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General comments or SRFIs 79-82



I don't like the separation into readers/writers, streams, and ports.
Too many similar concepts are treated as completely disjoint types.

As I understand it:

- readers/writers deal with physical I/O of blocks of bytes

- streams provide encoding and newline conversion, buffering,
  and scanning the same input multiple times

- ports provide raw I/O of bytes, can convert UTF-8 to characters,
  and can convert between characters and lines, or characters and
  Scheme external representations

This feels like a single package. There should be some overall
description of the whole design somewhere, so one doesn't have to
dig into four separate SRFIs.

I don't quite understand the rationale for using UTF-8 as the
intermediate format. For mixing textual and binary I/O (if the
encoding is not known to be UTF-8) one has to put and remove a
converter dynamically on every switch, and it's incompatible with
block-conversion of input (it must be converted one character at a
time, unless we can find the boundary between text and binary data
when looking at the raw stream before the conversion).

EOL style doesn't include the possibility of accepting any of the
three common conventions, which is used by Java and probably .NET.

Since on classic Macintosh Perl (and perhaps C too, haven't checked)
exchanges the meanings of \n and \r (by actually changing their
interpretation in the source instead of recoding), I guess it would be
more useful to exchange them when recoding in the CR style, instead
of by treating either as a newline on input and writing a newline for
either on output.

StdIn and StdOut can be seekable, and it's sometimes useful (e.g. Unix
"wc" makes use of this). The reference implementation doesn't allow that.

I don't understand input-string. How much does it read?

When reading from ports, it's not specified what happens when data are
not valid UTF-8. Similarly for decoding from e.g. UTF-16 (unpaired
surrogates), UTF-32 (too large values), or encoding to latin-1
(characters above U+00FF).

                          *       *       *

Since I have similar goals when designing I/O for my language Kogut,
I might be biased by not liking any other solution than my own.
Anyway, here is the overall of mine for comparison:

All your three layers are served by a single concept of streams with
varying capabilities. Streams are classified into input streams and
output streams (some might be bidirectional), and independently into
byte streams and character streams. There are many kinds of streams,
but there is only one conceptual layer of interfaces.

By "arrays" below I mean arrays from my language, which have mutable
size and can play the role of queues or buffers. Removing or adding
a small part at the beginning or end has a good amortized time.
Among others there are byte arrays and char arrays.

All input streams support reading a block by appending it into the
given array, with the given maximum size; they may read less if
reading more would block. All output streams support writing by
cutting the beginning part from an array, up to the given maximum
size; it might actually transfer less.

Here are various concrete stream types:

- Raw file. It basically supports the above block I/O, and optionally
  seeking (if they underlying OS file does).

- Buffered stream on top of another stream. It supports reading or
  writing by a single character or line, automatic flushing after
  lines (or any I/O). A buffered input stream supports a subset of the
  interface of sequences (like indexing or getting subsequences) and
  thus provides arbitrarily long lookahead; it supports unreading with
  arbitrary size. It supports seeking if the underlying stream does.

- Byte array or char array is a stream itself, with similar
  capabilities to a buffered stream. Reading from an array consumes
  its contents: an array doesn't have a separate current pointer.

- Filtered stream supports only block I/O by passing data through a
  filtering function and maintaining an internal buffer. Here the type
  of elements can change between bytes and characters. The filtering
  function moves data from one array to another, and has the luxury of
  being allowed to leave some final part of the input (e.g. incomplete
  character).

- There is an input stream which flushes a given output stream on
  every input. It is put on the bottom of stdin to flush the top of
  stdout, or when making a pair of streams from a socket, to ensure
  that buffered data are written out before we wait for input on
  a related stream.

- Various less important streams: reading from another stream or
  sequence without consuming it, /dev/null, concatenation of inputs
  (which can be "opened" lazily), a filtering stream which copies
  everything passing through it into another stream (Unix "tee").

You can read a lazy list of characters or lines from a stream, which
provides something similar to your stream with respect to statelessness.
It is a natural data source for a complex parser.

I haven't described making filters basing on an encoding or encoding
name, handling recoding errors, non-blocking I/O, and I/O without
using the current file pointer (Unix: pread / pwrite).

-- 
   __("<         Marcin Kowalczyk
   \__/       qrczak@xxxxxxxxxx
    ^^     http://qrnik.knm.org.pl/~qrczak/