Grant Proposal: Perl 6: Bugfixing and Performance of Rationals / Fixing Constraints on Constants


Perl 6: Bugfixing and Performance of Rationals

Fixing Constraints on Constants

  • Name:

    Zoffix Znet

  • Amount Requested:

    USD 1,999


The proposal is to perform two pieces of work on the Rakudo Perl 6 compiler along with a third bonus piece:

    1. Implement support for type constraints on constants and polish some of the rough edges with = and .= constants initializer calls.
    1. Fix several bugs and a race condition as well as fix problems in edge cases in instantiation and literals in core Rational types, also try to improve performance in this area.
    1. BONUS Work: Fix bugs in native uint64 attributes behaving like signed int64 types and try to use these attributes to boost performance of Rat type.

Benefits to the Perl Community

  • Performance is one of the bigger downsides of Perl 6. This proposal includes some performance improvements to one of the most used core types. Preliminary measurements show 1.5x improvement to instantiation of Rat type, and 9% improvement in a bench that measures all method calls. The crude measurements of the BONUS Work item show an additional 16% improvement in denominator value access, promising further improvements in numerous operators and methods of Rat type.
  • Out-of-the-box support for Rational types is one of the flagship features of Perl 6, yet users trying out this feature are likely to come upon bugs and precision loss with literals. This proposal fixes those problems, by producing new non-infectious high-precision MidRat object when the user provides high precision in their literals. The allomorphiness of MidRat, for example, allows us to define pi as a high-precision MidRat that will function similar current Num-based pi in normal operations, yet offer extra precision in FatRat operations.
  • The data race that currently exists in Rational types is rare and manifests itself not in crash, but a wrong result for a mathematical operation, which makes it hard to catch in real-life programs, even if they have a test suite. This proposal resolves that issue.
  • Some mathematical operations on zero-denominator Rationals give entirely incorrect results and some object-identity bugs exist with all Rational types, which makes them problematic to use in Sets, Bags, and Mixes. This proposal resolves all of those issues.
  • Type constraints on constants currently do get parsed, but they're not hooked into anything and don't perform any type checks. This makes unaware users think their code is doing work that in reality isn't done and can lead to bugs in their programs. This proposal resolves that issue.
  • The way constants behave with different sigils, assigned values, and initializers is poorly defined and sparsely implemented. Users encountering these issues may get the impression the language is unfinished. This proposal resolves those issues and fully specs all of that behaviour.


Prior to the submission of this Grant Proposal, I drafted two work proposals, presented to the Rakudo core developers, that spec the behaviour of type constraints on constants ("Constants Type Constraints" work proposal) as well as detail the work on fixing various issues in Rational types ("Polishing Rationals" work proposal). After discussions with TimToady, the Rationals proposal underwent two revisions with regard to how high-precision literals are to behave. I'm still waiting for TimToady to comment on the final revision, and depending on that feedback the object type for high-precision literals that's produced might change slightly from what's described in this Grant Proposal.

The deliverables for this Grant Proposal are:

  • Full implementation of the "Constants Type Constraints" work proposal, including Perl 6 specification tests covering all of the mentioned features, and documentation fully documenting them.

    Some of the key items in this work proposal are:

      1. Implementation of .= initializer with @- and %- sigiled constants.
      1. Implementation of type check on the bound value when a type constraint is specified.
      1. Implementation of coercion of non-Positional values (for @ sigils) and non-Associative values (for % sigils) to List and Map types respectively.
      1. Implementation of more helpful errors when some unsupported constructs are used.
  • Full implementation of the "Polishing Rationals" work proposal, including Perl 6 specification tests covering all of the fixed bugs and implemented features, as well as full documentation for the user-facing changes.

    Some of the key items in this work proposal are:

