Command processor

This chapter details Scheme 48’s command processor, which incorporates both a read-eval-print loop and an interactive debugger. At the > prompt, you can type either a Scheme form (expression or definition) or a command beginning with a comma. In inspection mode (see section 3.8) the prompt changes to : and commands no longer need to be preceded by a comma; input beginning with a letter or digit is assumed to be a command, not an expression. In inspection mode the command processor prints out a menu of selectable components for the current object of interest.

3.1  Current focus value and ##

The command processor keeps track of a current focus value. This value is normally the last value returned by a command. If a command returns multiple values the focus object is a list of the values. The focus value is not changed if a command returns no values or a distinguished ‘unspecific’ value. Examples of forms that return this unspecific value are definitions, uses of set!, and (if #f 0). It prints as #{Unspecific}.

The reader used by the command processor reads ## as a special expression that evaluates to the current focus object.

> (list 'a 'b)
'(a b)
> (car ##)
> (symbol->string ##)
> (if #f 0)
> ##

3.2  Command levels

If an error, keyboard interrupt, or other breakpoint occurs, or the ,push command is used, the command processor invokes a recursive copy of itself, preserving the dynamic state of the program when the breakpoint occurred. The recursive invocation creates a new command level. The command levels form a stack with the current level at the top. The command prompt indicates the number of stopped levels below the current one: > or : for the base level and n> or n: for all other levels, where n is the command-level nesting depth. The levels setting described below can be used to disable the automatic pushing of new levels.

The command processor’s evaluation package and the value of the current focus value are local to each command level. They are preserved when a new level is pushed and restored when it is discarded. The settings of all other settings are shared by all command levels.

Discards the current command level and resumes running the level down. ⟨eof⟩ is usually control-D at a Unix shell or control-C control-D using the Emacs cmuscheme48 library.

The same as ⟨eof⟩.

,proceed [exp ...]
Proceed after an interrupt or error, resuming the next command level down, delivering the values of exp ... to the continuation. Interrupt continuations discard any returned values. ,Pop and ,proceed have the same effect after an interrupt but behave differently after errors. ,Proceed restarts the erroneous computation from the point where the error occurred (although not all errors are proceedable) while ,pop (and ⟨eof⟩) discards it and prompts for a new command.

Pushes a new command level on above the current one. This is useful if the levels setting has been used to disable the automatic pushing of new levels for errors and interrupts.

,reset [number]
Pops down to a given level and restarts that level. Number defaults to zero, ,reset restarts the command processor, discarding all existing levels.

Whenever moving to an existing level, either by sending an ⟨eof⟩ or by using ,reset or the other commands listed above, the command processor runs all of the dynamic-wind ‘‘after’’ thunks belonging to stopped computations on the discarded level(s).

3.3  Logistical commands

,load filename ...
Loads the named Scheme source file(s). Easier to type than (load "filename") because you don’t have to shift to type the parentheses or quote marks. (However, it is still possible to specify a filename as a Scheme string literal, with quote marks---you’ll need this for filenames containing whitespace.) Also, it works in any package, unlike (load "filename"), which will work only in packages in which the variable load is defined appropriately.

,exit [exp]
Exits back out to shell (or executive or whatever invoked Scheme 48 in the first place). Exp should evaluate to an integer. The integer is returned to the calling program. The default value of exp is zero, which, on Unix, is generally interpreted as success.

3.4  Module commands

There are many commands related to modules. Only the most commonly used module commands are described here; documentation for the rest can be found in section 4.8. There is also a brief description of modules, structures, and packages in section 2.6 below.

,open structure ...
Makes the bindings in the structures visible in the current package. The packages associated with the structures will be loaded if this has not already been done (the ask-before-loading setting can be used to disable the automatic loading of packages).

,config [command]
Executes command in the config package, which includes the module configuration language. For example, use
,config ,load filename

to load a file containing module definitions. If no command is given, the config package becomes the execution package for future commands.

,user [command]
This is similar to the ,config. It moves to or executes a command in the user package (which is the default package when the Scheme 48 command processor starts).

3.5  Debugging commands

Somewhat like a backtrace, but because of tail recursion you see less than you might in debuggers for some other languages. The stack to display is chosen as follows:
  1. If the current focus object is a continuation or a thread, then that continuation or thread’s stack is displayed.

  2. Otherwise, if the current command level was initiated because of a breakpoint in the next level down, then the stack at that breakpoint is displayed.

