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Ian Ross: Haskell data analysis: Reading NetCDF files

Planet Haskell - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:09pm
Haskell data analysis: Reading NetCDF files July 16, 2014

I never really intended the FFT stuff to go on for as long as it did, since that sort of thing wasn’t really what I was planning as the focus for this Data Analysis in Haskell series. The FFT was intended primarily as a “warm-up” exercise. After fourteen blog articles and about 10,000 words, everyone ought to be sufficiently warmed up now…

Instead of trying to lay out any kind of fundamental principles for data analysis before we get going, I’m just going to dive into a real example. I’ll talk about generalities as we go along when we have some context in which to place them.

All of the analysis described in this next series of articles closely follows that in the paper: D. T. Crommelin (2004). Observed nondiffusive dynamics in large-scale atmospheric flow. J. Atmos. Sci. 61(19), 2384–2396. We’re going to replicate most of the data analysis and visualisation from this paper, maybe adding a few interesting extras towards the end.

It’s going to take a couple of articles to lay out some of the background to this problem, but I want to start here with something very practical and not specific to this particular problem. We’re going to look at how to gain access to meteorological and climate data stored in the NetCDF file format from Haskell. This will be useful not only for the low-frequency atmospheric variability problem we’re going to look at, but for other things in the future too.

The NetCDF file format

The NetCDF file format is a “self-describing” binary format that’s used a lot for storing atmospheric and oceanographic data. It’s “self-describing” in the sense that the file format contains metadata describing the spatial and temporal dimensions of variables, as well as optional information about units and a bunch of other stuff. It’s a slightly intimidating format to deal with at first, but we’ll only need to know how a subset of it works. (And it’s much easier to deal with than HDF5, which we’ll probably get around to when we look at some remote sensing data at some point.)

So, here’s the 30-second introduction to NetCDF. A NetCDF file contains dimensions, variables and attributes. A NetCDF dimension just has a name and a size. One dimension can be specified as an “unlimited” or record dimension, which is usually used for time series, and just means that you can tack more records on the end of the file. A NetCDF variable has a name, a type, a list of dimensions, some attributes and some data. As well as attributes attached to variables, a NetCDF file can also have some file-level global attributes. A NetCDF attribute has a name, a type and a value. And that’s basically it (for NetCDF-3, at least; NetCDF-4 is a different beast, but I’ve never seen a NetCDF-4 file in the wild, so I don’t worry about it too much).

An example NetCDF file

That’s very abstract, so let’s look at a real example. The listing below shows the output from the ncdump tool for one of the data files we’re going to be using, which stores a variable called geopotential height (I’ll explain exactly what this is in a later article – for the moment, it’s enough to know that it’s related to atmospheric pressure). The ncdump tool is useful for getting a quick look at what’s in a NetCDF file – it shows all the dimension and variable definitions, all attributes and also dumps the entire data contents of the file as ASCII (which you usually want to chop off…).