      1. Implement a MidRat type that's an allomorph of Rat and FatRat types and will function as a Rational type capable of delivering high-precision data in operations with FatRat, yet degrading to a lower-precision Rat in other operations.
      1. Implement a MidRatStr type that's an allomorph of a MidRat and Str types.
      1. Make Rational number literals return a MidRat type instead of a broken Rat, when the requested denominator size is over 64 bits
      1. Make &val, quote words, and other allomorph-creating constructs create a MidRatStr instead of a broken RatStr, when the requested denominator size is over 64 bits
      1. Make create a MidRat object, if after reduction the resultant Rational would have denominator over 64 bits.
      1. Fix a known data race by making Rational a fully-immutable type. This will involve the removal of optimization in infix:<+> and infix:<-> operators.
      1. Perform optimization of various methods. Preliminary measurements show that despite the de-optimization to fix the data race (above) these optimizations will improve the overall performance of the Rat type.
      1. Fix wrong results in many mathematical operations on zero-denominator Rationals
      1. Attempt performance enhancement of Rational types by extracting zero-denominator Rational handling logic into a separate ZeroDenominatorRational role. If no improvement is seen, this role will not be implemented.
  • If successful, the BONUS Work on uint64 attributes will deliver fixed bugs in unsigned native type attributes, which currently erroneously behave as signed, as well as make Rat type use uint64 type as denominator. Some nqp extops will be implemented in Rakudo (nqp::p6gcd and nqp::p6div ops used when creating Rats, but possibly some functionality will be wrapped into a nqp::p6rat op). These ops will make use of the native-type denominators to compile to more efficient variants of gcd and div (nqp::gcd_i and nqp::div_i as opposed to slower big-int _I alternatives).

Project Details

The full details for the two primary deliverables are documented in the "Constants Type Constraints" work proposal and the "Polishing Rationals" work proposal.

The documents were originally prepared to detail the planned work to other Perl 6 core developers and include considered-but-rejected ideas as well as preliminary performance improvement measurements that were made.

The original version of the "Polishing Rationals" work proposal received feedback from TimToady with the proposal to overload a RatStr type to be a non-infectious high-precision Rational type rather than upgrading high-precision literals to FatRat type. A trial implementation of that idea identified a performance and semantical issue with that approach, and in the latest revision of the "Polishing Rationals" work proposal proposed new MidRat/MidRatStr types used instead. TimToady is yet to review that revision, and depending on feedback he gives, this small detail might change from what's currently described.


For the BONUS Work item, I marked it as "BONUS Work" because it requires me learning new things about MoarVM and the QAST-MAST compiler. As I currently don't know much about them, I can't say with 100% certainty that I will succeed in fixing the bugs mentioned in the BONUS Work. However, if I am successful, the new knowledge will also allow me to fix many other bugs in my role as a Rakudo core developer, even after this Grant has completed.


  • 1.1 Write Perl 6 Specification tests specifying behaviour described in the "Constants Type Constraints" work proposal
  • 1.2 Implement type-constraint checking logic in type_declarator:sym<constant>($/) method in the Actions
  • 1.3 Implement typecheck and coercers on constants with @ and % sigils.
  • 1.4 Implement additional typed exceptions described in the work proposal and include additional Grammar rules in the type_declarator:sym<constant>($/) token to give more useful error messages when unsupported constructs are used.
  • 1.5 Fully document the newly-clarified behaviour on
  • 2.1 Write Perl 6 Specification tests specifying behaviour described in the "Polishing Rationals" work proposal
  • 2.2 Remove .REDUCE-ME and &DON'T_DIVIDE_NUMBERS routines and their use, and always go through reduction for all operations instead.
  • 2.3 Optimize and &DIVIDE_NUMBERS routines using techniques that produced preliminary performance improvement measurements when the work proposal was drafted
  • 2.4 Make normalize zero-denominator Rationals to <1/0>, <-1/0>, <0/0>. Fix zero-denominator math issues, if any still remain after this change.
  • 2.5 Evaluate whether any significant performance advantages are produced by demarcating zero-denominator rationals with ZeroDenominatorRational role and extracting zero-denominator-rational-specific logic into separate multi candidates for operators and routines. If there are such advantages, fully implement zero-denominator rationals in terms of that role.
  • 2.6 Implement MidRat and MidRatStr types.
  • 2.7 Make return MidRat if after reduction the denominator is over 64 bits.
  • 2.8 Ensure Rational literals produce MidRat types when the given precision produces denominators over 64-bit. This may fall-out automatically from change in (2.7); if not, modify Grammar and Actions to support this behaviour.
  • 2.9 Make &val produce MidRatStr for Rationals with denominators over 64-bit. This may fall-out automatically from change in (2.8), but if not, modify the logic in &val routine.
  • 2.10 Ensure quotewords and other allomorph-creating constructs (such as arguments to sub MAIN) create MidRatStr objects for Rationals with denominators over 64 bits. This may fall-out automatically from changes in (2.6) and (2.8).
  • 2.11 Document the MidRat and MidRatStr types as well as the newly-clarified behaviour for Rational literals, zero-denominator Rationals, and
  • 3.1 BONUS Work: Write tests in Perl 6 Specification covering unsigned attributes and variables, ensuring to test the behaviour that's expected from specifically unsigned types (and isn't present in signed types) exists (some of these tests should already exists as TODOs)
  • 3.2 BONUS Work: study how native types are implemented and implement full support for unsigned types on attributes
  • 3.3 BONUS Work: Change parametarization of the Rat type to be [Int, uint64] and change supporting routines like &DIVIDE_NUMBERS to handle native type arguments without having to box them.
  • 3.4 BONUS Work: implement nqp::p6gcd and nqp::p6div ops that compile to nqp::gcd_i and nqp::div_i if their parameters are native attributes (and to _I variants otherwise). Alternatively or in addition to, implement more convenient ops for handling of Rationals; what that might be will be more obvious after all of the work on Rationals in item (2) is completed.
  • 4.1 Go through the bug ticket queue and marked all tickets fixed by this Grant as resolved, writing explicit tests to cover the reported bugs, as needed.

