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Re: state of Guile GC

From: Ludovic Courtès
Subject: Re: state of Guile GC
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 22:56:01 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.1 (gnu/linux)

Hi Julian,

"Julian Graham" <address@hidden> writes:

> I realize that a lot of this has to do with the allocation profile of
> my Scheme code, and I'm working on profiling it;

It's not only your fault: the evaluator conses every time a Scheme
procedure is invoked, including when invoked in tail position.  That
ought to be fixed.

BTW, did you notice a significant change compared to your previous Guile
version?  Were you actually using `scm_block_gc ()' before?

You might want to build a single-threaded Guile 1.8 if possible, which
should perform much better, although that is admittedly not very

> * In 1.8, you guys removed scm_block_gc, and the comments in the
> Changelog seem to indicate that this was a requirement because of the
> way the redesigned GC interleaves itself with "Guile mode" C code.
> Would it really be impossible to re-add some way of (temporarily)
> disabling GC?

Sorry, I don't know what the rationale was, maybe others can help.

> * Any suggestions from application authors on how to control the
> behavior of the GC from C?  dsmith on #guile suggested that there
> might be a way to trick Guile into thinking a GC wasn't necessary by
> flubbing the GC stats somehow, but I couldn't figure out a way to do
> that that looks portable.

Maybe the `GUILE_MIN_YIELD_{1,2}' environment variables can help, as I
noted in a recent post.  Did you try playing with them?

But that's not really targeting the "application authors", rather the

> * Out of curiosity, what are the technical / theoretical constraints
> that make Guile's GC perform the way it does?  There are other
> garbage-collected languages with (what I would imagine are) much
> heavier allocation footprints (C#, Java) that seem to have much faster
> GC.  (P'raps they collect in a separate thread?)  Do other Schemes do
> things differently?

It's hard to tell whether it's really so inefficient (although looking
at the code gives the impression that there's room for

> * What's the state of porting Guile to use Boehm GC?  I was following
> Ludovic's research into it but things kind of trailed off about a year
> ago when he posted some rather unhappy performance information.

He.  ;-)

Then there were happier pieces of information, namely about how `libgc'
has to be compiled to get better performance [0].  At this stage,
libgc-enabled Guile performs comparably to the current Guile.  The thing
is: good performance measurements are needed, including an analysis of
the execution time/memory usage tradeoff.  This has been on my TODO list
for a while now...

Also, it's been reported that libgc-Guile provides lower latency than
regular Guile in SND [1].

Hope this helps,


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