The Racket module system is good at managing dependencies. When you require a module, you ensure that that module is initialized before your code runs, and when the other module changes, the compiler will notice and recompile your module too. Racket even stratifies dependencies according to phase levels so you can use some modules in your macro implementations and other modules in your run-time code and the expander/compiler/linker knows what you want when. It keeps track and makes sure that everything is loaded and available when it’s supposed to be.
But sometimes you want to manage dependencies yourself. This post
is about how to lazily load the implementations of functions
One reason to lazily load a module is if it depends on foreign libraries, for example, and you don’t to try to load them if the user doesn’t actually use them. My db library does this; there’s no point complaining about a missing SQLite library if the user wants to connect to a PostgreSQL server. Of course, it’s possible to put the library loading inside a lambda or a unit, but you need to keep propagating the delaying mechanism up until you either deal with it or dump it in the user’s lap.
Another reason is to select an implementation at run time. Racket’s GUI system works this way, for example. There are three implementations (using system-specific foreign libraries) and racket/gui picks the appropriate one at run time.
Yet another reason is to simply avoid loading code that is unlikely to
be used. When a module is loaded, all of its normal dependencies
(those introduced by require, whatever the phase) are also
Consider what that means for a language such as Typed Racket: loading
any typed program would also load the type-checker and optimizer—
In principle, lazily loading a module is easy. Although Racket presents a pleasant illusion of a static module graph, it’s really all built on top of dynamic pieces. The primary relevant tool is dynamic-require. Instead of using dynamic-require directly, though, let’s define a lazy-require form that creates function proxy definitions that automatically call dynamic-require when necessary. Here’s a first cut:
(lazy-require [mod (function-id ...)]) ⇒ (begin (define function-id (let ([p (delay (dynamic-require 'mod 'function-id))]) (lambda args (apply (force p) args)))) ...)
It breaks raco exe, since there’s no indication to the compiler that mod should be included in the executable.
(lazy-require [mod (function-id ...)]) ⇒ (begin (define-namespace-anchor anchor) (define-runtime-module-path-index mpi 'mod) (define function-id (let ([p (delay (parameterize ((current-namespace (namespace-anchor->namespace anchor))) (dynamic-require mpi 'function-id)))]) (lambda args (apply (force p) args)))) ...)
There are still some little problems left. This version doesn’t work for functions with keyword arguments. Solution: make-keyword-procedure and keyword-apply. And the promise created by delay is not reentrant; if multiple threads try to force a function’s loading simultaneously, it’ll raise an error. Solution: delay/sync.
It would also be nice if lazy-require worked for values other than functions. One way to make that work is to bind each name as an identifier macro instead of creating a proxy function.
So far, the lazy-require macro only lets us access value exports. Can we lazily require a macro?
The short answer is no.
There are two reasons why it won’t work, one shallow and one deep. The
shallow reason is that dynamic-require can only be used with
value exports. We’d need something else—
Consider the following modules:
When the use of forever in "five-yo.rkt" is expanded, it leaves behind a reference to run-forever. (In this context, I’ll call that a residual reference, which implies a residual dependency on the module defining it.) How should that reference be represented in bytecode? One possibility is “the variable named run-forever defined in "/abs/path/to/private/run-forever.rkt".” But if we hard-wired full filesystem paths into bytecode, we wouldn’t be able to compile it on one machine and install it on another, which would make distributing Racket and Racket programs difficult. So instead, the source of the reference is represented as a module path index: a chain of relative module references usually ending in (module-path-index-join #f #f), which means “the enclosing module,” roughly. The source of run-forever is represented as
(module-path-index-join "private/run-forever.rkt" (module-path-index-join "forever.rkt" (module-path-index-join #f #f)))
When the compiled form of "five-yo.rkt" is loaded, it first loads its immediate dependencies ("forever.rkt") and they load their immediate dependencies ("private/run-forever.rkt") and so on. Then it resolves the module path index for each reference’s source and links the reference to that actual module declaration. The collection root and project root can change, as long as all relative paths are preserved. (Otherwise, the Racket linker raises an error.)
What if we were to load "forever.rkt" lazily?
By linking dynamically, we disrupt the chain of relative module paths;
dynamic-require (and its hypothetical extension) have no tie
to the module currently being expanded—
(module-path-index-join "private/run-forever.rkt" (make-resolved-module-path "/abs/path/to/forever.rkt"))
which Racket would refuse to write to a zo-file.
So what does work?
Follow this recipe to lazily load transformation dependencies:
Group your code into interface, transformation, and residual modules.
Add a “bridge” transformation module to get around dynamic-require’s phase limitations.
Use absolute module paths in all requires between the different kinds of modules.
