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Jon ‘maddog’ Hall

Linux Journal

  • IP Voice 2008 - Lisbon, Portugal - March 5th to 6th, 2008 -

    IP Voice 2008 ( will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on March 5th to 6th, 2008, and with the main audience of this conference being targeted to enterprise customers and communication carriers.

    There have been a number of Open Software Phone projects that have happened in the past year and which continue to move forward: more>>

  • Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit - Austin, Texas - April 8th to 10th, 2008 -

    Unlike a lot of the events that I discuss in my Blog, the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is a "by invitation only" event with a twist. Normally for "invitation only events", the potential attendee sits by the phone with their prom clothes on, waiting for the call that may or may not come. more>>

  • Campus Party, February 11-17, 2008, Sao Paulo, Brazil -

    After speaking at the Florida Linux Show on February 11th, I return ever-so-briefly to the New England area to re-pack my bags and head for Sao Paulo, Brazil to attend Campus Party (February 11th to 17th, 2008). more>>

  • LPI Community Corner

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    Richard Stallman’s Blog

  • Volunteer -

    I am looking for people to write site-specific Firefox extensions or local scripts to operate specific web sites.

  • Urgent: Political spending disclosures -

    US citizens: call on Obama to make federal contractors disclose political spending.

  • Urgent: Stop the revolving door -

    US citizens: call on presidential candidates to pledge to appoint officials that don't serve the industries they regulate.

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    Sérgio Amadeu


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    GNU`s News

  • Andy Wingo: cps soup -

    Hello internets! This blog goes out to my long-time readers who have followed my saga hacking on Guile's compiler. For the rest of you, a little history, then the new thing.

    In the olden days, Guile had no compiler, just an interpreter written in C. Around 8 years ago now, we ported Guile to compile to bytecode. That bytecode is what is currently deployed as Guile 2.0. For many reasons we wanted to upgrade our compiler and virtual machine for Guile 2.2, and the result of that was a new continuation-passing-style compiler for Guile. Check that link for all the backstory.

    So, I was going to finish documenting this intermediate language about 5 months ago, in preparation for making the first Guile 2.2 prereleases. But something about it made me really unhappy. You can catch some foreshadowing of this in my article from last August on common subexpression elimination; I'll just quote a paragraph here:

    In essence, the scope tree doesn't necessarily reflect the dominator tree, so not all transformations you might like to make are syntactically valid. In Guile 2.2's CSE pass, we work around the issue by concurrently rewriting the scope tree to reflect the dominator tree. It's something I am seeing more and more and it gives me some pause as to the suitability of CPS as an intermediate language.

    This is exactly the same concern that Matthew Fluet and Stephen Weeks had back in 2003:

    Thinking of it another way, both CPS and SSA require that variable definitions dominate uses. The difference is that using CPS as an IL requires that all transformations provide a proof of dominance in the form of the nesting, while SSA doesn't. Now, if a CPS transformation doesn't do too much rewriting, then the partial dominance information that it had from the input tree is sufficient for the output tree. Hence tree splicing works fine. However, sometimes it is not sufficient.

    As a concrete example, consider common-subexpression elimination. Suppose we have a common subexpression x = e that dominates an expression y = e in a function. In CPS, if y = e happens to be within the scope of x = e, then we are fine and can rewrite it to y = x. If however, y = e is not within the scope of x, then either we have to do massive tree rewriting (essentially making the syntax tree closer to the dominator tree) or skip the optimization. Another way out is to simply use the syntax tree as an approximation to the dominator tree for common-subexpression elimination, but then you miss some optimization opportunities. On the other hand, with SSA, you simply compute the dominator tree, and can always replace y = e with y = x, without having to worry about providing a proof in the output that x dominates y (i.e. without putting y in the scope of x)

    [MLton-devel] CPS vs SSA

    To be honest I think all this talk about dominators is distracting. Dominators are but a lightweight flow analysis, and I usually find myself using full-on flow analysis to compute the set of optimizations that I can do on a piece of code. In fact the only use I had for dominators in the nested CPS language was to rewrite scope trees! The salient part of Weeks' observation is that nested scope trees are the problem, not that dominators are the solution.

