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picking / marshaling to strings in ocaml-revision-stable way
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Date: 2008-05-31 (17:07)
From: Yaron Minsky <yminsky@g...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] picking / marshaling to strings in ocaml-revision-stable way
If you're willing to sacrifice readability for speed and compactness,  
you might want to consider jane street's bin-prot library as well...

Yaron Minsky

On May 31, 2008, at 12:54 PM, Luca de Alfaro <> wrote:

> Thanks for this insight... I imagined the lack of robustness of  
> Marshaling, but without all the details you mentioned!... actually,  
> I DO desperately need speed, as I am processing TB's of Wikipedia  
> data, but precisely because the datasets are so large, I cannot  
> afford having to recompute / convert them often, and so I want a  
> robust format. Furthermore, I think the bottleneck for me is anyway  
> the speed of mysql and the disk, not really the small amount of time  
> that natively compiled Ocaml would take for the conversion (I have  
> anyway to do more complex computation that converting a few lists  
> and datatypes to ascii, unfortunately).  Moreover, a plaintext  
> format greatly helps debugging; it also helps that I can read the  
> same data with other programming languages.
> Speaking of debugging, and said in passing, I cannot say enough how  
> much I LOVE the ability of ocamldebug of executing code backwards.   
> It is such a revelation.  You simply go to the error, then back off  
> a bit to see how you got there.  But, this is a topic for another  
> thread.
> Many thanks,
> Luca
> On Sat, May 31, 2008 at 2:38 AM, Berke Durak <>  
> wrote:
> I second Luca's suggestion to use Sexplib.  At the very least, use a
> plaintext format.
> Don't use Marshal for long-term storage of values.  Avoid it if you
> can.  Been there, done that.
> Why?
> (1) Not type-safe.  Translation: your program *wil segfault* and you
> won't know why.
> (2) Not human-readable nor editable.
> (3) Not future-proof.  What happens if you change your type
> definition?  Your program
> will segfault.  So you'll have to migrate your data.  But how?  You'll
> have to find
> the exact revision used to generate the binary data.  Good luck with
> that.  Did you put
> a revision number in your data?  Are you sure it was up-to-date?  Then
> you'll have to hand-write a converter that uses type declarations from
> the old and the new modules.
> I hope your dependencies are not too complex.  Not fun *at all*.
> However, there are some situations where Marshal is appropriate :
> (1) Your data is not acyclic, contains closures, or needs sharing to
> be compact enough.  Sexplib doesn't handle these.
> (2) The data won't live long anyway.  As in: you're doing IPC between
> known versions of Ocaml programs.
> (3) You desperately need speed.  As in: you're processing 200GB of
> Wikipedia data.
> Then I can understand.
> --
> Berke Durak
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