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Pretty Printing our Pretty Program with Pretty

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. You’re making some complicated data structure in Haskell. Something like the following:

data Expr = EVal Int | EIdent String | EFunc String [String] [Expr] | ECall String [Expr] | ELet String Expr | EWhile Expr [Expr] | EShizzy Expr Expr Expr | EIfElse Expr Expr Expr | EReturn Expr deriving (Show)

You throw that deriving (Show) because it’ll totally help you debug! Time goes by, and you use your fancy Expr to write a robust imperative function:

test = EFunc "testFunc" ["gatito", "moogle"] [ELet "foo" $ ECall "petCat" $ [EIdent "gatito", EIdent "moogle"], EWhile (ECall "catsPlacated" []) [EShizzy (EIfElse (EVal 5) (ELet "foo" $ ECall "malloc" [ECall "sizeof" [EVal 2]]) (ECall "petCat" $ [EIdent "gatito", EIdent "moogle"])) (ECall "petCat" $ [EIdent "gatito", EIdent "moogle"]) (ELet "foo" $ ECall "safeLeakMemory" []) ], EReturn $ EIdent "foo" ]

You’re still good, you got Rainbow Delimiters to keep that all sorted. Now, more time goes by and you’re in the repl and something doesn’t work. What was this test thing again?

*Shizzy> test EFunc "testFunc" ["gatito","moogle"] [ELet "foo" (ECall "petCat" [EIdent "gatito",EIdent "moogle"]),EWhile (ECall "catsPlacated" []) [EShizzy (EIfElse (EVal 5) (ELet "foo" (ECall "malloc" [ECall "sizeof" [EVal 2]])) (ECall "petCat" [EIdent "gatito",EIdent "moogle"])) (ECall "petCat" [EIdent "gatito",EIdent "moogle"]) (ELet "foo" (ECall "safeLeakMemory" []))],EReturn (EIdent "foo")]

Well that’s unfortunate. What do we do now? Aside from the fact that this is completely useless to us, this certainly wouldn’t be OK to print out to a user…

The good news is that pretty printing is a snap thanks to the HughesPJ Pretty Printer. One simply has to implement the Pretty class for one’s type, and then they can get some reasonable output:

testFunc(gatito moogle) { let foo = petCat(gatito moogle) while(catsPlacated()) { +-- { if (5) let foo = malloc(sizeof(2)) else petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { let foo = safeLeakMemory() } +-- } produceResult foo }

Let’s see how we get there, constructor by constructor.

EVal and EIdent

First up are the easy ones: EVal and EIdent, which represent bare values:

instance Pretty Expr where pPrint (EVal v) = int v pPrint (EIdent s) = text s

First we have to declare our instance, but next we can just print the values. int pretty prints an integer, and text pretty prints a string.

EFunc and ECall

Next we have function calls and definitions:

pPrint (EFunc n a b) = text n <> (parens $ hsep $ fmap text a) <+> lbrace $+$ (nest 2 $ vcat $ fmap pPrint b) $+$ rbrace pPrint (ECall n a) = text n <> (parens $ hsep $ fmap pPrint a)

There are some operators here that require explanation. All of these operators have type (Doc -> Doc -> Doc ), and are used to combine two Doc into one. A Doc is the type of thing that can be pretty printed, which is returned by calls to pPrint and various other primitive pretty printing functions provided by the library (like text and int)

<> glues the thing on the left next to the thing on the right with no space in between, where <+> does the same, but leaves 1 space in between. Similarly, $$ and $+$ glues the thing on the right to the bottom of the thing on the left. $+$ allows the right hand side to overlap with the left (more on this later). There are also hsep, and vcat which takes lists of Doc. These functions work similarly to <>, $$ and friends; they glue Docs together horizontally and vertically. *cat are the non-plus variants, and *sep are the plus variants.

