[Numpy-discussion] Proposed Roadmap Overview

Christopher Jordan-Squire cjordan1@uw....
Fri Feb 17 13:00:07 CST 2012

On Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 10:21 AM, Mark Wiebe <mwwiebe@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM, Eric Firing <efiring@hawaii.edu> wrote:
>> On 02/17/2012 05:39 AM, Charles R Harris wrote:
>> >
>> >
>> > On Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 8:01 AM, David Cournapeau <cournape@gmail.com
>> > <mailto:cournape@gmail.com>> wrote:
>> >
>> >     Hi Travis,
>> >
>> >     On Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 10:39 PM, Travis Oliphant
>> >     <travis@continuum.io <mailto:travis@continuum.io>> wrote:
>> >      > Mark Wiebe and I have been discussing off and on (as well as
>> >     talking with Charles) a good way forward to balance two competing
>> >     desires:
>> >      >
>> >      >        * addition of new features that are needed in NumPy
>> >      >        * improving the code-base generally and moving towards a
>> >     more maintainable NumPy
>> >      >
>> >      > I know there are load voices for just focusing on the second of
>> >     these and avoiding the first until we have finished that.  I
>> >     recognize the need to improve the code base, but I will also be
>> >     pushing for improvements to the feature-set and user experience in
>> >     the process.
>> >      >
>> >      > As a result, I am proposing a rough outline for releases over the
>> >     next year:
>> >      >
>> >      >        * NumPy 1.7 to come out as soon as the serious bugs can be
>> >     eliminated.  Bryan, Francesc, Mark, and I are able to help triage
>> >     some of those.
>> >      >
>> >      >        * NumPy 1.8 to come out in July which will have as many
>> >     ABI-compatible feature enhancements as we can add while improving
>> >     test coverage and code cleanup.   I will post to this list more
>> >     details of what we plan to address with it later.    Included for
>> >     possible inclusion are:
>> >      >        * resolving the NA/missing-data issues
>> >      >        * finishing group-by
>> >      >        * incorporating the start of label arrays
>> >      >        * incorporating a meta-object
>> >      >        * a few new dtypes (variable-length string,
>> >     varialbe-length unicode and an enum type)
>> >      >        * adding ufunc support for flexible dtypes and possibly
>> >     structured arrays
>> >      >        * allowing generalized ufuncs to work on more kinds of
>> >     arrays besides just contiguous
>> >      >        * improving the ability for NumPy to receive JIT-generated
>> >     function pointers for ufuncs and other calculation opportunities
>> >      >        * adding "filters" to Input and Output
>> >      >        * simple computed fields for dtypes
>> >      >        * accepting a Data-Type specification as a class or JSON
>> > file
>> >      >        * work towards improving the dtype-addition mechanism
>> >      >        * re-factoring of code so that it can compile with a C++
>> >     compiler and be minimally dependent on Python data-structures.
>> >
>> >     This is a pretty exciting list of features. What is the rationale
>> > for
>> >     code being compiled as C++ ? IMO, it will be difficult to do so
>> >     without preventing useful C constructs, and without removing some of
>> >     the existing features (like our use of C99 complex). The subset that
>> >     is both C and C++ compatible is quite constraining.
>> >
>> >
>> > I'm in favor of this myself, C++ would allow a lot code cleanup and make
>> > it easier to provide an extensible base, I think it would be a natural
>> > fit with numpy. Of course, some C++ projects become tangled messes of
>> > inheritance, but I'd be very interested in seeing what a good C++
>> > designer like Mark, intimately familiar with the numpy code base, could
>> > do. This opportunity might not come by again anytime soon and I think we
>> > should grab onto it. The initial step would be a release whose code that
>> > would compile in both C/C++, which mostly comes down to removing C++
>> > keywords like 'new'.
>> >
>> > I did suggest running it by you for build issues, so please raise any
>> > you can think of. Note that MatPlotLib is in C++, so I don't think the
>> > problems are insurmountable. And choosing a set of compilers to support
>> > is something that will need to be done.
>> It's true that matplotlib relies heavily on C++, both via the Agg
>> library and in its own extension code.  Personally, I don't like this; I
>> think it raises the barrier to contributing.  C++ is an order of
>> magnitude more complicated than C--harder to read, and much harder to
>> write, unless one is a true expert. In mpl it brings reliance on the CXX
>> library, which Mike D. has had to help maintain.  And if it does
>> increase compiler specificity, that's bad.
> This gets to the recruitment issue, which is one of the most important
> problems I see numpy facing. I personally have contributed a lot of code to
> NumPy *in spite of* the fact it's in C. NumPy being in C instead of C++ was
> the biggest negative point when I considered whether it was worth
> contributing to the project. I suspect there are many programmers out there
> who are skilled in low-level, high-performance C++, who would be willing to
> contribute, but don't want to code in C.
> I believe NumPy should be trying to find people who want to make high
> performance, close to the metal, libraries. This is a very different type of
> programmer than one who wants to program in Python, but is willing to dabble
> in a lower level language to make something run faster. High performance
> library development is one of the things the C++ developer community does
> very well, and that community is where we have a good chance of finding the
> programmers NumPy needs.
>> I would much rather see development in the direction of sticking with C
>> where direct low-level control and speed are needed, and using cython to
>> gain higher level language benefits where appropriate.  Of course, that
>> brings in the danger of reliance on another complex tool, cython.  If
>> that danger is considered excessive, then just stick with C.
> There are many small benefits C++ can offer, even if numpy chooses only to
> use a tiny subset of the C++ language. For example, RAII can be used to
> reliably eliminate PyObject reference leaks.
> Consider a regression like this:
> http://mail.scipy.org/pipermail/numpy-discussion/2011-July/057831.html
> Fixing this in C would require switching all the relevant usages of
> NPY_MAXARGS to use a dynamic memory allocation. This brings with it the
> potential of easily introducing a memory leak, and is a lot of work to do.
> In C++, this functionality could be placed inside a class, where the
> deterministic construction/destruction semantics eliminate the risk of
> memory leaks and make the code easier to read at the same time. There are
> other examples like this where the C language has forced a suboptimal design
> choice because of how hard it would be to do it better.
> Cheers,
> Mark

In a similar vein, could incorporating C++ lead to a simpler low-level
API for numpy? I know Mark has talked before about--in the long-term,
as a dream project to scratch his own itch, and something the BDF12
doesn't necessarily agree with--implementing the great ideas in numpy
as a layered C++ library. (Which would have the added benefit of
making numpy more of a general array library that could be exposed to
any language which can call C++ libraries.)

I don't imagine that's on the table for anything near-term, but I
wonder if making more of the low-level stuff C++ would make it easier
for performance nuts to write their own code in C/C++ interfacing with
numpy, and then expose it to python. After playing around with ufuncs
at the C level for a little while last summer, I quickly realized any
simplifications would be greatly appreciated.


>> Eric
>> >
>> > Chuck
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