This series of blog post aims to give a short weekly glimpse into my (Florian Angeletti) daily work on the OCaml compiler. This week, the focus is on the release of the second alpha for OCaml 5.1.0.
OCaml 5.1.0 second alpha release:
The last two weeks I have spent most of my time preparing for the second alpha release of OCaml 5.1.0. This second alpha has just been published last Friday. This new alpha release is quite heavy in term of bug fixes. Indeed, this release contains two major fixes:
Garbage Collector fix: before this second alpha, an idle domain (or more precisely a non-allocating domain) could slow down considerably the major collection. Indeed, the work attributed to each domain during a major collection was scaled in function of the local domain allocation rate. Consequently, a non-allocating domain would choose to do little to no GC work, leaving the GC unable to keep up with the real allocation rate. To solve this issue, the new alpha has introduced a global accounting for the allocation rate and a global distribution of GC work along the domains.
- Windows ABI fix, the full separation of the OCaml and C stacks in OCaml 5.0.0 created an ABI violation on Windows. More precisely, the new OCaml stack was still satisfying the Windows x64 ABI requirements even if it was no longer necessary. Contrarily C functions might end up called with a malformed C stack. With this fix, the OCaml stack has been freed from the Windows C ABI while the C stack fulfils the correct requirements.
Slightly less visible, we also have an important fix in the OCaml compiler-libs and a type system backward compatibility enhancement:
compiler-libs fix: as discussed [previously] (http://gallium.inria.fr/blog/florian-compiler-weekly-2023-04-24/), the parser published in OCaml 5.1.0~alpha1 was dropping constraints on value bindings (for instance
let x :> [> X of int] = ...). This has been fixed in 5.1.0~alpha2. Unfortunately such changes this late in the release cycle will require more work in the ppxlib library.
type system compatibility enhancement: similarly, the backward compatibility improvement that I was discussing in my last April blog post has been integrated in this second alpha. This change restores compatibility with some accidentally compiling OCaml code by using a more charitable interpretation for type annotation of the form
'a . [> X of 'a ] -> 'a -> 'a.
Finally, this second alpha release also contains a new backend for IBM s390x (which was contributed by IBM). Including a new architecture in an alpha release feels a bit daring. However, new backends have no effects on existing users and give us a wider testing environment for the new port. Consequently, I thought that it was sensible to integrate the new backend in the last alpha.
Overall, this second alpha release feels less stable that I would have wished, but the release process is definitively going forward. With this late release out of the door, my current plan is to focus on releasing a first beta release of OCaml 5.1.0 in the upcoming weeks. If everything goes well, we could have a final release of OCaml 5.1.0 around mid-July.