netcdf z500-1 { dimensions: longitude = 144 ; latitude = 73 ; time = 7670 ; variables: float longitude(longitude) ; longitude:units = "degrees_east" ; longitude:long_name = "longitude" ; float latitude(latitude) ; latitude:units = "degrees_north" ; latitude:long_name = "latitude" ; int time(time) ; time:units = "hours since 1900-01-01 00:00:0.0" ; time:long_name = "time" ; short z500(time, latitude, longitude) ; z500:scale_factor = 0.251043963537454 ; z500:add_offset = 50893.8041655182 ; z500:_FillValue = -32767s ; z500:missing_value = -32767s ; z500:units = "m**2 s**-2" ; z500:long_name = "Geopotential" ; z500:standard_name = "geopotential" ; // global attributes: :Conventions = "CF-1.0" ; :history = "Sun Feb 9 18:46:25 2014: ncrename -v z,z500\n", "2014-01-29 21:04:31 GMT by grib_to_netcdf-1.12.0: grib_to_netcdf /data/soa/scra tch/ -o /data/soa/scratch/netcdf-web237-20140129210411-3022" ; data: longitude = 0, 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 27.5, 30, 32.5, 35, 37.5, 40, 42.5, 45, 47.5, 50, 52.5, 55, 57.5, 60, 62.5, 65, 67.5, 70, 72.5, 75, 77.5, 80, 82.5, 85, 87.5, 90, 92.5, 95, 97.5, 100, 102.5, 105, 107.5, 110, 112.5, 115, 117.5, 120, 122.5, 125, 127.5, 130, 132.5, 135, 137.5, 140, 142.5, 145, 147.5, 150, 152.5, 155, 157.5, 160, 162.5, 165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, 175, 177.5, 180, 182.5, 185, 187.5, 190, 192.5, 195, 197.5, 200, 202.5, 205, 207.5, 210, 212.5, 215, 217.5, 220, 222.5, 225, 227.5, 230, 232.5, 235, 237.5, 240, 242.5, 245, 247.5, 250, 252.5, 255, 257.5, 260, 262.5, 265, 267.5, 270, 272.5, 275, 277.5, 280, 282.5, 285, 287.5, 290, 292.5, 295, 297.5, 300, 302.5, 305, 307.5, 310, 312.5, 315, 317.5, 320, 322.5, 325, 327.5, 330, 332.5, 335, 337.5, 340, 342.5, 345, 347.5, 350, 352.5, 355, 357.5 ; latitude = 90, 87.5, 85, 82.5, 80, 77.5, 75, 72.5, 70, 67.5, 65, 62.5, 60, 57.5, 55, 52.5, 50, 47.5, 45, 42.5, 40, 37.5, 35, 32.5, 30, 27.5, 25, 22.5, 20, 17.5, 15, 12.5, 10, 7.5, 5, 2.5, 0, -2.5, -5, -7.5, -10, -12.5, -15, -17.5, -20, -22.5, -25, -27.5, -30, -32.5, -35, -37.5, -40, -42.5, -45, -47.5, -50, -52.5, -55, -57.5, -60, -62.5, -65, -67.5, -70, -72.5, -75, -77.5, -80, -82.5, -85, -87.5, -90 ;

As shown in the first line of the listing, this file is called (it’s contains daily 500 millibar geopotential height data). It has dimensions called longitude, latitude and time. There are variables called longitude, latitude, time and z500. The variables with names that are the same as dimensions are called coordinate variables and are part of a metadata convention that provides information about the file dimensions. The NetCDF file format itself doesn’t require that dimensions have any more information provided for them than their name and size, but for most applications, it makes sense to give units and values for points along the dimensions.

If we look at the longitude variable, we see that it’s of type float and has one dimension, which is the longitude dimension – this is how you tell a coordinate variable from a data variable: it will have the same name as the dimension it goes with and will be indexed just by that dimension. Immediately after the line defining the longitude variable are the attributes for the variable. Here they give units and a display name (they can also give information about the range of values and the orientation of the coordinate axis). All of these attributes are again defined by a metadata convention, but they’re mostly pretty easy to figure out. Here, the longitude is given in degrees east of the prime meridian, and if we look further down the listing, we can see the data values for the longitude variable, running from zero degrees to 357.5°E. From all this, we can infer that the 144 longitude values in the file start at the prime meridian and increase eastwards.

Similarly, the latitude variable is a coodinate variable for the latitude dimension, and specifies the latitude of points on the globe. The latitude is measured in degrees north of the equator and ranges from 90° (the North pole) to -90° (the South pole). Taking a look at the data values for the latitude variable, we can see that 90 degrees north is in index 0, and the 73 latitude values decrease with increasing index until we reach the South pole.

The time coordinate variable is a little more interesting, mostly because of its units – this “hours since YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS” approach to time units is very common in NetCDF files and it’s usually pretty easy to work with.

Finally, we get on to the data variable, z500. This is defined on a time/latitude/longitude grid (so, in the data, the longitude is the fastest changing coordinate). The variable has one slightly odd feature: its type. The types for the coordinate variables were all float or double, as you’d expect, but z500 is declared to be a short integer value. Why? Well, NetCDF files are quite often big so it can make sense to use some sort of encoding to reduce file sizes. (I worked on a paleoclimate modelling project where each model simulation resulted in about 200 Gb of data, for a dozen models for half a dozen different scenarios. In “Big Data” terms, it’s not so large, but it’s still quite a bit of data for people to download from a public server.) Here, the real-valued geopotential height is packed into a short integer. The true value of the field can be recovered from the short integer values in the file using the add_offset and scale_factor attributes – here the scale factor is unity, so we just need to add the add_offset to each value in the file to get the geopotential height.

