Memory Management with Stephen Dolan

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Stephen Dolan works on Jane Street’s Tools and Compilers team where he focuses on the OCaml compiler. In this episode, Stephen and Ron take a trip down memory lane, discussing how to manage computer memory efficiently and safely. They consider trade-offs between reference counting and garbage collection, the surprising gains achieved by prefetching, and how new language features like local allocation and unboxed types could give OCaml users more control over their memory.

Some links to topics that came up in the discussion:

Stephen’s command-line JSON processor, jq: https://github.com/stedolan/jq
Stephen’s Cambridge dissertation, “Algebraic Subtyping”: https://www.cs.tufts.edu/~nr/cs257/archive/stephen-dolan/thesis.pdf
and a protoype implementation of mlsub: https://github.com/stedolan/mlsub, a language based on those ideas.
A post from Stephen on how to benchmark different memory allocators: https://blog.janestreet.com/memory-allocator-showdown/
A Jane Street tech talk on “Unboxed Types for OCaml”: https://www.janestreet.com/tech-talks/unboxed-types-for-ocaml/
An RFC in the OCaml RFC repo: https://github.com/ocaml/RFCs/blob/881b220adc1f358ab15f7743d5cd764222ab7d30/rfcs/unboxed-types.md
A paper from Stephen and KC Sivaramakrishnan (https://kcsrk.info/) called “Bounding Data Races in Space and Time”, which is all about a new and better memory model for Multicore OCaml: https://kcsrk.info/papers/pldi18-memory.pdf
Another paper describing the design of OCaml’s multicore GC: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.11663.pdf
The Rust RFC for Higher-ranked trait bounds: https://rust-lang.github.io/rfcs/0387-higher-ranked-trait-bounds.html

You can find the transcript for this episode and all past episodes at signalsandthreads.com.
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Management
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