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Archive for December, 2009

Snarl: A Growl-like notification system for Squeak Smalltalk

I’ve just released Snarl, a Growl-like notification system for Squeak. To use it,

Snarl label: ‘Something happened’
body: ‘What could it have been?’

I’ve recorded a quick demo:

(It’s pretty blurry, so I’ve uploaded it to vimeo too, but it’s still in the queue for conversion; when it’s converted, it’ll be here.)

The code is three classes: one tiny convenience class, Snarl; one TextMorph subclass, which does almost all the work; and one helper TextAttribute subclass, for fading out coloured text along with the rest of each notification. In total, it’s 205 lines of text, including documentation.


Merry Christmas: Toke — Tokyo Cabinet driver for Erlang

Tokyo Cabinet is a rather excellent key-value store, with the ability to write to disk in a sane way (i.e. not just repeatedly dumping the same data over and over again), operate in bounded memory, and go really fast. I like it a lot, and there’s a likelihood that there’ll be a RabbitMQ plugin fairly soon that’ll use Tokyo Cabinet to improve the new persister yet further. Toke is an Erlang linked-in driver that allows you to use Tokyo Cabinet from Erlang. Read more…


RabbitMQ at the Skills Matter Functional Programming Exchange

Today I was lucky enough to give a talk at the Skills Matter Functional Programming Exchange. I talked about resource management in RabbitMQ and how we’re improving this in upcoming versions of RabbitMQ. All the sessions were videotaped and it would seem that a podcast will be going up shortly. In the mean time you can have a look at the slides if you want to.

The attendance was really good and the talks well received. There was a good range of talks, from some very practical and pragmatic such as my own, to slightly more theoretical talks. It was great to see Haskell, Erlang and F# being discussed outside of a purely academic setting and great to see so many companies and organisations getting really interested in functional programming and coming along to see how other people were making the most of it.

The Park Bench session was also good fun, with a good range of questions and experience being demonstrated by all. A good, fun atmosphere, and I’m sure all enjoyed the day.


Testing Times in Java

How do you test a Java application that uses the current date or time as the basis for a calculation? I’ve seen a couple of ways:

  1. Make sure all date/time operations use a service class to get the current date, which is then mocked
  2. Adjust the system clock

Option 1) is a PITA for an existing codebase, or if any 3rd party libraries do date processing. Option 2) rules out any sensible automation, especially on a machine used for anything else.

Another option is to mock system date related classes. JMockit is a mock testing framework that uses Java 5 instrumentation to allow bytecode to be modified at runtime. Using this, known date values can be inserted into tests with no interference with production code or rewriting of legacy code. If Java 6 is available, it is possible to go further and mock the System class itself.

Read more…

Lee Coomber

Getting into Debian

mercurial-server is an official Debian package! Right now it’s only in the “unstable” distribution, but all being well it will slowly percolate forward, first into “testing”, then eventually into the stable distributions of not only Debian but Ubuntu and other Debian-based systems.

Getting it into Debian was quite a long and strange process; the care that Debian takes over package quality puts quite a burden on individual developers in order to minimize the burden on overworked Debian staff. I’ll talk through the steps I took here, eliding over any wrong turns of course, in the hope that the way I did it might be useful to others.
Read more…

Paul Crowley

Garbage Collection in Erlang

The new persister that is being developed for RabbitMQ is nearing completion and is currently working its way through code review and QA. It’s being pretty thoroughly tested and generally stressed to see what could go wrong. One of the issues that we’ve come across in the past has to do with Erlang’s garbage collector: indeed there’s code in at least one area of RabbitMQ written in a specific (and non-obvious) way in order to work around issues with Erlang’s garbage collection of binary data.

We had noticed in the release notes for Erlang R13B03, that it mentions improvements to the garbage collector, and today when testing with both R13B02 and R13B03, we noticed substantial improvements with R13B03. The new persister is able to send out to disk partial queues. Thus a queue can have a mix of messages – some just in RAM, some just on disk, and some somewhere in between. This is separate from whether or not a message is marked persistent. The proportion pushed out to disk varies smoothly with the amount of RAM left available to Erlang: the idea is to avoid flooding the disk with enormous amounts of write requests which would potentially stall the queue, and cause blockages elsewhere in RabbitMQ.

The test I’d written used the Erlang experimental client. It had one channel, it created a queue, consumed from the queue, set QoS prefetch count to 10, and then went into a loop. In this loop, it would publish two 1KB messages, then receive 1 message, and acknowledge it. This way the queue would always grow, and memory would be fairly fragmented (the gap from the head of the queue to the tail of the queue would increase steadily as the head is moving forwards at twice the rate of the tail). With no memory limit, I saw the following (I manually killed this after the queue grew to just over 350,000 messages long (which means 700,000 publishes, and 350,000 acknowledgements)):

Memory usage with no memory limit set

Note that for R13B03, the garbage collector is much more active, and in general memory usage is certainly more fine-grained. In this test, all the messages were always in RAM, no messages were pushed out to disk. Flat-size refers to the value returned by pushing the queue state through erts-debug:flat-size/1 which returns the amount of memory used by the data structure.

Next, I imposed a limit of about 200MB and did the same test. With R13B02, it got stuck after just over 260,000 messages: it was no longer able to reclaim any further space, and so flow-control kicked in and stopped the publisher, game over. With R13B03 it soldiered merrily on – I ended up manually killing it somewhere past the 1million message mark as I was getting bored. It’s also very clear to see how with R13B03, it successfully kicks down to pushing all the messages out to disk (which is why the size of the state suddenly gets very small – the memory growth from there on is due to an ets table). That’s certainly still possible with R13B02, and I have seen that happen, but there’s much greater risk, as seen here, of it getting stuck before that happens.

Memory usage with 200MB limit

In short, the garbage collector in R13B03 seems a solid improvement. Even if you’re not using the experimental new persister, I suspect you’ll gain from upgrading to R13B03. And yes, that really is 1-million 1KB messages successfully sent into a queue using under 200MB of RAM.




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