Archive for April, 2009

Adding C code to Perl on PC

April 9, 2009

I tried adding an external C library to Perl, more specifically, ActivePerl on PC. Here are my findings:

The recommended way is using something called xsub, a utility that has its own language, XS. The process is documented in two long manpages, perlxs and perlxstut. It’s long and complicated, involving a makefile generated by a local script,, in turn generated by xsub. The makefile doesn’t work because the backslashes there aren’t escaped. I tried replacing each backslash that wasn’t at the end of a line by two backslashes, but it didn’t work for some other reason. The conclusion is that MakeMake is broken on PC, and therefore so is xsub.

Then there is C::DynaLoad. It allows calling functions from shared libraries. In its doc the author says that xsub is much cooler, but doesn’t explain why. The only reason I can think of is that it can work with Perl variables, but then why not allow passing those variables directly to C functions? Anyway, guess what.¬†C::DynaLoad is written using xsub. So I still had to build it using the makefile and everything, and the makefile was still broken. I tried to find it compiled for PC, but failed.

Now on PC there is Win32::API. Actually it allows calling any function from a DLL. It’s like C::DynaLoad, only it doesn’t require compilation. It actually can receive the C prototype of a function, and you can pass structs that on the Perl side look like hashes. I compiled the library I needed into a DLL, and it works just fine.

On PC, calling C functions in DLLs is standard. This isn’t surprising, since it’s a very simple interface. Why does Linux require jumping through all those hoops? I suppose because it’s more interesting in a geekish way. And that’s symptomatic of the general reason why Linux isn’t popular.

As an aside, I used MinGW, a port of gcc, to compile the DLL. You have to make the functions __declspec(dllexport) and WINAPI (because that’s what Win32::API expects). Now gcc understands the former, but the latter is defined in "winnt.h", on which gcc chokes. It turns out that WINAPI is defined to mean __stdcall (not __pascal any more), and gcc understands that. Then the function names are decorated with @4. I suppose it’s possible to turn off this decoration, but it’s simpler to pass the decorated function names to Win32::API. It works. The flag for making DLLs is -shared.

The wise men of Chelm strike again

April 3, 2009

Recently I’ve mentioned that there are many Wise Men of Chelm in governmental agencies. Well, there are especially many in armies. Here’s a recent example from The Daily WTF.

Its logic runs like this: On one hand, we want to be able to deal with unexpected moves, so let’s add a random factor to the simulation. On the other hand, we want the random moves to be the same every time!