Friday, September 08, 2006

Boston, End of Week One

This week flew by pretty fast, and unfortunately I haven't accomplished the improvements I had planned for ErlyDB. Next week, I will shift gears and start cranking out that ErlyDB code I have to produce.

So what did I do this week? I did some of blogging and emailing. I took a lot of walks around the Boston to familiarize myself with this town. I also took a bunch of pictures, most of which I put on flickr.

Here's my favorite picture from my walk earlier today in Boston Common. It's a beautiful statue of George Washington.


(This great man wasn't thinking outside the thread -- he was thinking outside the Empire :) )

On the coding side, I spent a good deal of time revving the haXe remoting adapter I contributed to Yaws (my favorite web server :) ). Nicolas Cannasse, haXe's amazingly talented creator, has recently changed the haXe remoting protocol to improve the performace of the caching algorithm used to handle references to strings. In the previous implementation, the serialization of each string was preceded by a linear traversal of all previously serialized strings in search for a match. If a match was found, the index in the cache would be serialized rather than the string itself. This would lower the bandwidth cost of serializing the same string multiple times. Nicolas's improvement was to change the string comparisons to hash table lookups, which is far more efficient for messages with numerous strings.

My task was to make the same changes on the Erlang side. Unfortunately, I haven't touched the haXe remoting code in a while, so my knowledge of it was a bit rusty. The code is also rather complex, partly because it's written in Continuation Passing Style, which makes the parser capable of processing a message in chunks (also called stream-parsing) but also harder to comprehend. (The haXe remoting parser is based on the JSON RPC parser, which I hacked quite substantially.)

After some pretty frustrating debugging (both and haXe have changed since I last played with them), I finally got the code to a ready-to-ship state today. With a CVS commit (or two), the job was done.

I have no idea how many people are actually using this feature, but as both Yaws and haXe grow in popularity, I'm sure others will find it quite useful. haXe is rapidly becoming a great language for all sorts of GUI development, and combining it with a Yaws backend can make a pretty powerful combination (do I see haXe + Yaws powered massively multiplayer online Flash games on the horizon? :) ).

I'm happy that Klacke, Yaws's creator, was willing to let me add the haXe remoting feature to Yaws. It's a rather "exotic" feature, especially because I doubt many Erlangers use haXe. However, Klacke was interested in haXe and when I gave him the Erlang haXe remoting code, he made me a Yaws committer and gave me the green light to add it to the Yaws codebase (with the condition that I also write the documentation :) ).

Maybe at some point down the road I will offer Klacke another feature or two to add to Yaws :)

Now I can finally go back to the fun stuff: ErlyDB.

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