Other functions introduced here are parens, which takes a Doc and surrounds it by parens. lbrace and rbrace insert { and } respectively. There is a braces function as well, but I didn’t use it because I want to control how the braces are shown. Finally, we have nest, which indents its argument. This function is great because it takes into account outer nest calls, so we can get arbitrary nesting.

ELet, EWhile, EIfElse, and EReturn

pPrint (ELet n e) = text "let" <+> text n <+> equals <+> pPrint e pPrint (EWhile p b) = text "while" <> (parens $ pPrint p) <+> lbrace $+$ (nest 2 $ vcat $ fmap pPrint b) $+$ rbrace pPrint (EIfElse p t f) = text "if" <+> (parens $ pPrint p) <+> pPrint t $+$ text "else" <+> pPrint f pPrint (EReturn v) = text "produceResult" <+> pPrint v

Nothing particularly fancy here. in ELet, we have equals which inserts an equals sign and we have more nesting throughout. As you can see, this is very simple once you get the hang of it; there are few abstract instances involved, and most functions do what they say.


As we all know, any programming language that doesn’t have Shizzy statements isn’t worth knowing, so of course I implement them:

pPrint (EShizzy u d t) = onFire $+$ (nest 6 (lbrace $+$ (nest 2 (pPrint u)) $+$ rbrace)) $+$ noRules $+$ (lbrace $+$ (nest 2 (pPrint d)) $+$ rbrace) $+$ noRules $+$ (nest 6 (lbrace $+$ (nest 2 (pPrint t)) $+$ rbrace)) $+$ onFire where onFire = nest 2 $ text "+--" noRules = nest 2 $ (text "+++" $$ text "+ +" $$ text "+++")

This produces the following output as we’d expect:

+-- { if (5) let foo = malloc(sizeof(2)) else petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { let foo = safeLeakMemory() } +--

and this gives me a good opportunity to demonstrate the difference between $$ and $+$. Let’s swap all the plus variants out:

onFire $$ (nest 6 (lbrace $$ (nest 2 (pPrint u)) $$ rbrace)) $$ noRules $$ (lbrace $$ (nest 2 (pPrint d)) $$ rbrace) $$ noRules $$ (nest 6 (lbrace $$ (nest 2 (pPrint t)) $$ rbrace)) $$ onFire where onFire = nest 2 $ text "+--" noRules = nest 2 $ (text "+++" $$ text "+ +" $$ text "+++")

Now, the pretty printer outputs the following:

+-- { if (5) let foo = malloc(sizeof(2)) else petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { petCat(gatito moogle) } +++ + + +++ { let foo = safeLeakMemory() } +--

Basically, if something is nested far enough that it would appear after the end of the left hand side argument, it is pasted to the right of it instead of below it. Honestly, it’s pretty strange behavior to me, I say just avoid $$ for the most part and you’ll be fine. It’s not a huge stretch for me to think of a use for this, but I think I’d just use <> or <+> if I wanted this to happen.

Regardless, I’ve worked on projects that use this pretty printing library before, and now that I’ve given it a shot I know why!

Fun With Makefiles

Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying my hand at some graphics programming. After spending the better part of yesterday trying to figure out how to even get started, I think I have a way ahead.

Building hello triangle using OpenGL is a fairly involved task. First, you need to settle on a graphics library. There are two choices here: OpenGL and DirectX. Obviously, I’ll be selecting OpenGL in order to avoid Microsoft vendor lock-in.

Next, you need a library to display a window for you. Sure, you could do it yourself, but then you’d get bogged down in a quagmire of platform specific issues. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I don’t care for this sort of platform dependent nonsense, so I’ve tenatively settled on SDL 2. SDL is a cross platform multimedia library that handles sound, input, window creation, and the like. I plan to use this, in conjunction with an OpenGL context to do my work.

