diary at Telent Netowrks

I feel compelled to share this, just because it took so long#

Sat, 19 Feb 2005 02:06:24 +0000

I feel compelled to share this, just because it took so long. It may yet prove to be utterly useless.

I remarked in my previous entry that I was playing with database APIs in an attempt to avoid Perl: this is related. If you look at the Perl Cookbook, or even read a lot of Perl code written by people who have, you find that over half the recipes basically read incoming data (from a database query or a file or something), whack it into a hash or hash of hashes, then when they've collected everything they iterate over or otherwise traverse the hash contents to get the data out in a more useful format. The classic example is finding the n most common words in a file: for each word we read we look it up in the hash and either add it with value 1 if not found, or increment the value if it was. At the end of the file we have a hash of word frequencies we can easily iterate over, sort or whatever.

You could do that in CL with hash tables but, well, try it and you'll see it ends up being a lot more verbose - especially if you want to have "multidimensional" tables - hashes inside hashes.

(gethash "quux" (gethash "bar" (gethash "foo" *table*)))
and that's without checking that the intermediate values exist. And hashtables don't print in readable format either. And there's no relationship between the order you put elements in and the order thay come out in - not even a dependable happens-to-work-this-way-but-the-same-way-everywhere relationship as Perl gives you.

Plists are nice, though. They're readably printable. I happen to like that they have fewer parens than alists. They don't randomly shuffle themselves around when you're not looking. You can use destructuring-bind to pick them apart conveniently, too (perhaps this is a more compelling advantage than some of the previous). So, I wanted nestable plists. And as it's now 2:33AM I can't be bothered to relate the whole epic voyage of define-setf-expander discovery (some other time, perhaps) so I skip straight to the answers. First, an example

DBS> (let ((l (list :foo 1 :bar 2)))
  (setf (ref l :foo :ban :barry) 17)
  (setf (ref l :boz) 14)
  (format t "-= ~A ~%" (ref l :foo :ban))

-= (BARRY 17) (:BOZ 14 :FOO (:BAN (:BARRY 17)) :BAR 2)

and here's the code. Some of the hard bits were taken from SBCL's define-setf-expander form for getf.

(defun ref (plist &rest keys)
  (reduce #'getf keys :initial-value plist))

(defun %put-ref (new-value plist key &rest more-keys) ;; not quite Perl-style autovivification, but we do create ;; appropriate list structure for intermediate keys that can't be found (unless (listp plist) (setf plist nil)) (let ((sub (getf plist key)) (val (if more-keys (apply #'%put-ref new-value sub more-keys) new-value))) (if sub (progn (setf (getf plist key) val) plist) (list key val plist))))

(define-setf-expander ref (place &rest props &environment env) ;; %put-ref may cons new structure or mutate its argument. ;; all this magic is just so that we can ;; (let ((l nil)) (setf (ref l :foo :bar) t)) (multiple-value-bind (temps values stores set get) (get-setf-expansion place env) (let ((newval (gensym)) (ptemps (loop for i in props collect (gensym)))) (values `(,temps ,ptemps ) `(,values ,props ) `(,newval) `(let ((,(car stores) (%put-ref ,newval ,get ,ptemps))) ,set ,newval) `(ref ,get ,ptemps)))))