Racket – prestazioni – 4


Sempre qui: [doc]/guide/performance.html dove continuo e concludo il capitolo.

Gestione della memoria

The Racket implementation is available in two variants: 3m and CGC. The 3m variant uses a modern, generational garbage collector that makes allocation relatively cheap for short-lived objects. The CGC variant uses a conservative garbage collector which facilitates interaction with C code at the expense of both precision and speed for Racket memory management. The 3m variant is the standard one.

uh! 🙄

Although memory allocation is reasonably cheap, avoiding allocation altogether is normally faster. One particular place where allocation can be avoided sometimes is in closures, which are the run-time representation of functions that contain free variables. For example,


allocates a closure on every iteration, since (lambda () n) effectively saves n.

The compiler can eliminate many closures automatically. For example, in


no closure is ever allocated for prev-thunk, because its only application is visible, and so it is inlined. Similarly, in


then the expansion of the let form to implement m-loop involves a closure over n, but the compiler automatically converts the closure to pass itself n as an argument instead.

Raggiungibilità e garbage collection

In general, Racket re-uses the storage for a value when the garbage collector can prove that the object is unreachable from any other (reachable) value. Reachability is a low-level, abstraction breaking concept (and thus one must understand many details of the runtime system’s implementation to accurate predicate precisely when values are reachable from each other), but generally speaking one value is reachable from a second one when there is some operation to recover the original value from the second one.

To help programmers understand when an object is no longer reachable and its storage can be reused, Racket provides make-weak-box and weak-box-value, the creator and accessor for a one-record struct that the garbage collector treats specially. An object inside a weak box does not count as reachable, and so weak-box-value might return the object inside the box, but it might also return #f to indicate that the object was otherwise unreachable and garbage collected. Note that unless a garbage collection actually occurs, the value will remain inside the weak box, even if it is unreachable.

For example, consider this program:


It will print b has #(struct:fish 7 blue) twice because the definition of f still holds onto the fish. If the program were this, however:


the second printout will be b has #f because no reference to the fish exists (other than the one in the box).

As a first approximation, all values in Racket must be allocated and will demonstrate behavior similar to the fish above. There are a number of exceptions, however:

  • Small integers (recognizable with fixnum?) are always available without explicit allocation. From the perspective of the garbage collector and weak boxes, their storage is never reclaimed. (Due to clever representation techniques, however, their storage does not count towards the space that Racket uses. That is, they are effectively free.)
  • Procedures where the compiler can see all of their call sites may never be allocated at all (as discussed above). Similar optimizations may also eliminate the allocation for other kinds of values.
  • Interned symbols are allocated only once (per place). A table inside Racket tracks this allocation so a symbol may not become garbage because that table holds onto it.
  • Reachability is only approximate with the CGC collector (i.e., a value may appear reachable to that collector when there is, in fact, no way to reach it anymore.

Weak boxes e testing

One important use of weak boxes is in testing that some abstraction properly releases storage for data it no longer needs, but there is a gotcha that can easily cause such test cases to pass improperly.

Imagine you’re designing a data structure that needs to hold onto some value temporarily but then should clear a field or somehow break a link to avoid referencing that value so it can be collected. Weak boxes are a good way to test that your data structure properly clears the value. This is, you might write a test case that builds a value, extracts some other value from it (that you hope becomes unreachable), puts the extracted value into a weak-box, and then checks to see if the value disappears from the box.

This code is one attempt to follow that pattern, but it has a subtle bug:


Specifically, it will show that the weak box is empty, but not beacause fishes no longer holds onto the value, but because fishes itself is not reachable anymore!

Change the program to this one:


and now we see the expected result. The difference is that last occurrence of the variable fishes. That constitutes a reference to the list, ensuring that the list is not itself garbage collected, and thus the red fish is not either.

🙄 quasi-panico :mrgreen:

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  • Racket – prestazioni – 3 | Ok, panico su 17 ottobre 2015 alle 08:56

    […] computation. Fortunately, the generational garbage collector (described later in Memory Management [Gestione della memoria]) makes allocation for short-lived results reasonably cheap. Fixnums, in contrast are never boxed, […]


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