Maybe we should emphasize the flexibility of our language designs by making the language itself more modular. It would be challenging from a compatibility/dependency standpoint, but those are problems we might have to solve anyway. It would help to have better isolation of components.
It looks like I might've subtly broken ns.arc with my own changes to make Anarki installable as a Racket package. Here's an example that should be working, but currently isn't:
(= n 2)
(= my-definition (* n n))
(let my-ns (nsobj)
; Populate the namespace with the current namespace's bindings.
(each k (ns-keys current-ns)
; Racket has a variable called _ that raises an error when
; used as an expression, and it looks like an Arc variable, so
; we skip it. This is a hack. Maybe it's time to change how
; the Arc namespace works. On the other hand, copying
; namespaces in this naive way is prone to this kind of
; problem, so perhaps it's this technique that should be
(unless (is k '||)
(= my-ns.k current-ns.k)))
; Load the file.
(w/current-ns my-ns (load "my-file.arc"))
; Get the specific things you want out of the namespace.
cannot reference an identifier before its definition
in module: "/home/nia/mine/drive/repo/mine/prog/repo/not-mine/anarki/ac.rkt"
The idea is, you create an empty Arc namespace with (nsobj), you use `w/current-ns` to load a file into it, and you use `a!b` or `a.b` syntax to manipulate individual entries.
An "Arc namespace" is just a convenience wrapper over a Racket namespace that automatically converts between Arc variables `foo` and their corresponding Racket variables `_foo`.
For some overall background...
I wrote ns.arc when I didn't have much idea what Racket namespaces or modules could do, but I was at least sure that changing the compiled Arc code to more seamlessly interact with Racket's `current-namespace` would open up ways to load Arc libraries without them clobbering each other. It wouldn't be perfect because of things like unhygienic macros, but it seemed like a step in the right direction.
I went a little overboard with the idea that Racket namespaces and Racket modules could be manipulated like Arc tables. However, that was the only clear vision I had when I embarked on writing the ns.arc library, so I approximated it as well as I could anyway. In fact, I don't think the utilities for generating first-class modules (like `simple-mod` and `make-modecule`) are all that useful, because as I understand a little better now, Racket modules are as complicated as they are mainly to support separate compilation, so generating them at run time doesn't make much sense.
I'm still finding out new things about what these can do, though. Something I didn't piece together until just now was that Racket has a Racket has a `current-module-name-resolver` parameter which can let you run arbitrary code in response to a top-level (require ...) form. I presume this would let you keep track of all the modules required this way so you can `namespace-attach-module` them to another namespace later. Using this, the kind of hackish partial-namespace-copying technique I illustrate above can probably be made into something pretty robust after all, as long as Anarki sets `current-module-name-resolver` to something specific and no other code ever changes it. :-p
I tinkered with Anarki a whole bunch and finally got this working smoothly. There was a missing step, because it turns out we need to load certain Racket-side bindings into a namespace in order to be able to evaluate Arc code there. It seems more obvious in hindsight. :)
I approached this with the secondary goal of letting a Racket program (or a determined Arc program) instantiate multiple independent intances of Anarki. The ac.rkt module was the only place we were performing side effects when a Racket module was visited, and Racket's caching of modules makes it hard to repeat those side effects on demand, so I moved most of them into a procedure called `anarki-init`.
By adding one line to the example I gave...
(let my-ns (nsobj)
; Load the Arc builtins into the namespace so we can evaluate
(w/current-ns my-ns ($.anarki-init))
...it becomes possible to evaluate Arc code in that namespace, and the example works.
Before I started on that, I did a bunch of cleanup to get the Anarki unit tests and entrypoints running smoothly on all our CI platforms. To get started on this cleanup, I had a few questions hjek and akkartik were able to discuss with me on issue #94: https://github.com/arclanguage/anarki/issues/94
A lot of the problems I'm fixing here are ones I created, so it's a little embarrassing. :) It's nice to finally put in some of this missing work, though. I want to say thanks to shader and hjek for talking about modules and packages, provoking me to work on this stuff!