[Numpy-discussion] Nasty bug using pre-initialized arrays

Charles R Harris charlesr.harris@gmail....
Mon Jan 7 11:36:58 CST 2008

On Jan 7, 2008 8:47 AM, Ryan May <rmay@ou.edu> wrote:

> Stuart Brorson wrote:
> >>> I realize NumPy != Matlab, but I'd wager that most users would think
> >>> that this is the natural behavior......
> >> Well, that behavior won't happen. We won't mutate the dtype of the
> array because
> >> of assignment. Matlab has copy(-on-write) semantics for things like
> slices while
> >> we have view semantics. We can't safely do the reallocation of memory
> [1].
> >
> > That's fair enough.  But then I think NumPy should consistently
> > typecheck all assignmetns and throw an exception if the user attempts
> > an assignment which looses information.
> >
> Yeah, there's no doubt in my mind that this is a bug, if for no other
> reason than this inconsistency:

One place where Numpy differs from MatLab is the way memory is handled.
MatLab is always generating new arrays, so for efficiency it is worth
preallocating arrays and then filling in the parts. This is not the case in
Numpy where lists can be used for things that grow and subarrays are views.
Consequently, preallocating arrays in Numpy should be rare and used when
either the values have to be generated explicitly, which is what you see
when using the indexes in your first example. As to assignment between
arrays, it is a mixed question. The problem again is memory usage. For large
arrays, it makes since to do automatic conversions, as is also the case in
functions taking output arrays, because the typecast can be pushed down into
C where it is time and space efficient, whereas explicitly converting the
array uses up temporary space. However, I can imagine an explicit typecast
function, something like

a[...] = typecast(b)

that would replace the current behavior. I think the typecast function could
be implemented by returning a view of b with a castable flag set to true,
that should supply enough information for the assignment operator to do its
job. This might be a good addition for Numpy 1.1.

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