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Sun, 27 May 2012

Exceptions Grant Report for May 2012

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It seems quite a long time since I started working on my grant on exceptions, and I until quite recently I felt that I still had quite a long way to go. And then I read the deliverables again, and found that I have actually achieved quite a bit of them already. I also noticed that some of them are quite ambiguously formulated.

Also when I wrote the grant application I had a clever system in the back of my mind that lets you categorize exceptions with different tags. After presenting that idea to the #perl6 channel, they uniformly told me that it was a (bad) reinvention of the existing type system. They were right, of course. So instead exceptions use the "real" type system now, which means that some aspects of the grant application do not make so much sense now.

Let's look at the deliverables in detail:

D1: Specification

S32::Exception contains my work in this area..

Since exceptions use the normal Perl 6 type system, the amount of work I had to do was less than I had expected. I consider it done, in the sense that everything is there that we need to throw typed exceptions and work with them in a meaningful and intuitive way.

There are certainly still open design question in the general space of exceptions (like, how do we indicate that an exception should or should not print its backtrace by default? There are ways to achieve this right now, but it's not as easy as it it should be for the end user). However those open questions are well outside the realm of this grant. I still plan to tackle them in due time.

D2: Error catalog, tests

The error catalog is compiled and in Rakudo's src/core/ It is not comprehensive (ie doesn't cover all possible errors that are thrown from current compilers), but the grant request only required an "initial" catalog. It is certainly enough to demonstrate the feasibility of the design, and to handle many very common cases. I will certainly summarize it in the S32::Exception document.

Tests are in the roast repository. At the time of writing there are 343 tests (Update 2012-06-04: 411 tests), of which Rakudo passes nearly all (the few failures are due to misparses, which cause wrong parse errors to be generated). They cover both the exceptions API and the individual exception types.

D3: Implementation, tests, documentation

The meat of the implementation is done. Not all exceptions thrown from the setting are typed yet, about 30 remain (plus a few for internal errors that don't make sense to improve much). (Update 2012-06-04: all of these 30 errors now throw typed exceptions too). The tests mentioned above already cover several RT tickets where people complained about wrong or less-than-awesome errors. Documentation is still missing, though I have given a walk through the process of adding a new typed exception to Rakudo on IRC, which might serve as a starting point for such documentation.

So in summary, still missing are

  • Finish changing text based exceptions to typed exceptions in CORE
  • Documenting the error catalog in S32::Exception
  • Documentation for compiler writers and test writers

A surprisingly short list :-)

I'd also like to mention that I did several things related to exceptions which were not covered by this grant report:

  • greatly improved backtrace printer
  • Many exceptions from within the compilation process (such as parse errors, redeclarations etc.) are now typed.
  • I enabled typed exceptions thrown from C code, and as a proof of concept I ported all user-visible exceptions in perl6.ops to their intended types.
  • Exceptions from within the meta model can now be caught in the "actions" part of the compiler, augmented with line numbers and file name and re-thrown

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