The perfect programming language (for me)

Disclaimer: the perfect programming language does not exist. Even if it did, different people want different things, so probably the ideas in this post would not reflect the ideas from different people. With that being said, let’s start with a little background:

I usually prefer dynamic languages. There are also moments when I miss static typing, but most of the time the “code/solution exploration” and a good REPL (and code design) do the job of reasoning about the shape of my data.

Except when it doesn’t. Then, things get ugly. Real fast. There’s always bad code that you need to work with, even one that you wrote about six months ago, and now you’re dumbfounded, looking at the code trying to remember what the hell were you thinking when you wrote the code and why you did think it was a good idea to wrote it that way at all. It happens with everyone. And that’s when static typing can (and will) help: it reasons about your data. You can have a variable named a, but at least you know it have the fields b: String, c: Int, whatever that means. But it helps.

Maybe we could have a language that allows you to turn on/off the typing whenever you wanted? With better REPL support? So, this would be my dream language to work with.
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Clojure, reflection, and performance/memory issues

Right now, I’m working in a game project in Clojure. I don’t really know how it will turn out, but for now I’m just trying to learn a better way of making games.

While working in this project, I found out that my game was consuming a lot of memory. I’m using play-clj library, and I know that it creates a lot of small objects for each render cycle, so that was my first guess.

So, I plugged in a VisualVM in my running game to understand what was happening. In the beginning, nothing seemed to make sense: the heap grew, then was released, the correct and normal cycle of any Java application. Then, I tried a memory profiling and a memory dump. Then, things became interesting.

There were a lot of float[] objects popping up, as I would expect – play-clj uses floats to position elements on the screen, and all the time I found myself trying to coerce doubles to floats. But there was something even stranger there was consuming a lot of memory: instances of java.lang.Method.

For those who don’t know, Clojure interoperability with Java relies on reflection when it can’t resolve a type. To resolve a type means that Clojure can be certain that, at run time, that a specific identifier will be a specific type. So, for the following code:

(ns example.core)

(defn sum-abs [a b]
  (Math/abs (/ a (float b))))

(defn only-abs [a]
  (Math/abs a))

The first method call will use reflection because it knows that the result of a sum will always be a float. The second one has no idea if it will be called with a number or not, so it relies on reflection. It may seem strange, as we’re calling Math/abs, but remember that in Java we can have different methods with the same name, differing only on type signature.

So, to resolve the type, we’ll need type hints. But first, we can test if our code is using reflection using lein check.
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