Rsoc: Ion as a Library, week 5

By AdminXVII on

Wrapping up the Ion as a library project

What is Ion

Ion is a fast, modern shell. Its powerful yet simple syntax almost eradicates the need for GNU’s coreutils, by providing integrated, super-fast methods. With the methods providing native speed and modern features like non-forking expansion, Ion beats Dash in terms of performance in a wide variety of scenarios. Features like exiting with error on command not found, invalid expansion and explicit typing in function signatures, as well as using Rust as its base language means a whole host of user and application errors simply can’t happen, which POSIX shells lack. Ion takes the Rust’s promise for fast, simple, secure programming and introduces it to the world of shells.

The work done as part of this project

It is now possible to embed Ion in any Rust application. Ion takes any Read instance and can execute it (so yes, it is possible to run Ion without ever collecting the script’s binary stream). It takes care of expanding the input and managing the running applications in an efficient manner, with a comprehensive set of errors. Ion is now the rust-based, pipe-oriented liblua alternative.

This week’s progression

Summary of the work done

Performance improvement: non-forking sub-shell expansion

During shell expansion, it is quite common to deal with sub-shells (e.g. echo $(echo a)). Dash and Bash’s way of doing it is forking the shell and redirecting its output to a pipe. The problem is that forking can be quite time-consuming, and the main process is effectively blocked, making the fork absolutely not useful. For example, given the subshell expansion for echo $(echo a), this is the two timelines: Bash: main process: | part of expansion | forking | waiting | rest of expansion | expansion fork: | forking | executing builtin |

Ion: main process: | part of expansion | executing builtin | rest of expansion |

Forking is quite cheap on Linux due to copy-on-write paging, yet it is still cheaper to not fork at all. Another problem is that, in POSIX shells' case, the main process will be periodically woked-up to read partially the expansion’s output. Since there is nothing to do with this read until the pipeline exits, this means the process keeps taking CPU time where it should not. Ion in contrast lets the pipe fill up and only read once, at the end of the pipeline execution, leaving your CPU in peace.

With a more down-to-earth approach, this means

for _ in {0..10000}
  echo $(echo a) > /dev/null

now executes 25x faster than it did on a Galago Pro 3 with i7-8565U (turbo disabled). It is also 10x faster than the dash equivalent, and 30x faster than bash’s.

Ion as a library’s first useful application: Redox’s Parallel

The first application based upon Ion as a library has now been created! Redox’s Parallel is an alternative to GNU’s one, with a more ergonomic and faster shell at its core. It is already usable and released as a beta version. You can check out the code at (GPL).

The next steps