  3. Otherwise, there is no stack to display and a message is printed to that effect.

One line is printed out for each continuation on the chosen stack, going from top to bottom.

,run exp
Evaluate exp, printing the result(s) and making them (or a list of them, if exp returns multiple results) the new focus object. The ,run command is useful in inspection mode (see section 3.8 below) and when writing command programs (see section 3.9 below).

,trace name ...
Start tracing calls to the named procedure or procedures. With no arguments, displays all procedures currently traced. This affects the binding of name, not the behavior of the procedure that is its current value. Name is redefined to be a procedure that prints a message, calls the original value of name, prints another message, and finally passes along the value(s) returned by the original procedure.

,untrace name ...
Stop tracing calls to the named procedure or procedures. With no argument, stop tracing all calls to all procedures.

The ,condition command displays the condition object describing the error or interrupt that initiated the current command level. The condition object becomes the current focus value. This is particularly useful in conjunction with the inspector. For example, if a procedure is passed the wrong number of arguments, do ,condition followed by ,inspect to inspect the procedure and its arguments.

,bound? name
Display the binding of name, if there is one, and otherwise prints ‘Not bound’.

,expand form Show macro expansion of form, if any, fully expanding all macros in form.

,where procedure
Display name of file containing procedure’s source code.

3.6  Profiling commands

After loading the profile-commands structure via

,load-package profile-commands  

Scheme 48 provides a basic profiler, with support for flat and call-graph profiles. In addition to call- and runtimes the heap memory usage is estimated as well. By adding the byte-code optimizer profiler-instrumentation to the definition of a structure via a clause

  (optimize profiler-instrumentation)

in the structure definition, code will by instrumented with calls to the profiler. The call-times to instrumented code can then be measured exactly. Without instrumentation, the profiler is solely based on sampling and therefore has only limited accuracy. Any evaluation can be profiled with the following command:

,profile command
Evaluate command under the profiler, printing the profiling result and making the return value(s) of command the new focus object.

The output of the profiler is explained on the basis of the following piece of senseless code:

(define (c x)
  (if (= x 0)
      (+ 1 (c (- x 1)))))

(define (b x)
  (let ((y (- x 1)))
    (if (> y 0)
          (c y)
          (a y)
          (+ 1 (a y)))

(define (a x)
  (let ((y (- x 1)))
    (if (> y 0)
          (c y)
          (b y)
          (+ 1 (b y)))

(define (main x)
  (+ 1 (a x)))

The profiler produces the following output:

> ,profile (main 21)

** Samples:        60 (approx. one per 40ms)
** Interrupt time: 50ms
** Real run time:  2430ms
** Total memory:   22k
** GC runs:        0

** Flat result (times in ms): 

   time  cumu  self   mem  calls  ms/call  name
 61.66%  1498  1498    2k  37+51       17  c in "x.scm"
  25.0%  2430   608   10k    436        6  b in "x.scm"
 13.33%  2430   324   10k    442        5  a in "x.scm"
   0.0%  2430     0    0k      1     2430  main in "x.scm"

** Tree result (times in ms): 

i    time self child  mem    calls  name
0  100.0%    0  2430   0k        0  <profiler> [0]
             0  2430   0k      1/1     main in "x.scm" [1]
                           441/442     b in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [3]
           324   891  10k    1/442     main in "x.scm" [1]
1  100.0%  324   891  10k      442  a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
           891     0   1k    22/37     c in "x.scm" [4]
                           436/436     b in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [3]
                           436/436     a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
2  100.0%  608   608  10k      436  b in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [3]
           608     0   1k    15/37     c in "x.scm" [4]
                           441/442     a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
             0  2430   0k      1/1     <profiler> [0]
3  100.0%    0  2430   0k        1  main in "x.scm" [1]
           324   891  10k    1/442     a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
           608     0   1k    15/37     b in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [3]
           891     0   1k    22/37     a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
4  61.66% 1498     0   2k    37+51  c in "x.scm" [4]
           932  1498  20k      1/1     main in "x.scm" [1]
0  100.0%  932  1498  20k    1+877  <cycle 0 as a whole>
           324   891  10k      441     a in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [2]
           608   608  10k      436     b in "x.scm" <cycle 0> [3]
             0     0   2k    37/37     c in "x.scm" [4]

The formatting of the output is based on the output of GNU gprof 1.

First, general information about the profiling is shown:

The flat profile gives overall statistics for each procedure in the program:

The tree result displays profiling information depending on the caller of a particular procedure. As in gprof output, for each procedure there is an entry. Entries are separated by lines of =s. Each entry displays the callers (indented), the procedure itself and the procedure called (indented). The meaning of the fields depends on the type of the entry, for example:

 i    time self  child  mem    calls   name
            324    891  10k    1/442      main [1]
 1  100.0%  324    891  10k      442   a <cycle 0> [2]
            891      0   1k    22/37      c [4]

Every procedure has a unique index number i (here ‘‘1’’), based on the position in the call-graph. It is used to quickly find the corresponding entry. The number is appended to the procedure name (in brackets). The meaning of the ‘‘cycle’’ suffix is explained below.

Callers (here main):

Primary line (here a):

Called (here c):

A special treatment is needed for mutual-recursive procedures. In the example, a calls b and b calls a. This is called a cycle. If a would call another procedure d and d would call a, all three procedures form a cycle.

Cycles have a separate entry in the call graph. This entry consists of the callers into the cycle, the primary line of the cycle, the member procedures of the cycle and the external procedures called by the cycle:

            932   1498  20k      1/1      main [1]
 0  100.0%  932   1498  20k    1+877   <cycle 0 as a whole>
            324    891  10k      441      a <cycle 0> [2]
            608    608  10k      436      b <cycle 0> [3]
              0      0   2k    37/37      c [4]

Callers (here main):

Primary line:

Member procedures:

External procedures (here c):

In the current implementation, there are some issues that need to be considered: in the default configuration, samples are taken every 50 milliseconds. Procedures with a by-call run time shorter than the interrupt time are likely to be profiled inaccurately or may not be seen at all, if they have not been instrumented.

The default interrupt time can be set with the profiler-interrupt-time command processor setting, see 3.7. For example,

,set profiler-interrupt-time 200

sets the default profiler sampling interrupt time to 200ms.

Because the interrupt is shared with the thread system, profiling may cause performance issues with multi-threaded programs. Also, programs with deep recursion (resulting in large continuations) can cause the profiler to use a significant percentage of the total run time.

By default, call times are measured by the sampling process. When code had been instrumented, call times of those procedures will be measured exactly. When only instrumented code should be considered in the output of the profiler, the command processor setting profiler-measure-noninstr can be set to off.

Scheme 48 optimizes tail calls. Thus, the profiler cannot ‘‘see’’ tail calls and in some situations, the output of the profiler may show that procedures directly call their ‘‘grandchildren’’.

3.6.1  How the profiler works

The profiler is based on taking samples of the current stack of continuations, the call-stack. Therefore it schedules the alarm interrupt at a regular interval specified by the profiler-interrupt-time command processor setting. Because the thread system uses the alarm interrupt as well, the profiler interrupt handler calls the handler of the thread system after processing the sample.

The profiler interrupt handler first captures the current continuation and follows the continuation-stack down to the continuation of the profile-thunk procedure, which called the thunk to be profiled. Each continuation with the corresponding code template is stored in a stack of stackentry records.

This *cur-stack* is compared from bottom to top with the *last-stack*, the stack captured while the prior sampling interrupt. The statistics gathered are stored in profinfo records.

For each stack-entry in the *cur-stack*, several possibilities exist in conjunction to the entry at the same depth in the *last-stack*:

As we ascend in the call-stack, changes in the lower levels indicate that all entries above have to be new calls. This way, the profiler gathers information about how often a template is called by another template.

Additionally, every time a procedure is seen, we record this ‘‘occurrence’’. If the procedure is a the top of the stack, it is currently running. Based on these numbers, the average interrupt time and the number of calls, we can estimate the self and child times.

While running, the profiler collects information about heap memory usage as well. After comparing the current with the last stack, the profiler knows which procedures finished, which procedures are new and which procedure called the new procedures. This information is used to distribute the difference in heap memory usage between the prior and the current sample. The profiler uses the memory-status primitive for retrieving available heap space and the number of garbage collector runs (gc-count). Difference in used memory between two samples is distributed by the following principles:

The byte-code optimizer profiler-instrumentation adds a call to the ‘‘profile-count’’ procedure of the profiler structure. This procedure is responsible for the exact call-times measurement.

After collection of the data, procedures are numbered and cycles are detected by ascending in the call tree. Time is being propagated from top to bottom, remembering self and child times. Most of the time, cycles are being considered as one procedure.

3.7  Settings

There are a number of settings that control the behavior of the command processor; most of them are booleans. They can be set using the ,set and ,unset commands.

,set setting [on | off | literal | ?]
This sets the value of setting setting. For a boolean setting, the second argument must be on or off; it then defaults to on. Otherwise, the value must be a literal, typically a positive number. If the second argument is ? the value of setting is is displayed and not changed. Doing ,set ? will display a list of the setting and their current values.

,unset setting
,unset setting is the same as ,set setting off.

The settings are as follows:

batch (boolean)
In ‘batch mode’ any error or interrupt that comes up will cause Scheme 48 to exit immediately with a non-zero exit status. Also, the command processor doesn’t print prompts. Batch mode is off by default.

levels (boolean)
Enables or disables the automatic pushing of a new command level when an error, interrupt, or other breakpoint occurs. When enabled (the default), breakpoints push a new command level, and ⟨eof⟩ (see above) or ,reset is required to return to top level. The effects of pushed command levels include:
  • a longer prompt

  • retention of the continuation in effect at the point of error

  • confusion among some newcomers

With levels disabled one must issue a ,push command immediately following an error in order to retain the error continuation for debugging purposes; otherwise the continuation is lost as soon as the focus object changes. If you don’t know anything about the available debugging tools, then levels might as well be disabled.

break-on-warnings (boolean)
Enter a new command level when a warning is produced, just as when an error occurs. Normally warnings only result in a displayed message and the program does not stop executing.

ask-before-loading (boolean)
If on, the system will ask before loading modules that are arguments to the ,open command. Ask-before-loading is off by default.
> ,set ask-before-loading
will ask before loading modules
> ,open random
Load structure random (y/n)? y

load-noisily (boolean)
When on, the system will print out the names of modules and files as they are loaded. Load-noisily is off by default.
> ,set load-noisily
will notify when loading modules and files
> ,open random
[random /usr/local/lib/scheme48/big/random.scm]

inline-values (boolean)
This controls whether or not the compiler is allowed to substitute variables’ values in-line. When inline-values mode is on, some Scheme procedures will be substituted in-line; when it is off, none will. Section 2.4 has more information.

inspector-menu-limit (positive integer)
This controls how many items the displayed portion of the inspector menu contains at most. (See Section 3.8.)

inspector-writing-depth (positive integer)
This controls the maximum depth to which the inspector prints values. (See Section 3.8.)

inspector-writing-length (positive integer)
This controls the maximum length to which the inspector prints values. (See Section 3.8.)

condition-writing-depth (positive integer)
This controls the maximum depth to which conditions are printed.

condition-writing-length (positive integer)
This controls the maximum length to which conditions are printed.

profiler-interrupt-time (positive integer)
This controls the time between two profiler sampling interrupts (in milliseconds, see section 3.6).

profiler-measure-noninstr (boolean)
When this flag is enabled, call-times will be measured by the sampling process. When it is disabled, call-times will only be measured when the procedure has been instrumented (see section 3.6).

trace-writing-length (positive integer)
This controls the maximum length to which tracing prints procedure calls.

3.8  Inspection mode

There is a data inspector available via the ,inspect and ,debug commands. The inspector is particularly useful with procedures, continuations, and records. The command processor can be taken out of inspection mode by using the q command. When in inspection mode, input that begins with a letter or digit is read as a command, not as an expression. To see the value of a variable or number, do (begin exp) or use the ,run exp command.

In inspection mode the command processor prints out a menu of selectable components for the current focus object. To inspect a particular component, just type the corresponding number in the menu. That component becomes the new focus object. For example:

> ,inspect '(a (b c) d)
(a (b c) d)

[0] a
[1] (b c)
[2] d
: 1
(b c)

[0] b
[1] c

When a new focus object is selected the previous one is pushed onto a stack. You can pop the stack, reverting to the previous object, with the u command, or use the stack command to move to an earlier object.

Commands useful when in inspection mode:

Multiple selection commands (u, d, and menu indexes) may be put on a single line.

All ordinary commands are available when in inspection mode. Similarly, the inspection commands can be used when not in inspection mode. For example:

> (list 'a '(b c) 'd)
'(a (b c) d)
> ,1
'(b c)
> ,menu
[0] b
[1] c

If the current command level was initiated because of a breakpoint in the next level down, then ,debug will invoke the inspector on the continuation at the point of the error. The u and d (up and down) commands then make the inspected-value stack look like a conventional stack debugger, with continuations playing the role of stack frames. D goes to older or deeper continuations (frames), and u goes back up to more recent ones.