Project Schedule

I can begin work as soon as this Grant Proposal is approved.

I estimate it will take me 1 month to finish the work on the constants, 1 month to finish the work on Rationals, and 2 months to finish the BONUS Work on native attributes and corresponding optimizations on Rat with native denominator.

Completeness Criteria

NOTE: the extra NQP operators described in the BONUS Work will be implemented only for the MoarVM backend. Their implementation for JVM and JavaScript backends is outside the scope of this Grant Proposal.


I've been a member of the Perl 6 Core Development Team since summer of 2016. I have previously successfully completed the Perl 6 IO Grant with The Perl Foundation and to date have made 1,181 commits to The Perl 6 Documentation, 1,415 commits to The Perl 6 Specification, and 1,641 commits to the Rakudo repository. I also wrote numerous Perl 6 tutorials published on the Rakudo.Party website.

My previous work in the area of constants and initializers includes fixing bugs with .= initializer on attributes, sigiless variables, and $- and sigiless constants for types with :: in their names as well as compound types such as Array[Int] (Rakudo commits 7793f420e, abea32429, 562edfc50, 8ba3c86e7, and 700a07747)

My previous work with Rationals includes fixing numerous issues with zero-denominator rationals, fixing several bugs due to .REDUCE-ME optimization that I plan to remove/redesign as part of this grant, as well as performing some optimizations to routines involving Rationals. (Rakudo commits 8aeaf469, 6c299bf9f, cb2476f9b, 73182d4e9, 748d1a57b, c91bcc2af, 042cb7413, 893d09ffa, 6dbe85eda, aac9efcbd, 79553d0fc, 637241703, 7434a8f73, and b5aa3c591).

My previous work on QAST/MAST/MoarVM (which would be involved to complete BONUS Work) involves fixing spurious "useless use" warnings, re-designing the WhateverCode currier to be more performant (both in compile-time and in run-time), fixing numerous bugs with QAST::Block migration, implementation of hypered versions of extended method call variants (e.g. $foo>>.?&elems), fixing crashes with native types in conditionals, as well as implementation of optimizations in dispatch:<var> method calls, conditionals with natives, and implementation of nqp::chainstatic op on MoarVM backend for staticalizing of chained op calls. (Rakudo commits fb3dfa567, c0c7756f4, 1ee89b540, e8c6c259c, 752bb8b38, 58de239cc, ef2dc1b8b, 3c4041eab, and 97359ae42; NQP commits 71658ad85, df45cb8ce, and 414520586). I also fixed bugs in zeroing of VMArray elements, flushing of TTYs on WSL, EOF detection, and abs_n and div_i ops. (MoarVM commits 8d94732aa, 4541cf6f6, cb4c1941a, 09482f9bd, 43c926f9e, 912f96783, 3f3045d6e, cfb0bffc0, 9d7bee40e, fd7300d27, and 1c1746e52).


Better performance is one of if not the key issue for adoption of Perl6 in production.
Correctness of mathematical calculations is probably taken for granted by most unsuspecting users.
+1 for this work.


Zoffix++ did a great work for Perl 6. Performance and Bug fixing are very important.




Offering "proper numbers" by default for arithmetic on perl 6 is a great feature, but the performance cost can be quite noticeable. I'm looking forward to having the impact mitigated. I believe Zoffix is well qualified for this work and has already done good preparation and research up front.

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This page contains a single entry by Coke published on April 2, 2018 11:19 PM.

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