    So, after literally years of hemming and hawing about this, I finally decided to remove nested scope trees from Guile's CPS intermediate language. Instead, a function is now a collection of labelled continuations, with one distinguished entry continuation. There is no more $letk term to nest continuations in each other. A program is now represented as a "soup" -- basically a map from labels to continuation bodies, again with a distinguished entry. As an example, consider this expression:

      return add(x, 1)

    If we rewrote it in continuation-passing style, we'd give the function a name for its "tail continuation", ktail, and annotate each expression with its continuation:

    function(ktail, x):
      add(x, 1) -> ktail

    Here the -> ktail means that the add expression passes its values to the continuation ktail.

    With nested CPS, it could look like:

    function(ktail, x):
      letk have_one(one): add(x, one) -> ktail
        load_constant(1) -> have_one

    Here the label have_one is in a scope, as is the value one. With "CPS soup", though, it looks more like this:

    function(ktail, x):
      label have_one(one): add(x, one) -> ktail
      label main(x): load_constant(1) -> have_one

    It's a subtle change, but it took a few months to make so it's worth pointing out what's going on. The difference is that there is no scope tree for labels or variables any more. A variable can be used at a label if it flows to the label, in a flow analysis sense. Indeed, determining the set of variables that can be used at a label requires flow analysis; that's what Weeks was getting at in his 2003 mail about the advantages of SSA, which are really the advantages of an intermediate language without nested scope trees.

    The question arises, though, now that we've decided on CPS soup, how should we represent a program as a value? We've gone from a nested term to a graph term, and we need to find a way to represent it somehow that facilitates looking up labels by name, and facilitates tree rewrites.

    In Guile's IR, labels and variables are both integers, so happily enough, we have such a data structure: Clojure-style maps specialized for integer keys.

    Friends, if there has been one realization or revolution for me in the last year, it has been Clojure-style data structures. Here's why. In compilers, I often have to build up some kind of analysis, then use that analysis to transform data. Often I need to keep the old term around while I build a new one, but it would be nice to share state between old and new terms. With a nested tree, if a leaf changed you'd have to rebuild all surrounding terms, which is gnarly. But with Clojure-style data structures, more and more I find myself computing in terms of values: build up this value, transform this map to that set, fold over this map -- and yes, you can fold over Guile's intmaps -- and so on. By providing an expressive data structure for which I can control performance characteristics by using transients if needed, these data structures make my programs more about data and less about gnarly machinery.

    As a concrete example, the old contification pass in Guile, I didn't have the mental capacity to understand all the moving parts in such a way that I could compute an optimal contification from the beginning; instead I had to iterate to a fixed point, as Kennedy did in his "Compiling with Continuations, Continued" paper. With the new CPS soup language and with Clojure-style data structures, I could actually fit more of the algorithm into my head, with the result that Guile now contifies optimally while avoiding the fixed-point transformation. Also, the old pass used hash tables to represent the analysis, which I found incredibly confusing to reason about -- I totally buy Rich Hickey's argument that place-oriented programming is the source of many evils in programs, and hash tables are nothing if not a place party. Using functional maps let me solve harder problems because they are easier for me to reason about.

    Contification isn't an isolated case, either. For example, we are able to do the complete set of optimizations from the "Optimizing closures in O(0) time" paper, including closure sharing, which I think makes Guile unique besides Chez Scheme. I wasn't capable of doing it on the old representation because it was just too hard for me to think about, because my data structures weren't right.

    This new "CPS soup" language is still a first-order CPS language in that each term specifies its continuation, and that variable names appear in the continuation of a definition, not the definition itself. This effectively makes every variable a phi variable, in the sense of SSA, and you have to do some work to get to a variable's definition. It could be that still this isn't the right number of names; consider this function:

    function foo(k, x):
      label have_y(y) bar(y) -> k
      label y_is_two() load_constant(2) -> have_y
      label y_is_one() load_constant(1) -> have_y
      label main(x) if x -> y_is_one else -> y_is_two

    Here there is no distinguished name for the value load_constant(1) versus load_constant(2): both are possible values for y. If we ended up giving them names, we'd have to reintroduce actual phi variables for the joins, which would basically complete the transformation to SSA. Until now though I haven't wanted those names, so perhaps I can put this off. On the other hand, every term has a label, which simplifies many things compared to having to contain terms in basic blocks, as is usually done in SSA. Yet another chapter in CPS is SSA is CPS is SSA, it seems.

    Welp, that's all the nerdery for right now. Talk at yall later!

