1. 5

    For cases like cryptography, I feel like Rust needs better tooling for minimum supported Rust versions (MSRVs). https://github.com/foresterre/cargo-msrv exists, but this sort of functionality should be built-in to Cargo and/or the compiler.

    1. 4

      Agreed. There has also been discussion about adding an LTS branch. I haven’t followed the latest discussion on either topics, as it seems mostly a time/resource issue that requires some individual/group/company to step up and provide all the resources required support such an effort.

      1. 3

        Progress is being made on this. The RFC to add msrv was accepted and has been implemented in cargo (accessible on nightly cargo at the moment). https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/issues/65262

        1. 2

          Even better: it was stabilized and hits stable on October 21st!

          1. 2

            Even better!

      1. 7

        I really like Gemini, but not because I have something against the Web. What I like most about it is that it is simple to implement, and thus allow people to quickly create both clients and servers for it in a way that we cannot do in the current Web. Good luck building a Web browser from scratch without either piggybacking on Chromium or forking Firefox (or WebKit, you get the idea).

        What I really dislike in Gemini is mandatory TLS, because it puts it out of the reach of retro computing devices that could really benefit from a cool modern easy to use protocol, one that has people writing cool content with.

        There is a lot of content in Gemini pods already. I feel that those who enjoy working with older machines such as classic macs, and ataris, would love to be able to join the fun, but doing TLS 1.2 on those devices is kinda impossible or really hard.

          1. 2

            I’m aware of Crypto Ancienne. It helps for things like classic Macs, but I don’t know if you can use it for older machines like Amigas, c64, etc. I really like it, but haven’t tried compiling it.

        1. 10

          This article doesn’t even mention the issue that I and most people face most frequently and is the cornerstone as why I perceive Windows to be unstable in the last few years: that “new” or “reworked” features end up buggy or just broken. Particularly anything involving the UWP ecosystem which is increasingly hard to avoid with every update.

          1. 3

            You basically can’t add Appx packages to a system or image’s provisioned set without being an OEM, even if the Appx packages are installable for free from the Microsoft Store. (Sideloading Appx packages requires providing your own certificate.)

            Also, Sysprep wants a system to have only provisioned Appx packages present.

          1. 4

            ConTeXt doesn’t seem to be included in this analysis of TeX engines & macro packages?

            1. 5

              I agree that in principle ConTeXt is probably the best situated of the various TeXans. But TFA doesn’t really give any analysis to speak of of anything aside from TeX and LaTeX, except to say ‘fragmentation bad’.

            1. 14

              The sooner we all move to UTF-8 the better. There’s simply no reason to use anything else (except maybe UTF-32 for internal representations), and I dare you to give me an argument for any of the other encodings.

              The only argument that is given in favour of UTF-16 over UTF-8 that is not immediately invalidated is that texts heavily written in some asian scripts would be smaller with UTF-16 than UTF-8, but this is actually not a good argument, because you would usually use some form of markup language (like HTML) that is mostly made up of ASCII, which gives UTF-8 the overall edge for a given document in said language.

              The aspect that really crushes UTF-16 et. al. is the necessity for BOMs (byte-order-marks), and many many implementations omit them or handle them wrong. Don’t even get me started on surrogates (which ruined parts of the unicode spec because it had to reserve areas for them!).

              Seriously, wherever you can, please use UTF-8 everywhere. And god bless Rob Pike and Ken Thompson for their stroke of genius while designing UTF-8.

              1. 16

                Even the argument for UTF-32 as an internal representation is very suspect in my opinion. It allows you to treat all code points as the same size, but I’m not sure of any use case where that’s actually an advantage.

                You still can’t treat every code point as its own atomic unit of text. You can’t delete individual code points. You can’t reverse a string based on its code points. One glyph can be made out of multiple code points; if you reverse the string “Hello 👋🏿” (“Hello <waving hand with dark skin tone>”), you end up with the string “🏿👋 olleH” (”<dark brown><waving hand with default yellow skin> olleH”). So UTF-32 kind of just seems like an extremely space-inefficient variable width text encoding.

                I 100% support UTF-8 everywhere - even as an in-memory string representation.

                1. 4

                  I agree with you and this is why I made this the default in my grapheme cluster detection library (but you can also check for grapheme boundaries between two CPs “manually”).

                  In the end, if you really want to support grapheme clusters, you will have to deal with variable-length characters anyway. Many still consider codepoints and drawn characters to be equal.

                2. 4

                  UTF-32 is pretty bad for internal representations, too.

                  The CJK argument (when the argument is made, “Asian” really means CJK) for UTF-16 is not a very convincing one even without markup. You want to pick one encoding globally instead of choosing contextually. When measuring bytes used for the same amount of human-perceivable information content, UTF-8 isn’t particularly unfair to CJK. See the table at the end of https://hsivonen.fi/string-length/

                  1. 4

                    UTF-8 isn’t particularly unfair to CJK. See the table at the end of https://hsivonen.fi/string-length/

                    If I am reading that table correctly, for any of the Chinese variants, the UTF-16 encoding is around two thirds the size of the UTF-8 encoding (a third the number of code units). The article is arguing something different: that a quota in terms of UTF-8 characters isn’t unfair to CJK languages because they encode more information per unicode code point, which makes up for requiring more bytes per code point than other encodings.

                    I don’t entirely buy @FRIGN’s argument for in-memory strings (though I’m willing to accept it for interchange), because when I process rich text, I don’t process it as HTML or similar, I process it as a string with metadata that is not stored as inline control characters and only serialise to to HTML (or RTF, or whatever) at the edge of the program. When I’m doing any processing on the text that doesn’t care about the metadata, then being able to fit larger strings in my L1 cache is a perf win (especially if I need to keep some tables for doing the extended grapheme cluster range calculation in the L1). There’s also a big win for using ASCII as an in-memory representation for things that can be losslessly stored as ASCII because knowing that up-front guarantees that one-byte = one unicode code unit = one grapheme cluster, which makes a lot of processing simpler.

                    For network bandwidth and persistent storage, UTF-8 is fine for two reasons:

                    • Text is tiny in comparison to most other kinds of media. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a few million. Unless you’re storing huge amounts of text (e.g. all of Wikipedia)
                    • None of the UTF-* variants is a compression algorithm. If you want to store a very large amount of text, use a compression algorithm. Even a fairly simple dictionary will give a huge win (English has around 20,000 words, with around 2,000 in common use. Without doing anything clever, you should be able to store most English sentences with 16 bits per word, which makes even UTF-8 for English look incredibly bloated).
                    1. 1

                      I think you missed an important part:

                      When measuring bytes used for the same amount of human-perceivable information content, UTF-8 isn’t particularly unfair to CJK

                      UTF-8 is unfair to CJK glyph for glyph, while UTF-16 makes “western” glyphs the same size as CJK glyphs. However, CJK glyphs usually contain more information than “western” glyphs, so it’s “fair” to encode ASCII using one byte per glyph at the cost of using more bytes per glyph for CJK.

                      Analyzing the exact information content becomes difficult, but as a rough approximation, we can say that the average word length in English documents is around 5 ASCII characters, while 2-glyph Chinese words are extremely common. Therefore, it’s “fair” for Chinese glyphs to be encoded using around 2.5x as many bytes on average as English glyphs, because each Chinese glyph contains 2.5x the amount of information.

                      Again, this gets complicated and I don’t have expertise necessary to do a real analysis, but this should give an idea of why hsivonen claims UTF-8 isn’t particularly unfair to CJK.

                      1. 2

                        I didn’t miss that, it’s exactly my point. If you are processing a lot of Chinese text, UTF-16 as an in-memory representation, will have better memory and cache performance by a fairly significant margin. If you’re producing per-user (per-message, or whatever) memory quotas then using a UTF-8 encoding won’t particularly penalise users who write in CJK languages relative to English. That’s an odd thing to focus on, because it matters for protocols with maximum-length messages, but doesn’t impact performance at all for most cases.

                  2. 3

                    I agree, and https://www.oilshell.org/ is UTF-8 only, except where it calls libc, for say glob() or regexec().

                    There it inherits libc locales, which are messy and incoherent. They are unfortunately part of C and POSIX so I don’t think they’re ever going away.

                    The whole idea of a global variable in a PROGRAM makes no sense, let alone a library in a program. The encoding is a property of the DATA, not of the program that’s processing it!

                    In a non-networked world, you could imagine that say all the manuals on an entire Unix system are in a single encoding. But we’ve past that point by 30 years, so obviously you can have one file that’s UTF-8, and one file that’s UTF-16, and a shell has to look at them both.

                    Unlike HTTP, a Unix file system has no place for metadata. The only coherent solution is to use UTF-8, because you can perform almost all useful operations on it by treating it as a blob of bytes – in particular substring searching, like grep does, or like a shell parser does for keywords and operators (for, |, etc.).

                    grep and sort are also slowed down by an order of magnitude due to the locale, which annoys me. Compare LC_ALL=C sort to sort on most Linux systems.

                    1. 1

                      The Good Thing about ye olde ascii was if you have a vast steaming pile of files created by a rambling ever changing herd of cats, you could read it, tweak it, write it back…. and the only thing that changed was the bits you tweaked.

                      Try that believing that the herd of cats have set all their editors to utf-8… Ha!

                      And you are bound to get slapped with an invalid code point exception…

                      Ok, so you then do some tedious magic to squash all invalid code points to a magic value, do your tweak…. and then you have unexpected deltas all over the place.

                      Sigh.

                      1. 1

                        With Vim at least, you can set ‘binary’ and it’ll leave arbitrary weirdness alone.

                        1. 1

                          Conversely, that setting, no doubt, allows you to create non valid utf-8 weirdness.

                          1. 1

                            Yep! Which is what you want when editing arbitrary buffers of bytes.

                            1. 1

                              Sadly, the vast steaming pile needs to be linked into a cohesive product, so that answer didn’t work in the long run.

                              The solution is uchardet and iconv, uchardet to guess what encoding the cat had his editor set to… iconv to convert it to utf8.

                              Fix them all up.

