[Numpy-discussion] Linker script, smaller source files and symbol visibility
Mon Apr 20 07:51:21 CDT 2009
For quite a long time I have been bothered by the very large files
needed for python extensions. In particular for numpy.core, which
consists in a few files which are ~ 1 Mb, I find this a pretty high
barrier of entry for newcomers, and it has quite a big impact on the
code organization. I think I have found a way to split things on common
platforms (this includes at least windows, mac os x, linux and solaris),
without impacting other potentially less capable platforms, or static
linking of numpy.
Assuming my idea is technically sound and that I can demonstrate it
works on say Linux without impacting other platforms (see example
below), would that be considered useful ?
The rationale for doing things as they are is a C limitation related
to symbol visibility being limited to file scope, i.e. if you want to
share a function into several files without making it public in the
binary, you have to tag the function static, and include all .c files
which use this function into one giant .c file. That's how we do it in
numpy. Many binary format (elf, coff and Mach-O) have a mechanism to
limit the symbol visibility, so that we can explicitly set the functions
we do want to export. With a couple of defines, we could either include
every files and tag the implementation functions as static, or link
every file together and limit symbol visibility with some linker magic.
I use the spam example from the official python doc, with one function
PySpam_System which is exported in a C API, and the actual
implementation is _pyspam_system.
* spammodule.c: define the interface available from python interpreter:
/* if we don't know how to deal with symbol visibility on the platform,
just include everything in one file */
/* C API for spam module */
PySpam_System(const char *command)
* spammodule_imp.h: declares the implementation, should only be included
by spammodule.c and spammodule_imp.c which implements the actual function
#error this should not be included unless you really know what you are doing
#define SPAM_PRIVATE static
_pyspam_implementation(const char *command);
For supported platforms (where SYMBOL_SCRIPT_UNSUPPORTED is not
defined), _pyspam_implementation would not be visible because we would
have a list of functions to export (only initspam in this case).
This has several advantages on platforms where this is supported
- code more amenable: source code which are thousand of lines are
difficult to follow
- faster compilation times: in my experience, compilation time
doesn't scale linearly with the amount of code.
- compilation can be better parallelized
- changing one file does not force a whole multiarray/ufunc module
recompilation (which can be pretty long when you chase bugs in it)
Another advantage is related to namespace pollution. Since library
extensions are static libraries for now, any symbol frome those
libraries used by any extension is publicly available. For example, now
that multiarray.so uses the npy_math library, every symbol in npy_math
is in the public namespace. That's also true for every scipy extensions
(for example, _fftpack.so exports the whole dfftpack public API). If we
want to go further down the road of making core computational code
publicly available, I think we should improve this first.
We need to code it. There are two parts:
- numpy.distutils support: I have already something working in for
linux. Once we have one platform working, adding others should not be a
- changing the C code: we could at first splitting things in .c
files but still including everything, and then starting the conversion.
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