Monday, July 29, 2019

JEP 358: Helpful NullPointerExceptions

In the post "Better Default NullPointerException Messages Coming to Java?", I summarized background details related to a draft JEP (at that time) regarding making some types of NullPointerException's (NPE's) messages more useful. It was nice to see last week that this JEP is now a candidate JEP (JEP 358: "Helpful NullPointerExceptions"). In this post, I highlight aspects of JEP 358 that I find particularly interesting.

What is JEP 358?

JEP 358's current "Summary" succinctly describes this JEP: "Improve the usability of NullPointerExceptions generated by the JVM by describing precisely which variable was null."

The "Motivations" section of JEP 358 includes this paragraph: "The entire Java ecosystem would benefit if the JVM could give the information needed to pinpoint the source of an NPE and then identify its root cause, without using extra tooling or shuffling code around. SAP's commercial JVM has done this since 2006, to great acclaim from developers and support engineers."

Example of Community Contribution to OpenJDK

One aspect of JEP 358 that interests me is its background. The "Testing" section of JEP 358 currently states that "a predecessor implementation has been in SAP's commercial JVM since 2006 and has proven to be stable." The intention of this statement is to demonstrate that some testing has already taken place for the feature, but it also points out that SAP and its personnel are the major contributors of this proposed JDK enhancement. The authors of the JEP, Goetz Lindenmaier and Ralf Schmelter (credited as original author), are or have been affiliated with SAP. My understanding is that the SAP OpenJDK release (SapMachine) does not include this feature yet, but the commercial SAP does. This proposed JDK enhancement is a nice example of how having multiple vendors delivering implementations of OpenJDK might benefit OpenJDK for everyone in the future.

The Downside of More Details

JEP 358 addresses a potential security risk introduced by more detailed NPEs. It states that "the null-detail message may contain variable names from the source code ... if debug information is included in the class file (javac -g)" and "these have not previously been available to other programs via Java's reflection APIs."

Enabling Detailed Null Messages

The "Alternatives" section of JEP 358 outlines three reasons that one might not want the newer more detailed NPE messages (performance, security, and compatibility). It states, "The null-detail message is switched off per default and can be enabled by command-line option -XX:+SuppressCodeDetailsInExceptionMessages." That section adds that "there is no way to specify that only some NPE-raising bytecodes are of interest" (in other words, it's an all-or-nothing option). The section concludes with this statement, "We intend to enable the null-detail message by default in a future release."

More Detailed Messages Are Not for All NullPointerExceptions

JEP 358 points out types of NullPointerExceptions to which the more detailed messages will apply and contrasts that with the types to which the more detailed messages will not apply. It states (I added emphasis), "Only NPEs that are created and thrown directly by the JVM will include the null-detail message. NPEs that are explicitly created and/or explicitly thrown by programs running on the JVM are not subject to the bytecode analysis and null-detail message creation described below. In addition, the null-detail message is not reported for NPEs caused by code in hidden methods, which are special-purpose low-level methods generated and called by the JVM to, e.g., optimize string concatenation. A hidden method has no filename or line number that could help to pinpoint the source of an NPE, so printing a null-detail message would be futile." As the text states, there is no reason to attempt to provide details for "hidden methods." As for NPEs our own code explicitly throws, we have the ability to add useful context to those exceptions' messages already when we construct them.


The responses to this JEP have been enthusiastic and I think there are many Java developers who look forward to the availability of more detailed NullPointerException messages in future OpenJDK distributions. JDK-8218628 ("Add detailed message to NullPointerException describing what is null.") is associated with JEP 358 (JDK-8220715) and is currently associated with JDK 14 as the "Fix Version." Here's hoping for JEP 358 to be officially targeted to JDK 14!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Signs of JDK 14 Beginning to Appear

JDK 13 is currently in Rampdown Phase 1 (RDP 1), is scheduled to enter Rampdown Phase 2 (RDP 2) in a little over one week (on 18 July 2019), and is tentatively scheduled for General Availability on 17 September 2019. What this means, of course, is that it's time to start thinking about JDK 14! This post references and summarizes some of the online resources related to JDK 14 that are starting to appear.

Project JDK 14

The main OpenJDK JDK 14 page is the best place to start when wishing to see an overview of the release and its progress. Besides a reference to its associated specification (JSR 389: "Java SE 14 Platform"), the only other information available on this page as of this writing is a simple "Status" paragraph that references development repositories and the JDK Enhancement Proposal (JEP) process.

