[Vm-dev] Fwd: Memory mapped files and Pharo (aka Unreal Engine 4 integration with Pharo)

Dimitris Chloupis kilon.alios at gmail.com
Sun Jan 17 21:12:51 UTC 2016

Eliot as long as you integrate this, because my knowledge of VM is close to
zero, and make it a standard part of the VM I am perfectly ok with it. I
dont care about an optimal solution just a solution that works .

All I want is the ability to do shared memory management from inside Pharo.
I am very new to all this so I am not aware of the problems and
limititations I will face. But I know that you are far better than me to
provide a good implementation.

I dont kid myself this will be a long process for me , it will take time to
get familiar with shared memory management , short out potential bugs and
dust off my knowledge about C++. So I am not in any hurry but willing to
learn how to do this in practice, which means I will make some testing C++
apps to really get the hang of this.

That means I can wait for the threaded VM and a potential implementation
for shared memory access.

So yeah your idea sounds great, the ability to GC shared memory sounds
awesome though I am a bit worried how I will be able to alert my C++ code
about this GC, so maybe a specific primitive would be better ?

On Sun, Jan 17, 2016 at 10:18 PM Eliot Miranda <eliot.miranda at gmail.com>

> Hi Dimitris,
> On Sun, Jan 17, 2016 at 8:57 AM, Dimitris Chloupis <kilon.alios at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> I attach the forwarded post I posted in pharo-users but if you want the
>> summary its a collection of questions whether its possible to use memory
>> mapped files shared memory with Pharo VM for IPC. I thought to forward also
>> here since this may be a VM related too. Any help is appreciated
>> ---------- Forwarded message ---------
>> From: Dimitris Chloupis <kilon.alios at gmail.com>
>> Date: Sun, Jan 17, 2016 at 6:41 PM
>> Subject: Memory mapped files and Pharo (aka Unreal Engine 4 integration
>> with Pharo)
>> To: Any question about pharo is welcome <pharo-users at lists.pharo.org>
>> An apology for the long post but this is not a simple issue and hence not
>> a simple question.
>> So I am looking into ways to integrate Pharo with Unreal to bring some
>> nuclear powered graphics to Pharo and make us first class citizents to 2D
>> and 3D world.
>> For those not aware this is unreal
>> https://www.unrealengine.com/what-is-unreal-engine-4
>> As suprising it may sound Unreal and Pharo share a lot in common
>> 1) Both integrated languages with IDEs
>> 2) Both promote live coding and live manipulation of data
>> 3) Both promote visual coding
>> 4) Both promote ease of use and wizard based development (aka RAD)
>> Unreal is indeed a C++ based project made to be used by C++ coders but it
>> comes with a very powerful visual coding language that can map visual nodes
>> to any C++ function/Method and another common ground with Pharo is the very
>> strict OO nature of both projects. But then OOP is very big in game
>> development anyway.
>> Of course my goal is not to force Pharoers to learn C++, but rather make
>> a Pharo API so Pharo can be used to do some simple graphics development in
>> the start and then we can continue importing more and more functionality.
>> Unreal is generally a heavy engine that requires quite a powerful GPU but
>> its rendering is just amazing.
>> So how I make Pharo talk to Unreal is the million dollar question.
>> The road of compiling Unreal as a set of DLLs to be loaded by Pharo via
>> FFI is a road full of thorns because its quite an undertaking cause Unreal
>> is HUGE and it will be nightmare to maintain since Unreal moves forward
>> very fast.
>> So we come to the subject of IPC, or Inter Process Communication. I am
>> not new to this as you know I have build a socket bridge between Pharo and
>> Python that allows Pharo to use Python libraries and in my implementation I
>> focus on Blender Python API.
>> But sockets are not exactly blazzing fast, calling functions is fine
>> because you can even get responses bellow 1 millisecond but if try to run
>> some heavy loops you will be in trouble. There are work arounds of course,
>> like sending the loop with the socket and language etc but they
>> overcomplicate something that at least in my opinion should remain simple.
>> Another IPC method is shared memory, it is what it says , basically
>> processes that share a place in memory where they can access the same data.
>> Extremely fast but it has its own traps for example how to make sure the
>> processes dont access the same data at the same time etc.
>> So after some reading I came across to a shared memory model called
>> Memory mapped files, basically what that means is essentially a virtual
>> file that resides on memory (it may also reside on the hard disk or other