Last of all we have the global attributes in the file. The most interesting of these is the Conventions attribute, which specifies that the file uses the CF metadata convention. This is the convention that defines how coordinate variables are represented, how data values can be compressed by scaling and offsetting, how units and axes are represented, and so on. Given a NetCDF file using the CF convention (or another related convention called the COARDS metadata convention), it’s pretty straightforward to figure out what’s going on.

Reading NetCDF files in Haskell

So, how do we read NetCDF files into a Haskell program to work on them? I’ve seen a few Haskell FFI bindings to parts of the main NetCDF C library, but none of those really seemed satisfactory for day-to-day use, so I’ve written a simple library called hnetcdf that includes both a low-level wrapping of the C library and a more idiomatic Haskell interface (which is what we’ll be using).

In particular, because NetCDF data is usually grid-based, hnetcdf supports reading data values into a number of different kinds of Haskell arrays (storable Vectors, Repa arrays and hmatrix arrays). For this analysis, we’re going to use hmatrix vectors and matrices, since they provide a nice “Matlab in Haskell” interface for doing the sort of linear algebra we’ll need.

In this section, we’ll look at some simple code for accessing the NetCDF file whose contents we looked at above which will serve as a basis for the more complicated things we’ll do later. (The geopotential height data we’re using here is from the ERA-Interim reanalysis project – again, I’ll explain what “reanalysis” means in a later article. For the moment, think of it as a “best guess” view of the state of the atmosphere at different moments in time.) We’ll open the NetCDF file, show how to access the file metadata and how to read data values from coordinate and data variables.

We need a few imports first, along with a couple of useful type synonyms for return values from hnetcdf functions:

import Prelude hiding (length, sum) import Control.Applicative ((<$>)) import qualified Data.Map as M import Foreign.C import Foreign.Storable import Numeric.Container import Data.NetCDF import Data.NetCDF.HMatrix type VRet a = IO (Either NcError (HVector a)) type MRet a = IO (Either NcError (HRowMajorMatrix a))

As well as a few utility imports and the Numeric.Container module from the hmatrix library, we import Data.NetCDF and Data.NetCDF.HMatrix – the first of these is the general hnetcdf API and the second is the module that allows us to use hnetcdf with hmatrix. Most of the functions in hnetcdf handle errors by returning an Either of NcError and a “useful” return type. The VRet and MRet type synonyms represent return values for vectors and matrices respectively. When using hnetcdf, it’s often necessary to supply type annotations to control the conversion from NetCDF values to Haskell values, and these type synonyms come in handy for doing this.

Reading NetCDF metadata

Examining NetCDF metadata is simple:

Right nc <- openFile "/big/data/reanalysis/ERA-Interim/" putStrLn $ "Name: " ++ ncName nc putStrLn $ "Dims: " ++ show (M.keys $ ncDims nc) putStr $ unlines $ map (\(n, s) -> " " ++ n ++ ": " ++ s) $ M.toList $ flip (ncDims nc) $ \d -> show (ncDimLength d) ++ if ncDimUnlimited d then " (UNLIM)" else "" putStrLn $ "Vars: " ++ show (M.keys $ ncVars nc) putStrLn $ "Global attributes: " ++ show (M.keys $ ncAttrs nc) let Just ntime = ncDimLength <$> ncDim nc "time" Just nlat = ncDimLength <$> ncDim nc "latitude" Just nlon = ncDimLength <$> ncDim nc "longitude"

We open a file using hnetcdf’s openFile function (here assuming that there are no errors), getting a value of type NcInfo (defined in Data.NetCDF.Metadata in hnetcdf). This is a value representing all of the metadata in the NetCDF file: dimension, variable and attribute definitions all bundled up together into a single value from which we can access different metadata elements. We can access maps from names to dimension, variable and global attribute definitions and can then extract individual dimensions and variables to find information about them. The code in the listing above produces this output for the ERA-Interim Z500 NetCDF file used here:

