Tag Archives: Functional

Beautiful Concurrency – Simon Peyton-Jones

This is a famous paper on concurrency and the benefits of functional programming. It’s obviously no coincidence that I’ve heard of the author in connection with F#.

For me, a beautiful program is one that is so simple and elegant that it obviously has no mistakes, rather than merely having no obvious mistakes

Simon claims that Haskell is the most beautiful language he knows, then introduces it via an example with side-effects, knowing that the result is quite ghastly to a newbie! He points out that

Being explicit about side effects reveals a good deal of useful information. Consider two functions:
f :: Int -> Int
g :: Int -> IO Int
From looking only at their types we can see that f is a pure function: it has no side effects. In contrast, g has side effects, and this is apparent in its type. Each time g is performed it may give a different result.

I got lost in the middle of the Santa example, but I get the sentiment behind the design:

Since there are no programmer-visible locks, the questions of which locks to take, and in which order, simply do not arise. In particular, blocking (retry) and choice (orElse), which are fundamentally non-modular when expressed using locks, are fully modular in STM.

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Benefits of functional programming

A couple of linked articles with a strong story on the benefits of choosing F# over C# for reducing the bug count and reducing the size of the codebase.

Simon Tyler Cousins compares two similar projects with F# clearly superior to C# in every category for those projects.

Don Syme opines that a key benefit of F# is that nulls are all but eliminated in the code and references the manifesto for Not Only O-O:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Functions and Types over classes
Purity over mutability
Composition over inheritance
Higher-order functions over method dispatch
Options over nulls

That is, while there is value in the items on the right (except for nulls), we value the items on the left more.

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Equality and Comparisons in F#

This blog post from Don Syme is really useful when considering options for customising equality and comparisons in F#. Having said that, with F# 2.0, it looks like you don’t need to put attributes on your type, it’s enough to follow Don’s overrides of GetHashCode, Equals and CompareTo.

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Lambda functions – recursion and other tricks

A few useful lambda function ideas, especially how to write a recursive lambda function in C++11:

Interestingly, lambdas can be recursive. For example, here’s a lambda that implements the fibonacci series using recursion:

function<int(int)> fib1 = [&fib1](int n) -> int
  if(n <= 2)
    return 1;
    return fib1(n-1) + fib1(n-2);

Note that we had to actually name the lambda in order to implement the recursion. Without a name, how would you make the recursive call? This self-referencing places some restrictions on how a recursive lambda can be used; the lambda doesn’t refer to itself, it refers to fib1, which happens to be itself.

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