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Lisp with fibers for Node.js

branch: master
README.markdown

 Fargo

Try it out at http://fargo.jcoglan.com

Fargo is a programming language that runs on Node.js. It's designed to ease asynchronous functional programming by providing features missing in JavaScript, namely tail recursion and some form of continuations. It is still an experiment and a toy.

It is loosely based on Scheme, in that I'm using Scheme's function names where appropriate. It is unlikely to become a complete Scheme implementation; at this stage it is an extremely minimal language that you can use where JavaScript is not sufficiently expressive. The initial version was written in various airport and hotel bars. It is probably slow and full of bugs.

Building Fargo

git clone git://github.com/jcoglan/fargo.git
cd fargo
gem install jake
git submodule update --init --recursive
cd vendor/js.class
jake
cd ../../
jake

node bin/fargo path/to/program.scm

Fibers

The main reason for Fargo's existence at present is to add fibers to the Node environment to make async programming easier. Fibers are a lightweight form of continuations that allow blocks of code to be suspended and resumed by the user. Many Ruby programmers are using fibers to let them write non-blocking code with blocking-style syntax.

In Fargo, fibers look like functions and are callable in the same way. When a fiber is running, you can use the yield function which suspends the fiber and returns the yielded value as the result of the fiber's invokation. Next time you call the fiber, it will resume from the last yield; the value you invoke the fiber with will become the result of the yield expression. Some basic examples:

(define stream (fiber (max)
  (define (loop i)
    (if (< i max)
        (begin
          (yield i)
          (loop (+ i 1)))
        'done))
  (loop 0)))

; This binds 2 to `max` and begins running `stream`. The first `yield` is
; called with 0. The next `yield` produces 1, then the fiber exits with `done`
(puts (stream 2)) ; -> 0
(puts (stream))   ; -> 1
(puts (stream))   ; -> done


(define test (fiber (first)
  (define second (yield (+ first 2)))
  second))

; Binds 10 to `first`, begins the fiber. 12 is yielded
(puts (test 10)) ; -> 12

; The `yield` is replaced with the value 14 and the fiber continues by
; returning the value of `second`
(puts (test 14)) ; -> 14

; The fiber has no more code to run so this produces an error
(puts (test 18))

Fibers can help mask async code with callback-free APIs. Here's an example:

In Node we can make asynchronous HTTP requests. Let's write a function to expose this facility to Fargo; our function will take a URL and a callback function (a Fargo Procedure object, not a JavaScript function) and invoke the callback with the response body after requesting the URL.

// lib-http.js

Fargo.runtime.define('http-get', function(url, callback) {
  var uri    = require('url').parse(url),
      client = require('http').createClient(80, uri.hostname);

  var request = client.request('GET', uri.pathname);
  request.addListener('response', function(response) {
    var data = '';
    response.addListener('data', function(c) { data += c });
    response.addListener('end', function() {
      callback.exec(data);
    });
  });
  return request.end();
});

In Fargo, we can wrap this function in some Fiber yield/resume magic to give us a callback-free version of the function. We can then use this function when running within a fiber to simplify our async code.

; http.scm

(load "./lib-http.js")

; This function captures the current fiber and initiates a request. It then
; returns a `yield` as the return value, suspending the fiber. When the
; callback is called, we resume the captured fiber with the response; the
; response is injected at the point of the yield and is returned to the
; caller.
(define (fiber-http-get url)
  (define f (current-fiber))
  (http-get url (lambda (response)
    (f response)))
  (yield))

; We wrap our main program in a fiber so it can be suspended at will
(define program (fiber ()
  (define page (fiber-http-get "http://www.google.com/"))
  (puts page)))

; Begins the main program fiber
(program)

Features

Fargo's syntax is that of Scheme. Booleans are written as #t and #f. Strings are be double-quoted only. Numeric literals are base-10 decimals. Lists are delimited with ( and ). Quoted values are prefixed with '. The null value is the empty list '(). Vectors and characters are currently not implemented.

Fargo implements the following syntax elements from Scheme:

  • define for binding variables and creating functions
  • begin for bundling blocks of code as single expressions
  • if for conditional branching
  • lambda for creating first-class anonymous functions
  • quote for defining immutable lists
  • and and or for boolean logic

The following predicates are included:

  • eq?, eqv?, boolean?, number?, string?, symbol?, pair?, null?, list?, procedure?

Binary numeric operators, which delegate to the JavaScript equivalents:

  • +, -, *, /, >, >=, <, <=, =

List primitives and library functions:

  • cons, car, cdr, set-car!, set-cdr!, length, map

License

Copyright (c) 2011 James Coglan

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the 'Software'), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED 'AS IS', WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

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