                              Then set build tools to die noisily on invalid code point…

                              When cat gets unhappy build tools aren’t working… tell them about uchardet and iconv and remind them about the required encoding.

                              Tedious, but works.

                    1. 2

                      Looking forward to seeing the final design of 2.0. This looks nice so far!

                      1. 1

                        I have given it a go on a small side project and it’s definitely a nice alternative to Rails!

                      1. 1

                        Has anyone embedded a WASM engine, whether Wasm3 or otherwise? I’d be interested in hearing experiences.

                        1. 4

                          I worked on a production “hosted function” system first in go with life then rewrote to rust with lucet. Was very nice to work with

                          1. 4

                            I’ve used wasmtime from Rust a couple times, though not for anything large. I made a language that compiled to wasm and used wasmtime to run its test cases. The interface is Rust-unsafe but pretty easy: load a wasm module, look up a function by name, give it a signature, and then you can just call it like any other function. Never got complicated enough to do things like pass pointers around though, or make host functions accessible to the wasm code.

                            1. 3

                              Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) somewhat embeds a Wasm engine. Addons are written in Wasm and compiled to native code using inNative, a LLVM frontend for Wasm, which solves problems with multi-platform support and restrictions on JIT compilation on consoles. The PC builds embed inNative’s JIT, which uses LLVM’s JIT interface, for faster development edit/test cycles.

                              1. 3

                                That’s sensational! I had been wondering when we were going to improve on LUA for modding.

                                I’m also somewhat keen on the idea of sandboxing native libraries that are called from high-level languages; if the performance overhead can be brought suitably low, I would really like to be relatively safe from library segfaults (especially for image processing).

                              2. 1

                                What do you mean by embedded. Like, in an app or on some hw device?

                                1. 4

                                  Just in a C++ app :) Actually I have an idea to embed WASM in https://www.oilshell.org/ . One use case is to solve some bootstrapping problems with dev tools. For example, if you have a tool written in a native language like a parser generator, then it’s somewhat of a pain for people to either build those, or for the maintainer to distribute binaries for them (especially if they change often).

                                  So it seems natural to write a shell script and call out to an “embedded” arch-independent binary in those cases. (Though this probably won’t happen for a long time.)

                                  (BTW the work on wasm3 seems very cool, I looked at the code a bit, and hope to learn more about WASI)

                                  1. 1

                                    I think wasm3 is perfect for this scenario. Especially if you realize that wasm “plugins” can be written in a variety of languages. C/C++, Rust, TinyGo, AssemblyScript, Swift…

                                    1. 1

                                      Yes the polyglot nature is very natural for shell :) How stable is WASI now?

                                      Is it easy to compile and run some C code like this with wasm3 ? Can I just use clang and musl libc or are there some other tools? Any examples to start from? I have run wasm in the browser but I didn’t compile any C.

                                      int main(char** argv, int argc) {
                                         read(0, 1024);  // read from stdin
                                         write(2, argv[0]);  // write to stderr
                                      
                                         char *p = getenv("PATH");
                                         write(1, p);
                                         return 0;
                                      }
                                      

                                      So I want to call main directly; so I guess I need a wasm stub that calls it?

                                      I think I want to provide only a argv/ENV/stdin/stdout/stderr interface to simulate a sandboxed C program. I’m not sure binary blobs loaded into the shell to be able to read and write arbitrary files. The files should be opened in the shell, like this:

                                      my-wasm-program.wasm <input.txt >output.txt
                                      

                                      This also has some bearing on incremental computation like Make, e.g. knowing the inputs and outputs precisely from shell, rather than having to analyze C code or WASM code.

                                      1. 1

                                        This is exactly what you want. You can compile C to Wasi easily using wasienv. Also, it’s a matter of runtime configuration, not to allow FS access. Std in/out are open by default, but can also be blocked.

                                        1. 2

                                          Hm so how do I embed it in an application and use the C API? I looked at the README.md, the doc/ folder, and this header:

                                          https://github.com/wasm3/wasm3/blob/main/source/wasm3.h

                                          I don’t see any C code examples?

                                          In contrast the Python binding has an example in the README:

                                          https://github.com/wasm3/pywasm3

                                          1. 2

                                            Good idea. I’ll create some kind of tutorial ;)

                                            1. 0

                                              I don’t see any C code examples?

                                              Check out this: https://github.com/wasm3/wasm3/blob/main/docs/Cookbook.md

                                1. 1

                                  I’m disappointed to not see multiple dispatch brought up, which can really change the feel of OOP.

                                  1. 1

                                    I kinda see what the author is trying to get at, in the sense that self-organisation, debugging are all really valuable skills to have. But I think they’ve forgotten just how much overhead there is in learning a new programming language (or even to play something like factorio) and internalising it’s worldview. Never mind trying to do that and solve a real problem at the same time.

                                    Ideally interviewing folks would prefer to give folks the space to shine, but to do that, you need to get out of the interviewee’s way. I tend to feel that this kind of difficulty is more multiplicative than additative, so forcing someone to use something that’s radically unfamiliar (as Factorio is to most) is not going to show folks at their best.

                                    Unless you’re looking for folks to play Factorio with, that is. But that’d be … weird.

                                    1. 3

                                      It is also wildly impractical, taking over 20 hours in an initial multiplayer playthrough, or 8 hours if you have a lot of people and know what you’re doing.

                                    1. 3

                                      No multiple dispatch?

                                      1. 46

                                        FWIW, this is how you express conditional arguments / struct fields in Rust. The condition has to encompass the name as well as the type, not just the type as was first attempted.

                                        I feel like Rust has definitely obliterated its complexity budget in unfortunate ways. Every day somebody comes to the sled discord chat with confusion over some async interaction. The fixation on async-await, despite it slowing down almost every real-world workload it is applied to, and despite it adding additional bug classes and compiler errors that simply don’t exist unless you start using it, has been particularly detrimental to the ecosystem. Sure, the async ecosystem is a “thriving subcommunity” but it’s thriving in the Kuhnian sense where a field must be sufficiently problematic to warrant collaboration. There’s no if-statement community anymore because they tend to work and be reasonably well understood. With async-await, I observed that the problematic space of the overall community shifted a bit from addressing external issues through memory safety bug class mitigation to generally coping with internal issues encountered due to some future not executing as assumed.

                                        The problematic space of a community is a nice lens to think about in general. It is always in-flux with the shifting userbase and their goals. What do people talk about? What are people using it for? As the problematic space shifts, at best it can introduce the community to new ideas, but there’s also always an aspect of it that causes mourning over what it once represented. Most of my friends who I’ve met through Rust have taken steps to cut interactions with “the Rust community” down to an absolute minimum due to it tending to produce a feeling of alienation over time. I think this is pretty normal.

                                        I’m going to keep using Rust to build my database in and other things that need to go very fast, but I see communities like Zig’s as being in some ways more aligned with the problematic spaces I enjoy geeking out with in conversations. I’m also thinking about getting a lot more involved in Erlang since I realized I haven’t felt that kind of problem space overlap in any language community since I stopped using it.

                                        1. 31

                                          I was surprised to see the Rust community jump on the async-await bandwagon, because it was clear from the beginning it’s a bandwagon. When building a stable platform (e.g. a language) you wait for the current fashion to crest and fall, so you can hear the other side of the story – the people who used it in anger, and discovered what the strengths and weaknesses really are. Rust unwisely didn’t do that.

                                          I will note though that the weaknesses of the async-await model were apparent right from the beginning, and yet here we are. A lesson for future languages.

                                          1. 28

                                            This hits me particularly hard because I had experienced a lot of nearly-identical pain around async when using various flavors of Scala futures for a few years before picking up Rust in 2014. I went to the very first Rust conference, Rust Camp in 2015 at Berkeley, and described a lot of the pain points that had caused significant issues in the Scala community to several of the people directly working on the core async functionality in Rust. Over the years I’ve had lots of personal conversations with many of the people involved, hoping that sharing my experiences would somehow encourage others to avoid well-known painful paths. This overall experience has caused me to learn a lot about human psychology - especially our inability to avoid problems when there are positive social feedback loops that lead to those problems. It makes me really pessimistic about climate apocalypse and rising authoritarianism leading us to war and genocides, and the importance of taking months and years away from work to enjoy life for as long as it is possible to do so.

                                            The content of ideas does not matter very much compared to the incredibly powerful drive to exist in a tribe. Later on when I read Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Feyerabend’s Against Method, and Ian Hacking’s Representing and Intervening, which are ostensibly about the social aspects of science, I was blown away by how strongly their explanations of how science often moves in strange directions that may not actually cause “progress” mapped directly to the experiences I’ve had while watching Rust grow and fail to avoid obvious traps due to the naysayers being drowned out by eager participants in the social process of Making Rust.

                                            1. 7

                                              Reminds me of the theory that Haskell and Scala appeal because they’re a way for the programmer to needsnipe themselves

                                              1. 5

                                                Thanks for fighting the good fight. Just say “no” to complexity.

                                                Which of those three books you mentioned do you think is most worthwhile?

                                                1. 10

                                                  I think that Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions has the broadest appeal and I think that nearly anyone who has any interaction with open source software will find a tremendous number of connections to their own work. Science’s progressions are described in a way that applies equally to social-technical communities of all kinds. Kuhn is also the most heavily cited thinker in later books on the subject, so by reading his book, you gain deeper access to much of the content of the others, as it is often assumed that you have some familiarity with Kuhn.

                                                  You can more or less replace any mention of “paper citation” with “software dependency” without much loss in generality while reading Kuhn. Hacking and Feyerabend are more challenging, but I would recommend them both highly. Feyerabend is a bit more radical and critical, and Hacking zooms out a bit more and talks about a variety of viewpoints, including many perspectives on Kuhn and Feyerabend. Hacking’s writing style is really worth experiencing, even by just skimming something random by him, by anyone who writes about deep subjects. I find his writing to be enviably clear, although sometimes he leans a bit into sarcasm in a way that I’ve been put off by.

