[Haskell-cafe] Am I misunderstanding something about `StableName` and `hashStableName`?

Ben Mellor hyarion at iinet.net.au
Sun Nov 20 23:14:14 UTC 2016

On November 21, 2016 12:32:03 AM GMT+11:00, Bertram Felgenhauer via Haskell-Cafe <haskell-cafe at haskell.org> wrote:
>raichoo via Haskell-Cafe wrote:
>> First of all the documentation of `hashStableName` says the
>> The Int returned is not necessarily unique; several StableNames may
>> to the same Int (in practice however, the chances of this are small,
>> the result of hashStableName makes a good hash key).
>> OK, sounds fine, let's put this to the test. So I wrote a little
>>     module Main where
>>     import Control.Monad
>>     import System.Mem.StableName
>>     import System.Environment
>>     main :: IO ()
>>     main = do
>>       args <- getArgs
>>       res <- forM [0..10000] $ \i -> do
>>         x <- makeStableName i
>>         let h' = hashStableName x
>>         unless (null args) $
>>           print h'
>>         return h'
>>       putStrLn "---------------------------"
>>       print $ minimum res
>>       print $ maximum res
>There is nothing in this program that keeps the stable names alive.
>It appears, from your experiments, that once a stable name is garbage
>collected, its ID, which also serves as its hash value, may be reused
>for another stable pointer. Consider this variant of your main
>    main = do
>      res <- forM [0..10000] $ fmap hashStableName . makeStableName
>      performGC
>      res <- forM [0..10000] $ fmap hashStableName . makeStableName
>      performGC
>      res <- forM [0..10000] $ fmap hashStableName . makeStableName
>      print (minimum res, maximum res)
>This produces `(1,10001)` as output in my tests.
>I'm not sure how exactly `print` affects garbage collections.
>Overall, I believe the documentation of `hashStableName` is mostly
>correct, but it would make sense to stress that the statement is
>only valid for stable names that are currently alive at a particular
>point in time, not globally for the whole run of a program.
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I suspect that when print h' isn't called, then `let h' = hashStableName x` stays as a thunk in the list, until you later compute the minimum and maximum. The thunk refers to the stable name, and keeps it from being GCed. So they *are* all live at the same time.

When you print h' in the loop body, that forces the hash calculation and discharges the thunk. So the stable name becomes garbage immediately, and once collected the internal id is available for reuse. Perhaps the 1-260 range observed tells you roughly how many iterations of that loop you can get through in the smallest GC generation, on your system.
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