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Exception Handling

Exception handling

Calling a built-in or user-defined routine may lead to an error or a cached status message to be dealt with in MAL. To improve error handling in MAL, an exception handling scheme based on catch-exit blocks. The catch statement identifies a (string-valued) variable, which carries the exception message from the originally failed routine or raise exception assignment. During normal processing catch-exit blocks are simply skipped. Upon receiving an exception status from a function call, we set the exception variable and skip to the first associated catch-exit block. MAL interpretation then continues until it reaches the end of the block. If no exception variable was defined, we should abandon the function alltogether searching for a catch block at a higher layer.

Exceptions raised within a linked-in function requires some care. First, the called procedure does not know anything about the MAL interpreter context. Thus, we need to return all relevant information upon leaving the linked library routine.

Second, exceptional cases can be handled deeply in the recursion, where they may also be handled, i.e. by issueing an GDKerror message. The upper layers merely receive a negative integer value to indicate occurrence of an error somewhere in the calling sequence. We then have to also look into GDKerrbuf to see if there was an error raised deeply inside the system.

The policy is to require all C-functions to return a string-pointer. Upon a successfull call, it is a NULL string. Otherwise it contains an encoding of the exceptional state encountered. This message starts with the exception identifer, followed by contextual details.

Garbage collection is relatively straightforward, because most values are retained on the stackframe of an interpreter call. However, two storage types and possibly user-defined type garbage collector definitions require attention: BATs and strings.

A key issue is to deal with temporary BATs in an efficient way. References to bats in the buffer pool may cause dangling references at the language level. This appears as soons as your share a reference and delete the BAT from one angle. If not carefull, the dangling pointer may subsequently be associated with another BAT

All string values are private to the VALrecord, which means they have to be freed explicitly before a MAL function returns. The first step is to always safe the destination variable before a function call is made.

All operations are responsible to properly set the reference count of the BATs being produced or destroyed. The libraries should not leave the physical reference count being set. This is only allowed during the execution of a GDK operation. All references should be logical.