                                                2. 4

                                                  If you don’t mind, what’s an example of async/await pain that’s common among languages and not to do with how Rust uniquely works? I ask because I’ve had a good time with async/await, but in plainer, application-level languages.

                                                  (Ed: thanks for the thoughtful replies)

                                                  1. 12

                                                    The classic “what color is your function” blog post describes what is, I think, such a pain? You have to choose in your API whether a function can block or not, and it doesn’t compose well.

                                                    1. 3

                                                      I read that one, and I took their point. All this tends to make me wonder if Swift (roughly, Rust minus borrow checker plus Apple backing) is doing the right thing by working on async/await now.

                                                      But so far I don’t mind function coloring as I use it daily in TypeScript. In my experience, functions that need to be async tend to be the most major steps of work. The incoming network request is async, the API call it makes is async, and then all subsequent parsing and page rendering aren’t async, but can be if I like.

                                                      Maybe, like another commenter said, whether async/await is a net positive has more to do with adapting the language to a domain that isn’t otherwise its strong suit.

                                                      1. 16

                                                        You might be interested in knowing that Zig has async/await but there is no function coloring problem.

                                                        https://kristoff.it/blog/zig-colorblind-async-await/

                                                        1. 3

                                                          Indeed this is an interesting difference at least in presentation. Usually, async/await provides sugar for an existing concurrency type like Promise or Task. It doesn’t provide the concurrency in the first place. Function colors are then a tradeoff for hiding the type, letting you think about the task and read it just like plain synchronous code. You retain the option to call without await, such that colors are not totally restrictive, and sometimes you want to use the type by hand; think Promise.all([…]).

                                                          Zig seems like it might provide all these same benefits by another method, but it’s hard to tell without trying it. I also can’t tell yet if the async frame type is sugared in by the call, or by the function definition. It seems like it’s a sort of generic, where the nature of the call will specialize it all the way down. If so, neat!

                                                          1. 7

                                                            It seems like it’s a sort of generic, where the nature of the call will specialize it all the way down. If so, neat!

                                                            That’s precisely it!

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I’ve been poking at Zig a bit since this thread; thank you for stirring my interest. :)

                                                    2. 6

                                                      Well, I think that async/await was a great thing for javascript, and generally it seems to work well in languages that have poor threading support. But Rust has great threading support, and Rust’s future-based strategy aimed from the beginning at copying Scala’s approach. A few loud research-oriented voices in the Rust community said “we think Scala’s approach looks great” and it drowned out the chorus of non-academic users of Scala who had spent years of dealing with frustrating compilation issues and issues where different future implementations were incompatible with each other and overall lots of tribalism that ended up repeating in a similar way in the Rust async/await timeline.

                                                      1. 5

                                                        I am somewhat surprised that you say Rust’s futures are modeled after Scala’s. I assume the ones that ended up in the standard library. As for commonalities: They also offer combinators on top of a common futures trait and you need explicit support in libraries - that’s pretty much all that is similar to Rust’s.

                                                        In Scala, futures were annoying because exceptions and meaningless stacktraces. In Rust, you get the right stacktraces and error propagation.

                                                        In Rust, Futures sucked for me due to error conversions and borrowing being basically unsupported until async await. Now they are still annoying because of ecosystem split (sync vs various partially compatible async).

                                                        The mentioned problem of competing libraries is basically unpreventable in fields without wide consensus and would have happened with ANY future alternative. If you get humans to agree on sensible solutions and not fight about irrelevant details, you are a wizard.

                                                        Where I agree is that it was super risky to spend language complexity budget on async/await, even though solving the underlying generator/state machine problem felt like a good priority. While async await feels a bit to special-cased and hacky to be part of the language… It could be worse. If we find a better solution for async in Rust, we wouldn’t have to teach the current way anymore.

                                                        Other solutions would just have different pros and cons. E.g. go’s or zig’s approach seemed the solution even deeper into the language with the pro of setting a somewhat universal standard for the language.

                                                        1. 3

                                                          It was emulating Finagle from the beginning: https://medium.com/@carllerche/announcing-tokio-df6bb4ddb34 but then the decision to push so much additional complexity into the language itself so that people could have an easier time writing strictly worse systems was just baffling.

                                                          Having worked in Finagle for a few years before that, I tried to encourage some of the folks to aim for something lighter weight since the subset of Finagle users who felt happy about its high complexity seemed to be the ones who went to work at Twitter where the complexity was justified, but it seemed like most of the community was pretty relieved to switch to Akka which didn’t cause so much type noise once it was available.

                                                          I don’t expect humans not to fragment now, but over time I’ve learned that it’s a much more irrational process than I had maybe believed in 2014. Mostly I’ve been disappointed about being unable to communicate with what was a tiny community about something that I felt like I had a lot of experience with and could help other people avoid pain around, but nevertheless watch it bloom into a huge crappy thing that now comes back into my life every day even when I try to ignore it by just using a different feature set in my own stuff.

                                                      2. 3

                                                        I hope you will get a reply by someone with more Rust experience than me, but I imagine that the primary problem is that even if you don’t have to manually free memory in Rust, you still have to think about where the memory comes from, which tends to make lifetime management more complicated, requiring to occasionally forcefully move things unto the heap (Box) and also use identity semantics (Pin), and so all of this contributes to having to deal with a lot of additional complexity to bake into the application the extra dynamicism that async/await enables, while still maintaining the safety assurances of the borrow checker.

                                                        Normally, in higher level languages you don’t ever get to decide where the memory comes from, so this is a design dimension that you never get to explore.

                                                      3. 2

                                                        I’m curious if you stuck around in Scala or pay attention to what’s going on now because I think it has one of the best stories when it comes to managing concurrency. Zio, Cats Effect, Monix, fs2 and Akka all have different goals and trade offs but the old problem of Future is easily avoided

                                                      4. 6

                                                        I was surprised to see the Rust community jump on the async-await bandwagon, because it was clear from the beginning it’s a bandwagon.

                                                        I’m not surprised. I don’t know how async/await works exactly, but it definitely has a clear use case. I once implemented a 3-way handshake in C. There was some crypto underneath, but the idea was, from the server’s point of view was to receive a first message, respond, then wait for the reply. Once the reply comes and is validated the handshake is complete. (The crypto details were handled by a library.)

                                                        Even that simple handshake was a pain in the butt to handle in C. Every time the server gets a new message, it needs to either spawn a new state machine, or dispatch it to an existing one. Then the state machine can do something, suspend, and wait for a new message. Note that it can go on after the handshake, as part of normal network communication.

                                                        That state machine business is cumbersome and error prone, I don’t want to deal with it. The programming model I want is blocking I/O with threads. The efficiency model I want is async I/O. So having a language construct that easily lets me suspend & resume execution at will is very enticing, and I would jump to anything that gives me that —at least until I know better, which I currently don’t.

                                                        I’d even go further: given the performance of our machines (high latencies and high throughputs), I believe non-blocking I/O at every level is the only reasonable way forward. Not just for networking, but for disk I/O, filling graphics card buffers, everything. Language support for this is becoming as critical as generics themselves. We laughed “lol no generics” at Go, but now I do believe it is time to start laughing “lol no async I/O” as well. The problem now is to figure out how to do it. Current solutions don’t seem to be perfect (though there may be one I’m not aware of).

                                                        1. 2

                                                          The whole thing with async I/O is that process creation is too slow, and then thread creation was too slow, and some might even consider coroutine creation too slow [1]. It appears that concerns that formerly were of the kernel (managing I/O among tasks; scheduling tasks) are now being pushed out to userland. Is this the direction we really want to go?

                                                          [1] I use coroutines in Lua to manage async I/O and I think it’s fine. It makes the code look like non-blocking, but it’s not.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that the kernel should have as few concerns as possible. It’s a singleton, it doesn’t run with the benefit of memory protection, and its internal APIs aren’t as stable as the ones it provides to userland.

                                                            … and, yes, I think a lot of async/await work is LARPing. But that’s because a lot of benchmark-oriented development is LARPing, and probably isn’t special to async/await specifically.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I want async I/O to avoid process creation and thread creation and context switches, and even scheduling to some extent. What I want is one thread per core, and short tasks being sent to them. No process creation, no thread creation, no context switching. Just jump the instruction pointer to the relevant task, and return to the caller when it’s done.

                                                              And when the task needs to, say, read from the disk, then it should do so asynchronously: suspend execution, return to the caller, wait for the response to come back, and when it does resume execution. It can be done explicitly with message passing, but that’s excruciating. A programming model where I can kinda pretend the call is blocking (but in fact we’re yielding to the caller) is much nicer, and I believe very fast.

                                                          2. 5

                                                            Agreed. I always told people that async/await will be just as popular as Java’s synchronized a few years down the road. Some were surprised, some were offended, but sometimes reality is uncomfortable.

                                                          3. 29

                                                            Thank you for sharing, Zig has been much more conservative than Rust in terms of complexity but we too have splurged a good chunk of the budget on async/await. Based on my experience producing introductory materials for Zig, async/await is by far the hardest thing to explain and probably is going to be my biggest challenge to tackle for 2021. (that said, it’s continuations, these things are confusing by nature)

                                                            On the upside

                                                            despite it slowing down almost every real-world workload it is applied to

                                                            This is hopefully not going to be a problem in our case. Part of the complexity of async/await in Zig is that a single library implementation can be used in both blocking and evented mode, so in the end it should never be the case that you can only find an async version of a client library, assuming authors are willing to do the work, but even if not, support can be added incrementally by contributors interested in having their use case supported.

                                                            1. 17

                                                              I feel like Rust has definitely obliterated its complexity budget in unfortunate ways.

                                                              I remember the time I asked one of the more well-known Rust proponents “so you think adding features improves a language” and he said “yes”. So it was pretty clear to me early on that Rust would join the feature death march of C++, C#, …

                                                              Rust has many language features and they’re all largely disjoint from each other, so knowing some doesn’t help me guess the others.

                                                              That’s so painfully true.

                                                              For instance, it has different syntax for struct creation and function calls, their poor syntax choices also mean that structs/functions won’t get default values any time soon.

                                                              ; is mandatory (what is this, 1980?), but you can leave out , at the end.

