See the root page for exceptions

As of Jan 2019, this is rather obsolete. #14998 figured out that we don't really need the whole ExnStr business and that the benefits of making catch# strictApply1Dmd in its argument doesn't bring any performance benefits. There probably still are some good ideas on this page, just ignore the bits about ExnStr. Joining the demand types of the two arguments to catch# like two alts of a case sounds reasonable, for example, but I'm not sold there are actual benefits in doing so. SG

Fixing demand analysis for exceptions

There are a couple different problems we have to deal with.

  1. #13330 was caused by an ugly and somewhat broken hack trying to analyze catch# as stricter than it really is. It would be very nice if the good ideas that went into that ugly hack could be extracted and repaired to produce a more aggressive analysis that's still correct.
  1. #13380 reveals something of a disagreement about how we should view the result of raiseIO# (used to implement throwIO). Simon Marlow and David Feuer feel pretty strongly that throwIO should be viewed as producing an entirely deterministic, well-behaved IO action, and that the exception resulting from it should never be mixed up with an imprecise exception. Reid Barton and Simon Peyton Jones seem to wonder if that precision is worth the potential performance cost.

Assuming that I (David F.) and Simon M. win this debate, the key problem here is that we analyze raiseIO# e s as ThrowsExn, the same way we analyze something that either diverges or throws an imprecise exception. Assuming we change this, we want to take some care to recover dead code elimination that the current analysis allows. In particular, given

case raiseIO# e s of
  (# s', a #) -> EXPR

we surely want to consider EXPR to be dead code, even though we don't want to consider raiseIO# e s to be precisely bottom.

Important conventions below

In the rest of this page, I will squash all Exception types down to SomeException, to avoid all the conversion mess. So instead of Exception e => ..., I will simply assume that e is SomeException.

Furthermore, for the sake of readability, I uniformly substitute Either a b in place of (# a | b #).

By a precise exception, I mean an exception produced by raiseIO# (the primop version of throwIO).

By an imprecise exception, I basically mean an exception produced by throw (as described in A Semantics for Imprecise Exceptions).

Semantics of precise exceptions

I (David Feuer) believe that precise exceptions should implement the following model.

newtype IO a = IO {unIO :: State# RealWorld -> (# State# RealWorld, Either SomeException a #)
instance Monad IO where
  return a = IO $ \s -> (# s, Right a #)
  m >>= f = IO $ \s -> case unIO m s of
    (# s', Left e #) -> (# s', Left e #)
    (# s', Right a #) -> unIO (f a) s'

throwIO :: SomeException -> IO a
throwIO e = IO $ \s -> (# s, Left e #)

-- The name 'catchIO' is, sadly, taken by a less interesting function already
catchThrowIO :: IO a -> (SomeException -> IO a) -> IO a
catchThrowIO m f = IO $ \s ->
  case unIO m s of
    (# s', Left e #) -> unIO (f e) s'
    good -> good


  • I believe we likely should expose an actual catchThrowIO function. Since it doesn't catch imprecise exceptions, it can be treated much more aggressively. For example, catchThrowIO (putStrLn x) (\_ -> print 2) can safely be analyzed as strict in x, whereas the equivalent expression using catch cannot.
  • With the above semantics it is clear that this function (#13380 comment:4) whoudl be lazy in y:
    f :: Int -> Int -> IO Int
    f x y | x>0       = throwIO (userError "What")
          | y>0       = return 1
          | otherwise = return 2
  • See Note [IO hack in the demand analyser] in DmdAnal. This note would make much more sense with the above semantics for the IO monad.

The "I/O hack" in the demand analyzer actually does something very important that the note doesn't mention. The note begins

There's a hack here for I/O operations. Consider

case foo x s of { (# s, r #) -> y }

Is this strict in y? Normally yes, but what if foo is an I/O operation that simply terminates the program (not in an erroneous way)?

In fact, we have to worry about this under all interesting conditions. For example, consider

case unIO (putStrLn "About to run y") s of
  (# s', r #) -> y

Is this strict in y? No! y could turn out to be undefined; if we force it early then we'll never see the message. So I think we can really only consider this strict in y in the very special case where the IO action is pure x.

  • ConsiderthrowIO exn >>= BIG. Just inlining shows us that we can discard BIG. Currently (GHC 8) inlining turns this into case throwIO# exn sn of (# s#, r #) -> BIG r, which allows us to discard BIG because throwIO# is treated as diverging. But #13380, comment:4 suggests that it should not.

catch# strictness

How strict can catch# m f s be? See Note [Exceptions and strictness] in Demand. The ExnStr business is pretty horrible.

Making catch# strict made a significant perf difference in libraries: see comment:4 of #10712. Maybe indeed adding catchThrowIO as David suggests above, making it strict, and using it in the libraries in place of catch , would be the way to go.

We know several things:

  1. If m s diverges (without throwing an exception), then catch# m f s diverges.
  1. If m s certainly executes successfully, then catch# m f s = m s.
  1. If m s is strict in some value x, and x certainly does not throw an exception (i.e., it either evaluates successfully to WHNF or diverges), then it is safe to consider catch# m f s strict in x.
  1. If m s and f e s are both strict in some value x, then it is safe to consider catch# m f s strict in x.
  1. If m s certainly throws an exception (either imprecise or precise) that it does not itself catch, then f is certainly called.


catchRetry# is used to implement orElse for STM. I believe that it functions (from the perspective of demand analysis) very much like the hypothetical catchThrowIO, and that we can probably treat them similarly.

Concrete ideas

I think, first, that we should draw a clear line between imprecise exceptions, generally produced by raise#, and precise exceptions, produced by raiseIO.

Operationally, we need raise# and raiseIO# to set some flag to allow catchRaiseIO# to see which exceptions it should handle.

I believe we want unsafePerformIO and unsafeInterleaveIO to convert precise exceptions into imprecise ones. That is, they should effectively catch any precise exceptions and rethrow them as imprecise ones. Perhaps we can do this in runRW#. Currently, unsafeInterleaveIO doesn't use runRW#, but I think we can and probably should change that.

I strongly suspect there is something to be gained by treating expressions using catch# or catchRaiseIO# specially in the demand analyzer, but I don't know enough to say just how. I suspect the "result domain" does need to be expanded from the classical one, but in a slightly different direction than what we have now; we want to be able to express that certain things certainly will or certainly won't throw imprecise or precise exceptions.

We seem to take some advantage of has_side_effects to avoid applying the I/O demand analysis hack too broadly, but perhaps we could do a better job by propagating side effect information as we do demand information. I don't know.

Last modified 9 months ago Last modified on Jan 31, 2019 10:22:28 AM