patch that turned off the SvTEMP marking of anything about to be used in an array assignment. Sarathy pointed out that this wasn't exactly right, because SvTEMP means several different things. Benjamin tried again, using another bit to indicate whether the value could be stolen without a copy. Sarathy was concerned by the use of a "whole bit" for this task, and suggested a simpler answer: checking for both SvTEMP and also participation in an array assign:

     SvTEMP(sv) && !(PL_op && PL_op->op_type == OP_AASSIGN)

Bejamin then revised his patch, which Jarkko applied.

Locales and Floats

There's a horrible problem with locales: (Jarkko would argue that locales are horrible problems) [printf "%e"] should probably be locale-aware in the scope of use locale. This means that, theoretically, it should be tainted, because locale data can be corrupted.

So what about print 0.0+$x - that also does a floating-point conversion. Should that be locale-aware under use locale? Should it be automatically tainted? This was a tricky discussion, and it seems it's a problem that's been hanging around for a long time, and probably won't be solved soon. You can, however, take a look at the thread for yourself.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Here are a couple of jobs that people can look into if they have a spare moment:

Hugo found that make distclean was creating some dangerously long shell lines. Andreas found a scoping bug with %H, and Ilya replied explaining how to fix it. This report of a segfault could be worth waving a debugger over.

Miscellaneous

Jarkko said "Thanks, applied" 15 times this week.

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


Simon Cozens
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