Name: /big/data/reanalysis/ERA-Interim/ Dims: ["latitude","longitude","time"] latitude: 73 longitude: 144 time: 7670 Vars: ["latitude","longitude","time","z500"] Global attributes: ["Conventions","history"] Accessing coordinate values

Reading values from a NetCDF file requires a little bit of care to ensure that NetCDF types are mapped correctly to Haskell types:

let (Just lonvar) = ncVar nc "longitude" Right (HVector lon) <- get nc lonvar :: VRet CFloat let mlon = mean lon putStrLn $ "longitude: " ++ show lon ++ " -> " ++ show mlon Right (HVector lon2) <- getS nc lonvar [0] [72] [2] :: VRet CFloat let mlon2 = mean lon2 putStrLn $ "longitude (every 2): " ++ show lon2 ++ " -> " ++ show mlon2

This shows how to read values from one-dimensional coordinate variables, both reading the whole variable, using hnetcdf’s get function, and reading a strided slice of the data using the getS function. In both cases, it’s necessary to specify the return type of get or getS explicitly – here this is done using the convenience type synonym VRet defined earlier. This code fragment produces this output:

longitude: fromList [0.0,2.5,5.0,7.5,10.0,12.5,15.0,17.5,20.0,22.5,25.0, 27.5,30.0,32.5,35.0,37.5,40.0,42.5,45.0,47.5,50.0,52.5,55.0,57.5,60.0, 62.5,65.0,67.5,70.0,72.5,75.0,77.5,80.0,82.5,85.0,87.5,90.0,92.5,95.0, 97.5,100.0,102.5,105.0,107.5,110.0,112.5,115.0,117.5,120.0,122.5,125.0, 127.5,130.0,132.5,135.0,137.5,140.0,142.5,145.0,147.5,150.0,152.5,155.0, 157.5,160.0,162.5,165.0,167.5,170.0,172.5,175.0,177.5,180.0,182.5,185.0, 187.5,190.0,192.5,195.0,197.5,200.0,202.5,205.0,207.5,210.0,212.5,215.0, 217.5,220.0,222.5,225.0,227.5,230.0,232.5,235.0,237.5,240.0,242.5,245.0, 247.5,250.0,252.5,255.0,257.5,260.0,262.5,265.0,267.5,270.0,272.5,275.0, 277.5,280.0,282.5,285.0,287.5,290.0,292.5,295.0,297.5,300.0,302.5,305.0, 307.5,310.0,312.5,315.0,317.5,320.0,322.5,325.0,327.5,330.0,332.5,335.0, 337.5,340.0,342.5,345.0,347.5,350.0,352.5,355.0,357.5] -> 178.75 longitude (every 2): fromList [0.0,5.0,10.0,15.0,20.0,25.0,30.0,35.0,40.0, 45.0,50.0,55.0,60.0,65.0,70.0,75.0,80.0,85.0,90.0,95.0,100.0,105.0,110.0, 115.0,120.0,125.0,130.0,135.0,140.0,145.0,150.0,155.0,160.0,165.0,170.0, 175.0,180.0,185.0,190.0,195.0,200.0,205.0,210.0,215.0,220.0,225.0,230.0, 235.0,240.0,245.0,250.0,255.0,260.0,265.0,270.0,275.0,280.0,285.0,290.0, 295.0,300.0,305.0,310.0,315.0,320.0,325.0,330.0,335.0,340.0,345.0,350.0, 355.0] -> 177.5

The mean function used in above is defined as:

mean :: (Storable a, Fractional a) => Vector a -> a mean xs = (foldVector (+) 0 xs) / fromIntegral (dim xs)

It requires a Storable type class constraint, and makes use of hmatrix’s foldVector function.

Accessing data values

Finally, we get round to reading the data that we’re interested in (of course, reading the metadata is a necessary prerequisite for this: this kind of geospatial data doesn’t mean much unless you can locate it in space and time, for which you need coordinate variables and their associated metadata).