Change the interface-to-transformation requires to use lazy-require, still with absolute module paths.
I’ll elaborate on each of those steps. Each step, if done correctly, produces a working program/library; the final step just flips on lazy loading of transformation code.
Group your code into interface, transformation, and residual modules. The interface modules are those required by clients, and the residual modules are the ones that satisfy residual dependencies in the code your macros produce. The transformation modules are the ones that are only necessary during transformation. The fact that they “disappear” from a compiled module’s dependencies is the win of the whole approach. If there’s not much in your transformation modules, then stop. Don’t bother. It’s not worth it.
Here’s our forever macro reorganized. We’ll go bottom-up. Here’s the single residual module:
If we had previously defined run-forever in the same module as the forever macro, we would need to separate them at this stage.
There are many ways to separate out the transformation part, but the easiest is to take the existing macro(s) and move them to new private transformation module(s):
Now we add an interface module:
The interface module(s) must require the residual module(s) directly to make sure they get loaded, because the dependency through the transformation modules will disappear when we get to the final step. Since the interface module doesn’t need any of its exports, we use only-in and ask for none of the bindings; that still introduces a dependency. We also define a new forever macro that expands into the other one. We could have simply reprovided forever for now, but the indirection macro will become useful later.
When separating your modules, don’t confuse transformation with
compile-time and residual with run-time. They do
Add a “bridge” transformation module to get around dynamic-require’s phase limitations. Specifically, dynamic-require can only get value bindings provided from phase 0 of a module. So we add the following:
We need to provide some sort of handle for the forever macro,
but we need to provide it at phase 0—
How, then, do we represent a handle for the macro? One possibility is to just provide its transformer; but that would require "private/trans-forever.rkt" to have defined it as a separate phase-1 function and provided it for-syntax. The alternative is to use an identifier that acts as a reference to the macro.
We also change the interface module to use the additional identifier indirection:
#lang racket (require (only-in "private/run-forever.rkt") (for-syntax "private/bridge-forever.rkt")) (define-syntax (forever stx) (syntax-case stx () [(forever e) (with-syntax ([real-forever (get-forever-id)]) #'(real-forever e))])) (provide forever)
In other words, we lazily load the name of the “real” macro, relying on the fact that if we actually use the name, we’ve also loaded the macro implementation itself (because "bridge-forever.rkt" has a strict dependency on "trans-forever.rkt").
Use absolute module paths in all requires between the different kinds of modules. This is necessary to avoid unmarshallable module path indexes later. Easiest is to put the code in a collection library.
#lang racket ; abs. mod. path (require (only-in somelib/private/run-forever) (for-syntax somelib/private/bridge-forever)) (define-syntax (forever stx) (syntax-case stx () [(forever e) (with-syntax ([real-forever (get-forever-id)]) #'(real-forever e))])) (provide forever)
Note that "bridge-forever.rkt" can require "trans-forever.rkt" using a relative module path because they’re both transformation modules.
Change the interface-to-transformation requires to use lazy-require, still with absolute module paths. We’ll need to put the lazy-require within a begin-for-syntax block.
#lang racket (require (only-in somelib/private/run-forever) (for-syntax unstable/lazy-require)) (begin-for-syntax (lazy-require [somelib/private/bridge-forever (get-forever-id)])) (define-syntax (forever stx) (syntax-case stx () [(forever e) (with-syntax ([real-forever (get-forever-id)]) #'(real-forever e))])) (provide forever)
That’s it! Now the real implementation of forever (that is, "private/trans-forever.rkt") is only loaded when a use of forever needs to be expanded.
We can even test this:
> (require macro-debugger/analysis/show-dependencies)
> (show-dependencies '(file "five-yo.rkt") #:exclude '(racket))
That is, the only modules that "five-yo.rkt" depends on (not including racket and its dependencies) are somelib/private/run-forever and "forever.rkt".
The recipe above works for plain old macros, but not other kinds of static bindings like syntax parameters, struct names, or unit signatures. Those you’ll just have to put in the residual modules or not use lazy loading at all.
So, is lazy loading a good idea?
Occasionally. Lazy loading, aside from the case of avoiding foreign library dependencies, is an optimization technique, and as such it’s good to have in a narrow band of cases. In particular, lazy loading is useful for large blocks of code that are unlikely to be executed in a typical run of a program (not just “executed infrequently”). For macros, the bar is higher because of the difficulty of separating transformer code from residual code, and the danger of getting it wrong. Lazy transformer loading is useful in cases like analyzers and optimizers. The rest of the time, you’re better off trusting Racket to do the right thing.
Don’t use lazy loading for code that can be split off into separate modules just as easily. For example, racket/contract is a moderately large library, but the core features are available from racket/contract/base, which is a smaller library.