                                                              The severe design mistake of using <> for generics also means you have to learn 4 different syntax variations, and when to use them.

                                                              The whole module stuff is way too complex and only makes sense if you programmed in C before. I have basically given up on getting to know the intricacies, and just let IntelliJ handle uses.

                                                              Super weird that both if and switch exist.

                                                              Most of my friends who I’ve met through Rust have taken steps to cut interactions with “the Rust community” down to an absolute minimum due to it tending to produce a feeling of alienation over time.

                                                              Yes, that’s my experience too. I have some (rather popular) projects on GitHub that I archive from time to time to not having to deal with Rust people. There are some incredibly toxic ones, which seem to be – for whatever reason – close to some “core” Rust people, so they can do whatever the hell they like.

                                                              1. 6

                                                                For instance, it has different syntax for struct creation and function calls

                                                                Perhaps they are trying to avoid the C++ thing where you can’t tell whether foo(bar) is struct creation or a function call without knowing what foo is?

                                                                The whole module stuff is way too complex and only makes sense if you programmed in C before. I have basically given up on getting to know the intricacies, and just let IntelliJ handle uses.

                                                                It only makes sense to someone who has programmed in C++. C’s “module” system is far simpler and easier to grok.

                                                                Super weird that both if and switch exist.

                                                                Would you have preferred

                                                                match condition() {
                                                                    true => {
                                                                    
                                                                    },
                                                                    false => {
                                                                
                                                                    },
                                                                }
                                                                

                                                                I think that syntax is clunky when you start needing else if.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  Perhaps they are trying to avoid the C++ thing where you can’t tell whether foo(bar) is struct creation or a function call without knowing what foo is?

                                                                  Why wouldn’t you be able to tell?

                                                                  Even if that was the issue (it isn’t), that’s not the problem C++ has – it’s that foo also could be 3 dozen other things.

                                                                  Would you have preferred […]

                                                                  No, I prefer having one unified construct that can deal with both usecases reasonably well.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    Why wouldn’t you be able to tell?

                                                                    struct M { };
                                                                    void L(M m);
                                                                    
                                                                    void f() {
                                                                        M(m); // e.g. M m;
                                                                        L(m); // function call
                                                                    }
                                                                    

                                                                    The only way to tell what is going on is if you already know the types of all the symbols.

                                                                    No, I prefer having one unified construct that can deal with both usecases reasonably well.

                                                                    Ok, do you have an example from another language which you think handles this reasonably well?

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      The only way to tell what is going on is if you already know the types of all the symbols.

                                                                      Let the IDE color things accordingly. Solved problem.

                                                                      Ok, do you have an example from another language which you think handles this reasonably well?

                                                                      I’m currently in the process of implementing it, but I think this is a good intro to my plans.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        Let the IDE color things accordingly. Solved problem.

                                                                        The problem of course is for the writer of the IDE :)

                                                                        Constructs like these in C++ make it not only harder for humans to parse the code, but for compilers as well. This turns into real-world performance decreases which are avoided in other languages.

                                                                        I’m currently in the process of implementing it, but I think this is a good intro to my plans.

                                                                        That’s interesting, but I think there’s a conflict with Rust’s goal of being a systems-level programming language. Part of that is having primitives which map reasonably well onto things that the compiler can translate into machine code. Part of the reason that languages like C have both if and switch is because switch statements of the correct form may be translated into an indirect jump instead of repeated branches. Of course, a Sufficiently Smart Compiler could optimize this even in the if case, but it is very easy to write code which is not optimizable in such a way. I think there is value to both humans and computers in having separate constructs for arbitrary conditionals and for equality. It helps separate intent and provides some good optimization hints.

                                                                        Another reason why this exists is for exhaustiveness checks. Languages with switch can check that you handle all cases of an enum.

                                                                        The other half of this is that Rust is the bastard child of ML and C++. ML and C++ both have match/switch, so Rust has one too.


                                                                        I think you will have a lot of trouble producing good error messages with such a syntax. For example, say someone forgets an = or even both ==s. If your language does false-y and truth-y coercion, then there may be no error at all here. And to the parser, it is not clear at all where the error is. Further, this sort of extension cannot be generalized to one-liners. That is, you cannot unambiguously parse if a == b then c == d then e without line-breaks.

                                                                        On the subject, in terms of prior-art, verilog allows expressions in its case labels. This allows for some similar syntax constructions (though more limited since functions are not as useful as in regular programming languages).

                                                                2. 3

                                                                  For instance, it has different syntax for struct creation and function calls, their poor syntax choices also mean that structs/functions won’t get default values any time soon.

                                                                  This is a good thing. Creating a struct is a meaningfully different operation from calling a function, and there’s no problem with having there be separate syntax for these two separate things.

                                                                  The Rust standard library provides a Default trait, with examples of how to use it and customize it. I don’t find it at all difficult to work with structs with default values in Rust.

                                                                  The whole module stuff is way too complex and only makes sense if you programmed in C before. I have basically given up on getting to know the intricacies, and just let IntelliJ handle uses.

                                                                  I don’t understand this comment at all. Rust’s module system seems fairly similar to module systems in some other languages I’ve used, although I’m having trouble thinking of other languages that allow you to create a module hierarchy within a single file, like you can do with the mod { } keyword (C++ allows nested namespaces I think, but that’s it). I don’t see how knowing C has anything to do with understand Rust modules better. C has no module system at all.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    I’m having trouble thinking of other languages that allow you to create a module hierarchy within a single file

                                                                    Lua can do this, although it’s not common.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      This is a good thing.

                                                                      I guess that’s why many Rust devs – immediately after writing a struct – also define a fun to wrap their struct creation? :-)

                                                                      Creating a struct is a meaningfully different operation from calling a function

                                                                      It really isn’t.

                                                                      The Rust standard library provides a Default trait, with examples of how to use it and customize it. I don’t find it at all difficult to work with structs with default values in Rust.

                                                                      That’s clearly not what I alluded to.

                                                                      I don’t see how knowing C has anything to do with understand Rust modules better. C has no module system at all.

                                                                      Rust’s module system only makes sense if you keep in mind that it’s main goal is to produce one big ball of compiled code in the end. In that sense, Rust’s module system is a round-about way to describe which parts of the code end up being part of that big ball.

                                                                      1. 3

                                                                        Putting a OCaml hat on:

                                                                        • Struct creation and function calls are quite different. In particular it’s good to have structure syntax that can be mirrored in pattern matching, whereas function call has no equivalent in match.
                                                                        • Multiple modules in one file is also possible in ML/OCaml. Maybe in some Wirth language, though I’m not sure on that one.

                                                                        it’s main goal is to produce one big ball of compiled code in the end.

                                                                        What other goal would there be? That’s what 100% of compiled languages aim at… Comparing rust to C which has 0 notion of module is just weird.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Struct creation and function calls are quite different. In particular it’s good to have structure syntax that can be mirrored in pattern matching, whereas function call has no equivalent in match.

                                                                          In what sense would this be an obstacle? I would expect that a modern language let’s you match on anything that provides the required method/has the right signature. “This is a struct, so you can match on it” feels rather antiquated.

                                                                          What other goal would there be? That’s what 100% of compiled languages aim at… Comparing rust to C which has 0 notion of module is just weird.

                                                                          It feels like it was built by someone who never used anything but C in his life, and then went “wouldn’t it be nice if it was clearer than in C which parts of the code contribute to the result?”.

                                                                          The whole aliasing, reexporting etc. functionality feels like it exists as a replacement for some convenience C macros, and not something one actually would want. I prefer that there is a direct relationship between placing a file somewhere and it ending up in a specific place, without having to wire up everything again with the module system.

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            There is documented inspiration from OCaml from the rust original creator. The first compiler was even in OCaml, and a lot of names stuck (like Some/None rather than the Haskell Just/Nothing). It also has obvious C++ influences, notably the namespace syntax being :: and <> for generics. The module system most closely reminds me of a mix of OCaml and… python, with special file names (mod.rs, like __init__.py or something like that?), even though it’s much much simpler than OCaml. Again not just “auto wiring” files in is a net benefit (another lesson from OCaml I’d guess, where the build system has to clarify what’s in or out a specific library). It makes build more declarative.

                                                                            As for the matching: rust doesn’t have active patterns or the scala-style deconstruction. In this context (match against values you can pre-compile pattern-matching very efficiently to decision trees and constant time access to fields by offset. This would be harder to do efficiently with “just call this deconstuct method”. This is more speculation on my side, but it squares with rust’s efficiency concerns.

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              I see your point, but in that case Rust would need to disallow match guards too (because what else are guards, but less reusable unapply methods?).

                                                                          2. 1

                                                                            Comparing rust to C which has 0 notion of module is just weird.

                                                                            Well there are translation units :) (though you can only import using the linker)

                                                                        2. 1

                                                                          I’m having trouble thinking of other languages that allow you to create a module hierarchy within a single file,

                                                                          Perl can do this.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            Elixir also allows you to create a module hierarchy within a single file.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              And Julia. Maybe this isn’t so rare.

                                                                        3. 1

                                                                          ; is mandatory (what is this, 1980?), but you can leave out , at the end.

                                                                          Ugh this one gets me every time. Why Rust, why.

                                                                          1. 2

                                                                            Same in Zig? Curious to know Zig rationale for this.

                                                                            1. 10

                                                                              In almost all languages with mandatory semicolons, they exist to prevent multi-line syntax ambiguities. The designers of Go and Lua both went to great pains to avoid such problems in their language grammars. Unlike, for example, JavaScript. This article about semicolon insertion rules causing ambiguity and unexpected results should help illustrate some of these problems.

                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                Pointing out Javascript isn’t a valid excuse.

                                                                                Javascript’s problems are solely Javascript’s. If we discarded every concept that was implemented poorly in Javascript, we wouldn’t have many concepts left to program with.

                                                                                I want semicolon inference done right, simple as that.

                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                  That’s not what I’m saying. JavaScript is merely an easy example of some syntax problems that can occur. I merely assume that Rust, which has many more features than Go or Lua, decided not to maintain an unambiguous grammar without using semicolons.

