--- Begin Message ---
Subject:
[PATCH guix-artwork] website: posts: Add Dissecting Guix, Part 2: The Store Monad.
Date:
Wed, 1 Feb 2023 17:28:21 +0000
* website/posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md: New blog post.
---
Heya Guix!
At long last, the second Dissecting Guix is complete :)
This one is about monads, the Guix monad API, and the %STORE-MONAD. Hopefully
it's not too confusing, but if you find it hard to follow, please let me know!
-- (
.../posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md | 498 ++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 498 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 website/posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md
diff --git a/website/posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md
b/website/posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md
new file mode 100644
index 0000000..83f2e69
--- /dev/null
+++ b/website/posts/dissecting-guix-2-store-monad.md
@@ -0,0 +1,498 @@
+title: Dissecting Guix, Part 2: The Store Monad
+date: TBC
+author: (
+tags: Dissecting Guix, Functional package management, Programming interfaces,
Scheme API
+---
+Hello again!
+
+In [the last
post](https://guix.gnu.org/en/blog/2023/dissecting-guix-part-1-derivations/),
+we briefly mentioned the `with-store` and `run-with-store` APIs. Today, we'll
+be looking at those in further detail, along with the related monad API and the
+`%store-monad`!
+
+Monads are a little hard to explain, and from a distance, they seem more than a
+bit confusing. So, I want you to erase monads from your mind for now. We'll
+come back to them later.
+
+# Yes, No, Maybe So
+
+Let's instead implement another M of functional programming, _`maybe`_ values,
+representing a value that may or may not exist. `maybe` is a very common
+feature of strongly-typed functional languages, and you'll see it all over the
+place in Haskell and OCaml code. However, Guile is not strongly typed, so we
+usually use ad-hoc `#f`s and `'()`s for null values instead of a proper
+"optional" value.
+
+Just for fun, though, we'll implement a proper `maybe` in Guile. Fire up that
+REPL once again, and let's import a bunch of modules that we'll need:
+
+```scheme
+(use-modules (ice-9 match)
+ (srfi srfi-9))
+```
+
+We'll implement `maybe` as a record with two fields, `is?` and `value`. If the
+value contains something, `is?` will be `#t` and `value` will contain the thing
+in question, and if it's empty, `is?`'ll be `#f`.
+
+```scheme
+(define-record-type <maybe>
+ (make-maybe is? value)
+ maybe?
+ (is? maybe-is?)
+ (value maybe-value))
+```
+
+Now we'll define constructors for the two possible states:
+
+```scheme
+(define (something value)
+ (make-maybe #t value))
+
+(define (nothing)
+ (make-maybe #f #f))
+```
+
+And make some silly functions that return optional values:
+
+```scheme
+(define (remove-a str)
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\a)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+
+(define (remove-b str)
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\b)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+
+(remove-a "ahh")
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "hh">
+
+(remove-a "ooh")
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #f value: #f>
+
+(remove-b "bad")
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "ad">
+```
+
+But what if we want to compose the results of these functions?
+
+# Keeping Your Composure
+
+As you might have guessed, this is not fun. Cosplaying as a compiler backend
+typically isn't.
+
+```scheme
+(let ((t1 (remove-a "abcd")))
+ (if (maybe-is? t1)
+ (remove-b (maybe-value t1))
+ (nothing)))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "cd">
+
+(let ((t1 (remove-a "bbcd")))
+ (if (maybe-is? t1)
+ (remove-b (maybe-value t1))
+ (nothing)))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #f value: #f>
+```
+
+I can almost hear the heckling. Even worse, chaining three:
+
+```scheme
+(let* ((t1 (remove-a "abad"))
+ (t2 (if (maybe-is? t1)
+ (remove-b (maybe-value t1))
+ (nothing))))
+ (if (maybe-is? t2)
+ (remove-a (maybe-value t2))
+ (nothing)))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "d">
+```
+
+So, how do we go about making this more bearable? Well, one way could be to
+make `remove-a` and `remove-b` accept `maybe`s:
+
+```scheme
+(define (remove-a ?str)
+ (if (maybe-is? ?str)
+ (let ((str (maybe-value ?str)))
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\a)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+ (nothing)))
+
+(define (remove-b ?str)
+ (if (maybe-is? ?str)
+ (let ((str (maybe-value ?str)))
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\b)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+ (nothing)))
+```
+
+Not at all pretty, but it works!
