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Kernel.sprintf("%f",...) rounds to even on MRI but JRuby rounds away from zero #4157

felixvf opened this issue Sep 14, 2016 · 9 comments


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@felixvf felixvf commented Sep 14, 2016

# for ruby_implementation in jruby- ruby-2.3.1; do rvm "$ruby_implementation" do ruby -e 'require "bigdecimal"; puts("#{"%5s" % RUBY_ENGINE}: #{"%3.1f" %"-1.2499999999999999")}")'; done
jruby: -1.3
 ruby: -1.2


JRuby on 1.8.0_101 on x86-64

Expected Behavior

"%3.1f" %"-1.2499999999999999") should return "-1.2".

Actual Behavior

"%3.1f" %"-1.2499999999999999") actually returns "-1.3".

Additional Notes

The primary problem is consistency across Ruby implementations.
It would be also ok that "%3.1f" %"-1.2499999999999999") actually returned "-1.3" if MRI would also return the same value, which it currently does not.

One additional problem is that, apparently, a BigDecimal is first converted into a Float (and thereby looses precision) during the "%f" formatting. This is surprising, and thus violates The Principle Of Least Surprise. If a BigDecimal was supplied to Kernel.sprintf("%f",...), one of two outcomes would be expected:

  1. Either that an error was raised. (In case Kernel.sprintf code to properly handle a BigDecimal was not available)
  2. Or that the full BigDecimal precision would be supported.

The current situation silently produces data loss, which is surprising if ever detected.

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@headius headius commented Sep 15, 2016

Interestingly enough, both JRuby and MRI produce -1.25 for BigDecimal#to_f here. MRI rounds that to -1.2 (or 1.2 for the positive form) and we round to -1.3.

MRI does the same float conversion we do on the way to formatting the value, so if you dislike that you'll have to get MRI folks involved.

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@headius headius commented Sep 15, 2016

Ok actually it doesn't look like MRI does anything at all; the rounding is done by snprintf.

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@headius headius commented Sep 15, 2016

This post and others like it point out that often this peculiar rounding behavior is due to inaccurate representation of certain decimals in IEEE754:

However this case is not a precision issue. If the value were 1.35, however, the rounding changes for that reason:

[] ~/projects/ruby $ ruby23 -rbigdecimal -e 'p "%3.30f" % 1.25'

[] ~/projects/ruby $ ruby23 -rbigdecimal -e 'p "%3.30f" % 1.35'

[] ~/projects/ruby $ ruby23 -rbigdecimal -e 'p "%3.1f" % 1.25'

[] ~/projects/ruby $ ruby23 -rbigdecimal -e 'p "%3.1f" % 1.35'

This all boils down to sprintf behavior, but I'm having trouble finding definitive information on how/why sprintf rounds half down rather than up.

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@headius headius commented Sep 15, 2016

Oh btw...the simple answer to "why doesn't MRI format the BigDecimal directly" is probably "*printf doesn't know anything about BigDecimal."

I'll fix the other issue for JRuby by rounding half to even in the double-related sprintf formats.

headius added a commit to headius/jruby that referenced this issue Sep 15, 2016
The logic in our double-based sprintf logic attempts to round
values manually by inspecting a long-form version of the double.
If we need to round, and the next digit is a five, it will round
toward zero (truncate) iff that five is the last digit in the long
unrounded string. This appears to have been an attempt to mimic
C printf's behavior of rounding "true half" to even in the
presence of inaccurately-represented IEEE754 decimals.

This commit changes the pre-formatting to actually format with the
specified precision, allowing NumberFormat's default HALF_EVEN
logic to to the work for us.

Fixes jruby#4157.
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@headius headius commented Sep 15, 2016

It turns out that we tried to emulate the rounding behavior using this logic in

    private static int round(byte[] bytes, int nDigits, int roundPos, boolean roundDown) {
        int next = roundPos + 1;
        if (next >= nDigits || bytes[next] < '5' ||
                // MRI rounds up on nnn5nnn, but not nnn5 --
                // except for when they do
                (roundDown && bytes[next] == '5' && next == nDigits - 1)) {
            return nDigits;

This was obviously an attempt to guess at sprintf behavior by observation, but it rounds down rather than to even. I've got a patch that tries to pre-round the float before this logic, but we might be able to fix this logic too.

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@headius headius commented Sep 19, 2016

Well this is frustrating. My patch seems to work, but then a test in the jruby suite failed:

  # JRUBY-4802
  def test_sprintf_float
    assert_equal "0.00000", Kernel.sprintf("%.5f", 0.000004)
    assert_equal "0.00001", Kernel.sprintf("%.5f", 0.000005)
    assert_equal "0.00001", Kernel.sprintf("%.5f", 0.000006)

The middle case fails because we round it to even, so it formats as 0.00000. MRI rounds it up because 0.000005 is represented inexactly as slightly more than 0.000005:

$ ruby23 -e 'p Kernel.sprintf("%.50f", 0.000005)'

JRuby rounds to even because it seems like our 0.000005 does get represented exactly, or at least formatting it reveals no inexactness:

$ jruby -e 'p Kernel.sprintf("%.50f", 0.000005)'

The first two values here are output I added to our sprintf logic: the first is a simple println of 0.000005 and the second is a NumberFormat-produced representation of the value. In all three cases no inexactness can be found.

@enebo enebo closed this in #4159 Oct 12, 2016
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@headius headius commented Oct 30, 2016

I had to revert the change from #4159 because it introduced new failures. This still needs to be fixed.

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@aschmied aschmied commented Jan 2, 2019

It looks like this is fixed by bc2ba39

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@kares kares commented Feb 1, 2019

on top of ^^ ... this should be handled right in 9.2.6 (due #5580) :

bin/jruby -rbigdecimal  -e 'p "%3.1f" %"-1.2499999999999999")'
@kares kares closed this Feb 1, 2019
@kares kares added this to the JRuby milestone Feb 1, 2019
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