Inside 214-1E

Existential Pontification and Generalized Abstract Digressions


So you want to add a new concurrency primitive to GHC…

One of the appealing things about GHC is that the compiler is surprisingly hackable, even when you don’t want to patch the compiler itself. This hackability comes from compiler plugins, which let you write custom optimization passes on Core, as well as foreign primops, which let you embed low-level C-- to manipulate the low-level representation […]

  • January 1, 2014

Visualizing a block allocator

GHC’s block allocator is a pretty nifty piece of low-level infrastructure. It offers a much more flexible way of managing a heap, rather than trying to jam it all in one contiguous block of memory, and is probably something that should be of general interest to anyone who is implementing low-level code like a runtime. […]

  • October 30, 2013

Of Monadic Fixpoints and Heap Offsets

Here at ICFP, sometimes the so-called “hallway track” is sometimes just as important as the ordinary track. Johan Tibell was wanting to avoid an out-of-line call to allocate function in GHC when a small array of statically known size was allocated. But he found the way that GHC's new code generator handles heap allocation a […]

  • September 24, 2013

Cost semantics for STG in modern GHC

One of the problems with academic publishing is that it’s hard to keep old papers up-to-date. This is the certainly case for this 1995 Sansom paper on profiling non-strict, higher-order functional languages. While the basic ideas of the paper still hold, the actual implementation of cost centers in GHC has changed quite a bit, perhaps […]

  • September 7, 2013

No grammar? No problem!

One day, you’re strolling along fields of code, when suddenly you spot a syntax construct that you don’t understand. Perhaps you’d ask your desk-mate, who’d tell you in an instant what it was. Perhaps your programming toolchain can tell you. (Perhaps the IDE would you mouse over the construct, or you’re using Coq which let’s […]

  • July 2, 2013

Anatomy of an MVar operation

Adam Belay (of Dune fame) was recently wondering why Haskell’s MVars are so slow. “Slow?” I thought, “aren’t Haskell’s MVars supposed to be really fast?” So I did some digging around how MVars worked, to see if I could explain. Let’s consider the operation of the function takeMVar in Control.Concurrent.MVar. This function is very simple, […]

  • May 19, 2013

The GHC scheduler

I’d like to talk about some nitty-gritty details of GHC’s thread scheduling, discovered over the course of working on stride scheduling for GHC. Most of these choices are merely implementation details and are not part of any specification. While these choices shouldn’t be relied upon, they are worth knowing, since many of these details were […]

  • January 28, 2013

Template project for GHC plugins

There is a bit of scaffolding involved with making Core-to-Core transforming GHC plugins, so I made a little project, based off of Max Bolingbroke’s examples, which is a nice, clean template project which you can use to create your own GHC plugins. In particular, it has documentation and pointers to the GHC source as well […]

  • September 28, 2012

In-program GC stats redux

Hac Phi was quite productive (since I managed to get two blog posts out of it!) On Saturday I committed a new module GHC.Stats to base which implemented a modified subset of the API I proposed previously. Here is the API; to use it you’ll need to compile GHC from Git. Please test and let […]

  • August 3, 2011


This post was adapted from a post I made to the glasgow-haskell-users list. According to Control.Exception, the BlockedIndefinitelyOnMVar exception (and related exception BlockedIndefinitelyOnSTM) is thrown when “the thread is blocked on an MVar, but there are no other references to the MVar so it can't ever continue.” The description is actually reasonably precise, but it […]

  • July 27, 2011