Monday, February 18, 2013

Function-array Type Signature in TypeScript

In TypeScript, a function's type can be specified by a function type literal:

    ( ParameterListopt ) => ReturnType

For example, the following type signature specifies a unary function that takes a number and returns a number:

var unary: (x: number) => number;

TypeScript also supports array type literals that consist of an element type followed by a pair of brackets:

    Type [ ]

Now, suppose we need an array of unary functions, what would be the type signature of the function array?

Appending a pair of brackets to the previous function type literal wouldn't work because the resulting type signature, though syntactically correct, defines a single function that returns an array of numbers rather than an array of functions, each returning a single number:

var wrong: (x: number) => number [];

Trying to disambiguate the semantics by wrapping the function type literal in parentheses is also erroneous — the first left parenthesis would be matched as the initial token of a FunctionType rule, therefore the compiler would flag the second left parenthesis as a grammar error:

var wrongToo: ( (x: number) => number ) [];

The key to solving this is the realization that a function type literal of the form ( ParameterListopt ) => ResultType can be rewritten as the equivalent object type literal { ( ParameterListopt ) : ResultType; }, which removes the ambiguity in a function array type signature. For example:

var correct: {(x: number): number;}[];

To improve code readability, we may define a separate type name and reference it in the array type:

interface UnaryFunc {
  (x: number): number;

var unaryFuncArray: UnaryFunc[];

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Migrated WordGap from Python to Go 1

WordGap, an anagram search tool running on Google AppEngine, was originally written in Python. I recently rewrote it in Go 1 and added support for the SOWPODS word list. In terms of number of lines, the code size is roughly the same as the Python version, but the run-time performance has gained a considerable boost: the average latency of anagramming requests has dropped from ~500ms to ~30ms! Go has strongly exceeded my expectation and is now my language of choice for AppEngine app development.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Initializing large arrays in Go for AppEngine

Go supports composite literals to construct arrays, slices, or maps. A list of strings, for example, may be created as follows:
words := []string{"AA", "AAH", "AAHED"}
This is convenient and works really well for small lists. If you try to initialize an array with hundreds of thousands of elements, though, Go compilation will significantly slow down even if the entire list can comfortably fit into the memory. Worse yet, you won't be able to deploy your app to AppEngine. A typical error message looks like this:
Error 422: --- begin server output ---
Compile failed:
2012/03/18 00:00:00 go-app-builder: Failed building app: failed running 6g: signal 9
--- end server output ---
Rolling back the update.
Error 422: --- begin server output ---
The solution is to construct large data structures at run-time by parsing data encoded in external files. For example, store a long list of words in a text file, one word per line; during initialization, convert them into a string slice:
import (

func loadStringList(filename string) []string {
  content, err := ioutil.ReadFile(filename)
  if err != nil {
  return strings.Split(string(content), "\n")

func init() {
  words := loadStringList("words.txt")
For more complicated data structures, you may want to use the gob package to do efficient deserialization.