>> permanent physical storage but its not necessary) that different processes
>> can access.
>> So in our case we can have memory mapped file that Unreal , Pharo and
>> even Blender can access where we can store command / messages that each
>> diffirent application must execute, let them share data and sky is the
>> limit.
>> Now I know this will not be a walk in the park specially to someone like
>> me a C++ noob but I am looking for the Pharo wisemen wisewomen to guide me
>> at least through the obstacles of this.
>> So the questions are the following
>> 1) Do you think this is possible with the current Pharo ?
> You should be able to map a file via the FFI calling mmap, and access it
> via an ExternalPointer.  But that's crappy.
>> 2) Will I be limited by the fact that the VM currently does not
>> multithread or cannot use multithreading libraries ? ( I have no intention
>> of using multithreading but some handling of process access to the data may
>> be necessary to make sure data is safe from concurent modification)
> As you've noticed we intend to provide a threaded FFI that will allow you
> to use threaded libraries.  But that's not really the issue.  There must be
> some handshaking protocol for the two halves to communicate via shared
> memory without conflict.  The threaded FFI should make it possible to call
> e.g. pthread_cond_wait to synchronise, but a lower-level test-and-set or
> conditional move facility would be nicer.  See below.
> 3) Is there anything else I should be aware of as common pitfalls for such
>> implementation ?
>> 4) Can the current FFI help in this task or would I need to implement
>> this as a C DLL and load it from Pharo
> Forgive me for diving down a bit before I answer your question, but I find
> being concrete helps.
> Spur has a segmented memory model.  When one grows the heap the VM
> allocates memory via mmap and integrates it with the rest of the heap by
> using "bridge" objects at the end of each segment.  A bridge object is two
> 64-bit words.  It says "I am a bytes object" so that the GC will never look
> inside the object, and it lies about its size, saying "I am large enough to
> span to the start of the next segment".  So when adding a new segment, the
> bridge in the segment before the new one is "shortened" to point to the
> start of the new segment, and a new bridge is added to the end of the
> segment so that it points to the start of the next segment in memory.  The
> last segment's bridge has a zero length.  Spur also provides pinning, as
> simple as a per-object flag that tells the GC not to move an object.  So
> bridges are pinned, and hence compaction leaves bridges unmolested, but any
> object in old space can be pinned also.
> So an elegant way of providing shared memory in Spur would be to add a
> "map a file as a byte array" primitive.  There are issues with this.  The
> first 16 bytes of the mapped file would have to be used to construct the
> header for a ByteArray that would comprise the rest of the segment,
> excepting another 16 bytes at the end that would need to be a bridge.  So
> if you wanted to share this with another application you'd probably want to
> allocate a file that was, say, 2k bytes bigger than needed, and use the
> first and last 1k bytes to hide the header and the bridge.
> Ah, better still would be to construct three objects in the segment, an
> initial ByteArray that stretches to 16 bytes before the second page, a
> ByteArray whose contents start at the beginning of the second page and
> reach all the way to the penultimate page, and then a ByteArray to reach
> from the end of the penultimate page to the bridge at the end of the
> mmapped file segment.  All three objects could be pinned and be prevented
> from being GC'ed until the entire segment was released.  That would give
> you a ByteArray (the middle of the three) whose contents were all but the
> first and last pages of the mmapped file, aligned on a file page boundary
> and whose length was a multiple of the page size.  C++/C clients could then
> map the central portion and use e.g. pointers to access it.
> To implement this there would be an mmap-file-as-segment primitive and
> perhaps a release-segment primitive, or some magic in the GC to release the
> segment when the ByteArrays were no longer accessed.
> So then I could imagine test-and-set or conditional-move primitives on
> ByteArray that supported manipulating locks in a ByteArray, and by
> extension, in the shared file.  I think this kind of approach would give
> you the fastest, most direct access to shared memory I can think of.  Does
> this appeal?
> PS: I have no intention of messing with the Pharo VM and I also want to
>> avoid the use of plugins as I want this to work with standard Pharo
>> distributions.
> _,,,^..^,,,_
> best, Eliot
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