Saturday, November 14, 2009

Analysis of static Groovy claims

Continued from my last post, I think I will be in the neutral point of view enough to do the analysis for these claims. All of this analysis are solely based on my opinion, so discussion is always welcome.
It is possible to write a statically typed compiler for Groovy keeping all goodies of the beautiful language.
This is partially true. I do not think I can create a static compiler to cover all Groovy features at once.
It is possible to implement very powerful type inference of local variable and closures, so we don't need to provide verbose type information more than necessary and/or useful for documentation purposes.
This is partially true. A language cannot fully support type inference. Type inference itself has its own limits, and it is a known P-complete or NP-complete problem depending on its implementation) [see this].
It is possibly to have compile-time metagrogramming (properies, categories, default groovy methods, mixins, ast transformations - all but runtime meta-programmings).
This is also true. But adding more phases to the compiler will make it slow. When the compilation time is slow + startup time of the JVM, you might not be happy using the language as a scripting tool. Pluggable type systems would be possible to help this issue.
It is possible to support Scala-like traits (also knows as interfaces with default implementation), which is extremly strong meta-programming tool.
This is true. No doubt.
It is even possibly to compile piece of code in so called mixed mode (resolve and call statically what we can and call the rest dynamically). This mode is great for example for mixing computation with building markup or populating UI elements with results of computation.
This is true. There is also something called Soft typing and Gradual typing which could help one archieve both static and dynamic call in the same language. However, the way of building markup can be just a simpler trick. I have it in my last post.
It is even possibly that because of type inference staticly compiled code can be a little bit less verbose compare to Groovy (almost no need in 'as' conversion for example).
This is probably false. In general, I do not think there will be a better way than a dynamic language to do so.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Static Groovy, is it feasible?

Static Groovy seems to be a hot topic. There have been debates about it in the past. And recently, Alex's call for implementation has been posted on Groovy's DZone. Yesterday, Jochen's got his view about it here.

To me, I have been (and still) doing somethings to boost Groovy performance. Actually, it is based on the current call site implementation of Groovy 1.6. But that's another approach (As people said, performance is not only concern for static Groovy, early detection of errors is also what they want).

One of the biggest challenge of implementing static Groovy is that how could we implement a framework like Grails using it. This is really an interesting question to me, as Grails requires a lot of dynamic features of Groovy. So, I try to summarise what static Groovy should be capable of for making a Grails-like framework happen.

Firstly, GORM dynamic finders:
This kind of finders mainly uses missingMethod to perform their actions.

Considering this (posted as a comment in Jochen's blog):

class C {
  def findBy/s/(Object ...) { .. }

You may notice "s" in the method name. It is of type String and can be referenced in the method body.
So this is basically, findBy* of Grails. Missing method could be modelled in the same way. For example,

class C2 {
  def /s/(Object ...) { /* doing something with s */ }

Secondly, Adding dynamic methods:
This mainly uses in Grails plugins to extend capability of the framework.
The idea of category would be working perfectly for it.

main() {

class A {

class Plugin {
  static test(A self) { .. }

Resolving the test method would be a bit problem as it's not only through the class hierarchy of A, but also other classes that contain methods that crosscut A. It would be a bit easier for a compiler to resolve them, if we have a marker like @extension static test(A self) { ... } to help it.

Thirdly, interception for implementing invokeMethod:
This may probably involves the concept of AOP. But I will note use its terms here. Actually, the example is came from a work in the AOP area.

When you are going to intercept call of existing methods, this could be working:

class C {
  intercept *(X x) {
    proceed(x); // intercepting methodForX only

  intercept *(Y y) {
    proceed(y); // intercepting methodForY only

  intercept *(Object ...) { ... }

  def methodForX(X x) { .. }
  def methodForY(Y y) { .. }

This concept would be called local interception, where an interceptor is capable of only intercepting methods in the same class. System-wide interception would be doing the same. Anyway, it will be something like AspectJ, in eventually.

To sum up, there are really challenges to implement a static counterpart of Groovy. However as you might see, having enough features to implement a Grails-like framework using such language is not that easy. A lot of things need to be proper implemented. Anyway, this is really an interesting thing to do.