29 January 2016

Nuitka Progress in 2015

For quite a bit, there have been no status posts, not for lack of news, but a lot has happened indeed. I just seem to post a lot more to the mailing list than I do here. Especially about unfinished stuff, which is essentially for a project like Nuitka everything that’s going on.

Like I previously said, I am shy to make public postings about unfinished stuff and that’s going to continue. But I am breaking it, to keep you up to date with where Nuitka has been going lately.

And with release focuses, I have been making some actual changes that I think are worth talking about.

SSA (Single State Assignment Form)

The SSA using release has been made last summer. Recent releases have lifted more and more restrictions on where and now it is applied and made sure the internal status is consistent and true. And that trend is going to continue even more.

For shared variables (closure variables and module variables), Nuitka is still too conservative to make optimization. Code does annotate value escapes, but it’s not yet trusting it. The next releases will focus on lifting that kind of restriction, and for quality of result, that will mean making a huge jump ahead once that works, so module variables used locally a lot will become even faster to use then and subject to static optimization too.

Function Inlining

When doing my talk to EuroPython 2015, I was demoing it that, and indeed, what a break through. The circumstances under which it is done are still far too limited though. Essentially that ability is there, but will not normally be noticeable yet due to other optimization, e.g. functions are most often module variables and not local to the using function.

More code generation improvements will be needed to be able to inline functions that might raise an exception. Also the “cost” of inlining a function is also very much an unsolved issue. It will become the focus again, once the SSA use as indicated above expands to module variables, as then inlining other things than local functions will be possible too.

So there is a lot of things to do for this to really make a difference to your programs. But it’s still great to have that part solved so far.


Parameter Parsing

Recent releases have replaced some of the oldest code of Nuitka, the one that generated special argument parsing for each function individually, now replaced with generic code, that surprisingly is often even faster, although quick entry points were tough to beat.

That gives the C backend compiler a much easier time. Previously 3 C functions were created per Python level function, two of which could get really big with many arguments, and these are no more.

Variable Error Messages

Something similar was going on with variable error messages. Each had their exception value pre-computed and created at module load time. Most of these are of course unused. This has been replaced with code that generates it on the fly, resulting in a lot less constants code.

Code Objects

And another thing was to look after code objects, of which there often were two for each Python level function. The one used or the frame during run time and the one used in the function object, differered often, sometimes by small things like flags or local variable names.

That of course was just the result of not passing that along, but created cached objects with hopefully the same options, but that not being true.

Resolving that, and sharing the code object used for creation and then the frame is gives less complex C code 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.

Every time e.g. an exception is identified to not happen, this removes the corresponding error exits from the C code, which then makes it easier for the C compiler. Also more specialized code as we now have or dictionaries, is often less complex to it.


Important things have happened here. Full compatibility mode is planned to not be the default anymore in upcoming releases, but that will only mean to not be stupid compatible, but to e.g. have more complete error messages than CPython, more correct line numbers, or for version differences, the best Python version behaviour.

The stable release has full support for Python 3.5, including the new async and await functions. So recent releases can pronounce it as fully supported which was quite a feat.

I am not sure, if you can fully appreciate the catch up game needed to play here. CPython clearly implements a lot of features, that I have to emulate too. That’s going to repeat for every major release.

The good news is that the function type of Nuitka is now specialized to the generators and classes, and that was a massive cleanup of its core that was due anyway. The generators have no more their own function creation stuff and that has been helpful with a lot of other stuff.

Another focus driven from Python3, is to get ahead with type shape tracing and type inference of dictionary, and value tracing. To fully support Python3 classes, we need to work on something that is a dictionary a-like, and that will only ever be efficient if we have that. Good news is that the next release is making progress there too.


Graphs and Benchmarks

I also presented this weak point to EuroPython 2015 and my plan on how to resolve it. Unfortunately, nothing really happened here. My plan is still to use what the PyPy people have developed as vmprof.

So that is not progressing, and I could need help with that definitely. Get in contact if you think you can.


The standalone mode of Nuitka was pretty good, and continued to improve further, but I don’t care much.

Other Stuff

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.

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 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 want to travel to Europython 2016. It would be sweet if aside of my free time it wouldn’t also cost me money. So please consider donating some more, as these kind of events are really helpul to Nuitka.


Nuitka is making more and more 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.


There is a Youtube channel of mine with all the videos of Nuitka so far and I have been preparing myself with proper equipment to make Videos of Nuitka, but so far nothing has come out of that.

I do however really want to change that. Let’s see if it happens.


I have started to use my Twitter account on occasions. You are welcome to follow me there. I will highlight interesting stuff there.


So, there is multiple things going on:

  • Type Inference

    With SSA in place, Nuitka starts to recognize types, and treat things that work something assigned from {} or dict built-in with special nodes and code.

    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. But dict is the hardest case, and to get the structure of shape tracing right, we are going there first.

  • Shape Analyisis

    The 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.

    Shape analysis will begin though with concrete types like dict. The reason is that some re-formulations like Python3 classes should not use locals, but dictionary accesses throughout for full compatibility. Tracing that correctly to be effectively the same code quality will allow to make that change.

  • Plug-ins

    Something I wish I could have shown at EuroPython was plug-ins to Nuitka. It has become more complete, and some demo plug-ins for say Qt plugins or multiprocessing, are starting to work, but it’s not progressing recently. The API will need work and of course documentation. Hope is for this to expand Nuitka’s reach and appeal to get more contributors.

    It would be sweet, if there were any takers, aiming to complete these things.

  • 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.

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. And with your help, things will be there sooner.

Release Focus

One thing I have started recently, is to make changes to Nuitka focused to just one goal, and to only deal with the rare bug in other fields, but not much else at all. So instead of across the board improvements in just about everything, I have e.g. in the last release added type inference for dictionaries and special nodes and their code generation for dictionary operations.

This progresses Nuitka in one field. And the next release then e.g. will only focus on making the performance comparison tool, and not continue much in other fields.

That way, more “flow” is possible and more visible progress too. As an example of this, these are the focuses of last releases.

  • Full Python 3.5 on a clean base with generators redone so that coroutines fit in nicely.

  • Scalability of C compilation with argument parsing redone

  • Next release soon: Shape analysis of subscript usages and optimization to exact dictionaries

  • Next release thereafter: Comparison benchmarking (vmprof, resolving C level function identifiers easier)

Other focuses will also happen, but that’s too far ahead. Mostly like some usability improvements will be the focus of a release some day. Focus is for things that are too complex to attack as a side project, and therefore never happen although surely possible.

Digging into Python3.5 coroutines and their semantics was hard enough, and the structural changes needed to integrate them properly with not too much special casing, but rather removing existing special cases (generator functions) was just too much work to ever happen while also doing other stuff.


So I am very excited about Nuitka. It feels like the puzzle is coming together finally, with type inference becoming a real thing. And should dictionaries be sorted out, the real important types, say float for scientific use cases, or int, list for others, will be easy to make.

With this, and then harder import association (knowing what other modules are), and module level SSA tracing that can be trusted, we can finally expect Nuitka to be generally fast and deserve to be called a compiler.

That will take a while, but it’s likely to happen in 2016. Let’s see if I will get the funding to go to EuroPython 2016, that would be great.