JDK 14 Early Access Builds

JDK 14 Early Access Builds are already available! As of this writing, the latest is Build 4 (2019/7/3). Not surprisingly, the commits in the JDK 14 early access builds at this time are fixes made to earlier JDK versions that will also be available in JDK 14.

Proposed JEP 352

The Mark Reinhold e-mail message "JEP proposed to target JDK 14: 352: Non-Volatile Mapped Byte Buffers" proposes that JEP 352 ("Non-Volatile Mapped Byte Buffers") be targeted to JDK 14.

JDK 14 Speculations

It's really far too early to recklessly speculate on what might land in JDK 14, but I won't let that stop me. It seems that the two JDK 13 "preview" JEPs [JEP 354 ("Switch Expressions") and JEP 355 ("Text Blocks")] could potentially become "permanent" in JDK 14. JEP 343 ("Packaging Tool") is another that could potentially be targeted for JDK 14.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Project Valhalla: A First Look at LW2 Inline Types

I summarized some recent Project Valhalla LW2 "inline types" progress that was made public recently in my blog post "Valhalla LW2 Progress - Inline Types." In this post, I illustrate some of the concepts summarized in that post with code examples executed against recently released Valhalla Early Access Build jdk-14-valhalla+1-8 (2019/7/4). All code examples featured in this post are available on GitHub.

The OpenJDK Wiki page "LW2" provides an illustrative example of inline types via source code for a class called "InlineType." My example makes some minor adaptions and additions to this class and is available on GitHub as a class called InlineTypeExample. Some items that stand out immediately when reviewing this source code are the presence of the keyword inline and the presence of the ? in the Comparable's generic parameter.

The source code for my adapted InlineTypeExample class has an attempt to have the inline type class extend another class commented out because that leads to a compiler error: error: Inline type may not extend another inline type or class

Similarly, that source code also has the method that attempts to set the integer field of the inline type class commented out because that will also not compile: error: cannot assign a value to final variable

With the current Valhalla LW2 build, I'm allowed to make my inline type class Serializable and it still compiles successfully.

Another GitHub-hosted illustrative class is Lw2Demonstration that compares and contrasts characteristics of the inline type class (and instances of it) to the JDK-provided java.lang.Integer class (and its instances) and to a simple custom-built Integer wrapper (and its instances). This demonstration class calls reflective methods (some which are new to the JDK 14-based Valhalla build) on the "class" types of all three things (inline type, Integer, and custom Integer wrapper) and calls some "common" methods [toString(), equals(Object), hashCode()] on instances of all three types.

Two methods are commented out in the class Lw2Demonstration because they each attempt to perform functionality on the inline type that is not supported for inline types. One of these methods attempts to synchronize on a variable of the inline type. When attempting to compile this synchronization of an inline type, the following compiler error message is seen: error: unexpected type ... required: reference ... found: InlineTypeExample

Another attempts to assign an inline type to null. When attempting to compile this, the following error message is encountered: error: incompatible types: <null> cannot be converted to InlineTypeExample

The following method from Lw2Demonstration writes out several metadata characteristics of the class types.

 * Provides metadata extracted from the provided instance of
 * {@link Class} as a single {@link String}.
 * @param classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn Class for which metadata
 *    is to be extracted and returned in {@link String} format;
 *    should NOT be {@code null}.
 * @return Single string representation of metadata extracted
 *    from the provided {@link Class} instance.
 * @throws NullPointerException Thrown if {@code null} is
 *    provided for my sole parameter.
public static String extractClassMetadata(final Class classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn)
   Objects.requireNonNull("Provided Class must be non-null to extract its metadata.");

   final String className = classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getSimpleName();
   final String outputPrefix = "\n" + className + ".class.";
   return outputPrefix + "getName(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getName()
      + outputPrefix + "getSimpleName(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getSimpleName()
      + outputPrefix + "getCanonicalName(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getCanonicalName()
      + outputPrefix + "toGenericString(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.toGenericString()
      + outputPrefix + "getTypeName(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getTypeName()
      + outputPrefix + "getComponentType(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.getComponentType()
      + outputPrefix + "isInlineClass(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.isInlineClass()
      + outputPrefix + "isIndirectType(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.isIndirectType()
      + outputPrefix + "isNullableType(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.isNullableType()
      + outputPrefix + "isPrimitive(): " + classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn.isPrimitive()
      + outputPrefix + " final?: " + isFinal(classToInvokeInlineMethodsOn);

Some of the methods invoked on the Class instance in the previous method are new to the JDK 14-based Valhalla LW2 early access build. These include isInlineClass(), isIndirectType(), and isNullableType().