The next listing shows how we read the Z500 data into a row-major hmatrix matrix:

let (Just zvar) = ncVar nc "z500" putStrLn $ "z500 dims: " ++ show (map ncDimName $ ncVarDims zvar) Right slice1tmp <- getA nc zvar [0, 0, 0] [1, nlat, nlon] :: MRet CShort let (HRowMajorMatrix slice1tmp2) = coardsScale zvar slice1tmp :: HRowMajorMatrix CDouble slice1 = cmap ((/ 9.8) . realToFrac) slice1tmp2 :: Matrix Double putStrLn $ "size slice1 = " ++ show (rows slice1) ++ " x " ++ show (cols slice1) putStrLn $ "lon(i=25) = " ++ show (lon @> (25 - 1)) putStrLn $ "lat(j=40) = " ++ show (lat @> (nlat - 40)) let v @!! (i, j) = v @@> (nlat - i, j - 1) putStrLn $ "slice1(i=25,j=40) = " ++ show (slice1 @!! (25, 40))

There are a number of things to note here. First, we use the getA function, which allows us to specify starting indexes and counts for each dimension in the variable we’re reading. Here we read all latitude and longitude points for a single vertical level in the atmosphere (which is the only one there is in this file). Second, the values stored in this file are geopotential values, not geopotential height (so their units are m s-2 instead of metres, which we can convert to geopotential height by dividing by the acceleration due to gravity (about 9.8 m s-2). Third, the geopotential values are stored in a compressed form as short integers according to the COARDS metadata convention. This means that if we want to work with floating point values (which we almost always do), we need to convert using the hnetcdf coardsScale function, which reads the relevant scaling and offset attributes from the NetCDF variable and uses them to convert from the stored data values to some fractional numeric type (in this case CDouble – the destination type also needs to be an instance of hnetcdf’s NcStorable class).

Once we have the input data converted to a normal hmatrix Matrix value, we can manipulate it like any other data value. In particular, here we extract the geopotential height at given latitude and longitude coordinates (the @!! operator defined here is just a custom indexing operator to deal with the fact that the latitude values are stored in north-to-south order).

The most laborious part of all this is managing the correspondence between coordinate values and indexes, and managing the conversions between the C types used to represent values stored in NetCDF files (CDouble, CShort, etc.) and the native Haskell types that we’d like to use for our data manipulation activities. To be fair, the first of these problems is a problem for any user of NetCDF files, and Haskell’s data abstraction capabilities at least make dealing with metadata values less onerous than in C or C++. The second issue is a little more annoying, but it does ensure that we maintain a good cordon sanitaire between external representations of data values and the internal representations that we use.

What’s next

We’re going to have to spend a couple of articles covering some background to the atmospheric variability problem we’re going to look at, just to place some of this stuff in context: we need to look a little at just what this study is trying to address, we need to understand some basic facts about atmospheric dynamics and the data we’re going to be using, and we need to take a look at the gross dynamics of the atmosphere as they appear in these data, just so that we have some sort of idea what we’re looking at later on. That will probably take two or three articles, but then we can start with some real data analysis.

haskell data-analysis <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> (function () { var articleId = fyre.conv.load.makeArticleId(null); fyre.conv.load({}, [{ el: 'livefyre-comments', network: "", siteId: "290329", articleId: articleId, signed: false, collectionMeta: { articleId: articleId, url: fyre.conv.load.makeCollectionUrl(), } }], function() {}); }()); </script>
Categories: Offsite Blogs

Code review requested: a Python 3 interpreter

Haskell on Reddit - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:28pm

I'm implementing a Python 3 interpreter as a way to learn Haskell better. I'm not very far along, so I'd like to ask for a quick code review of my Github repo:

These are the parts of it I don't like:

  • Constant readIORef/writeIORef. It seems like this boilerplate spreads everywhere. Maybe it's better to pass the environment around somehow?
  • Clunky pattern matching on binary operators and all valid types. Tried to generalize this a bit but ran into difficulties with traditional operators returning Ints vs comparison operators returning Bools.
  • Storing the current return value in the environment

Thanks for any advice you have.

submitted by mattygrocks
[link] [12 comments]
Categories: Incoming News

[learn] Codata, co-totality, co-complexity

Haskell on Reddit - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 9:40am

I've been trying to figure out why it's difficult to reason about time and space complexity in Haskell. After all, Haskell seems to be the "co-universe" twin of a strict language like ML, so there's got to be some kind of "co-complexity" that allows compositional reasoning... right?

