Re: How come Ada isn't more popular?
- From: Markus E Leypold <development-2006-8ecbb5cc8aREMOVETHIS@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2007 14:43:17 +0100
Maciej Sobczak <no.spam@xxxxxxxxxxx> writes:
Markus E Leypold wrote:
[I agree with what you say on historical perspective on language
transitions and the probabilistic effects that languages have on
newbies, so this part was cut.]
If you just do f(s.c_str()) and f _is_ properly behaved, that is, only
reads from the pointer or does a strdup(), everything is fine, but, I
note, not thread safe. I wouldn't exclude the possibility that the
resulting race condition is hidden in a nice number of C++ programs
If you have a race condition because of some thread is modifying a
string object *while* some other thread is using it, then you have a
heavy design problem. This is absolutely not related to interfacing
Yes, I realize that. Still, providing a pointer to a the inner state
of an object, that only stays valid until I touch the object for the
next time is not only not thread safe (which I realized is not the
problem) but it's not type safe: A error in programming leads to
erronous execution, i.e. reading and writing invalid memory. That is
I think there was talk once about a thread safe string library, but at
the moment I fail to see how that relates to the problem in question.
Your solution is thread safe, if the strings package is (which it
wasn't in the past).
Strings package cannot make it any better, because the granularity of
thread-safety results from the program logic, not from the package
interface. String is too low-level (it's a general utility) to be
thread-safe in any useful sense. That's why: a) it should not be
thread-safe on its own, b) you still have a design problem.
Yes. I realize that. Don't know what made me write that :-).
Interestingly, Ada doesn't make it any better. Neithe does Java. You
always need to coordinate threads/tasks/whatever on some higher
conceptual level than primitive string operations.
So forgive me. Let's ditch the thread safety aspect and instead:
Giving pointers to internal state of objects violates (a)
encapsulation (it fixes a specific implementation) and (b) is not type
safe. I'm sure we can hang c_str() on account of this charge alone and
can drop the thread-unsafety allegation.
You can have it by refcounting function frames (and preserving someYes, one could do it like that. Ref-counting is rumoured to be
determinism of destructors). GC is not needed for full closures, as
far as I perceive it (with all my misconceptions behind ;-) ).
Which relates to cascading destructors, not to function frames.
My impression was it relates to both. Especially since both are
interlocked: In a world with closure objects (from OO) and variables
can refer to closures (function frames) and vice versa).
but if you don't have too many closure that might just
If you have too many closures, then well, you have too many closures. :-)
Yes :-). Only in a ref counted implementation even too many might not
We've been talking not only about performance, but also about
readability and maintenance. ;-)
Of this thread? :-)
Furthermore I've been convinced that manual memory management hinders
Whereas I say that I don't care about manual memory management in myCertainly. But you can have more with GC.
programs. You can have modularity without GC.
In a strictly technical sense of the word, yes. But then there comes a
question about possible loses in other areas, like program structure
I think the absence of manual memory management code actually furthers
Being able to just drop things on the floor is a nice feature when
considered in isolation, but not necessarily compatible with other
objectives that must be met at the same time.
People who don't have GC often say that they can do anything with
manual memory management.
And I say that this is misconception. I don't have/use GC and I don't
bother with *manual* memory management neither. That's the point. In
Ada this point is spelled [Limited_]Controlled (it's a complete mess,
but that's not the fault of the concept) and in C++ it's spelled
automatic storage duration.
My impression was that Ada Controlled storage is actually quite a
clean concept compared to C++ storage duration.
But both tie allocation to program scope, synchronous with a stack. I
insist that is not always desirable: It rules out some architecture,
especially those where OO abounds.
The problem with Controlled, BTW, is that it seems to interact with
the rest of the language in such a way that GNAT didn't get it right
even after ~10 years of development. Perhaps difficult w/o a formal
Today manual memory management is a low-level thingy that you don't
have to care about, unless you *really* want to (and then it's really
good that you can get it). And as I've already pointed out, in my
regular programming manual memory management is a rarity.
On the other hand, most languages with GC get it wrong by relying
*only* on GC, everywhere, whereas it is useful (if at all) only for
I've heard that complaint repeatedly, but still do not understand it.
