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PyPy Winter Sprint Report

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to attend the PyPy winter sprint in Leysin Switzerland. I've wanted to contribute to PyPy for a long time and I thought diving into a sprint might be a good way to get familiar with some of the code. What I wasn't expecting was to be using RPython to implement new methods on built-in Python objects on the first day. The main thing I took away from the sprint was just how easy it is to get involved in developing PyPy (well, some bits of it at least and being surrounded by core developers helps). I wrote up a very short description of how to get started here, but I'll do a longer blog post with examples on my own blog soon(ish).

The sprint was kicked off by Armin merging the "fast-forward" branch of PyPy onto trunk. "fast-forward" brings PyPy from Python 2.5 compatibility to Python 2.7. Along with this it brought a large number of test failures, as the sterling work done by Benjamin Peterson and Amaury Forgeot d'Arc was not complete. This immediately set the primary sprint goal to reduce the number of test failures.

We made a great deal of progress on this front, and you can see how close PyPy is now from the buildbots.

Jacob Hallén and I started working through the list of tests with failures alphabetically. We made short work of test_asyncore and moved onto test_bytes where I was stuck for the rest of the sprint. I spent much of the remaining days working with Laura Creighton on the pypy bytearray implementation to make it more compatible with Python 2.7. This meant adding new methods, changing some of the Python protocol method implementations and even changing the way that bytearray is constructed. All in all great fun and a great introduction to working with RPython.

A big part of the compatibility with Python 2.7 work was done by Laura and Armin who basically rewrote the math module from scratch. This was needed to incorporate all the improvements made (mostly by Mark Dickinson) in CPython in 2.7. That involved a lot of head-scratching about such subtleties as whether -0.0 should be considered almost equal to 0.0 and other fun problems.

The first meal together, before everyone had arrived
If you add on top of this the wonderful people, the beautiful scenery, the Swiss cheese fondues, managing to not kill myself with a days skiing and traditional pypy card games, I can heartily recommend pypy sprints as a close approximation of geek nirvana.

View of the mountains from the sprint

Working on 2.7 compatibility wasn't the only work that happened during the sprint. Other activities included:
  • Antonio Cuni worked on the "jittypes" branch. This is a reimplementation of the core of the PyPy ctypes code to make it jittable. The goal is that for common cases the jit should be able to turn ctypes calls from Python into direct C level calls. This work was not completed but very close and is great for the future of integrating C libraries with PyPy. As ctypes is also available in CPython and IronPython, and hopefully will be available in Jython soon, integrating C code with Python through ctypes is the most "implementation portable" technique.
  • David Schneider continued his work on the JIT backend for ARM. PyPy has been cross-compilable to ARM for a long time, but bringing the JIT to ARM will provide a *fast* PyPy for ARM, which includes platforms like Android. Again David didn't complete this work but did complete the float support.
  • Håkan Ardo was present for two days and continued his crazy-clever work on JIT optimisations, some of which are described in the Loop invariant code motion blog entry.
  • Holger Krekel worked on updating the PyPy test suite to the latest version of py.test and also worked with me on the interminable bytearray changes for part of the sprint.
  • No one was sure what  Maciej Fijałkowski worked on but he seemed to be quite busy.
I think that was most of the work done during the actual sprint. There was also a great deal of healthy discussion about the future of PyPy. Expect lots more interesting and exciting developments over the coming year.


Anonymous wrote on 2011-02-14 15:00:

"There was also a great deal of healthy discussion about the future of PyPy."

World domination?

Carl Friedrich Bolz-Tereick wrote on 2011-02-14 16:19:

Very nice report, thanks a lot Michael!

Anonymous wrote on 2011-02-15 01:16:

> world domination?

why yes of course! the ouroboros is their symbol; PyPy is, evidently, backed by the templars

Anonymous wrote on 2011-02-15 16:21:

> world domination?

Mongol General: Pypy devs! What is best in life?
Pypy dev: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

Carl Friedrich Bolz-Tereick wrote on 2011-02-15 16:41:

@Anonymous: Let's not get too far off-track. Also, I don't really like being ascribed a rather violent quote by (supposedly) Genghis Khan, so stop that please.

Anonymous wrote on 2011-02-15 17:44:

@Carl, it wasn't Genghis Khan.
It was Conan the Barbarian, impersonated by former California governor.
Not to be taken too seriously... :-)

Carl Friedrich Bolz-Tereick wrote on 2011-02-15 20:40: