[Python-Dev] pyc files, constant folding and borderline portability issues

Cesare Di Mauro cesare.dimauro at a-tono.com
Tue Apr 7 09:27:04 CEST 2009

On Apr 07, 2009 at 02:10AM, Steven D'Aprano <steve at pearwood.info> wrote:

> On the other hand, I'm with Guido when he wrote "it is certainly not
> right to choose speed over correctness". This is especially a problem
> for floating point optimizations, and I urge Cesare to be conservative
> in any f.p. optimizations he introduces, including constant folding.

The principle that I followed on doing constant folding was: "do what Python
will do without constant folding enabled".

So if Python will generate


the constant folding code will simply replace them with a single


When working with such kind of optimizations, the temptation is to
apply them at any situation possible. For example, in other languages

a = b * 2 * 3

will be replaced by

a = b * 6

In Python I can't do that, because b can be an object which overloaded
the * operator, so it *must* be called two times, one for 2 and one for 3.

That's the way I choose to implement constant folding.

The only difference at this time is regards invalid operations, which will
raise exceptions at compile time, not at running time.

So if you write:

a = 1 / 0

an exception will be raised at compile time.

I decided to let the exception be raised immediately, because I think that
it's better to detect an error at compile time than at execution time.

However, this can leed to incompatibilities with existing code, so in the
final implementation I will add a flag to struct compiling (in ast.c) so that
this behaviour can be controlled programmatically (enabling or not the
exception raising).

I already introduced a flag in struct compiling to control the constant
folding, that can be completely disabled, if desired.

> So... +1 on the general principle of constant folding, -0.5 on any such
> optimizations which change the semantics of a f.p. operation. The only
> reason it's -0.5 rather than -1 is that (presumably) anyone who cares
> about floating point correctness already knows to never trust the
> compiler.

As Raymond stated, there's no loss in precision working with constant
folding code on float datas. That's because there will be a rounding and
a store of computed values each time that a result is calculated.

Other languages will use FPU registers to hold results as long as
possibile, keeping full 80 bit precision (16 bit exponent + 64 bit
That's not the Python case.


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