After you have that in order, you need an OpenGL Function Loader. Apparently the folks at Khronos were inspired by DMP Photobooth’s module system, there isn’t some opengl.h file you can just include and get your functions: you get to call dlopen and use dlsym to get function pointers. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if there were just a few functions, but there are thousands of them. In light of this, I’ve elected to go with GL3W for the time being. GL3W is a simple python script that generates a .c file containig the function pointers, and a .h to include.

All of this leads us to the topic of today’s post. How do we build this mess of libraries and random .c files?

We’ll Make it Work

The obvious answer here is that we need to use some sort of build system. Given my past experience with the abominations produced by NetBeans, I’ve elected to roll my own. Let’s take a look:


First, we have the default goal. By default, the default goal is the first one in the file. However, I like to make things explicit. Here, we set the default goal to “all”, which builds the code for all targets.

Next, we define some variables:

CC = gcc COMPILE_FLAGS = -c -g -Wall -Wextra -std=c11 $(OPTIMIZE_LEVEL) LINK_FLAGS = -g -Wall -Wextra -std=c11 $(OPTIMIZE_LEVEL) OPTIMIZE_LEVEL = -Og LINKER_LIBS = -lSDL2 -ldl -lGL RM = rm -f UNIVERSAL = gl3w gl_includes.h

The first variable, CC is built-in, and defaults to gcc. Again, I’m redefining it here to be explicit. After that, I define COMPILE_FLAGS and LINK_FLAGS, which are the flags I want to pass when I’m compiling someing to be link at a future time, and when I’m compiling and linking respectively. I define OPTIMIZE_LEVEL separately, because I want to potentially change it, and I don’t want to have to worry about if the two are in sync.

LINKER_LIBS are the libraries I’m going to be using. RM is the rm command, with flags, to be used in the clean target. UNIVERSAL is a list of files and targets that all buid targets depend on.

all : chapter1 chapter2 chapter3 chapter4 chapter5 chapter6 chapter7 chapter8 \ chapter9 chapter10 chapter11 chapter12 chapter13 chapter14 chapter15 \ chapter16 chapter17 chapter1 : $(UNIVERSAL) chapter1.c @echo "Building chapter 1:" $(CC) -o chapter1 $(LINK_FLAGS) chapter1.c gl3w.o $(LINKER_LIBS) ... chapter17 : $(UNIVERSAL) @echo "Building chapter 17:"

Here we have the meat of our makefile. The tutorial I’m following has 17 chapters, and I’ll be building code from each. We have an “all” target that builds each chapter, and we have a target for each chapter that builds an executable. Each chapter target depends on UNIVERSAL and its own files.

gl3w : gl3w.c GL/gl3w.h GL/glcorearb.h $(CC) $(COMPILE_FLAGS) gl3w.c

Here we build the source files that GL3W produces. I’m compiling it into a .o file so that it can be linked into the code for the various chapters.

clean: @echo "Deleting .o files..." $(RM) *.o @echo "Deleting core..." $(RM) core @echo "Deleting chapters..." $(RM) chapter1 $(RM) chapter2 $(RM) chapter3 $(RM) chapter4 $(RM) chapter5 $(RM) chapter6 $(RM) chapter7 $(RM) chapter8 $(RM) chapter9 $(RM) chapter10 $(RM) chapter11 $(RM) chapter12 $(RM) chapter13 $(RM) chapter14 $(RM) chapter15 $(RM) chapter16 $(RM) chapter17

Finally, I have my clean target. Here we delete all the cruft that builds up in the build process.

It’s a simple makefile, but I feel it’ll make this process easier. I can just do the exercises and hopefully spend less time fiddling with gcc.

On ArrayLists and Vectors

Long ago, when I first started doing Java, I struggled against Java’s limitations regarding the resizing of arrays. Eventually after poking around for solutions, I found the ArrayList. Before that, I found the Vector, but for whatever reason, NetBeans was saying that Vector was deprecated, so I settled on ArrayList, and it was fine.

