7. Hilfe

Hilfe stands for Hubbes Incremental LPC Front End, and is an incremental Pike evaluator. As the name hints Hilfe has its roots back when Pike was called LPC, but none of the code from that Hilfe remains. Hilfe is one of the most useful tools for Pike developers, since it enables them to try various Pike constructions and see how they work. Even the most experienced Pike programmer can forget how the return data structure of a function looks like or if + or | is the best way to merge to mappings for a specific purpose.

7.1. Basic operations

In short hilfe is a command line version of pike, allowing you to do real time evaluation of pike code. Simply write a line of pike code and press return. If you gave hilfe a complete block of code it will be evaluated and the result will be returned. Side effects will also be effective, hence changing a variable will indeed change the variables value. You are of course not limited to basic variable types like integers and strings, or reference data types like mappings and arrays. You can just as well define functions and classes, enabling you to experiment with inherits, operator overloading and other object oriented things. To start hilfe, just execute the pike binary without any arguments.

bash$ pike
Pike v7.3 release 49 running Hilfe v3.5 (Incremental Pike Frontend)
> int a=5;
> a+3.3;
(1) Result: 8.300000
> (string)(enumerate(32)[*]+65);
> string b=(string)(enumerate(32)[*]+65);
> b/(a+3.3);
(3) Result: ({ /* 4 elements */

A history of the 512 last entered lines is kept in Hilfe. You can browse this list with your arrow keys up/down. When you exit Hilfe your history will be saved in .hilfe_history in the directory set in environment variable $HOME or $USERPROFILE. Next time hilfe is started the history is imported.

A history of the last returned results is kept and can be accessed from your hilfe expressions with the variable __. You can either "address" your results with absolute addresses, e.g. __[2] to get the second result ever, or with relative addresses, e.g. __[-1] to get the last result. The last result is also available in the variable _, thus _==__[-1] is true. The magic _ and __ variable can be shadowed with local definitions to disable them, e.g. by typing int _;. The result history is ten entries long by default, but it could easily be altered by using the set history command. Note that some Pike code only works when there is at most one object created from a class, which means that the result history must be turned off. Otherwise the previous object will remain in the history during the next nine results.

You can put a .hilferc file in the directory set in your environment variable $HOME or $USERPROFILE. The contents of this file will be evaluated in hilfe during each startup. It may contain both commands and Pike expressions.

One must however always remember that code entered in Hilfe does not always work exactly as if it was written in a stand alone Pike program. All variables are kept in a mapping so that their values can be view and altered by subsequent code lines. Every expression is compiled and evaluated in a wrapper which then returns the return value to Pike. Use the dump wrapper command after a line has been evaluated to see the actual code compiled.

> int a=5;
> a+3.3;
(1) Result: 8.300000
> dump wrapper
Last compiled wrapper:
001: #pragma unpragma_strict_types
002: mapping(string:mixed) ___hilfe = ___Hilfe->variables;
003: # 1
004: mixed ___HilfeWrapper() { return (([mapping(string:int)]___hilfe)->a)+3.3; ; }

Note that there are a few symbols that you can not define, since they are used by Hilfe.

___hilfeA mapping containing all defined symbols.
___HilfeThe Hilfe object.
___HilfeWrapperA wrapper around the entered expression.

7.2. Commands

In addition to be able to enter Pike expressions, there are also a few commands available which controls Hilfe. To avoid having the commands shadowed by Pike declarations with the same name, it is also possible to add a dot in front of the command.

> int help=3;
Hilfe Warning: Command "help" no longer reachable. Use ".help" instead.
> help
>> +2;
(1) Result: 5

7.2.1. Help

The help command displays a very short introduction to Pike and lists all the available commands with a brief explaination.

> help

Pike v7.3 release 49 running Hilfe v3.5 (Incremental Pike Frontend)
Hilfe is a tool to evaluate Pike code interactively and
incrementally. Any Pike function, expression or variable declaration
can be entered at the command line. There are also a few extra

 dump       - Dump variables and other info.
 exit       - Exit Hilfe.
 help       - Show help text.
 new        - Clears the Hilfe state.
 quit       - Exit Hilfe.
 set        - Change Hilfe settings.
 start      - Start a subsystem.
 stop       - Stop a subsystem.
 .          - Abort current input batch.

Enter "help me more" for further Hilfe help.

In addition to this elementary help there are a few extra arguments that can be given to help to see other help pages. "help me more" returns a brief summary of everything in this manual chapter. "help hilfe todo" shows the items in the bug section below. "help about hilfe" show version information. In addition to these three arguments it is also possible to type help follow with the name of any other command. That will display the documentation for that command.

7.2.2. Exit and Quit

It is possible to end a Hilfe session by entering the command exit or quit. It is also possible to exit by using Control+D. Note that no history will be saved if Control+C is used to terminate Hilfe.

7.2.3. .

When a single dot is inputed into Hilfe on a new line, any multiline expression currently in progress to be inputed will be discarded.

> foreach(getenv(); string env; string value)
>> if(has_prefix(env, "LC_"))
>> .

7.2.4. dump

Dump shows certain states within Hilfe or Pike. If only dump is given, Hilfe prints out the currently defined constants, variables, functions and programs. It also lists all active inherits and imports.

