### Total Functional Programming

Recently on Lambda the Ultimate there was a post called "Total Functional Programming".  The title didn't catch my eye particularly, but I tend to read the abstract of any paper that is posted there that doesn't sound terribly boring.  I've found that this is a fairly good strategy since I tend to get very few false positives this way and I'm too busy for false negatives.

The paper touches directly and indirectly on subjects I've posted about here before.  The idea is basically to eschew the current dogma that programming languages should be Turing-complete, and run with the alternative to the end of supplying
"Total Functional Programming"

At first glance this might seem to be a paper aimed at "hair-shirt" wearing functional programming weenies.  My reading was somewhat different.

Most hobbiest mathematicians have some passing familiarity with "Turing's Halting Problem" and the related "Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem".  What this paper is trying to do is say "So what!".  The basic idea is that restriction to a syntacticly restricted language can restrict the semantics in such a way that these problems do not apply.  The resulting (*huge*) class of programs can then solve almost everything that we think is important.

The "Bazooka" of the paper is a line describing how every program for which we have a complexity upper bound, is in fact inside the restricted language.  This realisation is profound.  It means that all of the algorithms that anyone has bothered to find upper bounds for (a huge class of programs mind you!) is accessible to this technique.

The paper even deals with infinite data (co-data) in the framework and mechanisms to properly account for streams and other (possibly) infinite structures.

The idea of working in syntactically restricted languages that are sub-Turing (for any number of reasons) is not new.  In fact I think I've mentioned DataLog (wikipedia entry) previously.  In the case of DataLog however, there are serious deficiencies in the expressive power.

Definitely the best paper I've read this year.  I'm not sure how accessible it is to lay-people, but it should be accessible to anyone with a CS B.S. or people who have some familiarity with functional programming.

### Managing state in Prolog monadically, using DCGs.

Prolog is a beautiful language which makes a lot of irritating rudimentary rule application and search easy. I have found it is particularly nice when trying to deal with compilers which involve rule based transformation from a source language L to a target language L'.

However, the management of these rules generally requires keeping track of a context, and this context has to be explicitly threaded through the entire application, which involves a lot of irritating and error prone sequence variables. This often leads to your code looking something a bit like this:

compile(seq(a,b),(ResultA,ResultB),S0,S2) :- compile(a,ResultA,S0,S1), compile(b,ResultB,S1,S2).
While not the worst thing, I've found it irritating and ugly, and I've made a lot of mistakes with incorrectly sequenced variables. It's much easier to see sequence made explicitly textually in the code.

While they were not designed for this task, but rather for parsing, DCGs turn out to be a convenient …

### Generating etags automatically when needed

Have you ever wanted M-. (the emacs command which finds the definition of the term under the cursor) to just "do the right thing" and go to the most current definition site, but were in a language that didn't have an inferior process set-up to query about source locations correctly (as is done in lisp, ocaml and some other languages with sophisticated emacs interfaces)?

Well, fret no more. Here is an approach that will let you save the appropriate files and regenerate your TAGS file automatically when things change assuring that M-. takes you to the appropriate place.

You will have to reset the tags-table-list or set it when you first use M-. and you'll want to change the language given to find and etags in the 'create-prolog-tags function (as you're probably not using prolog), but otherwise it shouldn't require much customisation.

And finally, you will need to run etags once manually, or run 'M-x create-prolog-tags' in order to get the initia…

### Formalisation of Tables in a Dependent Language

I've had an idea kicking about in my head for a while of making query plans explicit in SQL in such a way that one can be assured that the query plan corresponds to the SQL statement desired. The idea is something like a Curry-Howard in a relational setting. One could infer the plan from the SQL, the SQL from the plan, or do a sort of "type-checking" to make sure that the plan corresponds to the SQL.

The devil is always in the details however. When I started looking at the primitives that I would need, it turns out that the low level table joining operations are actually not that far from primitive SQL statement themselves. I decided to go ahead and formalise some of what would be necessary in Agda in order get a better feel for the types of objects I would need and the laws which would be required to demonstrate that a plan corresponded with a statement.

Dependent types are very powerful and give you plenty of rope to hang yourself. It's always something of…