Open Source

  • I made a new release of dejafu which restores the ability to execute concurrent programs using ST rather than IO, like dejafu-0.x could. For example:

    import Control.Concurrent.Classy (MonadConc(..), fork)
    import Control.Exception         (SomeException)
    import Control.Monad.Catch.Pure  (runCatchT)
    import Control.Monad.ST          (runST)
    import Data.Set                  (Set)
    import Test.DejaFu.Conc     (Condition, runConcurrent, roundRobinSched)
    import Test.DejaFu.SCT      (resultsSet)
    import Test.DejaFu.Settings (defaultMemType, defaultWay)
    example :: MonadConc m => m Int
    example = do
      v <- newEmptyMVar
      fork $ putMVar v 1
      fork $ putMVar v 2
      readMVar v
    -- get all results
    results :: Either SomeException (Set (Either Condition Int))
    results = runST $ runCatchT $ resultsSet defaultWay defaultMemType example
    -- get a single result, using a round-robin scheduler
    single :: Either SomeException (Either Condition Int)
    single = case runST $ runCatchT $ runConcurrent roundRobinSched defaultMemType () example of
      Right (result, _, _) -> Right result
      Left e -> Left e
    -- throw errors
    single' :: Int
    single' = case single of
      Right (Right result) -> result
      Right (Left _) -> error "your program deadlocked or something"
      Left _ -> error "an internal error occurred in dejafu"
    > results
    Right (fromList [Right 1,Right 2])
    > single
    Right (Right 2)
    > single'

    I’ll probably write a memo going into more detail, but the gist is that I changed from using a “metacircular evaluator”-like approach (implementing some MonadConc actions in terms of MonadConc) to a “tagged final” approach (introducing a special-purpose MonadDejaFu typeclass for the needed operations).


  • This week we planned to start the roll-out of Elasticsearch 5 to production, so naturally we discovered a bunch of significant problems:

    • Best bets were broken. A “best bet” is a search result we (or someone in a department) thinks should rank really highly for a particular search term. They conceptually work by doing a query to find all the best bets which match the user’s query then, in the query which finds all the search results, some constraints are added to include all of the best bets and give them a really high score. This is actually all implemented in the same query, but I find it easier to think about in stages like this.

      What was actually happening is that all best bets were matching every query, so at the top of every search were thousands of mostly irrelevant results.

      This turned out to be a problem introduced when I changed the index schemas to only use a single mapping type. After that change, best bets were being matched like this:

      { "query":
        { "bool":
          { "must": { "match": { "document_type": "best_bet" } }
          , "should":
            [ { "match": { "exact_query":   "<the query goes here>" } },
            , { "match": { "stemmed_query": "<the query goes here>" } },

      The behaviour of must is that a document will be returned only if the inner query is true. The behaviour of should is that a document will be returned only if at least one of the inner queries are true.

      What I didn’t realise is that the behaviour of a must in combination with a should is that documents matching the must will be returned even if they don’t match any of the should queries, and the should is only used for ranking. Whoops.

      It turned out I’d introduced the same problem in a few places.

      This definitely highlights a weakness in the testsuite. Best bets are tested, but I guess there are no tests that if you have multiple best bets, only the ones which match the query are returned.

    • Result ordering was weird. The default text similarity metric changed between Elasticsearch 2 and Elasticsearch 5, so we expected (and observed) some difference in result ordering, but at some point things became far worse. I tracked it down to a change made to our index definitions; but the change followed the Elasticsearch migration guide, so we don’t really know why it didn’t work out.

      I switched back to the (deprecated) old-style text similarity and reverted the index definition change. But these fixes will have to be revisited when we move to Elasticsearch 6, which is likely to be next quarter.

    • Locking the indices didn’t work. AWS managed Elasticsearch has the behaviour that it will automatically lock your indices based on the health of your cluster. For example, if you’ve run out of disk space, it will lock the indices to prevent further writes. This is handled by a process which runs every few minutes.

      Unfortunately, if your cluster is healthy, it will automatically unlock your indices. Even if you locked them manually. After some pretty fruitless debugging, and a live chat with AWS support, we have a solution, but it’s not a perfect solution as it gives rise to a race condition to do with switching between indices. We’ve decided that the race is unlikely to be important, and so have accepted this for now.

    • Reindexing is broken in a way we don’t understand yet. Occasionally there is a need to reindex all of the documents in Elasticsearch (if the schema changes, for instance), so it’s essential this works. The way we reindex is like so:

      1. Lock the old index
      2. Create the new index
      3. Reindex the old into the new
      4. Compare the old and new
      5. Switch to the new index if the comparison doesn’t find any differences.

      This process was broken because of the locking issue, but even taking that into account, things don’t seem right. I found that many thousands of documents seem to get slightly mangled in the reindexing process, with fields being inconsistently dropped in the new index (some documents would be missing a field, other documents would have the same field). I’m hoping this is somehow due to the locking problem and will just work when I try it tomorrow.

    If the reindexing issue can be solved, we plan to switch over our production apps to use Ealsticsearch 5 late next week. Originally we weren’t planning to do anything on Thursday or Friday, but then the date of Brexit changed.


  • I switched my VPS from Linode to Hetzner Cloud, because I realised I could more than double the resources for only a small extra cost ($20/month to €19.08/month). Using NixOS made it really easy to copy and tweak the configuration for my Linode, giving me an almost identical system with only a few minutes effort.

    The biggest pain has been finding all the git repositories which were configured to use my Linode as the upstream.

  • I found some code I wrote a couple of years ago to learn about text justification and pushed it to GitHub. The README.png file is its output.