05 October 2015

Nuitka Progress in Summer 2015

A long time has passed again without me speaking about what’s going on with Nuitka, and that although definitely a lot has happened. I would contend it’s even because so much is going on.

I also am shy to make public postings about unfinished stuff it seems, but it’s long overdue, so much important and great stuff has happened. We are in the middle of big things with the compiler and there is a lot of great achievement.

SSA (Single State Assignment Form)

For a long, long time already, each release of Nuitka has worked towards increasing “SSA” usage in Nuitka.

Now it’s there. The current pre-release just uses it. There were many things to consider before enabling it, and always a next thing to be found that was needed. Often good changes to Nuitka, it was also annoying the hell out of me at times.

But basically now the forward propagation of variables is in place, with some limitations that are going to fall later.

So the current release, soon to be replaced, still doesn’t optimize this code as well as possible:

def f():
    a = 1
    return a

But starting with the next release, the value of a is forward propagated (also in way more complex situations), and that’s a serious milestone for the project.

Function Inlining

When submitting my talk to EuroPython 2015, I was putting a lot of pressure on me by promising to demo that. And I did. It was based on the SSA code that only now became completely reliable, but otherwise very few few other changes, and it just worked.

The example I used is this:

def f():
    def g(x, y):
        return x, y

    x = 2
    y = 1

    x, y = g(x, y)  # can be inlined

    return x, y

So, the function g is forward propagated to a direct call, as are x and y into the return statement after making the in-line, making this:

def f():
    return 2, 1

Currently function in-lining is not yet activated by default, for this I am waiting for a release cycle to carry the load of SSA in the wild. As you probably know I usually tend to be conservative and to not make too many changes at once.

And as this works for local functions only yet, it’s not too important yet either. This will generally become relevant once we have this working across modules and their globally defined functions or methods. This will be a while until Nuitka gets there.


Having got Nuitka’s memory usage under control, it turned out that there are files that can trigger Python recursion RuntimeError exception when using the ast module to build the Nuitka internal tree. People really have code with many thousands of operations to a + operation.

So, Nuitka here learned to include whole modules as bytecode when it is too complex as there is no easy way to expand the stack on Windows at least. That is kind of a limitation of CPython itself I didn’t run into so far, and rather very annoying too.

The scalability of Nuitka also depends much on generated code size. With the optimization become more clever, less code is generated, and that trend will continue as more structural optimization are applied.


Very few things are possible here anymore. For the tests, in full compatibility mode, even more often the less good line number is used.

Also the plug-in work is leading to improved compatibility with Qt plugins of PySide and PyQt. Or another example is the multiprocessing module that on Windows is now supposed to fork compiled code too.

Python 3.5

The next release has experimental support for Python 3.5, with the notable exception that async and await, these do not yet work. It passes the existing test suite for CPython3.4 successfully. Passing here means, to pass or fail in the same way as does the uncompiled Python. Failures are of course expected, as details change, and a nice way of having coverage for exception codes.

The new @ operator is now supported. As the stable release of Python3.5 was made recently, there is now some pressure on having full support of course.

I am not sure, if you can fully appreciate the catch up game to play here. It will take a compiled coroutine to support these things properly. And that poses lots of puzzles to solve. As usual I am binding these to internal cleanups so it becomes simpler.

In the case of Python3.5, the single function body node type that is used for generators, class bodies, and function, is bound to be replaced with a base class and detailing instances, instead of one thing for them all, then with coroutines added.

Importing Enhancements

A while ago, the import logic was basically re-written with compatibility much increased. Then quite some issues were fixed. I am not sure, but some of the fixes have apparently also been regressions at times, with the need for other fixes now.

So it may have worked for you in the past, but you might have to report new found issues.

It’s mainly the standalone community that encounters these issues, when just one of these imports doesn’t find the correct thing, but picking the wrong one will of course have seriously bad impacts on compile time analysis too. So once we do cross module optimization, this must be rock solid.

I think we have gotten a long way there, but we still need to tackle some more fine details.


