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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE book [
<!ENTITY % eclent SYSTEM "ecl.ent">
<book xmlns="" version="5.0" xml:lang="en">
 <chapter xml:id="ext.memory">
  <title>Memory Management</title>

  <section xml:id="ext.memory.intro">

   <para>&ECL; relies on the Boehm-Weiser garbage collector for handling
   memory, creating and destroying objects, and handling finalization of
   objects that are no longer reachable. The use of a garbage collector, and in
   particular the use of a portable one, imposes certain restrictions that may
   appear odd for C/C++ programmers.</para>

   <para>In this section we will discuss garbage collection, how &ECL;
   configures and uses the memory management library, what users may expect,
   how to handle the memory and how to control the process by which objects are


  <section xml:id="ext.memory.boehm">
   <title>Boehm-Weiser garbage collector</title>

   <para>First of all, the garbage collector must be able to determine which
   objects are alive and which are not. In other word, the collector must able
   to find all references to an object. One possiblity would be to know where
   all variables of a program reside, and where is the stack of the program and
   its size, and parse all data there, discriminating references to lisp
   objects. To do this precisely one would need a very precise control of the
   data and stack segments, as well as how objects are laid out by the C
   compiler. This is beyond &ECL;'s scope and wishes and it can make
   coexistence with other libraries (C++, Fortran, etc) difficult.</para>

   <para>The Boehm-Weiser garbage collector, on the other hand, is a
   conservative garbage collector. When scanning memory looking for references
   to live data, it guesses, conservatively, whether a word is a pointer or
   not. In case of doubt it will consider it to be a pointer and add it to the
   list of live objects. This may cause certain objects to be retained longer
   than what an user might expect but, in our experience, this is the best of
   both worlds and &ECL; uses certain strategies to minimize the amount of
   misinterpreted data.</para>

   <para>More precisely, &ECL; uses the garbage collector with the following
    <listitem><para>The collector will not scan the data sectors. If you embed
    &ECL; in another program, or link libraries with &ECL;, you will have to
    notify &ECL; which variables point to lisp objects.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para>The collector is configured to ignore pointers that point
    to the middle of allocated objects. This minimizes the risk of
    misinterpreting integers as pointers to live obejcts.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para>It is possible to register finalizers that are invoked when
    an object is destroyed, but for that you should use &ECL;'s API and
    understand the restriction described later in <xref
    linkend="ext.memory.finalization" xrefstyle="select: label"/></para></listitem>

   <para>Except for finalization, which is a questionable feature, the previous
   settings are not very relevant for &CommonLisp; programmers, but are crucial
   for people interested in embedding in or cooperating with other C, C++ or
   Fortran libraries. Care should be taken when manipulating directly the GC
   library to avoid interfering with &ECL;'s expectations.</para>

  <section xml:id="ext.memory.limits">
   <title>Memory limits</title>

   <para>Beginning with version 9.2.1, &ECL; operates a tighter control of the
   resources it uses. In particular, it features explicit limits in the four
   stacks and in the amount of live data. These limits are optional, can be
   changed at run time, but they allow users to better control the
   evolution of a program, handling memory and stack overflow gracefully via
   the &CommonLisp; condition system.</para>

   <para>The customizable limits are listed in <xref linkend="table.memory.limits" xrefstyle="select: label"/>, but they need a careful description.</para>
    <listitem><para><varname>ext:heap-size</varname> limits the total amount of
    memory which is available for lisp objects. This is the memory used when
    you create conses, arrays, structures, etc.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para><varname>ext:c-stack</varname> controls the size of the
    stack for compiled code, including &ECL;'s library itself. This limit is
    less stringent than the others. For instance, when code is compiled with
    low safety settings, checks for this stack limit are usually omitted, for
    performance reasons.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para><varname>ext:binding-stack</varname> controls the number of
    nested bindings for special variables. The current value is usually safe
    enough, unless you have deep recursive functions that bind special
    variables, which is not really a good idea.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para><varname>ext:frame-stack</varname> controls the number of
    nested blocks, tagbody and other control structures. It affects both
    interpreted and compiled code, but quite often compiled code optimizes away
    these stack frames, saving memory and not being affected by this

    <listitem><para><varname>ext:lisp-stack</varname> controls the size of the
    interpreter stack. It only affects interpreted code.</para></listitem>

   <para>If you look at <xref linkend="table.memory.limits" xrefstyle="select: label"/>, some of these limits may seem very stringent, but they exist to allow detecting and correcting both stack and memory overflow conditions. Larger values can be set systematically either in the <filename>~/.eclrc</filename> initialization file, or using the command line options from the table.</para>


  <section xml:id="ext.memory.conditions">
   <title>Memory Conditions</title>

   <para>When &ECL; surpasses or approaches the memory limits it will signal a &CommonLisp; condition. There are two types of conditions, <link linkend="ref.memory.stack-overflow"><symbol>ext:stack-overflow</symbol></link> and <link linkend=""><symbol>ext:storage-exhausted</symbol></link>, for stack and heap overflows, respectively. Both errors are correctable, as the following session shows:</para>
> (defun foo (x) (foo x))

> (foo 1)
C-STACK overflow at size 1654784. Stack can probably be resized.
Broken at SI:BYTECODES.Available restarts:
1. (CONTINUE) Extend stack size
Broken at FOO.
>> :r1
C-STACK overflow at size 2514944. Stack can probably be resized.
Broken at SI:BYTECODES.Available restarts:
1. (CONTINUE) Extend stack size
Broken at FOO.
>> :q
Top level.

  <section xml:id="ext.memory.finalization">

   <para>As we all know, Common-Lisp relies on garbage collection for deleting
   unreachable objects. However, it makes no provision for the equivalent of a
   C++ Destructor function that should be called when the object is eliminated
   by the garbage collector. The equivalent of such methods in a garbage
   collected environment is normally called a <emphasis>finalizer</emphasis>.</para>

   <para>&ECL; includes a simple implementation of finalizers which makes the
   following promises.</para>

    <listitem><para>The finalizer can be any lisp function, let it be compiled
    or interpreter.</para></listitem>

    <listitem><para>Finalizers are not invoked during garbage
    collection. Instead, if an unreachable object is found to have an
    associated finalizer, it is pushed into a list and <emphasis>before the
    next garbage collection cycle</emphasis>, the finalizer will be
    invoked. </para></listitem>

    <listitem><para>If the finalizer is invoked and it makes the object
    reachable, for instance, by assigning it to a variable, it will not be
    destroyed, but it will have no longer a finalizer associated to

    <listitem><para>&ECL; will strive to call finalizers before the environment
    is closed and the program is finished, but this mechanism may fail when
    exiting in a non ordinary way.</para></listitem>

   <para>The implementation is based on two functions, <link linkend="ref.memory.set-finalizer"><symbol>ext:set-finalizer</symbol></link> and <link linkend="ref.memory.get-finalizer"><symbol>ext:get-finalizer</symbol></link>, which allow setting and querying the finalizer functions for certain objects.</para>

  <section xml:id="ext.memory.dict">
   <title>Memory Management Reference</title>

   <xi:include xmlns:xi=""  href="ref_memory.xmlf" xpointer="ext.memory.dict"/>

<!-- Keep this comment at the end of the file
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     mode: nxml
     sgml-parent-document: "ecl.xml"
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