[Openmcl-devel] watched objects

R. Matthew Emerson rme at clozure.com
Mon Sep 28 15:18:27 UTC 2009

There's an experimental new debugging feature in the trunk that allows  
certain lisp objects to be "watched".

When a write takes place to a watched object, a condition of type  
write-to-watched-object is signaled, and you get a break loop.  You  
can then get a backtrace, etc., to see what happened.  There's a  
restart that will unwatch the object and let you proceed.  You can't  
(yet) say "allow just this one write to happen, but keep the object  
watched."  To continue, you have to unwatch.

The functions CCL::WATCH and CCL::UNWATCH are the interface to this.   
Silly example:

? (defvar *a* (make-array 3))
? (watch *a*)
? (setf (aref *a* 2) 'foo)
 > Error: Write to watched object #<SIMPLE-VECTOR 3> at address  
#xD5018 (uvector index 2).
 > While executing: ASET, in process listener(1).
 > Type :POP to abort, :R for a list of available restarts.
 > Type :? for other options.

Calling WATCH with no arguments will return a list of objects being  

To a reasonable approximation, heap-allocated objects in CCL are  
either UVECTORs or CONSes.  You can watch either kind of object, but  
there are some restrictions.

Basically everything that isn't cons cell is a uvector (this includes  
all sorts of arrays, functions, symbols, hash-tables, bignums, etc.).   
For vectors, there's a one-to-one correspondence between the uvector  
indicies and the vector indicies.

For more complicated objects (other arrays, hash tables, etc.), simply  
saying, e.g., (watch *my-2d-array*) won't do what you probably want:  
you'd need to watch the actual data vector, which is one element of  
the uvector that represents the 2d array.

Although you can watch cons cells, you can watch only indivdual cons  
cells.  This means if you say something like (watch (list 3 4 5)),  
you'll end up watching only the first cons (3 . (4 5)) instead of the  
whole chain of cons cells.

The way watching objects is currently implemented is fairly simple  
(and simple-minded);  getting rid of these limitations would probably  
involve writing most of a copying GC.

Anyway, if you want, try it out and let me know how it works (or more  
importantly, if it doesn't).  It is only implemented on x86 for now.

More information about the Openmcl-devel mailing list