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08:28 pm, 13 Jan 04

ocaml zen

I have achieved a state of OCaml zen.

I wanted to write something that would parse LJ's latest-rss feed, my favorite source of weird data. I wanted something fast, so I figured I could use OCaml. Google for "ocaml fast xml" unfortunately finds one of my evan_tech posts, but I hear expat is good, so I hooked everything together.

Everything that caught me before—the confusing error messages, the way "if" statements need to have a "begin..end" around the body if you have more than one statement within them, the standard libraries, the way semicolon is used between statements and not at the end of every one, benchmarking multiple sets of equivalent functions by making them returned by interchangable wrappers, and even the Makefile hackery to generate bytecode or x86 code—all of it fell before my flying fingers.

And Christ, expat is way faster than I expected. This program retrieves and prints (including stringing together multiple character bodies in an automatically-growing buffer) all of the bodies of all the <description> tags in a faked (I repeated the content a few times within) 2.6mb (around 1900 entry) XML document:
% time ./ex > /dev/null
./ex > /dev/null 0.13s user 0.01s system 76% cpu 0.182 total

and oh wait, that's the bytecode version. Native code:
% time ./ex > /dev/null
./ex > /dev/null 0.07s user 0.00s system 82% cpu 0.085 total

That number is small enough to be processor noise. I was planning to run this on danga, because that'll make the bandwidth free, and I was worried about wasting processor, but I think something that 0.085 seconds running every 10 or so seconds is acceptable. (Of course, this will be a lot more complicated when I'm done.) I'm way too accustomed to using DOM parsers.