A few years later, I took my first class on C++, and learned about the std::vector. I was also introduced to the concepts of the vector and the linked list. Needless to say, I was confused. If vectors and linked lists aren’t the same thing, then what is this ArrayList thing? At the time, I elected not to pursue the question, needing to focus on figuring out these “pointer” things they were making us learn. I put it out of my mind.

Flash forward to today. This morning I was travelling the internet, and I came across a forum thread. The topic of the ArrayList came up. Curiosity finally overcame me, and I looked into the issue.

So, About Those ArrayLists…

The Java Collections framework is broken up into various datatype interfaces. There is an interface for lists, queues, maps, sets, and deqeues.

You’ll notice that there is no vector interface. While a list and an array have different semantics and use cases, you can use them roughly in the same way. “Array indexing” can be implemented on a list by iterating to the nth node, and arrays can be traversed like a list. Since there’s nothing a list can do that a vector can’t and vice versa, it follows that they can both implement the same interface. Sun had to make a choice: name that interface “list” or “vector”. They went with list.

Given that Java’s vector type implements the list interface, it follows that they would reflect that in the name: ArrayList. For all intents and purposes, ArrayList is equivalent to C++’s std::vector. ArrayList implements the Collections framework’s list interface, but it is a growable array. It behaves like a vector, indexing is cheap, resizing is expensive. Java also provides a LinkedList that behaves like a linked list.

So, what about Java’s Vector? It seems that Vector predates the Collections framework. After the introduction of the Collections framework Vector was retrofitted to be a part of it, also implementing the list interface. So, what’s the difference between ArrayList and Vector? Vector is synchronized, and therefore is safe to use in threaded code. Due to this it is significantly slower than ArrayList.

Simply put: use ArrayList in single-threaded code, and Vector in multi-threaded code.

Why Names Matter

This is why names matter. One might not think much of it, but imagine how many hiring managers would be out an interview question if ArrayList and Vector had been named Vector and SynchronizedVector respectively?

DMP Photo Booth 1.0

Well, the day has come and gone. DMP Photo Booth’s final test on June 21st went off without issue, and DMP Photo Booth has left Beta and is now considered “production ready”. The initial 1.0 release can be found on GitHub.

The significance of June 21st is the very reason DMP Photo Booth was created; the 21st is the day of my wedding. My wife wanted a photo booth for the reception. We looked into renting a photo booth, but it turns out that they run around $1,000. I turned to open source. Some quick googling turned up some options, but they were all personal projects or out of date. Sure I could get somebody else’s project working, but what’s the fun in that? I decided that we didn’t need to rent one, or download one, I could build it!

In late 2013, I set to work in earnest. I had a couple of months of downtime in school, and since I’m not currently working it was the perfect time. I decided I had three main objectives for this project: get some arduino experience, get some GTK+ experience, and do this all as portably as possible. I had initially decided to mostly ignore GLib and focus on GTK, but slowly I grew to appreciate GLib for what it is: the standard library that C never had. First I used GModule to handle shared libraries in a portable manner. Next I decided to use GLib primitives to keep from having to deal with cross-platform type wonkiness. Next, having grown tired of dealing with return codes, I refactored the project to use GLib’s exception replacement: GError.

Lessons Learned

It’s not all roses and puppies though. There are certainly things I’d do differently. DMP Photo Booth is developed in an Object Oriented style, passing opaque structs with “method” functions that operate on them. Each component of the program are organized into their own source file with file scoped globals scattered throughout. Said globals are protected by mutexes to create a semblance of thread safety. That said, threading issues have been a major thorn in my side. Long story short: I regret this design choice. While I still feel that this is the correct way to structure C code, and that if globals are required, this is the correct way to handle them; I feel that I should have made more of an effort to limit side effects. Recently, I’ve spent some time doing functional programming, and if I could do it again I’d try to write in a more functional style. Fortunately for me, this is something that a little refactoring could help with.

