12. Messages

The MPS sometimes needs to communicate with the client program about events which occur asynchronously, and so information cannot be returned as function call results.

Messages are the mechanism for this asynchronous communication, implemented in the form of a message queue attached to each arena.

The client program must enable each message type that it is prepared to handle, by calling mps_message_type_enable(). Then it must poll the message queue at regular intervals when it is convenient to do so, calling mps_message_get() to retrieve each message from the queue, and finally calling mps_message_discard() when done with the message.

Messages are thus manually managed: if the client program enables one or more message types, and then neglects to poll the message queue or neglects to discard the messages it retrieved, then messages will leak.

There is no requirement on the client program to retrieve and discard messages promptly. However, a client program that allows the number of garbage collection (or garbage collection start) messages on the message queue to grow without limit will eventually find that new garbage collections no longer start until some of these messages are retrieved and discarded.

12.1. Finalization messages

Finalization is implemented by posting a finalization message (of type mps_message_type_finalization()) to the arena’s message queue. This allows the client program to perform the finalization at a convenient time and so avoid synchronization difficulties.

The block is not actually reclaimed until the finalization message is removed from the message queue and discarded, by calling mps_message_get() followed by mps_message_discard().

See Finalization.

12.2. Example: interactive chatter

The toy Scheme interpreter enables garbage collection messages when started in interactive mode:

mps_message_type_enable(arena, mps_message_type_gc());
mps_message_type_enable(arena, mps_message_type_gc_start());

Then, after every interactive command finishes, it reads these messages from the message queue and prints a description of the contents of each one:

static void mps_chat(void)
{
    mps_message_type_t type;

    while (mps_message_queue_type(&type, arena)) {
        mps_message_t message;
        mps_bool_t b;
        b = mps_message_get(&message, arena, type);
        assert(b); /* we just checked there was one */

        if (type == mps_message_type_gc_start()) {
            printf("Collection started.\n");
            printf("  Why: %s\n", mps_message_gc_start_why(arena, message));
            printf("  Clock: %lu\n", (unsigned long)mps_message_clock(arena, message));
        if (type == mps_message_type_gc()) {
            /* ... and so on for other message types ... */
        } else {
            printf("Unknown message from MPS!\n");
        }

        mps_message_discard(arena, message);
    }
}

Here’s how this looks in operation:

MPS Toy Scheme Example
9960, 0> (define (make-list n e) (if (eqv? n 0) '() (cons e (make-list (- n 1) e))))
make-list
10824, 0> (length (make-list 1000 #t))
1000
Collection started.
  Why: Generation 0 of a chain has reached capacity: start a minor collection.
  Clock: 6649
507408, 1> (length (make-list 200 #f))
200
Collection finished.
    live 112360
    condemned 196600
    not_condemned 0
    clock: 18431
607192, 1> Bye.

Note

This kind of interactive “chatter” may be useful when testing and debugging memory management, but should not be used otherwise. The scheduling of garbage collections is not normally of interest even to programmers, and chatter of this sort may give the illusion that a program is spending much more time garbage collecting than is actually the case.

Versions of GNU Emacs prior to 19.31 (May 1996) used to display the message “Garbage collecting...” during a collection. Erik Naggum commented on this feature:

I have run some tests at the U of Oslo with about 100 users who generally agreed that Emacs had become faster in the latest Emacs pretest. All I had done was to remove the “Garbage collecting” message which people perceive as slowing Emacs down and tell them that it had been sped up.

12.3. Message types

mps_message_type_t

The type of message types.

There are three message types:

  1. mps_message_type_finalization()
  2. mps_message_type_gc()
  3. mps_message_type_gc_start()
void mps_message_type_disable(mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_type_t message_type)

Restore an arena to the default state whereby messages of the specified message type are not posted, reversing the effect of an earlier call to mps_message_type_enable().

arena is an arena.

message_type is the message type to be disabled.

Any existing messages of the specified type are flushed from the message queue of arena.

