Data.Dynamic and dynamically loaded code

Donald Bruce Stewart dons at
Thu Jun 10 00:31:39 EDT 2004



In the hs-plugins library I'm using Data.Dynamic to provide runtime type
checking of plugin values when they are loaded. There is a problem,
however: when using fromDyn/fromDynamic to check the type of the
plugin's value against the type the application loading the plugin
expects, they always report that types are unequal, even if they are the
same type on both sides.

So I'm reporting a limitation of the existing Data.Dynamic, and have a
couple of questions about why this exists.

The problem appears to be in the hash keys of the type representation
used to compare to types for equality. A dynamic value in the
(statically compiled) application never has the same key as its
equivalent type in the dynamically loaded code.  The type in the
dynamically-loaded plugin code is never recognised as having the same
type as in the application (static) code.

The following comment from Data.Typeable seems to be relevant:

    -- In GHC we use the RTS's genSym function to get a new unique,
    -- because in GHCi we might have two copies of the Data.Typeable
    -- library running (one in the compiler and one in the running
    -- program), and we need to make sure they don't share any keys.  
    -- This is really a hack.  A better solution would be to centralise the
    -- whole mutable state used by this module, i.e. both hashtables.  But
    -- the current solution solves the immediate problem, which is that
    -- dynamics generated in one world with one type were erroneously
    -- being recognised by the other world as having a different type.

An example. The following code uses eval() to compile the string "7 + 8"
to object code, and dynamically load the result.

  main = do i <- eval "7 + 8 :: Int" :: IO Int
            putStrLn $ show i

When checking the dynamically loaded type using fromDynamic, we have
<Int> /= <Int>, which is obviously wrong. Running the equivalent code in
GHCi doesn't generate this error, nor does statically linked code. It is
only if we loadObj the plugin and check it against a type statically
compiled into the application doing the loading.

I currently work around this with a reimplemented Data.Dynamic that
compares the string representations of the types, which works mostly (so
that "Int" == "Int", in the above code). However, when there is no
explicit type declaration in the dynamically loaded code, for
non-simple types, the *string* type representations differ. I.e. in the
following code:

        main = do fn <- eval "\\(x::Int) -> (x,x)" :: IO (Int -> (Int,Int))
                  putStrLn $ show (fn 7)

we have type "-> Int (Int,Int)" doesn't match "Int -> (Int,Int)" (which
looks like a Core type in the first case). And for:

        i <- eval "map (+1) [0..10::Int]" :: [Int]

we have "[] Int" /= "[Int]". So, the string comparison of types doesn't
always work.

So... for safe dynamically loaded plugins we need to fix Data.Dynamic to
provide the a unique integer key for types across both static and
dynamic code, I think. Does that seem like reasonable? 

And a question: why do we get different strings from TypeRep's when the
type is inferred? I can see that we are getting Core type reps, but why?
I would have thought that the TypeRep would still have to be constructed
in the same way as in an explicit declaration.

-- Don

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