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    Why would the grammar be ambiguous? Are you sure that you don’t keep arguing from a JavaScript POV?

                                                                                    Not needing ; doesn’t mean the grammar is ambiguous.

                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                      ~_~

                                                                                      Semicolons are an easy way to eliminate grammar ambiguity for multi-line syntax. For any language. C++ for example would have numerous similar problems without semicolons.

                                                                                      Not needing ; doesn’t mean the grammar is ambiguous.

                                                                                      Of course. Go and Lua are examples of languages designed specifically to avoid ambiguity without semicolons. JavaScript, C++, and Rust were not designed that way. JavaScript happens to be an easy way to illustrate possible problems because it has janky automatic semicolon insertion, whereas C++ and Rust do not.

                                                                                      1. 0

                                                                                        I’m completely unsure what you are trying to argue – it doesn’t make much sense. Has your triple negation above perhaps confused you a bit?

                                                                                        The main point is that a language created after 2000 simply shouldn’t need ;.

                                                                                        1. 5

                                                                                          ; is mandatory (what is this, 1980?), but you can leave out , at the end.

                                                                                          Same in Zig? Curious to know Zig rationale for this.

                                                                                          The rationale for semicolons. They make parsing simpler, particularly for multi-line syntax constructs. I have been extremely clear about this the entire time. I have rephrased my thesis multiple times:

                                                                                          In almost all languages with mandatory semicolons, they exist to prevent multi-line syntax ambiguities.

                                                                                          Semicolons are an easy way to eliminate grammar ambiguity for multi-line syntax.

                                                                                          Many underestimate the difficulty of creating a language without semicolons. Go has done so with substantial effort, and maintaining that property has by no means been effortless for them when adding new syntax to the language.

                                                                                          1. 0

                                                                                            Yeah, you know, maybe we should stop building languages that are so complex that they need explicitly inserted tokens to mark “previous thing ends here”? That’s the point I’m making.

                                                                                            when adding new syntax to the language

                                                                                            Cry me a river. Adding features does not improve a language.

                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                              Having a clear syntax where errors don’t occur 15 lines below the missing ) or } (as would unavoidably happen without some separator — trust me, it’s one of OCaml’s big syntax problems for toplevel statements) is a net plus and not bloat.

                                                                                              What language has no semicolon (or another separator, or parenthesis, like lisp) and still has a simple syntax? Even python has ; for same-line statements. Using vertical whitespace as a heuristic for automatic insertion isn’t a win in my book.

                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                Both Kotlin and Swift have managed to make a working , unambiguous C-like syntax without semicolons.

                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                  I didn’t know. That involves no whitespace/lexer trick at all? I mean, if you flatten a whole file into one line, does it still work? Is it still in LALR(1)/LR(1)/some nice fragment?

                                                                                                  The typical problem in this kind of grammar is that, while binding constructs are easy to delimit (var/val/let…), pure sequencing is not. If you have a = 1 b = 2 + 3 c = 4 d = f(a) semicolons make things just simpler for the parser.

                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                    Why are line breaks not allowed to be significant? I don’t think I care if I can write an arbitrarily long program on one line…

                                                                                                2. 0

                                                                                                  Using vertical whitespace as a heuristic for automatic insertion isn’t a win in my book.

                                                                                                  I agree completely. I love Lua in particular. You can have zero newlines yet it requires no semicolons, due to its extreme simplicity. Lua has only one ambiguous case: when a line begins with a ( and the previous line ends with a value.

                                                                                                  a = b
                                                                                                  (f or g)() -- call f, or g when f is nil
                                                                                                  

                                                                                                  Since Lua has no semantic newlines, this is exactly equivalent to:

                                                                                                  a = b(f or g)()
                                                                                                  

                                                                                                  The Lua manual thus recommends inserting a ; before any line starting with (.

                                                                                                  a = b
                                                                                                  ;(f or g)()
                                                                                                  

                                                                                                  But I have never needed to do this. And if I did, I would probably write this instead:

                                                                                                  a = b
                                                                                                  local helpful_explanatory_name = f or g
                                                                                                  helpful_explanatory_name()
                                                                                                  
                                                                                2. 3

                                                                                  Also curious, as well as why Zig uses parentheses in ifs etc. I know what I’ll say is lame, but those two things frustrate me when looking at Zig’s code. If I could learn the rationale, it might hopefully at least make those a bit easier for me to accept and get over.

                                                                                  1. 3

                                                                                    One reason for this choice is to remove the need for a ternary operator without greatly harming ergonomics. Having the parentheses means that the blocks may be made optional which allows for example:

                                                                                    const foo = if (bar) a else b;
                                                                                    
                                                                                    1. 9

                                                                                      There’s a blog post by Graydon Hoare that I can’t find at the moment, where he enumerates features of Rust he thinks are clear improvements over C/C++ that have nothing to do with the borrow checker. Forcing if statements to always use braces is one of the items on his list; which I completely agree with. It’s annoying that in C/C++, if you want to add an additional line to a block of a brace-less if statement, you have to remember to go back and add the braces; and there have been major security vulnerabilities caused by people forgetting to do this.

                                                                                      1. 6
                                                                                      2. 6

                                                                                        The following would work just as well:

                                                                                        const foo = if bar { a } else { b };
                                                                                        

                                                                                        I’ve written an expression oriented language, where the parenthesis were optional, and the braces mandatory. I could use the exact same syntactic construct in regular code and in the ternary operator situation.

                                                                                        Another solution is inserting another keyword between the condition and the first branch, as many ML languages do:

                                                                                        const foo = if bar then a else b;
                                                                                        
                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                          I don’t get how that’s worth making everything else ugly. I imagine there’s some larger reason. The parens on ifs really do feel terrible after using go and rust for so long.

                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                            For what values of a, b, c would this be ambiguous?

                                                                                            const x = if a b else c
                                                                                            

                                                                                            I guess it looks a little ugly?

                                                                                            1. 5

                                                                                              If b is actually a parenthesised expression like (2+2), then the whole thing looks like a function call:

                                                                                              const x = if a (2+2) else c
                                                                                              

                                                                                              Parsing is no longer enough, you need to notice that a is not a function. Lua has a similar problem with optional semicolon, and chose to interpret such situations as function calls. (Basically, a Lua instruction stops as soon as not doing so would cause a parse error).

                                                                                              Your syntax would make sense in a world of optional semicolons, with a parser (and programmers) ready to handle this ambiguity. With mandatory semicolons however, I would tend to have mandatory curly braces as well:

                                                                                              const x = if a { b } else { c };
                                                                                              
                                                                                              1. 4

                                                                                                Ah, Julia gets around this by banning whitespace between the function name and the opening parenthesis, but I know some people would miss that extra spacing.

                                                                                              2. 3
                                                                                                abs() { x = if a < 0 - a else a }
                                                                                                
                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                  Thanks for the example!

                                                                                                  I think this is another case where banning bad whitespace makes this unambiguous.

                                                                                                  a - b => binary
                                                                                                  -a => unary
                                                                                                  a-b => binary
                                                                                                  a -b => error
                                                                                                  a- b => error
                                                                                                  - a => error
                                                                                                  

                                                                                                  You can summarise these rules as “infix operators must have balanced whitespace” and “unary operators must not be followed by whitespace”.

                                                                                                  Following these rules, your expression is unambiguously a syntax error, but if you remove the whitespace between - and a it works.

                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                    Or you simply ban unary operators.

                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                      Sure, seems a bit drastic, tho. I like unary logical not, and negation is useful sometimes too.

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        Not sure how some cryptic operator without working jump-to-declaration is better than some bog-standard method …

                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                          A minus sign before a number to indicate a negative number is probably recognizable as a negative number to most people in my country. I imagine most would recognise -x as “negative x”, too. Generalising that to other identifiers is not difficult.

                                                                                                          An exclamation mark for boolean negation is less well known, but it’s not very difficult to learn. I don’t see why jump-to should fail if you’re using a language server, either.

                                                                                                          More generally, people have been using specialist notations for centuries. Some mathematicians get a lot of credit for simply inventing a new way to write an older concept. Maybe we’d be better off with only named function calls, maybe our existing notations are made obsolete by auto-complete, but I am not convinced.

                                                                                    2. 9

                                                                                      My current feeling is that async/await is the worst way to express concurrency … except for all the other ways.

                                                                                      I have only minor experience with it (in Nim), but a good amount of experience with concurrency. Doing it with explicit threads sends you into a world of pain with mutexes everywhere and deadlocks and race conditions aplenty. For my current C++ project I built an Actor library atop thread pools (or dispatch queues), which works pretty well except that all calls to other actors are one-way so you now need callbacks, which become painful. I’m looking forward to C++ coroutines.

                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                        except for all the other ways

                                                                                        I think people are complaining about the current trend to just always use async for everything. Which ends up complaining about rust having async at all.

                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                        This is amazing. I had similar feelings (looking previously at JS/Scala futures) when the the plans for async/await were floating around but decided to suspend my disbelief because of how good previous design decisions in the language were. Do you think there’s some other approach to concurrency fit for a runtime-less language that would have worked better?

                                                                                        1. 17

                                                                                          My belief is generally that threads as they exist today (not as they existed in 2001 when the C10K problem was written, but nevertheless keeps existing as zombie perf canon that no longer refers to living characteristics) are the nicest choice for the vast majority of use cases, and that Rust-style executor-backed tasks are inappropriate even in the rare cases where M:N pays off in languages like Go or Erlang (pretty much just a small subset of latency-bound load balancers that don’t perform very much CPU work per socket). When you start caring about millions of concurrent tasks, having all of the sources of accidental implicit state and interactions of async tasks is a massive liability.

                                                                                          I think The ADA Ravenscar profile (see chapter 2 for “motivation” which starts at pdf page 7 / marked page 3) and its successful application to safety critical hard real time systems is worth looking at for inspiration. It can be broken down to this set of specific features if you want to dig deeper. ADA has a runtime but I’m kind of ignoring that part of your question since it is suitable for hard real-time. In some ways it reminds me of an attempt to get the program to look like a pretty simple petri net.