+
+```
+(remove-b (remove-a (something "abc")))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "c">
+```
+
+Still, our procedures now require quite a bit of boilerplate. Might there be a
+better way?
+
+# The Ties That `>>=` Us
+
+First of all, we'll revert to our original definitions of `remove-a` and
+`remove-b`, that is to say, the ones that take a regular value and return a
+`maybe`.
+
+```scheme
+(define (remove-a str)
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\a)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+
+(define (remove-b str)
+ (if (eq? (string-ref str 0) #\b)
+ (something (substring str 1))
+ (nothing)))
+```
+
+What if tried introducing higher-order procedures (procedures that accept other
+procedures as arguments) into the equation? Because we're functional
+programmers and we're somewhat obsessed with that kind of thing.
+
+```scheme
+(define (maybe-chain maybe proc)
+ (if (maybe-is? maybe)
+ (proc (maybe-value maybe))
+ (nothing)))
+
+(maybe-chain (something "abc")
+ remove-a)
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "bc">
+
+(maybe-chain (nothing)
+ remove-a)
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #f value: #f>
+```
+
+It lives! To make it easier to chain procedures like this, we'll define a
macro
+that allows us to perform any number of sequenced operations with only one
+chaining form:
+
+```scheme
+(define-syntax maybe-chain*
+ (syntax-rules ()
+ ((_ maybe proc)
+ (maybe-chain maybe proc))
+ ((_ maybe proc rest ...)
+ (maybe-chain* (maybe-chain maybe proc)
+ rest ...))))
+
+(maybe-chain* (something "abad")
+ remove-a
+ remove-b
+ remove-a)
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "d">
+```
+
+Congratulations, you've reinvented `bind`, commonly written as the `>>=`
+operator. And it turns out that a monadic type is just a container type that
+can be used with `>>=`!
+
+# New Wheel, Old Wheel
+
+Now that we've reinvented the wheel, we'd better learn to use the original
+wheel. Guix provides a generic, high-level monads API, along with three
monads,
+though `maybe` is not one of them, so let's integrate it into the Guix monad
+system!
+
+First we'll make the API available:
+
+```scheme
+(use-modules (guix monads))
+```
+
+To define a monad's API in Guix, we simply use the `define-monad` macro, and
+provide two procedures: `bind`, and `return`.
+
+```scheme
+(define-monad %maybe-monad
+ (bind maybe-chain)
+ (return something))
+```
+
+`bind` is just the procedure that we use to chain monadic procedure calls
+together, and `return` is a procedure that takes a non-monadic value and wraps
+it up in the most basic form possible of the monad.
+
+Now we can use the `with-monad` macro to tell Guix to use this specific `bind`
+and `return`, and the `>>=` macro to thread monads through procedure calls!
+
+```scheme
+(with-monad %maybe-monad
+ (>>= (something "aabbc")
+ remove-a
+ remove-a
+ remove-b
+ remove-b))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "c">
+```
+
+We can also now use `return`:
+
+```scheme
+(with-monad %maybe-monad
+ (return 32))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: 32>
+```
+
+But Guix provides many higher-level APIs than `>>=` and `return`, as we will
+see. There's `mbegin`, which evaluates monadic expressions without binding
them
+to symbols, returning the last one:
+
+```scheme
+(mbegin %maybe-monad
+ (remove-a "abc"))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "bc">
+```
+
+And there's `mlet` and `mlet*`, which can bind them, and is essentially
+equivalent to a chain of `(>>= MEXPR (lambda (BINDING) ...))`:
+
+```scheme
+(mlet* %maybe-monad ((str -> "abad") ;non-monadic binding uses the -> symbol
+ (str1 (remove-a str))
+ (str2 (remove-b str)))
+ (remove-a str))
+;; #<<maybe> is?: #t value: "d">
+```
+
+Various abstractions over these two exist too, such as `mwhen` (a `when` plus
an
+`mbegin`), `munless` (an `unless` plus an `mbegin`), and `mparameterize`
+(dynamically-scoped value rebinding, like `parameterize`, in a monadic
context).
+`lift` takes a procedure and a monad and creates a new procedure that returns
+a monadic value.