3.9  Command programs

The exec package contains procedures that are used to execute the command processor’s commands. A command ,foo is executed by applying the value of the identifier foo in the exec package to the (suitably parsed) command arguments.

,exec [command]
Evaluate command in the exec package. For example, use
,exec ,load filename

to load a file containing commands. If no command is given, the exec package becomes the execution package for future commands.

The required argument types are as follows:

For example, the following two commands are equivalent:

,config ,load my-file.scm

,exec (config '(load "my-file.scm"))

The file scheme/vm/load-vm.scm in the source directory contains an example of an exec program.

3.10  Building images

,dump filename [identification]
Writes the current heap out to a file, which can then be run using the virtual machine. The new image file includes the command processor. If present, identification should be a string (written with double quotes); this string will be part of the greeting message as the image starts up.

,build exp filename [option ...]
Like ,dump, except that the image file contains the value of exp, which should be a procedure of one argument, instead of the command processor. When filename is resumed, that procedure will be invoked on the VM’s -a arguments, which are passed as a list of OS strings (see section 5.15. The procedure should return an integer, which is returned to the program that invoked the VM. The command processor and debugging system are not included in the image (unless you go to some effort to preserve them, such as retaining a continuation).

If no-warnings appears as an option after the file name, no warnings about undefined external bindings (see Section 8.2) will be printed upon resuming the image. This is useful when the definitions of external bindings appear in shared objects that are only loaded after the resumption of the image.

Doing ,flush before building an image will reduce the amount of debugging information in the image, making for a smaller image file, but if an error occurs, the error message may be less helpful. Doing ,flush source maps before loading any programs used in the image will make it still smaller. See section 3.11 for more information.

3.11  Resource query and control

,time exp
Measure execution time.

Invoke the garbage collector. Ordinarily this happens automatically, but the command tells how much space is available before and after the collection.

,keep kind
,flush kind
These control the amount of debugging information retained after compiling procedures. This information can consume a fair amount of space. kind is one of the following:
  • maps - environment maps (local variable names, for inspector)

  • source - source code for continuations (displayed by inspector)

  • names - procedure names (as displayed by write and in error messages)

  • files - source file names

These commands refer to future compilations only, not to procedures that already exist. To have any effect, they must be done before programs are loaded. The default is to keep all four types.

The flush command with no argument deletes the database of names of initial procedures. Doing ,flush before a ,build or ,dump will make the resulting image significantly smaller, but will compromise the information content of many error messages.

3.12  Threads

Each command level has its own set of threads. These threads are suspended when a new level is entered and resumed when the owning level again becomes the current level. A thread that raises an error is not resumed unless explicitly restarted using the ,proceed command. In addition to any threads spawned by the user, each level has a thread that runs the command processor on that level. A new command-processor thread is started if the current one dies or is terminated. When a command level is abandoned for a lower level, or when a level is restarted using ,reset, all of the threads on that level are terminated and any dynamic-wind ‘‘after’’ thunks are run.

The following commands are useful when debugging multithreaded programs:

,resume [number]
Pops out to a given level and resumes running all threads at that level. Number defaults to zero.

Invokes the inspector on a list of the threads running at the next lower command level.

,exit-when-done [exp]
Waits until all user threads have completed and then exits back out to shell (or executive or whatever invoked Scheme 48 in the first place). Exp should evaluate to an integer which is then returned to the calling program.

3.13  Quite obscure

,go exp
This is like ,exit exp except that the evaluation of exp is tail-recursive with respect to the command processor. This means that the command processor itself can probably be GC’ed, should a garbage collection occur in the execution of exp. If an error occurs Scheme 48 will exit with a non-zero value.

,translate from to
For load and the ,load command (but not for open-{in|out}put-file), file names beginning with the string from will be changed so that the initial from is replaced by the string to. E.g.
,translate /usr/gjc/ /zu/gjc/

will cause (load "/usr/gjc/foo.scm") to have the same effect as (load "/zu/gjc/foo.scm").

,from-file filename form ... ,end
This is used by the cmuscheme48 Emacs library to indicate the file from which the forms came. Filename is then used by the command processor to determine the package in which the forms are to be evaluated.

1 part of the GNU Binary Utilities: