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Monday, October 19, 2009

Matrixy and Parrot-Linear-Algebra

I wrote a post about the current state of Matrixy and my ongoing plans for its development. The feedback was swift and very positive. I've now moved Matrixy to Github. In addition I separated out the CLAPACK and CBLAS library binding stuff (what little there was) into another repo, also on Github. The library package will be known by the absolutely uncreative name "parrot-linear-algebra". I might rename it if somebody comes up with something very clever, but a nice simple utilitarian name suits the project just fine for now. It is very simple and doesn't actually "do" anything yet, so best to worry about creative branding later when there is something to show.

I was also able to find some interested participants, and have handed out some commit bits to dukeleto, darbelo, and desertm4x to help work on these things. All of them have shown a lot of interest in the projects, and I'm hoping we can attract a few more people as well. Matrixy is interesting for people who have ever used M before and would like to use it to write programs on top of Parrot. This is a relatively limited set, as I've mentioned before M is a bit of a niche language. However, the linear algebra package has huge potential to affect a number of people, because it could be integrated into all sorts of other libraries and compiler projects. Of course, the linear algebra package is much less mature then Matrixy is becoming, so we need a lot of help with that.

Parrot-Linear-Algebra Tasklist

These are the things that Parrot-Linear-Algebra needs in the short term:
  1. Get suitable licensing information in place, README, and other metadata. I think I like Artistic2.0 for the license, but I could be persuaded to use an alternative pretty easily.
  2. CLAPACK and CBLAS API functions have a lot of very exotic function signatures. We need to either add permanent NCI bindings to Parrot to handle these or (preferably) give Parrot a proper NCI frame builder to build these on all systems.
  3. We need to write wrappers for all the functions, and there are a LOT of functions to wrap. A nice lazy Wrapper-Builder routine, or some kind of PMC type that could rapidly generate NCI PMCs on demand and cache them would be a nice addition, because it would prevent us from having to create tons of unused and unneeded bindings up front.
  4. We need a proper 2-D matrix data type PMC that will be able to interface quickly with the library wrappers. This is probably the single biggest piece of primary development that we need, at least initially.
Matrixy Tasklist

Here is a list of things that I think Matrixy really needs in the near-term:
  1. It needs to build against an installed Parrot. darbelo was looking at this problem last night and the prognosis is not good: and Makefile both probably need to be completely rewritten. Update: At the time of publishing, darbelo has already fixed this. Matrixy should now build against an installed Parrot at version 1.6.0 or higher.
  2. Set up Matrixy to require the Parrot-Linear-Algebra package. We should be able to detect whether the library exists and (if we have git installed) grab the latest copy from Github.
  3. Set up all the fancy-pants stuff that Rakudo has for requiring a specific version of Parrot (and also Parrot-Linear-Algebra), and being able to check out and build that version if necessary.
Once we have these things, primary feature development will be able to continue like normal and we'll be able to start adding all the missing syntax and cool new stuff that Matrixy really needs.

So Matrixy development will hopefully be getting back into full swing, and I'll be able to add some of the remaining syntax items (variadic input and output arguments, for instance) that I hadn't been able to implement before now. The linear algebra package also needs a lot of work and a few interested volunteers to get up to speed and become a useful resource for other projects.

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