A summary of my current thinking is in this blog post: Codata, co-totality, co-complexity. Basically, it's not codata that makes it hard to reason about complexity, it's pervasive memoization. The proper "co-universe" twin of ML would not be Haskell, but a "pure codata" language based on call-by-name without memoization. In such a language, there would indeed be a usable definition of "co-complexity", and it would behave compositionally as you'd expect. (Though most people wouldn't want to program in such a language...)

Am I on the right track? Any pointers for further reading?

submitted by want_to_want
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Categories: Incoming News

Mark Jason Dominus: Guess what this does

Planet Haskell - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 8:37am

Here's a Perl quiz that I confidently predict nobody will get right. Without trying it first, what does the following program print?

perl -le 'print(two + two == five ? "true" : "false")'

(I will discuss the surprising answer tomorrow.)

Categories: Offsite Blogs

Memory consumption issues under heavy networkthroughput/concurrency loads

haskell-cafe - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 6:18pm
I have been testing solutions in several languages for running a network daemon that accepts hundreds of thousands of websocket connections, and moves messages between them. Originally I used this websocket lib,, but upon discovering a rather severe memory leak issue even when sending just a basic ping, switched to Michael Snoyman's first stab at a websocket impl for Yesod here: When under mild load (5k connections, each pinging once every 10+ seconds), memory usage remained stable and acceptable around 205 MB. Switching to higher load (pinging every second or less), memory usage spiked to 560 MB, and continued to 'leak' slowly. When I quit the server with the profile diagnostics, it indicate that hundreds of MB were "lost due to fragmentation". In addition, merely opening the connections and dropping them, repeatedly, made the base memory usage go up.
Categories: Offsite Discussion

Is there any way to compile a program in an embedded language?

Haskell on Reddit - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:38am

Haskell is very good for designing embedded DSLs - everyone knows that. Once that language is complete, though, you now will have to design a compiler for it, if you want any serious computation. I'm aware of projects like PyPy, which gives you a JIT compiler for free, given a correct interpreter. Is there something in those lines for Haskell?

submitted by SrPeixinho
[link] [6 comments]
Categories: Incoming News

What is the state of the art in testing codegeneration?

haskell-cafe - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:26am
Tom Ellis wrote: First I should point out Magic Haskeller (which generates typed (Haskell) terms and then accepts those that satisfy the given input-output relationship). It is MagicHaskeller on Hackage. The most straightforward method is to generate random terms and filter well-typed ones. This is usually a bad method since many or most randomly generated terms will be ill-typed. One should generate well-typed terms from the beginning, without any rejections. That is actually not difficult: one merely needs to take the type checker (which one has to write anyway) and run it backwards. Perhaps it is not as simple as I made it sound, depending on the type system (for example, the type inference for simply-typed lambda-calculus without any annotations requires guessing. One has to guess correctly all the type, otherwise the process becomes slow). It has been done, in a mainstream functional language: OCaml. The code can be re-written for
Categories: Offsite Discussion

Designing a Lisp based on the ideas on "Total Funcional Programming".

Haskell on Reddit - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:25am

I'm thinking in how one could apply the ideas on this paper to design an unityped language similar to Lisp. There are no algebraic datatypes or pattern matching - just lists, numbers and predicates. The type system would be much simpler. I'm thinking in STLC with only one type, Term, which Lists and Numbers embedded, plus a few mathematical primitives and a fold\unfold operator on the List.

data Term = Cons Term Term | Nil | Num Float | Lam Term | Var Int | Fold ... etc fold :: (Term → Term → Term) → Term → Term fold f i (Cons x xs) = f x (fold f i xs) fold f i Nil = i unfold :: (Term → Term) → Term → Term unfold f x = go (f x) where go (Cons x xs) = Cons x (unfold f xs) go x = x

If I'm not mistaken, the STLC part makes up for a total language, and the fold/unfold operators enable most practical algorithms.


  1. Is that indeed a total language?

  2. Is there any important practical algorithm that would be missing from that language?

  3. Is there a decision algorithm that will find the complexity of an operation before evaluating it?

submitted by SrPeixinho
[link] [20 comments]
Categories: Incoming News

Hackage view source

Haskell on Reddit - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 9:20am

Where did the option the view the source and more detailed documentation go on Hackage? It's no longer on the right and I can't find it.