Additionally, one thing I thought would be a major help is something that began to be a major thorn in my side: NetBeans. As the size of the project grew, NetBeans got slower and slower. It seemed that I spent more time fiddling with IDE settings than actually coding. Even worse is that the IDE-generated makefile is so convoluted that it’s extremely difficult to modify by hand in a satisfying way. I’ve always coded with and IDE so I wouldn’t have even considered not using one, but then I spent some time with Haskell. One of Haskell’s “problems” is that it doesn’t have good IDE support. It doesn’t seem like any IDE really handles it well, so most people use Emacs. Personally, I haven’t really warmed up to Emacs, but GEdit has syntax highlighting for Haskell and a built-in terminal for GHCI. GEdit also has syntax highlighting for C. Next time, I will seriously consider using a lighter-weight text editor for a C project. All this said, I think NetBeans for Java remains the way to go.

What’s Next

Like any program, version 1.0 is just one of many versions. There certainly remains a lot of work to do with DMP Photo Booth. Some major items you are likely to see whenever I get around to working on DMP Photo Booth some more:

Options Dialog

I think anybody who has seen it will agree: the options dialog in DMP Photo Booth is bad. It’s poorly organized, and kind of wonky. Personally, I modify settings using the .rc file, which is telling. This is certainly a high-priority improvement.

Functional Refactor

Like I said above, the code could use a pass to limit side effects. Funtions need to have their side effects limited, and globals need to be eliminated unless absolutely necessary. However, C is not a functional language. While one could argue that function pointers enable functional programming in C, this is a very pedantic argument. I won’t be going crazy with functional programming techniques. There will be no Monads, or for loops being turned into mappings of function pointers.

Optional Module API

An idea I’ve had on the back burner for a while is an optional module API. This would be used for very specific quality-of-life things. For instance, a module could provide a GTK widget to be shown in the options dialog. Any module that doesn’t want to implement any or all of the optional API can just ignore it. The module loading function will gracefully handle the dlsym failure, just treating it as it is: declining to implement the API. I have no plans to change the current existing API, so all you module developers can rest easy!

User Interface Module

It occurred to me that it might be good to have a UI module. This would provide the UI, and wouldn’t be tied to the trigger/printer/camera module start/stop system. This module would be loaded at startup and unloaded on shutdown. This would allow the Photo Booth to use different widget toolkits: QT, Curses, Cocoa, WinForms, or whatever else. Under this scheme, the current GTK+ interface would be abstracted into the reference UI Module.

List as a Monad

Much ink has been spilled on the subject of “Lists as Monads”. Just the fact that they are of course, not what it means for you. This doesn’t really seem surprising to me; there are better monads to use to describe how monads work. Additionally, lists have their own special functions for working with them; you don’t fmap a list, you just call map.

Presumably, Lists as Monads is something that seasoned Monadimancers understand. Maybe it’s some sort of rite of passage. But no more. Today I’ll shed light on the arcane mysteries of Lists as Monads.


But first we need a problem to solve. For my example I’ll be using the cartesian product of two lists. The cartesian product of two sets (we’ll be using lists) is defined as:

A X B is the set of all ordered pairs (a, b) such that: a is a member of set A and b is a member of set B

…translated into Haskell we should get a function with the following signature:

cartProd :: [a] -> [b] -> [(a, b)]

How might this function look? Well, we’d need three functions. The first function should have the signature:

cartProd'' :: a -> b -> (a, b)

This function is pretty straight forward, it pairs an a and a b. Next we’d need the function:

cartProd' :: [b] -> a -> [(a, b)]

This function maps (cartProd'' a) over b, producing the list [(a, b)]. Finally, we need a function to tie it all together:

cartProd :: [a] -> [b] -> [(a, b)]