                                                                                          I think that message passing and STM are not utilized enough, and when used judiciously they can reduce a lot of risk in concurrent systems. STM can additionally be made wait-free and thus suitable for use in some hard real-time systems.

                                                                                          I think that Send and Sync are amazing primitives, and I only wish I could prove more properties at compile time. The research on session types is cool to look at, and you can get a lot of inspiration about how to encode various interactions safely in the type system from the papers coming out around this. But it can get cumbersome and thus create more risks to the overall engineering effort than it solves if you’re not careful.

                                                                                          A lot of the hard parts of concurrency become a bit easier when we’re able to establish maximum bounds on how concurrent we’re going to be. Threads have a little bit more of a forcing function to keep this complexity minimized due to the fact that spawning is fallible due to often under-configured system thread limits. Having fixed concurrency avoids many sources of bugs and performance issues, and enables a lot of relatively unexplored wait-free algorithmic design space that gets bounded worst-case performance (while still usually being able to attempt a lock-free fast path and only falling back to wait-free when contention picks up). Structured concurrency often leans into this for getting more determinism, and I think this is an area with a lot of great techniques for containing risk.

                                                                                          In the end we just have code and data and risk. It’s best to have a language with forcing functions that pressure us to minimize all of these over time. Languages that let you forget about accruing data and code and risk tend to keep people very busy over time. Friction in some places can be a good thing if it encourages less code, less data, and less risk.

                                                                                          1. 17

                                                                                            I like rust and I like threads, and do indeed regret that most libraries have been switching to async-only. It’s a lot more complex and almost a new sub-language to learn.

                                                                                            That being said, I don’t see a better technical solution for rust (i.e. no mandatory runtime, no implicit allocations, no compromise on performance) for people who want to manage millions of connections. Sadly a lot of language design is driven by the use case of giant internet companies in the cloud and that’s a problem they have; not sure why anyone else cares. But if you want to do that, threads start getting in the way at 10k threads-ish? Maybe 100k if you tune linux well, but even then the memory overhead and latency are not insignificant, whereas a future can be very tiny.

                                                                                            Ada’s tasks seem awesome but to the best of my knowledge they’re for very limited concurrency (i.e the number of tasks is small, or even fixed beforehand), so it’s not a solution to this particular problem.

                                                                                            Of course async/await in other languages with runtimes is just a bad choice. Python in particular could have gone with “goroutines” (for lack of a better word) like stackless python already had, and avoid a lot of complexity. (How do people still say python is simple?!). At least java’s Loom project is heading in the right direction.

                                                                                            1. 12

                                                                                              Just like some teenagers enjoy making their slow cars super loud to emulate people who they look up to who drive fast cars, we all make similar aesthetic statements when we program. I think I may write on the internet in a way that attempts to emulate a grumpy grey-beard for similarly aesthetic socially motivated reasons. The actual effect of a program or its maintenance is only a part of our expression while coding. Without thinking about it, we also code as an expression of our social status among other coders. I find myself testing random things with quickcheck, even if they don’t actually matter for anything, because I think of myself as the kind of person who tests more than others. Maybe it’s kind of chicken-and-egg, but I think maybe we all do these things as statements of values - even to ourselves even when nobody else is looking.

                                                                                              Sometimes these costumes tend to work out in terms of the effects they grant us. But the overhead of Rust executors is just perf theater that comes with nasty correctness hazards, and it’s not a good choice beyond prototyping if you’re actually trying to build a system that handles millions of concurrent in-flight bits of work. It locks you into a bunch of default decisions around QoS, low level epoll behavior etc… that will always be suboptimal unless you rewrite a big chunk of the stack yourself, and at that point, the abstraction has lost its value and just adds cycles and cognitive complexity on top of the stack that you’ve already fully tweaked.

                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                The green process abstraction seems to work well enough in Erlang to serve tens of thousands of concurrent connections. Why do you think the async/await abstraction won’t work for Rust? (I understand they are very different solutions to a similar problem.)

                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                  Not who you’re asking, but the reason why rust can’t have green threads (as it used to have pre-1.0, and it was scraped), as far as I undertand:

                                                                                                  Rust is shooting for C or C++-like levels of performance, with the ability to go pretty close to the metal (or close to whatever C does). This adds some constraints, such as the necessity to support some calling conventions (esp. for C interop), and precludes the use of a GC. I’m also pretty sure the overhead of the probes inserted in Erlang’s bytecode to check for reduction counts in recursive calls would contradict that (in rust they’d also have to be in loops, btw); afaik that’s how Erlang implements its preemptive scheduling of processes. I think Go has split stacks (so that each goroutine takes less stack space) and some probes for preemption, but the costs are real and in particular the C FFI is slower as a result. (saying that as a total non-expert on the topic).

                                                                                                  I don’t see why async/await wouldn’t work… since it does; the biggest issues are additional complexity (a very real problem), fragmentation (the ecosystem hasn’t converged yet on a common event loop), and the lack of real preemption which can sometimes cause unfairness. I think Tokio hit some problems on the unfairness side.

                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                    The biggest problem with green threads is literally C interop. If you have tiny call stacks, then whenever you call into C you have to make sure there’s enough stack space for it, because the C code you’re calling into doesn’t know how to grow your tiny stack. If you do a lot of C FFI, then you either lose the ability to use small stacks in practice (because every “green” thread winds up making an FFI call and growing its stack) or implementing some complex “stack switching” machinery (where you have a dedicated FFI stack that’s shared between multiple green threads).

                                                                                                    Stack probes themselves aren’t that big of a deal. Rust already inserts them sometimes anyway, to avoid stack smashing attacks.

                                                                                                    In both cases, you don’t really have zero-overhead C FFI any more, and Rust really wants zero-overhead FFI.

                                                                                                    I think Go has split stacks (so that each goroutine takes less stack space)

                                                                                                    No they don’t any more. Split Stacks have some really annoying performance cliffs. They instead use movable stacks: when they run out of stack space, they copy it to a larger allocation, a lot like how Vec works, with all the nice “amortized linear” performance patterns that result.

                                                                                                  2. 3

                                                                                                    Two huge differences:

                                                                                                    • Erlang’s data structures are immutable (and it has much slower single threaded speed).
                                                                                                    • Erlang doesn’t have threads like Rust does.

                                                                                                    That changes everything with regard to concurrency, so you can’t really compare the two. A comparison to Python makes more sense, and Python async has many of the same problems (mutable state, and the need to compose with code and libraries written with other concurrency models)

                                                                                              2. 4

                                                                                                I’d like to see a good STM implementation in a library in Rust.

                                                                                            2. 6

                                                                                              The fixation on async-await, despite it slowing down almost every real-world workload it is applied to, and despite it adding additional bug classes and compiler errors that simply don’t exist unless you start using it, has been particularly detrimental to the ecosystem.

                                                                                              I’m curious about this perspective. The number of individual threads available on most commodity machines even today is quite low, and if you’re doing anything involving external requests on an incoming-request basis (serializing external APIs, rewriting HTML served by another site, reading from slow disk, etc) and these external requests take anything longer than a few milliseconds (which is mostly anything assuming you have a commodity connection in most parts of the world, or on slower disks), then you are better off with a some form of “async” (or otherwise lightweight concurrent model of execution.) I understand that badly-used synchronization can absolutely tank performance with this many “tasks”, but in situations where synchronization is low (e.g. making remote calls, storing state in a db or separate in-memory cache), performance should be better than threaded execution.

                                                                                              Also, if I reach for Rust I’m deliberately avoiding GC. Go, Python, and Haskell are the languages I tend to reach for if I just want to write code and not think too hard about who owns which portion of data or how exactly the runtime schedules my code. With Rust I’m in it specifically to think about these details and think hard about them. That means I’m more prone to write complicated solutions in Rust, because I wouldn’t reach for Rust if I wanted to write something “simple and obvious”. I suspect a lot of other Rust authors are the same.

                                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                                The number of individual threads available on most commodity machines even today is quite low

                                                                                                I don’t agree with the premise here. It depends more on the kernel, not the “machine”, and Linux in particular has very good threading performance. You can have 10,000 simultaneous threads on vanilla Linux on a vanilla machine. async may be better for certain specific problems, but that’s not the claim.

                                                                                                Also a pure async model doesn’t let you use all your cores, whereas a pure threading model does. If you really care about performance and utilization, your system will need threads or process level concurrency in some form.

                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                  I don’t agree with the premise here. It depends more on the kernel, not the “machine”, and Linux in particular has very good threading performance. You can have 10,000 simultaneous threads on vanilla Linux on a vanilla machine. async may be better for certain specific problems, but that’s not the claim.

                                                                                                  I wasn’t rigorous enough in my reply, apologies.

                                                                                                  What I meant to say was, the number of cores available on a commodity machine is quite low. Even if you spawn thousands of threads, your actual thread-level parallelism is limited to the # of cores available. If you’re at the point where you need to spawn more kernel threads than there are available cores, then you need to put engineering into determining how many threads to create and when. For IO bound workloads (which I described in my previous post), the typical strategy is to create a thread pool, and to allocate threads from this pool. Thread pools themselves are a solution so that applications don’t saturate available memory with threads and so you don’t overwhelm the kernel with time spent switching threads. At this point, your most granular “unit of concurrency” is each thread in this thread pool. If most of your workload is IO bound, you end up having to play around with your thread pool sizes to ensure that your workload is processed without thread contention on the one hand (too few threads) or up against resource limits (too many threads). You could of course build a more granular scheduler atop these threads, to put threads “to sleep” once they begin to wait on IO, but that is essentially what most async implementations are, just optimizations on “thread-grained” applications. Given that you’re already putting in the work to create thread pools and all of the fiddly logic with locking the pool, pulling out a thread, then locking and putting threads back, it’s not a huge lift to deal with async tasks. Of course if your workload is CPU bound, then these are all silly, as your main limiting resource is not IO but is CPU, so performing work beyond the amount of available CPU you have necessitates queuing.