+
+There are also APIs for manipulating lists wrapped in monads; `mlist` creates
+such a list, `anym` is a monadic `any`, `sequence` turns a list of monads into
a
+monadic list, `mapm` is a monadic `map`, and `foldm` is a monadic `fold`.
+
+This is all well and good, you may be thinking, but why does Guix need a monad
+API? The answer is technically that it doesn't. But building on the monad API
+makes a lot of things much easier, and to learn why, we're going to look at one
+of Guix's built-in monads.
+
+# In a State
+
+Guix implements a monad called `%state-monad`, and it works with
single-argument
+procedures returning two values. Behold:
+
+```scheme
+(with-monad %state-monad
+ (return 33))
+;; #<procedure 21dc9a0 at <unknown port>:1106:22 (state)>
+```
+
+The `run-with-state` value turns this procedure into an actually useful value,
+or, rather, two values:
+
+```scheme
+(run-with-state (with-monad %state-monad (return 33))
+ (list "foo" "bar" "baz"))
+;; 33
+;; ("foo" "bar" "baz")
+```
+
+What can this actually do for us, though? Well, it gets interesting if we do
+some `>>=`ing:
+
+```scheme
+(define state-seq
+ (mlet* ((number (return 33)))
+ (state-push number)))
+result
+;; #<procedure 7fcb6f466960 at <unknown port>:1484:24 (state)>
+
+(run-with-state state-seq (list 32))
+;; (32)
+;; (33 32)
+
+(run-with-state state-seq (list 30 99))
+;; (30 99)
+;; (33 30 99)
+```
+
+What is `state-push`? It's a monadic procedure for `%state-monad` that takes
+whatever's currently in the first value (the primary value) and pushes it onto
+the second value (the state value), which is assumed to be a list, returning
the
+old state value as the primary value and the new list as the state value.
+
+So, when we do `(run-with-state result (list 32))`, we're passing `(list 32)`
as
+the initial state value, and then the `>>=` form passes that and `33` to
+`state-push`. What `%state-monad` allows us to do is thread together some
+procedures that require some kind of state, while pretending the state isn't
+there, and then retrieve both the final state and the result at the end!
+
+If you're a bit confused, don't worry. We'll write some of our own
+`%state-monad`-based monadic procedures and hopefully all will become clear.
+
+```scheme
+(define (fibonacci-thing value)
+ (lambda (state)
+ (values (+ value state)
+ value)))
+
+(run-with-state
+ (mlet* %state-monad ((starting (return 1))
+ (n1 (fibonacci-thing starting))
+ (n2 (fibonacci-thing n1)))
+ (fibonacci-thing n2))
+ 0)
+;; 3
+;; 2
+
+(run-with-state
+ (mlet* %state-monad ((starting (return 1))
+ (n1 (fibonacci-thing starting))
+ (n2 (fibonacci-thing n1))
+ (n3 (fibonacci-thing n2))
+ (n4 (fibonacci-thing n3))
+ (n5 (fibonacci-thing n4)))
+ (fibonacci-thing n5))
+ 0)
+;; 13
+;; 8
+```
+
+The `fibonacci-thing` monadic procedure takes the number passed, makes it the
+current state, and outputs the sum of the state and the number passed. This
+gives us a sort of Fibonacci-sequence-like behaviour, where the next number in
+the sequence is given by the sum of the two before.
+
+This is all very nifty, and possibly useful in general, but what does this have
+to do with Guix? Well, many Guix store-based operations are meant to be used
+in concert with yet another monad, called the `%store-monad`. But if we look
at
+`(guix store)`, where `%store-monad` is defined...
+
+```scheme
+(define-alias %store-monad %state-monad)
+(define-alias store-return state-return)
+(define-alias store-bind state-bind)
+```
+
+It was all a shallow façade! All the "store monad" is is a special case of the
+state monad, where a value representing the store is passed as the state value.
+
+# Lies, Damned Lies, and Abstractions
+
+We mentioned that, technically, we didn't need monads for Guix. Indeed, many
+(now deprecated) procedures take a store value as the argument:
+
+```scheme
+(use-modules (guix derivations)
+ (guix store))
+
+(with-store store ;remember this?
+ (build-expression->derivation store NAME EXPRESSION ...))