  • FSF News: FSF invites the free software community to its 30th birthday party on October 3rd, 2015 -

    FSF30 logo

    The event homepage is and the RSVP form is open. The FSF encourages use of the hashtag #FSF30 on social media (read the foundation's position on different social media platforms).

    The FSF is also planning a mini-conference, also on October 3, during the day, where the free software community will share lessons from its first thirty years and plan for the future. The foundation may also hold a fundraising dinner on Friday, October 2nd.

    Volunteer or Sponsor

    The FSF is seeking volunteers to help set up the venue and greet guests. Individuals with skills in free software livestreaming are also needed. All volunteers will receive a special reverse birthday gift from the FSF.

    The foundation is also seeking general event, beer, or food sponsors. To sponsor or recommend a sponsor, or to volunteer, contact

    Satellite events

    Supporters around the world have already expressed interest in holding their own local events for the FSF's birthday. The foundation would be delighted to cover these events on its blog or come up with a creative way of connecting them to the event in Boston. Please contact if you are interested in organizing a satellite event.


    The FSF intends to livestream the event and post videos online afterwards. Volunteers with free software video skills are needed as well.

    Read the New Yorker article, The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty by Maria Bustillos.

    About the Free Software Foundation

    The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

    More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at

    Media Contacts

    Georgia Young
    Program Manager
    Free Software Foundation
    +1 (617) 542 5942

  • FSF Blogs: You're invited: 30th birthday party and mini-conference - FSF30 logo

    Join the Free Software Foundation and friends in Boston, MA, USA on the evening of Saturday, October 3rd for our 30th Birthday Party. We'll share hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and an address by FSF founder and president Richard Stallman, as well as plenty of social time for catching up with old friends and making new ones.

    RSVP now! If you want to brag about it on social media, use the hashtag #FSF30.

    If the free software movement is coming together for a party, we might as well get some work done, too. We're planning a mini-conference for the day of October 3rd, before the party, where we'll share what we've learned from the first thirty years of the free software movement and swap ideas about the future. Stay tuned for more details about this, as well as a possible dinner on Friday night.

    Bookmark the event homepage for lodging suggestions and more information about the mini-conference and other festivities that weekend, coming soon.

    Not coming to Boston?

    We've been flattered by supporters around the world asking to hold their own local events for the FSF's birthday. Of course! We'd even love to write about it, or come up with a creative way of connecting it to the event in Boston. Contact us at if you're interested.

    We also intend to stream the event and post videos online afterwards.

    Support our work for computer user freedom

    Our supporters have made our thirty wonderful years possible. By becoming an associate member you'll help us achieve even more in the next thirty. Members also get special benefits, including gratis admission to our LibrePlanet conference each spring.

    If you'd rather not become a member, you can also help by making a donation when you RSVP, or on our donation page.

    Volunteer or sponsor

    If you are interested in helping out at the mini-conference or the party, we welcome you! In addition to setting up the venue and greeting guests, we need people with skills in free software livestreaming. All volunteers will receive a special reverse birthday gift from us to you.

    The FSF is also seeking general event, beer, or food sponsors. To sponsor or recommend a sponsor, or to volunteer, reply to this email.

    Also, we'd like to introduce Georgia Young, our newest FSF staffer, in the role of program manager. Georgia is planning the thirtieth birthday events, so expect to hear more from her soon.

    See you in October!

    Read the New Yorker Article, The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty by Maria Bustillos.

  • Skip to maddog, Stallman, Amadeu, GNU, Debian

    Debian Project News

  • Perl team sprint - The Debian Perl team had its first sprint in May, and it was a success: seven members met in Barcelona over the weekend from May 22 to May 24 to kick off Perl development for Stretch and to work on QA tasks across the more than 3000 packages that the team maintains. Find all the details in the sprint report.
  • New documentation guides on the Debian website - On his blog, Osamu Aoki announced some updates to Debian documentation. Having created the debmake helper script to produce Debian source packages, to take into account new packaging best practices, he has rewritten the Debian Maintainers' Guide from scratch, available in the debmake-doc package. Meanwhile, the Debian Handbook is now also available from the Debian website. This version is built automatically from the corresponding package in Debian unstable. This is also the case for the documentation from debmake-doc and more generally for other debian-doc related packages.
  • Bits from the DPL - Neil McGovern, Debian project leader, sent a report about his recent activities: communication (in particular an interview by Steven Ovadia, and an open questions session on Reddit), funding management, and work with trusted organisations.