                                                                                                  Moreover the context with which I was saying this is that most Rust async libraries I’ve seen are async because they deal with IO and not CPU, which is what async models are good at.

                                                                                                2. 3

                                                                                                  Various downsides are elaborated at length in this thread.

                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                    Thanks for the listed points. What it’s made me realize is that there isn’t really a detailed model which allows us to demonstrate tradeoffs that come with selecting an async model vs a threaded model. Thanks for some food for thought.

                                                                                                    My main concern with Rust async is mostly just its immaturity. Forget the code semantics; I have very little actual visibility into Tokio’s (for example) scheduler without reading the code. How does it treat many small jobs? Is starvation a problem, and under what conditions? If I wanted to write a high reliability web service with IO bound logic, I would not want my event loop to starve a long running request that may have to wait longer on IO than a short running request and cause long running requests to timeout and fail. With a threaded model and an understanding of my IO processing latency, I can ensure that I have the correct # of threads available with some simple math and not be afraid of things like starvation because I trust the Linux kernel thread scheduler much more than Tokio’s async scheduler.

                                                                                                3. 3

                                                                                                  There’s no if-statement community

                                                                                                  That had me laughing out loud!

                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                    probably because it’s if-expressions 🙃

                                                                                                  2. 2

                                                                                                    I hope I’m not opening any wounds or whacking a bee-hive for asking but… what sort of problematic interactions occur with the Rust community? I follow Rust mostly as an intellectual curiosity and therefor aren’t in deep enough to see the more annoying aspects. When I think of unprofessional language community behavior my mind mostly goes to Rails during the aughts when it was just straight-up hostile towards Java and PHP stuff. Is Rust doing a similar thing to C/C++?

                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                    What’s the context here?

                                                                                                    I could only find this 2016 mention in a quick search, where rms says that people shouldn’t mention melpa.org because the site uses JavaScript “which does not seem to carry free software licenses”…

                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                      A mailing list (emacs-devel) dispute makes sense, given a preceding commit?

                                                                                                      1. 11

                                                                                                        To me this is like voter fraud. The amount of “stupid light” software I actually encounter is statistically zero — especially relative to “stupid heavy” software, which is far more pernicious. And so efforts to stamp it out or whatever wind up catching predominately “smart light” software, and do more harm than good.

                                                                                                        1. 12

                                                                                                          I think a lot of suckless projects count as “stupid light”, or at least have major subsystems that count. The complete lack of basic config without recompilation across almost all their projects is an example.

                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                            Suckless stuff is entirely opt-in, and so not really germane.

                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                              Opt-in, as in you can opt to use the software or not, or what specifically do you mean?

                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                Right. “Stupid light” is a subjective classification, what’s stupid light for you might not be for me. If you find Suckless software stupid light then you wouldn’t use it, and (presumably) everyone using it doesn’t find it stupid light.

                                                                                                            2. 2

                                                                                                              The complete lack of basic config without recompilation across almost all their projects is an example.

                                                                                                              Does the actually cause a problem for anyone in the target audience for those tools? The dwm config.h is better documented and easier to read than half the other configuration file formats I have to work with. Sure, I have to type “make” after I edit the file, but that’s hardly a hardship – restarting my X environment is more annoying than typing “make”

                                                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                                                Sure, when it’s just re-configuration it isn’t much more difficult than typical configuration patterns. However when it gets to managing patch sets for features, I believe it becomes “stupid light.” Because now I must decide on which patch sets I want, ensure they work together, that I’m including them correctly, etc. That is a ton of extra work when compared to some_feature = true|false in a config.

                                                                                                                Small nit, source that’s better documented than a config isn’t an argument for using source as the config. Nothing is stopping anyone from documenting a config to the same extent.

                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                  Small nit, source that’s better documented than a config isn’t an argument for using source as the config. Nothing is stopping anyone from documenting a config to the same extent.

                                                                                                                  Absolutely. My point was that the header file is a perfectly fine config file, not that it was magically better documented because of that.

                                                                                                                  However when it gets to managing patch sets for features, I believe it becomes “stupid light.”

                                                                                                                  I don’t necessarily disagree, however I would point out that the patches for suckless projects exist to represent rejected features, not optional ones. If you’re using more than one or two at most you’re building a divergent fork, a new project, not configuring withing the scope of the original project.

                                                                                                            3. 5

                                                                                                              This comes off a bit as “the other side is worse, so what’s the problem?” I don’t think it’s “statistically zero” either; for example in the Go community sometimes people get a bit too carried away with this IMHO. The whole math.Round() saga is a somewhat famous example of this.

                                                                                                              1. 4

                                                                                                                That saga sounds interesting. Do you have a link handy for reading more?

                                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                                  Not the OP but here’s what I’ve found: https://github.com/golang/go/issues/20100

                                                                                                            1. 7

                                                                                                              I remember “the IndieWeb” back when it was called FOAF and was based on RDF[1]. Good times.

                                                                                                              [1] RDF is basically what you get when people think XML is too simplistic.

                                                                                                              1. 8

                                                                                                                Fun fact, the latest in social web tech, ActivityPub, is also based on RDF

                                                                                                                1. 7

                                                                                                                  But RDF is also far simpler than XML? It’s fundamentally an encoding of graphs via triples (node, directed edge, node) and well-known names that can use an existing global namespace system (URIs that can use world-wide–web domains).

                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                    In my imperfect recollection, most RDF was expressed in XML. The fact that people then thought XML was relevant just shows how long ago all this was …

                                                                                                                1. 32

                                                                                                                  The main content of this post does not seem, to me, to support the primary claim.

                                                                                                                  The framing of this primary claim, is whether (or not) people can collectively can use Firefox “for the sake of the web”. Put differently: whether the collective choices of users can provide a marketshare-derived bulwark against a complete Google monopoly (on standards, on the web experience, etc.). The article then complains that using Firefox has become burdensome, and that Mozilla behaves poorly in their opinion.

                                                                                                                  Those complaints are fine enough to be an article on their own. Certainly there is nothing wrong with expressing how one feels. However, neither the individual pain points, nor disingenuous behavior by Mozilla, actually speak to the premise: whether or not the collective choices of users can provide a marketshare-derived bulwark against a complete Google monopoly. As an overall framing question, the article leaves it unaddressed, except a few moments of unsupported nihilism.

                                                                                                                  I should be clear: I do not think the complaints listed are invalid. An actual consequence of these complaints, is that the people who are part of that bulwark are probably subjected to a worse web browsing experience than they otherwise could be (e.g. if Mozilla acted differently). That is not good.

                                                                                                                  A conclusion the article does not draw, but which follows from the previous, is that having a worse experience will likely erode that marketshare over time. This will lead it to be a less effective barrier against Google doing whatever-they-please. That is also not good.

                                                                                                                  Ultimately, while I understand the criticisms (and agree with some), they don’t actually critique the idea of collective action. Instead there are just appeals to despair and powerlessness. “Nothing here is new”, “we are past the point of no return”, “we are entering a dark age”, and then the sentence that bothered me the most:

                                                                                                                  And does anyone actually believe, that that sub-segment of all web users, that believe in browser engine diversity, can save anything?

                                                                                                                  Yes!

                                                                                                                  And nothing in this article seems to refute that.

                                                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                                                    The framing of this primary claim, is whether (or not) people can collectively can use Firefox “for the sake of the web”.

                                                                                                                    My intention was to ask whether people should individually use Firefox, “for the sake of the web”, at the expense of accepting anything Mozilla decides. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

                                                                                                                    Considering the current trends, the increasing popularity of Chrome and of mobile platforms (ie. Android and iOS), I dismiss the possibility of a collective effort to turn the tides, a priori. You’re right that I don’t argue the point why it’s not possible, it just seems like such a pointless debate, that depends on entirely contingent factors. I just wanted to offer a pessimistic response to all the “Use Firefox to save the web” articles I have been seeing over the last few months.

                                                                                                                    1. 10

                                                                                                                      Fair enough, in so far as you acknowledge the a priori dismissal. If we sat here and ran through all those contingent factors, I would probably agree with you more often than not.

                                                                                                                      FWIW I do not use Firefox as some civic duty on behalf of the web, and I have not found myself arguing that people should (thus far). But nor do I find the “anti-monopoly bulwark” angle implausible. I use Firefox almost entirely because of the Multi-Account Containers add-on. I legitimately do not know how I would use the web without it. Or at least do not know how I could use it as effectively as I am used to.

                                                                                                                      I did stubbornly use Firefox mobile for a two year span, despite it feeling like a worse experience. But as of some time this year, it has been markedly better, in that way that goes unnoticed–so much so that I had not reflected on it until typing this paragraph. It’s that natural tendency to take tools/systems for granted, once they have been working smoothly for long enough.

                                                                                                                      1. 13

                                                                                                                        FWIW, I do use Firefox as some civic duty on behalf of the web, and it’s becoming a more miserable experience with almost every release.

                                                                                                                        I’ll definitely have a look at Edge when the Linux version ships with vertical tabs, because I really had enough of the abusive relationship with Mozilla.

                                                                                                                        1. 6

                                                                                                                          Seeing as it is roughly on-topic, what are the changes that have made you miserable?

                                                                                                                          In my text editors, terminal, file manager, and some others, when a sub-option-of-a-sub-option changes, I notice immediately. This article and thread have caused me to realize browsers are an odd exception: I am not that sensitive to little changes in options or details.

                                                                                                                          I use Firefox primarily (90-95% of browsing), but I do use Chrome partially for work. Aside from (a) Chrome lacking a plugin akin to Multi-Account Containers, and (b) Google blatantly not caring that G Suite runs poorly in Firefox, my experience on web pages feels basically comparable.

                                                                                                                          1. 6
                                                                                                                            • Extension system can’t support vertical tabs.
                                                                                                                            • User styles being on their way out.
                                                                                                                            • Extensions not working on “special” domains.
                                                                                                                            • Constantly having to fix styling (e. g. dickbar).
                                                                                                                            • “Restart Firefox” button doesn’t restart Firefox, broken for years.

                                                                                                                            It’s a death by thousand cuts.