> dump

pi       : 3.141593

int i            : 3
float|string res : "VRkjMs28m0PCU"




dump history shows all items in the result history queue.

> dump history
  1 (-4) : 3102
  2 (-3) : 8.039803
  3 (-2) : "D3Y1jk2fOYl5M"
  4 (-1) : "CsuBAXhfB9HWI"
4 out of 10 possible entries used.

dump memory shows the current memory usage.

> dump memory
             Num   Bytes
array        511   67860 (66.3 kb)
callable     235   16304 (15.9 kb)
callback       3    4128 (4.0 kb)
frame          7   16296 (15.9 kb)
mapping      125  121262 (118.4 kb)
multiset      42   20064 (19.6 kb)
object       710  129024 (126.0 kb)
program      412  2070184 (2.0 Mb)
string      9522  743959 (726.5 kb)

dump state shows the current parser state. Only useful for debugging Hilfe.

> while(0) {
>> dump state
Current parser state
Parenthesis stack: {
Current pipeline: ({ /* 7 elements */
    " ",
Last token: ")"
Current block: ")"

dump wrapper show the latest Hilfe wrapper that the last expression was evaluated in. Useful when debugging Hilfe (i.e. investigating why valid Pike expressions doesn't compile).

> int i=5;
> i+=5;
(1) Result: 10
> dump wrapper
Last compiled wrapper:
001: #pragma unpragma_strict_types
002: mapping(string:mixed) ___hilfe = ___Hilfe->variables;
003: # 1
004: mixed ___HilfeWrapper() { return (([mapping(string:int)]___hilfe)->i)+=5; ; }

7.2.5. new

When new is given without any arguments it clears the current Hilfe state. This includes the parser state, variables, constants, functions, programs, inherits, imports and the history. It does not include the currently installed commands. Note that code in your .hilferc will not be reevaluated.

new history removes all entries from the result history. new constants, new functions, new programs, and new variables clears all locally defined symbols of the given type. new imports and new inherits removes all imports and inherits respectively.

7.2.6. set

With the set commands various settings in Hilfe can be changed. Set is used as "set <setting> <parameter>".

assembler_debug Changes the level of assembler debug used when evaluating expressions in Pike. Requires that Pike is compiled with RTL debug.

compiler_trace Changes the level of compiler trace used when evaluating expressions in Pike. Requires that Pike is compiled with RTL debug.

debug Changes the level of debug used when evaluating expressions in Pike. Requires that Pike is compiled with RTL debug.

format Changes the formatting of the result values from evaluated Pike expressions. Currently the following set format parameters are available:

defaultThe normal result formatting.
benchA result formatting extended with compilation and evaluation times.
sprintfThe result formatting will be decided by the succeeding Pike string. The sprintf will be given the arguments shown in the table below.
0The result as a string.
1The result number in the history.
2The result in its native type.
3The compilation time as a string.
4The evaluation time as a string.
5The compilation time in nanoseconds as an int.
6The evaluation time in nanoseconds as an int.
> 1+2/3.0;
(1) Result: 1.666667
> set format bench
> 1+2/3.0;
Result 2: 1.666667
Compilation: 573ns, Execution: 6ns
> set format sprintf "%s (%[2]t)\n"
> 1+2/3.0;
1.666667 (float)
> set format sprintf "%s (%d/%[3]s/%[4]s)\n"
> 1+2/3.0;
1.666667 (4/575ns/6ns)

hedda Initializes some variables for quick access, unless they are already defined. Hilfe attempts to do the following declarations: mixed foo, mixed bar, int i, float f=0.0, mapping m=([]), array a=({}) and string s="".

history Change the maximum number of entries that are kept in the result history. Default is 10. When dealing with objects of which there can only exist one copy you should set history to 0.

trace Changes the level of trace used when evaluating expressions in Pike. Possible values are:

1Calls to Pike functions are printed.
2Calls to buitin functions are printed.
3Every opcode interpreted is printed.
4Arguments to these opcodes are printed as well.

warnings Change the current level of warnings checking. Possible values are:

offNo warnings are shown.
onNormal warnings are shown.
strictTry a little harder to show warnings.

7.2.7. start and stop

Start and stop turns various subsystems in Hilfe on and off. Currently there are two subsystems implemented in Hilfe, backend and logging.

7.3. Bugs and possible improvements

  • Hilfe can not handle sscanf statements like int a = sscanf("12", "%d", int b);
  • The variable scope is not correctly adjusted for sscanf constructions like sscanf(x, "%2d%2d", int a, int b);
  • int x=x; does not generate an error when x is undefined.
  • Hilfe can not handle enums.
  • Hilfe can not handle typedefs.
  • Hilfe can not handle implicit lambdas.
  • Hilfe can not handle unnamed classes.
  • Hilfe can not handle named lambdas.
  • Hilfe should possibly handle imports better, e.g. overwrite the local variables/constants/functions/programs.
  • Filter exit/quit from history. Could be done by adding a 'pop' method to Readline.History and calling it from StdinHilfe's destroy.
  • Add some better multiline edit support.
  • Tab completion of variable and module names.