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Last Week in Pony - October 29, 2023

Use Pony on Intel MacOS? Update your ponyc installation!

Items of Note

Ponyc 0.57.1 Released

Pony version 0.57.1 has been released. The only change of note is a fix for MacOS users on Intel CPUs. You might not have a problem now, but whenever you update to XCode 15, you will. Update to 0.57.1 so you don’t have a XCode 15 issue later.

SSL Builder Updates

It’s that time of the year! Our twice a year update of the SSL builder images we use for testing/building Pony organization projects and that we make available to the you for the same purpose.

Every time around, we add new builders, stop updating the oldest ones and let you know which ones we are deprecating. Deprecated builders will stop being updated the next time around.

Each image is updated with a new version of the Pony compiler and other tools after each nightly ponyc build and after each ponyc release.

We’ve added:

  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-libressl-3.7.3
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_1.1.1w
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_3.1.3

We’ve deprecated:

  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-libressl-3.7.2
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_1.1.1t
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_3.1.0

We’ve stopped updating:

  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-libressl-3.5.3
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_1.1.1q
  • x86-64-unknown-linux-builder-with-openssl_3.0.7

Pony Development Sync

Audio from the October 24th, 2023 sync is available.

We briefly ran through some open pull requests. No special topics or extended discussions.

Office Hours

We have an open Zoom meeting every week for the community to get together and well, do whatever they want. In theory, Sean T. Allen “owns” the meeting and will often set an agenda. Anyone is welcome to show up and participate. Got a Pony related problem you need help solving and prefer to do it synchronously? Give Office Hours a try.

Starting next week, Office Hours will move from being every Friday to being every Monday. The new time will be at 4 PM Eastern. To keep up to date with Office Hours scheduling changes, be sure to subscribe to the calendar.

Office Hours this week was a fun one, even if Red and Sean were the only participants.

A little while back someone opened an issue on the ponyc repo that boils down to “someone wrote code on the Internet that is slower than other code on the Internet”. In particular, years ago someone made a repository with “ring program” examples designed to benchmark different language against one another. Someone ran the Elixir and Pony examples on their machine and reports that the Elixir version was 4 times faster than the Pony one.

The core team isn’t much for entertaining such issues. They aren’t actionable and aren’t interesting. It is very easy to write slow code in any language if you don’t know what you are doing. Red on the other hand was curious and took a look at the Pony code as an exercise of “how would I make this faster”.

Red came up with an initial version that was:

use "time"
use @exit[None](ec: I32)
use @printf[U32](fmt: Pointer[U8] tag, ...)

actor Main
  let env: Env
  var ringsize: U32 = 0
  var count: U32 = 0
  let firstring: Ring

  fun @runtime_override_defaults(rto: RuntimeOptions) =>
    rto.ponynoblock = true

  new create(env': Env) =>
      ringsize = env'.args(1)?.u32()?
      count = env'.args(2)?.u32()?
      env = env'
      firstring = Ring(ringsize - 1, Time.millis(), this), Time.millis())
      @printf("Please provide correct numerical arguments\n".cstring())
      env = env'
      firstring = Ring(0, 0, this)

  be next(count': U32, ts: U64) =>
    if (count' > 0) then', ts)
      @printf("%u %d %d\n".cstring(), Time.millis() - ts, ringsize, count)

actor Ring
  let id: U32
  let next: Ring
  let main: Main

  new create(id': U32, ts: U64, main': Main) =>
    id = id'
    main = main'
    if (id > 0) then
      next = Ring(id - 1, ts, main)
      next = this
      @printf("%u ".cstring(),(Time.millis() - ts))

  be ping(count: U32, ts: U64) =>
    if (id > 0) then, ts)
    else - 1, ts)

One of key differences between his code and “the code in that random repository on the Internet” was to change the type of next from (Ring | None) to Ring. Thereby removing a ton of branching where each ping call would have to do a match on next to prove that it was of type Ring.

Red’s solution however, isn’t actually a ring. It’s a string of Ring actors where the last one sends a message to Main rather than another Ring and Main then continues “the ring” by sending a message to the first member of the “string of Rings”.

Red’s question for Office Hours was “how can I redesign this to not have a match and also actually be a ring?”

Sean after a bit of thinking and backtracking gave Red the following “shell” he could plug additional logic into:

use "collections"

actor Main
  new create(env: Env) =>
    let first = Node

    var neighbor = first
    let ring_size: U32 = 200_000
    for k in Range[U32](0, ring_size - 1) do
      neighbor = Node(neighbor)

    first.boss(neighbor, env.out)

actor Node
  var _boss: Bool = false
  var _out: (OutStream | None) = None
  var _prev: Node

  new create(prev: (Node | None) = None) =>
    match prev
    | None => _prev = this
    | let n: Node => _prev = n

  be boss(n: Node, out: OutStream) =>
    _boss = true
    _prev =  n
    _out = out

There’s still a match here, but it is only on the creation of each Node rather than each time one has a message sent to it. Additionally, when output needs to be done “after all work is complete”, there’s only a single actor “the boss” that will do the printing. And it will do a single, one time match on _out to prove that it has been set to OutStream instead of None.

If you’d be interested in attending an Office Hours in the future, you should join some time, there’s a calendar you can subscribe to to stay up-to-date with the schedule. We do our best to keep the calendar up-to-date.


Community Resource Highlight

We like to take a moment in each Last Week in Pony to highlight a community resource. There are many community resources that can go unappreciated until just the right time when someone hops into the Ponylang Zulip asking a question or facing a problem we have all had at one time or another. Well here in Last Week in Pony, we make it just the right time to highlight one of our excellent community resources.

Once again we rocket off the Planet Pony! This week we are going to look at a video from 2019, specifically Safely Sharing Data: Reference Capabilities in the Pony Programming Language.

The talk is only 30 minutes so give it a listen! In it, John Mumm talks about what reference capabilities provide you, the programmer, by using them in Pony. Specifically, he discusses: data races, the two laws of sharing data, an overview of reference capabilities, and sharing data safely using Pony actors.

Last Week In Pony is a weekly blog post to catch you up on the latest news for the Pony programming language. To learn more about Pony, check out our website, our Twitter account @ponylang, or our Zulip community.

Got something you think should be featured? There’s a GitHub issue for that! Add a comment to the open “Last Week in Pony” issue.

Interested in making a change, or keeping up with changes to Pony? Check out the RFC repo. Contributors welcome!