+```
+
+This procedure, being deprecated, should never of course be used. For one
+thing, it uses the "quoted build expression" style, rather than gexps, which we
+will discuss another time. The best way to create a derivation from some basic
+build code is to use the new-fangled `gexp->derivation` procedure, which
happens
+to be monadic!
+
+```scheme
+(use-modules (guix gexp)
+ (gnu packages irc))
+
+(define symlink-irssi
+ (gexp->derivation "link-to-irssi"
+ #~(symlink #$(file-append irssi "/bin/irssi") #$output)))
+;; #<procedure 7fddcc7b81e0 at guix/gexp.scm:1180:2 (state)>
+```
+
+You don't have to understand the `#~(...)` form yet, only everything
surrounding
+it. We can see that this `gexp->derivation` returns a procedure taking the
+initial state (store), just like our `%state-monad` procedures did. And to
pass
+this initial state, we used `run-with-state`. The equivalent for working with
+the store is our old friend `run-with-store`!
+
+```scheme
+(define symlink-irssi-drv
+ (with-store store
+ (run-with-store store
+ symlink-irssi)))
+;; #<derivation /gnu/store/q7kwwl4z6psifnv4di1p1kpvlx06fmyq-link-to-irssi.drv
=> /gnu/store/6a94niigx4ii0ldjdy33wx9anhifr25x-link-to-irssi 7fddb7ef52d0>
+```
+
+Let's just check this derivation is as expected by reading the code from the
+builder script.
+
+```scheme
+(define symlink-irssi-builder
+ (list-ref (derivation-builder-arguments symlink-irssi-drv) 1))
+
+(call-with-input-file symlink-irssi-builder
+ (lambda (port)
+ (read port)))
+
+;; (symlink
+;; "/gnu/store/hrlmypx1lrdjlxpkqy88bfrzg5p0bn6d-irssi-1.4.3/bin/irssi"
+;; ((@ (guile) getenv) "out"))
+```
+
+And indeed, it symlinks the `irssi` binary to the output path. Some other,
+higher-level, monadic procedures include `interned-file`, which copies a file
+from outside the store into it, and `text-file`, which copies some text into
it.
+Generally, these procedures aren't used, as there are higher-level procedures
+that perform similar functions (which we will discuss later), but for the sake
+of this blog post, here's an example:
+
+```scheme
+(with-store store
+ (run-with-store store
+ (text-file "unmatched-paren"
+ "( <paren@disroot.org>")))
+;; "/gnu/store/v6smacxvdk4yvaa3s3wmd54lixn1dp3y-unmatched-paren"
+```
+
+# Conclusion
+
+What have we learned about monads? The key points we can take away are:
+
+1. Monads are a way of chaining together procedures and values that are wrapped
+ in containers that give them extra context, like `maybe` values.
+2. Guix provides a high-level monad API that compensates for Guile's lack of
+ strong types or an interface-like system.
+3. This API provides the state monad, which allows you to thread state through
+ procedures such that you can pretend it doesn't exist.
+4. Guix uses the store monad frequently to thread a store connection through
+ procedures that need it.
+5. The store monad is really just the state monad in disguise, where the state
+ value is used to thread the store object through monadic procedures.
+
+If you've read this post in its entirety but still don't yet quite get it,
don't
+worry. Try to modify and tinker about with the examples, and hopefully it will
+all click eventually!
+
+#### About GNU Guix
+
+[GNU Guix](https://guix.gnu.org) is a transactional package manager and
+an advanced distribution of the GNU system that [respects user
+freedom](https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-system-distribution-guidelines.html).
+Guix can be used on top of any system running the Hurd or the Linux
+kernel, or it can be used as a standalone operating system distribution
+for i686, x86_64, ARMv7, AArch64 and POWER9 machines.
+
+In addition to standard package management features, Guix supports
+transactional upgrades and roll-backs, unprivileged package management,
+per-user profiles, and garbage collection. When used as a standalone
+GNU/Linux distribution, Guix offers a declarative, stateless approach to
+operating system configuration management. Guix is highly customizable
+and hackable through [Guile](https://www.gnu.org/software/guile)
+programming interfaces and extensions to the
+[Scheme](http://schemers.org) language.
base-commit: fe113595b6f7d8a1e1a0b814521f02783f9209c3
--
2.39.1
--- End Message ---