This function maps (cartProd' b) over a, then concats the resulting list of lists. An implementation might look like this:

cartProd :: [a] -> [b] -> [(a, b)] cartProd l r = concat $ map (cartProd'' r) l where cartProd' :: [b] -> a -> [(a, b)] cartProd' r l = map (cartProd''' l) r where cartProd'' :: a -> b -> (a, b) cartProd'' l r = (l, r)

Did you go cross-eyed? Not exactly the most concise function that’s ever been written. Surely there is a better way…

Binding Our Lists

You may remember a few weeks back I talked about using the Maybe Monad. The gist of that post being that if you’re inside a do block, you can treat your Maybe as if it were just a plain value. It turns out that we can do something similar with Lists.

The Monad instance for [] is somewhat complicated, but it’s operation is straight forward. If >>= takes a Monad a, a function that takes an a and returns a Monad b, and returns a Monad b, what happens if we bind a simple function to [1]?

Prelude> [1] >>= (\a -> return $ a + 1) [2]

…ok, so it added 1 to 1, and stuffed it into a list. Seems pretty straight forward. Let’s try something a little more complicated:

Prelude> [1, 2] >>= (\a -> return $ a + 1) [2,3]

…so this time it added 1 to each list node, as if we’d called map ((+) 1) [1, 2]. Let’s try something else:

Prelude> [1] >>= (\a -> [(a + 1), (a - 1)]) [2,0]

…this time we tried it in reverse. We bound [1] to a function that returns a list with two elements. The resulting list contained two elements. Again, nothing ground breaking here, but what if we do both?

Prelude> [1, 2] >>= (\a -> [(a + 1), (a - 1)]) [2,0,3,1]

…now we get a list with four elements: 1+1, 1-1, 2+1, and 2-1. To replicate this behavior we can’t just map the lambda over the original list. We need to add a call to concat. Let’s expand this our a bit further:

Prelude> [1, 2] >>= (\a -> [(a + 1), (a - 1)]) >>= (\b -> [b, b]) [2,2,0,0,3,3,1,1]

…all simple functions, but if we were to try to do this without the use of List’s monadic functions it’d become a mess like my cartProd function. Speaking of which…

The Better Way

Getting back to our original topic. Now that we have a feel for how List’s monadic interface works, how could we re-implement cartProd to not be terrible? Simple:

cartProd :: [a] -> [b] -> [(a, b)] cartProd l r = do l' <- l r' <- r [(l', r')]

I’m often hesitant to toot my own horn and call something I wrote “elegant”, but it’s hard to argue that this function isn’t. In three short lines, I managed to re-implement that nested monstrosity I wrote before. There is one fairly massive gotcha here…

In the first and second lines, we bind our two lists to a label. It’s important to note that the order of these matters. The lists will be cycled through from the bottom up. Meaning that for each element of l, all elements of r will be evaluated. For example, using our cartProd:

Prelude> cartProd [1,2] [3,4] [(1,3),(1,4),(2,3),(2,4)]

1 is paired with 3, then 1 is paired with 4, then 2 is paired with 3 and 2 is paired with 4. Were we to swap the order in which we bind l and r to look like this:

cartProd :: [a] -> [b] -> [(a, b)] cartProd l r = do r' <- r l' <- l [(l', r')]

Then the output would look like this:

Prelude> cartProd [1,2] [3,4] [(1,3),(2,3),(1,4),(2,4)]

1 is paired with 3, then 2 is paired with 3, then 1 is paired with 4, then 2 is paired with 4. Before the first element of the tuple was grouped together where here the second element is. For our purposes, both results are valid per the definition of cartesian product, but that may not hold for you so be careful.