Graphs and Benchmarks

I also presented this weak point to EuroPython 2015 and my plan on how to resolve it. And low and behold, turns out the PyPy people had already developed a tool that will be usable for the task and to present to the conference.

So basically I was capable of doing kind of a prototype of comparative benchmark during EuroPython 2015 already. I will need to complete this. My plan was to get code names of functions sorted out in a better way, to more easily match the Nuitka C function names with Python functions in an automatic way. That matching is the hard part.

So that is already progressing, but I could need help with that definitely.

Nuitka really has to catch up with benchmarks generally.. The work on automated performance graphs has made more progress, and they are supposed to show up on Nuitka Speedcenter each time, master, develop, or factory git branches change.


There currently is no structure to these graphs. There is no explanations or comments, and there is no trend indicators. All of which makes it basically useless to everybody except me. And even harder for me than necessary.

As a glimpse of what is possible with in-lined functions, look at this:

Lambda call construct case

But we also need to put real programs and use cases to test. This may need your help. Let me know if you want to. It takes work on taking the data, and merging them into one view, linking it with the source code ideally. That will be the tool you can just use on your own code.


The standalone mode of Nuitka was pretty good, and continued to improve further, now largely with the help of plug-ins.

I now know that PyGTK is an issue and will need a plug-in to work. Once the plug-in interface is public, I hope for more outside contributions here.

Other Stuff


Nuitka receives the occasional donation and those make me very happy. As there is no support from organization like the PSF, I am all on my own there.

This year I traveled to Europython 2015, I needed a new desktop computer after burning the old one through with CI tests, the website has running costs, and so on. That is pretty hefty money. It would be sweet if aside of my free time it wouldn’t also cost me money.

EuroPython 2015

This was a blast. Meeting people who knew Nuitka but not me was a regular occurrence. And many people well appreciate my work. It felt much different than the years before.

I was able to present Nuitka’s function in-lining indeed there, and this high goal that I set myself, quite impressed people. My talk went very well, I am going to post a link separately in another post.

Also I made many new contacts, largely with the scientific community. I hope to find work with data scientists in the coming years. More amd more it looks like my day job should be closer to Nuitka and my expertise in Python.


Nuitka is making break through progress. And you can be a part of it. Now.

You can join and should do so now, just follow this link or become part of the mailing list (since closed) and help me there with request I make, e.g. review posts of mine, test out things, pick up small jobs, answer questions of newcomers, you know the drill probably.


So, there is multiple things going on:

  • Function in-lining

    For locally declared functions, it should become possible to avoid their creation, and make direct calls instead of ones that use function objects and expensive parameter handling.

  • Nested frames

    One result of in-lining will be nested frames still present for exceptions to be properly annotated, or locals giving different sets of locals and so on.

    Some cleanup of these will be needed for code generation and SSA to be able to attach variables to some sort of container, and for a function to be able to reference different sets of these.

  • Type Inference

    With SSA in place, we really can start to recognize types, and treat things that work something assigned from [] different, and with code special to these.

    That’s going to be a lot of work. For float and list there are very important use cases, where the code can be much better.

  • Shape Analyisis

    My plan for types, is not to use them, but the more general shapes, things that will be more prevalent than actual type information in a program. In fact the precise knowledge will be rare, but more often, we will just have a set of operations performed on a variable, and be able to guess from there.

  • Python 3.5 new features

    The coroutines are a new type, and currently it’s unclear how deep this is tied into the core of things, i.e. if a compile coroutine can be a premier citizen immediately, or if that needs more work. I hope it just takes for the code object to have the proper flag. But there could be stupid type checks, we shall see.

  • Plug-ins

    Something I wish I could have shown at EuroPython was plug-ins to Nuitka. It is recently becoming more complete, and some demo plug-ins for say Qt plugins, or multiprocessing, are starting to work. The API will need work and of course documentation. Hope is for this to expand Nuitka’s reach and appeal to get more contributors.

Let me know, if you are willing to help. I really need that help to make things happen faster. Nuitka will become more and more important only.