The problem is that few programs rely on only memory and in a
typical case there are lots of resources that are not memory oriented
and they have to be managed, somehow.
When GC is a shiny center of the
language, those other kinds of resources suffer from not having
appropriate support. In practical terms, you don't have manual
management of memory, but you have *instead* manual management of
*everything else* and the result is either code bloat or more bugs (or
Now, now. Having GC doesn't preclude you from managing ressources
unrelated to memory in a manual fashion. Apart from that languages
with GC often provide nice tricks to tie external ressources to their
memory proxy and ditch them when the memory proxy is unreachable
(i.e. the programm definitely won't use the external ressource any
longer). Examples: IO channels (only sometimes useful), temporary
files, files locks, shared memory allocations. Even if you manage
ressources manually, GC still limits the impact of leaks. And BTW - in
fcuntional langauges you can do more against ressource leaks, sicne
you can "wrap" functions:
(with_file "output" (with_file "out_put" copy_data))
It's not always done, but a useful micro pattern.
Languages like Ada or C++ provide more general solution, which is
conceptually not related to any kind of resource and can be
therefore applied to every one.
Since you're solving a problem here, which I deny that it exists, I
can't follow you here. But I notice, that
"Languages like C provide a more general solution (with regard to
accessing memory), which is conceptually not related to any kind of
fixed type system and can therefore implement any type and data model"
would become a valid argument if I agreed with you. It's the
generality we are getting rid of during the evolution of programming
languages. Assembler is the "most general" solution, but we are
getting structured programming, typesystems amd finally garbage
The result is clean, short and uniform code,
which is even immune to extensions in the implementation of any
class. Think about adding a non-memory resource to a class that was
up to now only memory oriented - if it requires any modification on
the client side, like adding tons of finally blocks and calls to
close/dispose/dismiss/etc. methods *everywhere*, then in such a
language the term "encapsulation" is a joke.
Well, you think Ada here. In an FP I write (usually) something like:
with_lock "/var/foo/some.lck" (fun () -> do_something1 (); do_something2 param; ...).
The fact that Ada and C++ don't have curried functions and cannot
construct unnamed functions or procedures is really limiting in this
case and probably causal to your misconception that it would be
necessary to add tons of exceaption handling at the client side.
And BTW: In Ada I would encapsulate the ressource in a Controlled
object (a ressource proxy or handle) and get the same effect (tying it
to a scope). Indeed I have already done so, to make a program which
uses quite a number of locks, to remove locks when it terminated or
crashes. Works nicely.
An ideal solution seems to be a mix of both (GC and automatic
objects), but I think that the industry needs a few generations of
failed attempts to get this mix right. We're not yet there.
OO is about encapsulation and polymorphism, these don't needYes, but -- you want to keep, say, a list of Shape(s). Those can be
Triangle(s), Circle(s) etc, which are all derived from class
Shape. How do you store this list? An array of Shape'Class is out of
question because of the different allocation requirements for the
descendants of Shape(s).
Why should I bother?
Note also that I didn't say that references/pointers should be
dropped. I say that you don't need them everywhere. That's a
OK, so you need them _almost_ everywhere :-). I take your point.
I've decided, if I want to deliver any interesting functionality to
the end user, my resources (developer time) are limited, I have to
leave everything I can to automation (i.e. compilers, garbage
collectors, even libraries), to be able to reach my lofty goals.
I also leave everything I can to automation. It's spelled
[Limited_]Controlled in Ada and automatic storage duration in C++.
I cannot imagine reaching my lofty goals otherwise. ;-)
Good. 'Controlled' buys you a lot in Ada, but there are 2 problems
(a) AFAIS (that is still my hypothesis, binding storage to scope is
not alway possible (esp. when doing GUIs and MVC and this
like). I cannot prove but from what I experienced I rather
convinced of it.
(b) AFAIR there are restrictions on _where_ I can define controlled
types. AFAIR that was a PITA.
The point is to know when to optimise, not to do it
I didn't even mention the word "optimization". I'm taling about structure.
OK. But how does a program become less structured by removing the
manual memory management? The GC is not magically transforming the
program into spaghetti code ...
Regards -- Markus
- Re: How come Ada isn't more popular?
- From: Maciej Sobczak
- Re: How come Ada isn't more popular?
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