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From: Jörg Striegnitz (J.Striegnitz_at_[hidden])
Date: 2002-03-20 08:21:00

> In particular, I'm interested in the relation to FACT!:

FACT! and LL do have a lot in common. Both libraries do provide lambda
expressions, thus, you can define functions 'on-the-fly' like you
can do with a lot of functional programming languages. Moreover, both
approaches use the same implementation technique, namely, expression

FACT! is based on PETE (the Portable Expression Template Engine), which is used
in a number of projects that emphasize high performance computing. The most
popular example is POOMA (see ). Consequently,
some of the primary design goals for FACT! were performance, performance, and
even better performance ;-), as well as portability and interoperability with
existing libraries. Especially - with respect to POOMA - FACT! was intended to
be used as an effective tool to describe stencils (computation of derivatives).

Due to building upon PETE, FACT! takes into account user-defined evaluation
strategies. For instance, if you use PETE to define how expressions over a
user-defined type should be evaluated, this evaluation scheme will be applied
even if you 'instantiate' a lambda expression. For instance, take the Vec3
example from the PETE examples. Then the expression

  res = b + c * d; // where b,c,d,res are of type Vec3

should deliver the same result (and performance!) as the application of a
lambda-generated function (if you are using a highly optimizing C++ compiler):

  res = lambda(x,y,z, x + y * z)(b,c,d);

Another motivation for the development of FACT! was to investigate how good one
could integrate functional behavior into C++ (e.g. lazy evaluation, currying and
so on). The rationale for focusing on functional programming was once again high
performance computing. Due to the property of referential integrity - having no
side effects - functional languages are very good candidates for performing
automatic code-parallelization; Algorithmic Skeletons are one of the buzzwords

I would say that the programming paradigm makes one of the major differences
between LL and FACT!. FACT! tries to be as functional as possible, while LL -
despite its name - is imperative. For instance, LL allows assignments, loops,
sequences of statements and even more imperative features to be used within a
lambda expression. The only 'looping' construct that FACT! offers is the
Y-combinator. Thus, the FACT! way to define the faculty function may look like

  Y<int>()(lambda(f,x, where(x==0,
           // where is PETE's 'if'
                             x + 1,
                             x * f(x-1)

or, (for the lambda fetishists):

  Y<int>()( func /\
                 ((f,x) --> where(x==0,x + 1,x * f(x-1))

> As I understand it, in BLL, a lambda expression is implicitly build when
> you refer to the magical variables _1, _2, and so on in expressions like
> "_1 + _2". In FACT, you construct a lambda expressions explicitly like
> this "lambda(x, y, x + y)".

FACT! allows lambda expressions to be nested, hence lambda variables must
have scope, which is exactly what happens if you use the lambda function.
For instance, 'lambda(f,x, lambda(a,b, f(a,b) + x))' and
'lambda(f,x, f(x))( lambda(x,x + 1) )' are valid expressions in FACT!.
In comparison to LL, FACT!'s lambda-generated functions are represented in a
curried form and thus, could be partially applied. Here is a short example:

 template <typename F>
 int foo(const F& f,int x) {
   return f(x);

 cout << foo( lambda(x,y, x+y)(5), // partial application
            ) << endl;

To support functions of arbitrary arity, FACT! comes with a code-generating
tool. The code-generator has to be provided with the maximum arity the user
wants to have support for, and generates an appropriate C++ header file. The
code generator was necessary for FACT!: while support for lambda functions
of arbitrary arity could be implemented without a code generator, this is not
possible for some other concepts. For instance, regarding FACT!'s curry function
(FACT!'s counterpart to LL's bind), the user would expect that he can apply it
to almost every C++ function; independent of its signature (its arity, the type
of its arguments and the type of the result). Without a code generator, this
goal is almost impossible to achieve (with C++). However, the code-generator is
not as evil a it looks like because you just need it to produce a header file
and you usually do this just once.

FACT!'s curry function is applicable to C++ functions, function templates
(some help from users needed), class member functions, and so on. Curried
functions may be called from within a lambda function. Here is an example:

  int bar(int a,int b,int c) { return a * b / c; }
  cout << lambda(x,y, curry(bar)(a,b,2) )( 10, 12) << endl;
  // also possible:
  cout << foo(curry(bar)(10,10),
              ) << endl;

As far as I know (Jaakko and Gary certainly know better), LL is currently
limited to ternary functions. Due to its code-generator, FACT! is more flexible
here. With respect to the STL, one might say that most of the STL algorithms do
expect just unary and/or binary functions and conclude that currying / lambda
generated functions only make sense for binary functions (maybe one reason for
only having bind1st and bind2nd in the STL). Well, at first glance this might
hold, but notice that currying functions of arbitrary dimension does make
pretty much sense because partial application may yield a function of the
desired arity (e.g. currying a ternary function and applying it to just two
arguments yields a unary function).

If you are an imperative programmer, LL could be the better choice because it's
'lambda-language' is more 'imperative' than the one that is defined by FACT!. If
you prefer a functional programming style, you may encounter that FACT! has a
better syntactical support for currying and partial application -- it's syntax
is more or less motivated by functional programming languages.

Of course there are more subtle differences between LL and FACT! ...

> I think there are licensing problems that would prevent Boost inclusion
Very soon FACT! will be put under the GPL.

> It is not as well-documented as BLL,
This is a major drawback and should be fixed. Meanwhile you could have a look
at the examples that come with the FACT! distribution. They contain a lot of
(hopefully helpful) comments.

All the best,


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