[Haskell-cafe] Ambiguous types for collection keys

Scott Weeks weeksie at twelvestone.com
Wed Apr 12 05:03:59 EDT 2006

Hello everyone,

I've been banging my head against my desk a bit so I figured it's time 
to ask for help :-)

I'm writing an application that persists data to disk. The hard stuff 
is pretty much done (binary serialisation, etc...) The big stumbling 
block is that I want users to be able to define their own schemas. This 
means that the keys for a data store may be Integer, Strings, etc...

I have a BTreeIndex type:

data BTreeIndex a b = Branch { parentBT :: !BlockPtr,
                                keysBT   :: ![a],
                                kidsBT   :: ![BlockPtr] }
                     | Leaf   { parentBT :: !BlockPtr,
                                valsBT   :: !(LeafMap a b),
                                prevBT   :: !PrevLeaf,
                                nextBT   :: !NextLeaf }

type IdxPS       = BTreeIndex PackedString BlockPtr
type IdxInt      = BTreeIndex Integer BlockPtr

When a user queries I have to read the input from IO and then somehow 
cast the key/index type without angering the type checker. If I omit 
the following function I get the ominous "Ambiguous type variable a..." 
error. If I use it I get a complaint that the checker was expecting an 
Integer rather than a PackedString.

coerceIndex f (Schema _ SInt SPtr _) (r,hdl,o,hdr) = f 
coerceIndex f (Schema _ SStr SPtr _) (r,hdl,o,hdr) = f 

Where f is a curried select function (e.g. selectAll, selectByKey, 
etc...) waiting for the final tuple containing the index and other 
miscellanea that is needed to read the data.

I'm hopelessly lost and I assume that the many brilliant minds on this 
list will chuckle, pat me on the head and tell me what I've been doing 

Thanks for your time guys,

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