Note

It is permitted to call this function when message_type is already disabled, in which case it has no effect.

void mps_message_type_enable(mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_type_t message_type)

Enable an arena to post messages of a specified message type.

arena is an arena.

message_type is the message type to be enabled.

This function tells the MPS that arena may post messages of message_type to its message queue. By default, the MPS does not generate any messages of any type.

A client program that enables messages for a message type must access messages by calling mps_message_get() and discard them by calling mps_message_discard(), or the message queue may consume unbounded resources.

The client program may disable the posting of messages by calling mps_message_type_disable().

Note

It is permitted to call this function when message_type is already enabled, in which case it has no effect.

12.4. Message interface

mps_message_t

The type of a message.

Messages are manually managed. They are created at the instigation of the MPS (but see mps_message_type_enable()), and are deleted by the client program by calling mps_message_discard().

An arena has a message queue from which messages can be obtained by calling mps_message_get().

An mps_message_t is a reference into MPS managed memory, and can safely be fixed.

mps_clock_t mps_message_clock(mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_t message)

Returns the time at which the MPS posted a message.

arena is the arena which posted the message.

message is a message retrieved by mps_message_get() and not yet discarded.

If message belongs to one of the following supported message, return the time at which the MPS posted the message:

For other message types, the value returned is always zero.

Messages are asynchronous: they are posted by the MPS, wait on a queue, and are later collected by the client program. Each message (of the supported message types) records the time that it was posted, and this is what mps_message_clock() returns.

The time returned is the mps_clock_t() value returned by the plinth function mps_clock() at the time the message was posted. You can subtract one clock value from another to get the time interval between the posting of two messages.

void mps_message_discard(mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_t message)

Indicate to the MPS that the client program has no further use for a message and the MPS can now reclaim any storage associated with the message.

arena is the arena which posted the message.

message is the message. After this call, message is invalid and should not be passed as an argument to any message functions.

Messages are essentially manually managed. This function allows the MPS to reclaim storage associated with messages. If the client does not discard messages then the resources used may grow without bound.

As well as consuming resources, messages may have other effects that require them to be tidied by calling this function. In particular finalization messages refer to a finalized block, and prevent the object from being reclaimed (subject to the usual garbage collection liveness analysis). A finalized block cannot be reclaimed until all its finalization messages have been discarded. See mps_message_type_finalization().

See also

Finalization.

mps_message_type_t mps_message_type(mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_t message)

Return the message type of a message.

arena is the arena that posted the message.

message is a message retrieved by mps_message_get() and not yet discarded.

12.5. Message queue interface

mps_bool_t mps_message_get(mps_message_t *message_o, mps_arena_t arena, mps_message_type_t message_type)

Get a message of a specified type from the message queue for an arena.

message_o points to a location that will hold the address of the message if the function succeeds.

arena is the arena.

message_type is the type of message to return.

If there is at least one message of the specified type on the message queue of the specified arena, then this function removes one such message from the queue, stores a pointer to the message in the location pointed to by message_o, and returns true. Otherwise it returns false.

mps_bool_t mps_message_poll(mps_arena_t arena)

Determine whether there are currently any messages on a message queue for an arena.

arena is the arena whose message queue will be polled.

Returns true if there is at least one message on the message queue for arena, or false if the message queue is empty.

Note

If you are interested in a particular type of message, it is usually simpler to call mps_message_get().

mps_bool_t mps_message_queue_type(mps_message_type_t *message_type_o, mps_arena_t arena)

Determine whether there are currently any messages on a message queue for an arena, and return the message type of the first message, if any.

message_type_o points to a location that will hold the message type of the first message on the queue, if any.

arena is the arena whose message queue will be polled.

If there is at least one message on the message queue of arena, then this function returns true, and also writes the message type of the first message on the queue into the location pointed to by message_type_o. If there are no messages on the message queue, it returns false.

Note

If you are interested in a particular type of message, it is usually simpler to call mps_message_get().