Edit: I can see it on this page:

But not here.

submitted by Tyr42
[link] [8 comments]
Categories: Incoming News

I have an application... but am lost on how to deploy it. bamse? Inno Setup? Help?!

Haskell on Reddit - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 8:26am

At first in my ultra naivety I just thought you could take the exe file produced by GHC and give that to someone (without any haskell related software on their system (cabal,ghc,etc)) and they could run it. Well that was wrong.

I did some searching and the haskell wiki came up and gave me a list of things that could create windows installers.


I first tried bamse ( because I figured it would be the easiest seeing as I could install it with cabal. It failed the install though (failed installing com package).

I next tried Inno Setup, but I don't think I included all the right dependancies or something, because when I tried running the installed application there was this error: "user error (unknown GLUT entry glutInit)"

I tried finding some examples for haskell applications, because I have no idea what dependancies I have to include but I had no luck.

If anyone could help in any way, I'd really appreciate it!

edit: I'm using Graphics.Rendering.OpenGL.GL and Graphics.UI.GLUT, which is where I think the error is coming from. I'm also using Data.Sequence, so do I just have to include all those dlls in my Inno Setup thing?

submitted by flippflopp
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Feature Proposal: GHC Flag for implicit externalPrelude

haskell-cafe - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 4:23am
Hey all, I would like to propose a very minor flag to add to GHC. I would like GHC to have a --with-prelude flag, which would specify an alternate Prelude to use instead of the default Haskell prelude. This would have an effect similar to -XNoImplicitPrelude and an additional import MyNewPrelude in the source file. It might be a *little* different semantically, as a qualified import would disable the original implicit import, just like it does with the default Haskell prelude. The benefit this would have is that this would give alternate preludes a more first-class status. Instead of having to import an alternative prelude everywhere, you could just have a ghc-options: --with-prelude=... flag in your *.cabal file, and have a different prelude be used. This is important for my own work, as I highly prefer other preludes for my non-library development; I think this is a feature which will be very useful as Haskell develops and we try to figure out how to get rid of the warts in the current Prelude. In or
Categories: Offsite Discussion

Alessandro Vermeulen: Notes on the Advanced Akka course

Planet Haskell - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 4:00am

The Advanced Akka course is provided by Typesafe and is aimed at teaching advanced usages of Akka. The course covers the basics of Akka, Remoting, Clustering, Routers, CRDTs, Cluster Sharding and Akka Persistance. The following post starts with a general introduction to Akka and presents the takeaways from the course as we experienced them.

A general overview of Akka

The reader which is already familiar with Akka can skip this section.

According to the Akka site this is Akka:

Akka is a toolkit and runtime for building highly concurrent, distributed, and fault tolerant event-driven applications on the JVM.

Akka achieves this by using Actors.

Actors are very lightweight concurrent entities.

Each Actor has a corresponding mailbox stored separately from the Actor. The Actors together with their mailboxes reside in an ActorSystem. Additionally, the ActorSystem contains the Dispatcher which executes the handling of a message by an actor. Each Actor only handles a single message at a time.

In Akka everything is remote by design and philosophy. In practice this means that each Actor is identified by its ActorRef. This is a reference to the actor which provides Location Transparency.

Actors communicate with each other by sending messages to an another Actor through an ActorRef. This sending of the message takes virtually no time.

In addition to ActorRef there exists also an ActorSelection which contains a path to one or more actors. Upon each sending of the message the path is traversed until the actor is found or when not. No message is send back when the actor is not found however.

States: Started - Stopped - Terminated If an actor enters the Stopped state it first stops its child actors before entering the Terminated state.


Import the context.dispatcher instead of the global Scala ExecutionContext. It is the ExecutionContext managed by Akka. Using the global context causes the Actors to be run in the global Thread pool.

You should not use PoisonPill as it will be removed from future versions of Akka since it is not specific enough. Roll your own message to make sure the appropriate actions for graceful shutdown are done. Use context.stop to stop your actor.

Place your business logic in a separate trait and mix it in to the actor. This increases testability as you can easily unit test the trait containing the business logic. Also, you should put the creation of any child actors inside a separate method so the creation can be overridden from tests.


With the Remoting extension it is possible to communicate with other Actor Systems. This communication is often done through ActorSelections instead of ActorRef.

