[rust-dev] Compile-time function evaluation in Rust

Pierre Talbot ptalbot at hyc.io
Tue Jan 28 16:04:16 PST 2014

On 01/29/2014 12:45 AM, Kevin Ballard wrote:
> On Jan 28, 2014, at 3:16 PM, Pierre Talbot <ptalbot at hyc.io> wrote:
>> On 01/28/2014 11:24 PM, Kevin Ballard wrote:
>>> It sounds like you're proposing that arbitrary functions may be eligible for CTFE if they happen to meet all the requirements, without any special annotations. This seems like a bad idea to me. I understand why it's attractive, but it means that seemingly harmless changes to a function's implementation (but not its signature) can cause compiler errors in other modules, or even other crates if the AST for the function happens to be made extern.
>>> A more conservative approach would be to require the #[ctfe] annotation, which then imposes all the given restrictions on the function. The downside is such a function then is restricted to only calling other CTFE functions, so we'd have to go in to the standard libraries and add this annotation whenever we think it's both useful and possible.
>>> This approach mirrors the approach being used by C++11/C++14.
>>> -Kevin
>> I understand your point of view but adding #[ctfe] doesn't solve the problem either, the library designer could remove this annotation, isn't it? I didn't precise it, but I gave a different semantic to #[ctfe] than what you understood. Let me rephrase it:
>> * #[ctfe] hints the compiler that performing CTFE outside of the contexts (as specified) is safe. It means that for any input this function will terminate [in a reasonable amount of time and memory].
>> We should keep in mind the drawbacks of the constexpr semantic:
>> 1. Force the library designer to think about CTFE, the user might be in a better position since he knows well which parameters he'll give to this function.
>> 2. Annotate functions means more maintenance, more changes and more errors. Moreover, the C++11 constexpr only allow a subset of the language, which is practical for the compiler implementor but not for the library designer. In D, they specify when a function is *not* eligible.
> Yes, I was using #[ctfe] to mean something slightly different than you were. In my case, it meant "mark this function as eligible for CTFE, and impose all the CTFE restrictions". And it does fix the problem I mentioned, because #[ctfe] would be considered part of the function signature, not the function implementation. Everyone is already used to the idea that modifying the function signature may cause compiler errors at the call site. But the only example I can think of right now for when changing a function's _implementation_ causes call site compiler errors is when you're using C++ templates.
> Not only that, but with your approach, changing the implementation of one function could accidentally cause a whole host of other functions to become ineligible for CTFE. And the farther apart the actual source of the problem, and the resulting error, the harder it is to diagnose and fix such errors.
> That said, I was not aware that D already takes this approach, of allowing CTFE by default. I'm curious how it works for them, and how they handle these problems.
> -Kevin

They do not allow it by default, they rely on the context (as I also do) to activate it. If a function is designed with CTFE requirements, these might not change much over the time (speculation). I mean, did you ever re-factorize a function code to add unsafe, extern or I/O statements? I have the feeling that it doesn't arrive so often. But it's just an intuition...


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