Yet Another Aeson Tutorial

Lately I’ve been trying to make sense of Aeson, a prominent JSON parsing library for Haskell. If you do some googling you’ll see two competing notions: 1) Aeson is a powerful library, but it’s documentation is terrible and 2) about 10,000 Aeson tutorials. Even the Aeson hackage page has a huge “How To Use This Library” section with several examples. These examples usually take the form of:

“Make a type for your JSON data!”

data Contrived = Contrived { field1 :: String , field2 :: String } deriving (Show)

“Write a FromJSON instance!”

instance FromJSON Contrived where parseJSON (Object v) = Contrived <$> v .: "field1" <*> v .: "field2"


I’ll spare you the long form, other people have done it already and I’m sure you’ve seen it already. What I quickly noticed was that this contrived example wasn’t quite cutting it. I’ve had some challenges that I’ve had to overcome. I’d like to share some of the wisdom I’ve accumulated on this subject.

Nested JSON

The first Problem I’ve run into is the nested JSON. Let’s take a look at an example:

{ "error": { "message": "Message describing the error", "type": "OAuthException", "code": 190 , "error_subcode": 460 } }

That is an example of an exception that can get returned by any Facebook Graph API call. You’ll notice that the exception data is actually contained in a nested JSON object. If passed to a parseJSON function, the only field retrievable by operator .: is “error”, which returns the JSON object. We could define two types and two instances for this like:

data EXTopLevel = EXTopLevel { getEx :: FBException } deriving (Show) data FBException = FBException { exMsg :: String , exType :: String , exCode :: Int , exSubCode :: Maybe Int } deriving (Show) instance FromJSON EXTopLevel where parseJSON (Object v) = EXTopLevel <$> v .: "error" instance FromJSON FBException where parseJSON (Object v) = FBException <$> v .: "message" <*> v .: "type" <*> v .: "code" <*> v .:? "error_subcode"

In this case, you could decode to a EXTopLevel, and call getEx to get the actual exception. However, it doesn’t take a doctor of computer science to see that this is silly. Nobody needs the top-level object, and this is a silly amount of boilerplate. The solution? We can use our friend the bind operator. Aeson Objects are instances of Monad, and it turns out that it’s bind function allows us to drill down into objects. We can re-implement that mess above simply as:

data FBException = FBException { exMsg :: String , exType :: String , exCode :: Int , exSubCode :: Maybe Int } deriving (Show) instance FromJSON FBException where parseJSON (Object v) = FBException <$> (e >>= (.: "message")) <*> (e >>= (.: "type")) <*> (e >>= (.: "code")) <*> (e >>= (.:? "error_subcode")) where e = (v .: "error")

Much better right? I thought so too.

Types With Multiple Constructors

The next problem I’d like to talk about is using types with multiple constructors. Let’s take a look at an example:

{ "value": "EVERYONE" }

When creating a new album of facebook, the API needs you to set a privacy on the album. This setting is set using this JSON object. This would seem to be a trivial case for Aeson:

data Privacy = Privacy { value :: String } deriving (Show) instance FromJSON Privacy where parseJSON (Object v) = Privacy <$> v .: "value" <*>

Unfortunately, the following is not a valid privacy setting:

"{ "value": "NOT_THE_NSA" }

However, our Privacy type would allow that. In reality, this should be an enumeration:

data Privacy = Everyone | AllFriends | FriendsOfFriends | Self

But how would you write a FromJSON instance for that? The method we’ve been using doesn’t work, and parseJSON takes and returns magical internal types that you can’t really do anything with. I was at a loss for a while, and even considered using the method I posted above. Finally, the answer hit me. Like many things in Haskell, the answer was stupidly simple; just define a function to create the privacy object, and use that in the parseJSON function instead of the type constructor! My solution looks like this:

instance FromJSON Privacy where parseJSON (Object v) = createPrivacy v .: "value" createPrivacy :: String -> Privacy createPrivacy "EVERYONE" = Everyone createPrivacy "ALL_FRIENDS" = AllFriends createPrivacy "FRIENDS_OF_FRIENDS" = FriendsOfFriends createPrivacy "SELF" = Self createPrivacy _ = error "Invalid privacy setting!"