Remoting uses Java serialisation by default which is slow and fragile in light of changing definitions. It is possible and recommended to use another mechanism such as Google Protobuf.


Akka has a simple perspective on cluster management with regards to split-brain scenarios. Nodes become dead when they are observed as dead and they cannot resurrect. The only way a node can come up again is if it registers itself again.

When a net split happens the other nodes are marked as unreachable. When using a Singleton, this means that only the nodes that can reach the singleton will access it. The others will not decide on a new Singleton in order to prevent a split-brain scenario.

Another measure against split-brain is contacting the seed nodes in order. The first seed node is required to be up.

The seed nodes are tried in order.


There is an library for writing finite state machines called FSM. For larger actors it can be useful to use the FSM. Otherwise stick to pure become and unbecome.

FSM also has an interval timer for scheduling messages. However, the use of stay() resets the interval timer therefore you could have issues with never executing what is at the end of the timer.


There are two different kinds of routers: Pools and Groups. Pools are in charge of their own children and they are created and killed by the pool. Groups are configured with an ActorSelection that defines the actors to which the group should sent its messages. There are several implementations: Consistent Hash, Random, Round Robin, BroadCast, Scatter - Gather First, and Smallest Mailbox. The names are self-explanatory.

Synchronisation of data with CRDTs

Synchronising data between multiple nodes can be done by choosing your datatype so that If the timestamps and events are generated in one place no duplicate entries occur. Therefore merging a map from a different node in your map is easily done by copying entries you don’t already have to your own data.

This can be implemented by letting each member node broadcast which data-points they have. Each node can then detect which information is lacking and request the specific data from the node that claimed to have the data. At some future point in time all nodes will be in sync. This is called eventual consistency.


If you have a singleton cluster manager proxy it only starts when the cluster is formed. A cluster is formed if a member connects. The proxy will then pass on the buffered messages.

Cluster Sharding

Sharding is a way to split up a group of actors in a cluster. This can be useful if the group is too large to fit in the memory of a single machine. The Cluster Sharding feature takes care of the partitioning of the actors using a hash you have to define with a function shardResolver. The sharded actors can be messaged with an unique identifier using ClusterSharding(system).shardRegion("Counter") which proxies the message to the correct actor. ClusterSharding.start is what the Manager is to Singletons.

It is recommended to put the sharding functions into a singleton object for easy re-use of your shards, containing the functions to start the sharding extension and proxy to the shard etc. It is also convenient to adds tell and initialise helper functions to respectively send a message and initialise the actor by its unique id.

Akka Persistence

Akka persistence uses a Journal to store which messages were processed. One of the supported storage mechanisms is Cassandra. It is also possible to use a file-based journal which, of course, is not recommended.

In the current version of Akka there are two approaches to persistence: command sourcing and event sourcing. Simply but, in command storing each message is first persisted and then offered to the actor to do as it pleases whereas in event sourcing only the results of actions are persisted. The latter is preferred and will be the only remaining method in following versions.

Both methods support storing a snapshot of the current state and recovering from it.

Command Sourcing

The main problem with command sourcing lies in that all messages are replayed. This includes requests for information from dead actors which wastes resources for nothing. Moreover, in case of errors, the last message that killed the actor is also replayed and probably killing the actor again in the proces.

Event Sourcing

With event sourcing one only stores state changing events. Events are received by the receiveRecover method. External side-effects should be performed in the receive method. The code for the internal side-effect of the event should be the same in both the receive and receiveRecover methods. The actor or trait for this will be named PersistentActor.

Actor offloading

One can use Akka Persistence to “pause” long living actors, e.g. actors that have seen no activity lately. This frees up memory. When the actor is needed again it can be safely restored from the persistence layer.


Akka 3 is to be released “not super soon”. It will contain typed actors. The consequence of this is that the sender field will be removed from the actor. Therefore, for request-response, the ActorRef should be added to the request itself.


The Advanced Akka course gives a lot of insights and concrete examples of how to use the advanced Akka features of clustering, sharding and persisting data across multiple nodes in order to create a system that really is highly available, resilient and scalable. It also touches on the bleeding edge functionalities, the ideas and concepts around it and what to expect next in this growing ecosystem.

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