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Lecture: Advanced Reflection. MetaLinks

Updated version of the Lecture. VUB Brussels, Ocotber 2018 Smalltalk provides many reflective features, yet behavioral reflection is limited. Pharo provides reflective features that go beyond standard Smalltalk. The lecture will present Reflectivity, a framework for fine-grained behavioral reflection. It allows to annotate the AST with MetaLinks, alowing meta-objects to change behavior down to a single operation. After a overview of the framework, we show how MetaLinks are used in Pharo to realize IDE tools such as BreakPoints and Code Coverage.

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Advanced Reflection:
MetaLinks
Marcus Denker, Inria
http://marcusdenker.de
Lecture at VUB Brussels, October 30, 2018
What we know…
• Smalltalk is reflective

• Classes, Methods, Stack-Frames… are Objects

• Reflective API on all Objects
Take home message
• Reflection is based on the meta-class model, thus
inherently structural.
• Behavioural reflection limited to:
• Method lookup upon failure ( doesNotUnderstand:
message)
• Current execution reified (thisContext)
61
Can we do better?
• A more fine-grained reflective mechanism seems to be
missing

• Let’s look again at a Method in the Inspector
Inspector on a Method
The AST
• AST = Abstract Syntax Tree

• Tree Representation of the Method

• Produced by the Parser (part of the Compiler)

• Used by all tools (refactoring, syntax-highlighting,…)
Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
AST
• RBMethodNode Root

• RBVariableNode Variable (read and write)

• RBAssignmentNode Assignment

• RBMessageNode A Message (most of them)

• RBReturnNode Return
Inspect a simple AST
• A very simple Example
Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
AST: Navigation
• To make it easy to find and enumerate nodes, there are
some helper methods

• CompiledMethod has: #sendNodes,
#variableNodes, #assignmentNodes
• Every AST node has #nodesDo: and #allChildren
AST: Visitor
• RBProgramNodeVisitor: Visitor Pattern for the AST

• Make subclass, override visit… methods

• Let’s see it in action: Count Message sends
Demo: Visitor
Repeat:The AST
• AST = Abstract Syntax Tree

• Tree Representation of the Method

• Produced by the Parser (part of the Compiler)

• Used by all tools (refactoring, syntax-highlighting,…)
Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
The Compiler
• Smalltalk compiler -> Compiler Facade 

• Classes define the compiler to use

• You can override method #compiler

• Behind: Compiler Chain
The Compiler
Source AST
Annotated
AST
IR
Annotated
AST
Bytecode
RBParser OCSemanticAnalyzer
OCASTTranslator/
IRBuilder
IRBytecodeGenerator
AST Integration
• Originally just internal to the compiler

• Pharo: 

• send #ast to a method to get the AST

• Cached for persistency.
(Point>>#x) ast == (Point>>#x) ast
—> true
AST Integration
• We can navigate from execution to AST

• Example:
[ 1 + 2 ] sourceNode ==
thisContext method sourceNode blockNodes first
Back to the topic…
• A more fine-grained reflective mechanism seems to be
missing

• Can’t we do something with the AST?
Wouldn’t it be nice..
• With the AST, wouldn’t it be nice if we could use this
structure for Behavioural Reflection?

• If we could somehow attach a “arrow to the code” that
points to a meta-object
test
^( 1 + 2 )
meta-object
for this Send
We have all pieces…
• We have the AST for each method

• It is quite simple

• We have a compiler in the system

• So this should be possible…
The MetaLink
• MetaLink points to metaObject

• Defines a selector to call

• And a control attribute: #before, #after, #instead

• Installed on a AST node:
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: Halt;
selector: #once;
control: #before.
(Number>>#sin) ast link: link
The MetaLink
• Can be installed on any AST Node

• Methods will be re-compiled on the fly just before next
execution

• Link installation is very fast

• Changing a method removes all links from this method

• Managing link re-installation has to be done by the user
MetaLink: MetaObject
• MetaObject can be any object

• Even a Block: [Transcript show ‘hello’]
• Install on any Node with #link:

• de-install a link with #uninstall
MetaLink: Selector
• MetaLink defines a message send to the MetaObject

• #selector defines which one

• Default is #value

• Yes, a selector with arguments is supported 

• We can pass information to the meta-object
MetaLink: Argument
• The arguments define which arguments to pass

• We support a number of reifications
Reifications
• Reifications define data to be passed as arguments

• Reify —> Make something into an object that is not one
normally

• Example: “All arguments of this message”
Reifications: examples
• All nodes: #object #context #class #node
#link
• Sends: #arguments #receiver #selector
• Method: #arguments #selector 

• Variable: #value

They are defined as subclasses of class RFReification
Reifications as MetaObject
• We support some special metaObjects:

• #node The AST Node we are installed on

• #object self at runtime

• #class The class the links is installed in
MetaLink: Condition
• We can specify a condition for the MetaLink

• Link is active if the condition evaluates to true
• We can pass reifications as arguments
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: Halt;
selector: #once;
condition: [:object | object == 5] arguments: #(object).
(Number>>#sin) ast link: link.
MetaLink: control
• We can specify when to call the meta-object

• We support #before, #after and #instead
• The instead is very simple: last one wins
Example: Log
• We want to just print something to the Transcript
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: [Transcript show: 'Reached Here'].
(Number>>#sin) ast link: link
Recursion Problem
• Before we see more examples: There is a problem

• Imagine we put a MetaLink on some method deep in the
System (e.g new, +, do: ).

• Our Meta-Object might use exactly that method, too
Endless Loop!!
Recursion Problem
• Solution: Meta-Level

• We encode the a level in the execution of the system

• Every Link Activation increases the level

• A meta-link is just active for one level. (e.g. 0)
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: [ Object new ];
level: 0.
(Behavior>>#new) ast link: link.
Example: Log
• Better use #level: 0

• Nevertheless: be careful! If you add this to method called
often it can be very slow.
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: [Transcript show: 'Reached Here’];
level: 0.
Example: Counter
• In the Browser you can add a “counter” to the AST

• See class ExecutionCounter
install
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: self;
selector: #increase.
node link: link.
Example: Breakpoint
• “Add Breakpoint” in AST (Suggestions) Menu

• See class Breakpoint

• Break Once 

• Conditional Break breakLink
^ MetaLink new
metaObject: Break;
selector: #break;
options: options
Example: WatchPoint
• Watchpoint: Record Value at a point in the AST

• Example: Watch event in WorldMorph>>#mouseDown:
Click on background
-> value recorded
Example: WatchPoint
• Implementation: class Watchpoint, method install

• example of a #after link with a condition
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: self;
selector: #addValue:;
arguments: #(value);
control: #after;
condition: [ recording ].
Example: Code Coverage
• Small Demo.

• Start with CoverageDemo new openWithSpec
Example: Code Coverage
• Example of a MetaLink with a #node MetObject

• Meta-Object is the node that the link is installed on
link := MetaLink new
metaObject: #node;
selector: #tagExecuted.
Interesting Properties
• Cross Cutting

• One Link can be installed multiple times

• Over multiple methods and even Classes

• And across operations (e.g., Send and Assignment) as
long as all reifications requested are compatible

• Fully Dynamic: Links can be added and removed at runtime

• Even by the meta-object of another meta-link!
Example: Accept for Test
• Imagine we want to edit a method that is called often by
the System.

• How do we test it?

• It would be nice if we could “Accept for Test”
Example: Accept for Test
• Menu in the browser. Quick hack, a Suggestions AST
menu shows for all nodes.
SugsSuggestion subclass: #SugsAcceptForTest
instanceVariableNames: ''
classVariableNames: ''
package: 'SmartSuggestions-Suggestion'
label
^'Accept for test'
• We implement our code in the #execute method
Example: Accept for Test
• How we know that we are in a test?
CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest
• We can compile the current text buffer
newMethod := context selectedClass compiler
source: context code;
options: #(+ optionParseErrors);
compile.
Example: Accept for Test
• Add this code to the beginning of the method:
[:aContext :args |
CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest ifTrue: [
aContext return: (newMethod
valueWithReceiver: aContext
receiver
arguments: args) ]]
• Let’s do that with a MetaLink!
Example: Accept for Test
execute
| newMethod metaLink |
newMethod := context selectedClass compiler
source: context code;
options: #(+ optionParseErrors);
compile.
"the link executes the method we just created and returns"
metaLink := MetaLink new
metaObject: [ :aContext :args |
CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest
ifTrue: [ aContext return: (newMethod
valueWithReceiver: aContext receiver
arguments: args) ] ];
selector: #value:value:;
arguments: #(context arguments).
context selectedMethod ast link: metaLink
Limitations
• Better use Pharo7 (we are improving it still)

• #instead needs more work (e.g to support conditions)

• Keep in mind: next metaLink taken into account for next
method activation 

• Take care with long running loops!
Help Wanted
• We are always interested in improvements!

• Pharo7 is under active development. 

• Pull Requests Welcome!

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Lecture: Advanced Reflection. MetaLinks

  • 1. Advanced Reflection: MetaLinks Marcus Denker, Inria http://marcusdenker.de Lecture at VUB Brussels, October 30, 2018
  • 2. What we know… • Smalltalk is reflective • Classes, Methods, Stack-Frames… are Objects • Reflective API on all Objects
  • 3. Take home message • Reflection is based on the meta-class model, thus inherently structural. • Behavioural reflection limited to: • Method lookup upon failure ( doesNotUnderstand: message) • Current execution reified (thisContext) 61
  • 4. Can we do better? • A more fine-grained reflective mechanism seems to be missing • Let’s look again at a Method in the Inspector
  • 5. Inspector on a Method
  • 6. The AST • AST = Abstract Syntax Tree • Tree Representation of the Method • Produced by the Parser (part of the Compiler) • Used by all tools (refactoring, syntax-highlighting,…) Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
  • 7. AST • RBMethodNode Root • RBVariableNode Variable (read and write) • RBAssignmentNode Assignment • RBMessageNode A Message (most of them) • RBReturnNode Return
  • 8. Inspect a simple AST • A very simple Example Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
  • 9. AST: Navigation • To make it easy to find and enumerate nodes, there are some helper methods • CompiledMethod has: #sendNodes, #variableNodes, #assignmentNodes • Every AST node has #nodesDo: and #allChildren
  • 10. AST: Visitor • RBProgramNodeVisitor: Visitor Pattern for the AST • Make subclass, override visit… methods • Let’s see it in action: Count Message sends
  • 12. Repeat:The AST • AST = Abstract Syntax Tree • Tree Representation of the Method • Produced by the Parser (part of the Compiler) • Used by all tools (refactoring, syntax-highlighting,…) Smalltalk compiler parse: 'test ^(1+2)'
  • 13. The Compiler • Smalltalk compiler -> Compiler Facade • Classes define the compiler to use • You can override method #compiler • Behind: Compiler Chain
  • 14. The Compiler Source AST Annotated AST IR Annotated AST Bytecode RBParser OCSemanticAnalyzer OCASTTranslator/ IRBuilder IRBytecodeGenerator
  • 15. AST Integration • Originally just internal to the compiler • Pharo: • send #ast to a method to get the AST • Cached for persistency. (Point>>#x) ast == (Point>>#x) ast —> true
  • 16. AST Integration • We can navigate from execution to AST • Example: [ 1 + 2 ] sourceNode == thisContext method sourceNode blockNodes first
  • 17. Back to the topic… • A more fine-grained reflective mechanism seems to be missing • Can’t we do something with the AST?
  • 18. Wouldn’t it be nice.. • With the AST, wouldn’t it be nice if we could use this structure for Behavioural Reflection? • If we could somehow attach a “arrow to the code” that points to a meta-object test ^( 1 + 2 ) meta-object for this Send
  • 19. We have all pieces… • We have the AST for each method • It is quite simple • We have a compiler in the system • So this should be possible…
  • 20. The MetaLink • MetaLink points to metaObject • Defines a selector to call • And a control attribute: #before, #after, #instead • Installed on a AST node: link := MetaLink new metaObject: Halt; selector: #once; control: #before. (Number>>#sin) ast link: link
  • 21. The MetaLink • Can be installed on any AST Node • Methods will be re-compiled on the fly just before next execution • Link installation is very fast • Changing a method removes all links from this method • Managing link re-installation has to be done by the user
  • 22. MetaLink: MetaObject • MetaObject can be any object • Even a Block: [Transcript show ‘hello’] • Install on any Node with #link: • de-install a link with #uninstall
  • 23. MetaLink: Selector • MetaLink defines a message send to the MetaObject • #selector defines which one • Default is #value • Yes, a selector with arguments is supported • We can pass information to the meta-object
  • 24. MetaLink: Argument • The arguments define which arguments to pass • We support a number of reifications
  • 25. Reifications • Reifications define data to be passed as arguments • Reify —> Make something into an object that is not one normally • Example: “All arguments of this message”
  • 26. Reifications: examples • All nodes: #object #context #class #node #link • Sends: #arguments #receiver #selector • Method: #arguments #selector • Variable: #value
 They are defined as subclasses of class RFReification
  • 27. Reifications as MetaObject • We support some special metaObjects: • #node The AST Node we are installed on • #object self at runtime • #class The class the links is installed in
  • 28. MetaLink: Condition • We can specify a condition for the MetaLink • Link is active if the condition evaluates to true • We can pass reifications as arguments link := MetaLink new metaObject: Halt; selector: #once; condition: [:object | object == 5] arguments: #(object). (Number>>#sin) ast link: link.
  • 29. MetaLink: control • We can specify when to call the meta-object • We support #before, #after and #instead • The instead is very simple: last one wins
  • 30. Example: Log • We want to just print something to the Transcript link := MetaLink new metaObject: [Transcript show: 'Reached Here']. (Number>>#sin) ast link: link
  • 31. Recursion Problem • Before we see more examples: There is a problem • Imagine we put a MetaLink on some method deep in the System (e.g new, +, do: ). • Our Meta-Object might use exactly that method, too Endless Loop!!
  • 32. Recursion Problem • Solution: Meta-Level • We encode the a level in the execution of the system • Every Link Activation increases the level • A meta-link is just active for one level. (e.g. 0) link := MetaLink new metaObject: [ Object new ]; level: 0. (Behavior>>#new) ast link: link.
  • 33. Example: Log • Better use #level: 0 • Nevertheless: be careful! If you add this to method called often it can be very slow. link := MetaLink new metaObject: [Transcript show: 'Reached Here’]; level: 0.
  • 34. Example: Counter • In the Browser you can add a “counter” to the AST • See class ExecutionCounter install link := MetaLink new metaObject: self; selector: #increase. node link: link.
  • 35. Example: Breakpoint • “Add Breakpoint” in AST (Suggestions) Menu • See class Breakpoint • Break Once • Conditional Break breakLink ^ MetaLink new metaObject: Break; selector: #break; options: options
  • 36. Example: WatchPoint • Watchpoint: Record Value at a point in the AST • Example: Watch event in WorldMorph>>#mouseDown: Click on background -> value recorded
  • 37. Example: WatchPoint • Implementation: class Watchpoint, method install • example of a #after link with a condition link := MetaLink new metaObject: self; selector: #addValue:; arguments: #(value); control: #after; condition: [ recording ].
  • 38. Example: Code Coverage • Small Demo. • Start with CoverageDemo new openWithSpec
  • 39. Example: Code Coverage • Example of a MetaLink with a #node MetObject • Meta-Object is the node that the link is installed on link := MetaLink new metaObject: #node; selector: #tagExecuted.
  • 40. Interesting Properties • Cross Cutting • One Link can be installed multiple times • Over multiple methods and even Classes • And across operations (e.g., Send and Assignment) as long as all reifications requested are compatible • Fully Dynamic: Links can be added and removed at runtime • Even by the meta-object of another meta-link!
  • 41. Example: Accept for Test • Imagine we want to edit a method that is called often by the System. • How do we test it? • It would be nice if we could “Accept for Test”
  • 42. Example: Accept for Test • Menu in the browser. Quick hack, a Suggestions AST menu shows for all nodes. SugsSuggestion subclass: #SugsAcceptForTest instanceVariableNames: '' classVariableNames: '' package: 'SmartSuggestions-Suggestion' label ^'Accept for test' • We implement our code in the #execute method
  • 43. Example: Accept for Test • How we know that we are in a test? CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest • We can compile the current text buffer newMethod := context selectedClass compiler source: context code; options: #(+ optionParseErrors); compile.
  • 44. Example: Accept for Test • Add this code to the beginning of the method: [:aContext :args | CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest ifTrue: [ aContext return: (newMethod valueWithReceiver: aContext receiver arguments: args) ]] • Let’s do that with a MetaLink!
  • 45. Example: Accept for Test execute | newMethod metaLink | newMethod := context selectedClass compiler source: context code; options: #(+ optionParseErrors); compile. "the link executes the method we just created and returns" metaLink := MetaLink new metaObject: [ :aContext :args | CurrentExecutionEnvironment value isTest ifTrue: [ aContext return: (newMethod valueWithReceiver: aContext receiver arguments: args) ] ]; selector: #value:value:; arguments: #(context arguments). context selectedMethod ast link: metaLink
  • 46. Limitations • Better use Pharo7 (we are improving it still) • #instead needs more work (e.g to support conditions) • Keep in mind: next metaLink taken into account for next method activation • Take care with long running loops!
  • 47. Help Wanted • We are always interested in improvements! • Pharo7 is under active development. • Pull Requests Welcome!