If the parseJSON needs a singular function to create a type, and you have more than one type constructor for your type, you can wrap your type constructors in one function that picks and uses the correct one. Your type function doesn’t need to know about Aeson; Aeson magically turns it’s parser into whatever type your function calls for.

Doesn’t Play Nice With Others

For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking into making a Printer Module in Haskell. I must say, it’s been a pretty miserable experience. Not the Haskell part, that was ok. No, my issue is more basic. It seems that Haskell doesn’t like to share.

My plan was to build a module in Haskell to do the printer logic, then link that module as a library into C, which will be imported by the Core as normal. A preliminary look about the internet confirms that this is supported behavior. There are a few trivial examples peppered throughout the internet; so I set to work, confident that this was a solvable problem.

Giving Cabal A Shot

Cabal is Haskell’s package management program. In addition to this, it serves as Haskell’s answer to make. With a simple call to:

cabal init

You are presented with a series of questions about your package. After filling out the form (and selecting library), Cabal creates a Setup.hs file. Calling:

runhaskell Setup.hs configure runhaskell Setup.hs build

…produces a .a library for your package. Success, right? Unfortunately when you try to load that you get a linker error stating something to the effect of “can not be used when making a shared object; recompile with -fPIC“. After hours of research I have determined that this is because the Haskell’s libraries have not been compiled using the -fPIC, which prevents them from being used with a static library.

Trying GHC

The Glasgow Haskell Compiler can be used to compile libraries directly. Having given up on cabal, I decided to try to cut out the middle man and use GHC. After much tinkering, I came up with a Makefile that worked, which I will preserve here for posterity:

COMPILER=ghc HS_RTS=HSrts-ghc7.6.3 all: "${COMPILER}" --make -no-hs-main -dynamic \ -l${HS_RTS} -shared -fPIC dmp_printer_module.c \ DmpPrinterModule.hs -o ${OUTPUT}

This makefile compiles any required Haskell scripts, as well as a C “glue” source file that initializes and finalizes the Haskell environment. More on what goes in that file can be found in the GHC documentation.

Cool, good to go, right? Wrong.

Couldn’t Find That Dyn Library

So, I started adding things to the module to make sure it doesn’t break. After adding some dependencies, and trying to recomplie, I start seeing this error:

Could not find module `[SOME_MODULE]' Perhaps you haven't installed the "dyn" libraries for package `[SOME_PACKAGE]'?

After more hours of research, it turns out that for a module to be used in a shared library, it must be compiled as one. Seems logical, but that would imply that all module developers have to go through this nightmare. And the developers of any dependencies they use have to have done so. And so on…

Since even Prelude hadn’t done so, I set off to figure this out. After poking about, it turns out that Debian provides a package ghc-dynamic, which provides the dyn libraries from Base. I installed it, and things were checking out. However, the dependencies I was using still did not work.

After some more reasearch, I found a suggestion that I re-install all my Cabal packages using the --enable-shared flag, which would provide me with my dyn libraries. I gave it a shot, but since my dependencies’ dependencies hadn’t done so, I got the same errors.

Some more research suggested that I could delete the .ghc folder in my home folder, then re-install all Cabal packages. This would force them to rebuild. However, I encountered the same issues.

The Man In Black Fled Across The Desert…

I’m beginning to feel a bit like Roland, ceaselessly chasing after the Dark Tower. Every time I get there, my journey starts over again. I clear one roadblock, and there’s another there waiting for me.

It seems like there isn’t any real interest in calling Haskell from C, and I must say that I am extremely disappointed. Calling C from Haskell works great, but when asked to share its toys with C, Haskell takes its ball and goes home.

I’m sure it’s possible to do meaningful work in Haskell, and call that from C. However, the amount of work I would have to do to attain that goal is not something I’m willing to accept. For this reason I am shelving Haskell for the time being. Maybe I’ll pick it again for some other project, but it’s not a good fit for DMP Photo Booth.

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