                                                                                                                            1. 5

                                                                                                                              For your first point, I use “Tree Style Tabs”, which I’ve been happy enough with. It’s not quite as seamless as the pre-webextentions version, but it does give vertical tabs.

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                I’m aware of all options, and they are all crap. (TST is worse than other options though.)

                                                                                                                                Sure we can hack tabs into a sidebar, but the extension can’t even disable the “real tab bar”.

                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                  A bit of css removes the real tab bar for me. What other options do you think are better thank TST?

                                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                                    A bit of css removes the real tab bar for me.

                                                                                                                                    That “bit” of CSS has grown to 100 lines at my machine. Plus, userChrome.css is on Mozilla’s kill list anyway, so it’s not something that can be relied upon.

                                                                                                                                    What other options do you think are better thank TST?

                                                                                                                                    Sidebery is better.

                                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                                      100 lines? I have this:

                                                                                                                                      #TabsToolbar, #sidebar-header {
                                                                                                                                          visibility: collapse !important;
                                                                                                                                      }
                                                                                                                                      #TabsToolbar {
                                                                                                                                          margin-bottom: -21px !important;
                                                                                                                                      }
                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                      Now, if mozilla does kill userChrome.css and it stops working, I’ll have to move to another browser. It isn’t any love for mozilla, at this point, that keeps me with it, just that I’m used to TST and containers. I’ll check out Sidebery (though I am perfectly happy with TST as it is).

                                                                                                                                    2. 1

                                                                                                                                      This bit of CSS needs to be updated once every couple releases, because they keep breaking it. And it’s going to stop working anyway, as @soc wrote in a sibling comment.

                                                                                                                                    3. 1

                                                                                                                                      I’m OK with Tab Center Redux’s vertical tabs in the sidebar. I have no horizontal tab bar. I also have my bookmarks bar in the same horizontal space next to the URL bar. For added usability, I have the normal toolbar (File/Edit/View/…) in the titlebar.

                                                                                                                                  2. 4

                                                                                                                                    For comparison: Out of all of them only the restart option bothers me. And that’s broken only on my linux box.

                                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                                      I rather like All Tabs Helper’s vertical tabs functionality. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/all-tabs-helper/

                                                                                                                          2. 3

                                                                                                                            many of these changes are in line with Google’s vision for the web, and reflect Mozilla’s reliance on Google. while Mozilla may be the lesser of two evils, it is still evil, and only voting for the lesser evil won’t be enough to improve things.

                                                                                                                            not to mention that using Firefox is much less significant even than a vote. it helps Mozilla charge more for partnerships where they show their users ads, but if you don’t click on these ads then you aren’t actually helping Firefox because you are reducing the per-user effectiveness of their ad space. rambling now…

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            I can remember feverishly checking his (and id Software’s) .plan files back in the day - reading this brought back some great memories of DOOM, etc.

                                                                                                                            Loved this bit (March 21, 1998 - “I just shut down the last of the NEXTSTEP systems running at id”):

                                                                                                                            I’m a bit nostalgic about the NeXT systems–the story in the Id Anthology is absolutely true: I walked through a mile of snow to the bank to pay for our first workstation. For several years, I considered it the best development environment around.

                                                                                                                            Note: If you don’t want to use the Scribd link, the file is also available elsewhere (along with those for other years).

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              Carmack’s plan files are now over at https://fabiensanglard.net/fd_proxy/doom3/pdfs/ . Here’s John Carmack’s 1998 plan file in particular.

                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                              The inNative WebAssembly Runtime is worth a look too. Complete AoT compilation through LLVM, and minimal runtime weight to make that happen.

                                                                                                                              1. 9

                                                                                                                                Thanks for the detailed writeup. Seems like the machine still needs some more polish in the audio department. Having a lot of low-level options via ALSA sound interesting to me, actually. As someone who produces music on Linux, I prefer to give ALSA a good kicking until it works, rather than dealing with Pulseaudio’s latency issues. Is it possible to record the internal stereo mix directly, ie. can you select it as a recording source without resorting to jackd trickery?

                                                                                                                                1. 7

                                                                                                                                  To be honest, “you have to use ALSA instead of pulse to get audio to play reliable” is not a pinebook-specific problem; both my thinkpads are the same way.

                                                                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                                                                    And I have the opposite experience with both my thinkpads. Audio ‘just works’ with pulseaudio, including multisource concurrent playback, auto-switching from internal mic/speaker to external headset on plug in, bluetooth headsets, etc. None of that works out of the box with alsa on those systems.

                                                                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                                                                      Agreed, wasn’t trying to suggest otherwise. That said, “reliable” maybe isn’t the right word. Pulseaudio works fine for just listening to music or watching video, and is usually much less of a hassle to set up. When latency matters however (music production, emulation), ALSA performs much better in my experience.

                                                                                                                                      1. 5

                                                                                                                                        Pulseaudio works fine for just listening to music or watching video

                                                                                                                                        This has not been my experience. Of course every machine is different, but I used to have it cutting out constantly until I removed it entirely. Frequently plugging in my headset would reset the volume so that one ear was muted and the other wasn’t. Ever since uninstalling pulse, on my machines ALSA has been 100% reliable.

                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                          I haven’t had problems with pa since switching to Arch from Fedora. I think the experience varies a lot based on what distro you use.

                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                            On my old black plastic MacBook (3,2) running Arch back in the day, PulseAudio was what made Linux audio start to be nice. ALSA worked, but in an https://xkcd.com/963/ sort of way.

                                                                                                                                      2. 3

                                                                                                                                        Linux ecosystem in general needs cleanup in audio department

                                                                                                                                        1. 9

                                                                                                                                          Charts like that having been making the rounds for ages and always feel they’re a bit disingenuous because most people don’t have half that stuff installed, and use even less of the stuff they do have installed.

                                                                                                                                          For most people, it’s just PulseAudio → ALSA → Sound card. Some of the abstractions/libraries on top of that – such as SDL, gstreamer, etc. – add useful features like the ability to decode mp3 files and whatnot. In other words, it’s a lot less messy than that chart makes it seem.

                                                                                                                                          (I do have plenty of gripes with the ALSA C API, which is … not very good, but that’s a different matter)

                                                                                                                                          1. 8

                                                                                                                                            Indeed, these charts conflate the audio system with multimedia libraries (and in case of the first one, even multimedia applications like VLC). That said, I very much agree that the state of audio on Linux is not great. Sadly everybody seems to be betting their horses on Pulseaudio, which to me seems more like an attempt to cover up the mess rather than cleaning it up.

                                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                                              VLC is included because of one of the cursed parts in the chart - VLC can be used as a playback backend by phonon, which is an audio playback API that is mostly used by KDE software.

                                                                                                                                            2. 4

                                                                                                                                              (I do have plenty of gripes with the ALSA C API, which is … not very good, but that’s a different matter)

                                                                                                                                              Out of curiosity, do you have any references for what a good low-level audio API looks like? It’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while, since audio on Linux is so perennially bad, but while I’m decently familiar with the physics of audio I don’t know much about the low-level details. It seems like it should just be “bytes with the proper format go into buffer at a fixed rate”, which is something that GPU and network drivers have been solving forever…

                                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                                It’s not perfect, but in contrast to Linux, I’ve never had audio issues under FreeBSD: https://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=sound&sektion=4

                                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                                  Thanks, I’ll take a look at it!

                                                                                                                                                2. 1

                                                                                                                                                  Coming in late, but sndio is also worth a look(default sound under OpenBSD)

                                                                                                                                            3. 2

                                                                                                                                              Is it possible to record the internal stereo mix directly, ie. can you select it as a recording source without resorting to jackd trickery?

                                                                                                                                              I have no idea, but if you can give me some pointers on how to find out I can try. If it’s worth anything, the full dump from the alsa-info script is here: http://alsa-project.org/db/?f=5363202956bb52364b8f209683f813c662079d84

                                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                                Thanks. Judging from this output, it is not possible to record the internal mix out of the box. That’s somewhat disappointing. It’s not surprising considering this has been the norm for off-the-shelf laptops for several years now, but I would have expected an open hardware like the Pinebook Pro to fare better.

                                                                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                                                                Just to satisfy my curiosity, why do you want to record the internal mix on the built in sound card? This is surely handy in some situations (when you want to record all your screen for example) but… personally for serious music stuff I’ve always used USB sound cards. Playback is probably okay on most decent laptops these days, but recording is something entirely different even on a super high end machine. So if I’d buy a Pinebook Pro I would expect an awfully noisy sound card even for playback (even if I wouldn’t really care).

                                                                                                                                                There’s another clue: the issue with the speakers described in the article feels like a noise coming from a bad sound card or amplifier. Broken speakers don’t produce noise like that.

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                                                                                                                                                But Functional Programming lacks Categories !!

                                                                                                                                                https://hackage.haskell.org/package/rebase-1.6.1/docs/Rebase-Prelude.html#t:Category

                                                                                                                                                So where are you gonna put your schema? Nowhere good, that’s for sure. Frustrated, developers have been leaving Haskell for Idris and other languages that at least have some type support, if not ‘schema’.

                                                                                                                                                Ah yes, the great Haskell to Idris migration of 2019, spurred on by…umm…lack of database tooling. Yes. All those great Idris CRUD apps, because a database that you haven’t given full-strength dependently typed bindings is really a database you haven’t appreciated at all.

                                                                                                                                                I’m kinda sad this article didn’t bring up F* now. CRUD apps in F* would be entertaining.

                                                                                                                                                OCAML tried to build something called a Categorical Abstract Machine (CAM) but it was too inflexible.

                                                                                                                                                Nevermind, that probably explains the leaving F* out. OCaml descendant; still too inflexible for real world, database-oriented, extremely mathy programming.

                                                                                                                                                A CAM is a bit of an Eldritch creature that is (1) part database (2) part operating system and (3) part programming language.

                                                                                                                                                Isn’t this literally The Oberon System (or also kinda Smalltalk)? MUMPS also could probably hit all these cleanly. Mainframes also like to mesh databases & filesystems.