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From: Yigong Liu (yigongliu_at_[hidden])
Date: 2008-05-15 03:34:16

Hello Vicente,

Thanks for looking into Join and Channel. Your questions brought me to do
some homework (put some time into studying future proposals). Sorry for the
delay. Here is the reply.

1. There is a lot of NULL constants in the code that should be replaced by 0
> :)


> 2. In the Erlang example you state
> "Erlang check messages types during runtime, if Erlang server receives a
> unexpected message, "Other -> ..." section is invoked. In Join based
> server,
> the message types are defined at interface and checked by compiler. Because
> sending a message to Join based server is to invoke its async methods, so
> compiler can prevent invoking unsupported methods."
> Can we emulate the "Other -> ..." semantics with Join? What about
> AnyMessage
> and Timeout?
Erlang's message pattern matching happens at runtime while Join's
matching/resolution thru function signatures happens at compile time.
Compilers will prevent senders to invoke undefined async methods (or send
undefined messages) to "joined" object, so "Other->..." scenario cannot
happen with Join's translation of Erlang sample presented in design doc.

However we do need "Other->..." when implementing a more traditional
message passing design. Normally we'll have a generic message container:
    class message {
        int type;
        char *data;

    class Server : public actor {
        synch<void()> receive;
        async<void(shared_ptr<message>)> send;
        Server() {
           chord(receive, send, &Server::proc_msg);
           new thread(bind(&Server::main_loop, this);
        void main_loop() {
             for(;;) receive();
        void proc_msg(synch_o<void()> r, async_o<void(shared_ptr<message>)>
s) {
             shared_ptr<message> msg = s.arg1;
             switch(msg->type) {
            case type1: ... handle msg type 1; break;
            case type2: ... handle msg type 2; break;
            cout << "unknown msgs";
Here the message type resolution happens during runtime. Since c/c++ doesnt
have pattern matching so we have to switch based on msg->type. The "default"
case is similar to Erlang's "other" case and the 1st messages of msg queue
is removed no matter what type it is, which is similar to AnyMessage.

Regarding to Timeout, only synch methods need it (since async methods always
return immediately). There are 2 ways to implement it:
1> use a timeout channel (async method), so the above code become:
   class Server ...
      synch<void()> receive;
     async<void(shared_ptr<message>)> send;
     async<void()> timeout;

     Server() {
        chord(receive, send, &Server::proc_msg);
        chord(receive, timeout, &Server::handle_timeout);

     void main_loop() {
          for (;;) {
                setup a timer with a callback which will call async method
timeout() when timeout happens
2> add timeout directly into synch<...> template classes which requires some

> 3. FYI, there is another join library for the language Scala (jolib). Scala
> provides also an actor library based on Erlang, but you know surelly that
> already. How jolib compares to your library?
  Yes i browsed the scala-join paper sometime back and really hoped that i
could spent more time on it and scala itself. It is a library (so we'll miss
the checking and optimization by compiler), but Scala's nice facilities
(such as extensible pattern matching) make it just like built-in. It
supports multiple synch methods per chord and "guards" which i experimented
with in early versions of Join and dropped. Each method or event support
only one argument so we need use tuple to wrap and unwrap multi arguments
which is similar to the port api of Join. I need to do more study before i
can go into details.

> 4. select template in actor.h could be replaced by mpl::if_c
> template <bool flag, typename T, typename U>
> struct select { typedef T result; };
> template <typename T, typename U>
> struct select<false, T, U> { typedef U result; };
 As mentioned in the "Installation" section of design doc, the
implementation is based/focused on library TR1 features which will be first
added to next C++ standard, available to normal C++ users by default.
Boost::mpl is a wonderful library but i dont use its full power.

> 5. bitmap seams a good candidate to boost
> template <size_t size>
> struct bitmap
 if enough people are interested...

> 6. In the Comega comparaison you state
> "chord override
> Cw and Join have different rules for chord overriding."

Which ones and which is the rationalle?

 Cw/Jocaml talks about "method overriding" and to avoid so-called
inheritance anomaly (, they designed
really complex override rules which is difficult to use.
   Join lib talks about "chord override", ie all the methods of a overriden
chord get new behaviour whose implementation is really simple. IMHO,
inheritance anomaly is caused mostly by implementation inheritance (use
inheritance to reuse/extend implementation). Since current OO rule is to
avoid implementation inheritance and to use interface inheritance, i believe
the issue is not as big as before.

> 7. In the CCR comparaison you state
> "In CCR, arbiters roughly correspond to chords in Join. However arbiters
> take more roles than chords:"
> Do you mean that chords could be defined in terms of arbiters? is arbiter a
> lower level concept than chord?
> and
> "In CCR, ports (the message channels) are totally independent from
> join-patterns or arbiters, instead arbiters are attached to ports. Ports
> can
> be used independently from arbiters as plain message queues. However in
> Join, the async<> / synch<> methods or channels must be attached to chords
> before they can be used (invoked), otherwise exceptions will be thrown.
> This
> is more consistent with original join-calculus and Jocaml."
> Why not defining a independent port, which should be already useful (the
> port recall me the future_stream), and let async<> / synch<> the actor and
> chord dependency?
 while simple arbiters (such as Arbiter.Receive and Arbiter.JoinedReceiver)
roughly correspond to chords, combo arbiters such as Choice/Interleave
presents a hierarchy of arbiters. i'd like to think chord is a simpler
(lower level) concept. Since CCR and Join have totally different "internal
engine", we cannot really define one with another.
   Join's primitives async/synch/chords are fundamental in the sense that it
can be used to implement other concepts. Port or message queue is basically
a buffer:
   template <typename MsgType>
   class Port : public actor {
    async<void(MsgType)> post;
    synch<MsgType()> recv;
    Port() {
        chord(recv, post, &Port::forward);
    MsgType forward(synch_o<MsgType()> r, async_o<void(MsgType)> p) {
        return p.arg1;
   This is a thread safe port or message queue, so it doesnt need to be part
of basic primitives.

> 8. Could you provide a more deep comparaison to C#.Joins?
 when i got more time, i could do it later.

> 9. "The Join library is implemented as three layers:", Are the interfaces
> of the base layer port public? They do not appear on the "Synopsis of Join
> Classes"
  I first had port api and then added the functional api; and port api is
self complete. One problem with port api is that you have to wrap/unwrap
arguments with tuples. Originally the samples are written for both apis
under func_api/ and port_api/. It became too much a burden to maintain both
so port_api/ is dropped. If people are really interested in the port api,
the doc can be added and samples added.

> 10. I would like to cuple asynchronous methods and futurers, giving the to
> possibility asynchronous methods to returnn some data. Do you think that
> this is possible?
 Join's async method is really "send a message and go", you cannot really
get anything back from it, including "future" variables. However futures can
be implemented using async/synch/chords, which i'd like to expand on in next

Best regards.

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