[armedbear-devel] Idea for new FASL format: smaller, faster

Erik Huelsmann ehuels at gmail.com
Sat Jan 21 20:55:13 UTC 2012

The spec allows functions in a fasl to hard code references to each
other, except when declared not-inline. Currently, we take advantage
of that fact only a little bit: the only bit we eliminate is the
function lookup from the symbol. Anything else works just like
function calls which are not in the same file. The mail below comes
from my long-standing desire to take better advantage of the room
offered by the spec.

What things would I like to improve on?

1. We only inline backward referenced functions in the same fasl
2. We parse the argument list of each function call with respect to
keywords and optional parameters
3. We store the names of symbols referenced in many .cls files each of
which gets separately zipped
4. We store (cache) function references to inlined functions as objects

What's the basic idea?

The idea is to shift paradigms: instead of compiling each Lisp
function into a class, we will start compiling each lisp function to a
Java function. A FASLs would become one or more classes -- depending
on if everything fits into a single class or not. The idea is by the
way not to change the way we model functions in symbol function slots,
but instead to change the way everything is stored in a fasl.

Does it address the items mentioned above?

1. Since class files are written once the class is complete, we have
to delay serializing the lisp functions to disk until they're all
known. This means that we will know all functions defined in a fasl
before it's serialized. With an appropriate linker phase, we could
easily resolve all forward referenced function calls.

2. Because lisp functions have become Java functions, we can't
directly expose them to the Lisp world anymore. This basically creates
the option to have an 'internal function signature' and an 'external
function signature'. SBCL has this: XEPs -- eXternal Entry Points.
These entry points into a function sort the arguments into the right
order before calling the internal entry point. Code which is compiled
into the same fasl pre-sorts the arguments at compile time (when
possible) and calls the internal entry point -- eliminating the need
to sort keyword parameters.

3. By having a single (or fewer) class files, we can achieve higher
re-use ratios of the same constants which would otherwise be included
in many-many .cls files.

4. Because function calls to 'inline' functions will become calls to
sibling methods, they will become clear candidates for inlining to the
JIT. With the object references, it is not clear this is an option.

What I think needs to happen to get this designed:

a. The file compiler and function compiler should be based on a shared
'method compiler' which takes its context from the caller instead of
the existing way of basing the file compiler on the function compiler.

b. We need to implement a linker phase separate from the pass2 phase,
which can re-order arguments and call sibling methods instead of Lisp
Function objects.

c. We need to find a way to correctly handle the interaction between
the successive IN-PACKAGE, DEFPACKAGE, EVAL-WHEN, etc, forms appearing
in the input file and the initialization of fields in the resulting
class file.

d. We need a way to expose the external entry points to the lisp world.

e. We need to find a way to split fasls over multiple class files.




More information about the armedbear-devel mailing list