The main demonstration class Lw2Demonstration creates instances of the inline type class InlineTypeExample, of JDK-provided java.lang.Integer, and of a custom wrapper for an Integer. The demonstration then runs instances of these three classes and the class definitions through the same methods and writes out the results for each so that they can be compared and contrasted. Here is the output from running this example against the Valhalla Early Access Build mentioned at the beginning of this post.

InlineTypeExample.class.getName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.InlineTypeExample
InlineTypeExample.class.getSimpleName(): InlineTypeExample
InlineTypeExample.class.getCanonicalName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.InlineTypeExample
InlineTypeExample.class.toGenericString(): public final inline class dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.InlineTypeExample
InlineTypeExample.class.getTypeName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.InlineTypeExample
InlineTypeExample.class.getComponentType(): null
InlineTypeExample.class.isInlineClass(): true
InlineTypeExample.class.isIndirectType(): false
InlineTypeExample.class.isNullableType(): false
InlineTypeExample.class.isPrimitive(): false
InlineTypeExample.class. final?: true
InlineTypeExample: toString(): [dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.InlineTypeExample someIntegerValue=1]
InlineTypeExample: hashCode(): 1303372796
Inline Type Example ==: true

Integer.class.getName(): java.lang.Integer
Integer.class.getSimpleName(): Integer
Integer.class.getCanonicalName(): java.lang.Integer
Integer.class.toGenericString(): public final class java.lang.Integer
Integer.class.getTypeName(): java.lang.Integer
Integer.class.getComponentType(): null
Integer.class.isInlineClass(): false
Integer.class.isIndirectType(): true
Integer.class.isNullableType(): true
Integer.class.isPrimitive(): false
Integer.class. final?: true
Integer: toString(): 1
Integer: hashCode(): 1
Integer Type Example ==: false

IntegerWrapper.class.getName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.IntegerWrapper
IntegerWrapper.class.getSimpleName(): IntegerWrapper
IntegerWrapper.class.getCanonicalName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.IntegerWrapper
IntegerWrapper.class.toGenericString(): public class dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.IntegerWrapper
IntegerWrapper.class.getTypeName(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.IntegerWrapper
IntegerWrapper.class.getComponentType(): null
IntegerWrapper.class.isInlineClass(): false
IntegerWrapper.class.isIndirectType(): true
IntegerWrapper.class.isNullableType(): true
IntegerWrapper.class.isPrimitive(): false
IntegerWrapper.class. final?: false
IntegerWrapper: toString(): dustin.examples.valhalla.lw2.IntegerWrapper@5442a311
IntegerWrapper: hashCode(): 1413653265
Integer Wrapper Example ==: false

The output shown above demonstrates some of the advertised characteristics of the inline type. The most interesting are the focus of the following table.

CharacteristicInline Type Wrapping Integerjava.lang.IntegerCustom Integer Wrapper
== Valid for Equality?truefalsefalse
toString()Implicitly CustomizedExplicitly CustomizedUses Object's
hashCode()Implicitly CustomizedExplicitly CustomizedUses Object's

To compile and execute these examples, I needed to provide the Java compiler and launcher with some special arguments. Specifically, I compiled with --enable-preview, -Xlint:preview, and -source 14. For executing the demonstration, I passed the flag --enable-preview to the Java launcher.

The updated Valhalla Early Access Build [Build jdk-14-valhalla+1-8 (2019/7/4)] provides a convenient pre-built binary for Java developers interested in trying out Valhalla LW2 prototype inline types. This post has demonstrated some of these current LW2 inline types concepts using this build. RĂ©mi Forax has provided many more examples on GitHub (forax/valuetype-lworld).

Friday, July 5, 2019

Valhalla LW2 Progress - Inline Types

There has been significant public-facing progress in the past few weeks (June/July 2019) for Project Valhalla's LW2 phase/prototype originally proposed in October 2018. In this post, I briefly summarize some of the messages, documents, and Valhalla Early Access Builds that have been released recently. LW2 is described in the Valhalla Wiki page as an early prototype that "[moves] inline types into the existing type system."

Draft LW2 (JVM) Spec

Dan Smith announced "a first look at a preview-feature-quality spec for values/inline classes" on the valhalla-spec-experts mailing list in a message titled "Draft LW2 spec." That message sought feedback on the initial specification and has been updated based on that feedback. This is a work-in-progress, but the URL is currently setup to redirect to the current version of the draft specification.

Everything related to Valhalla is a work-in-progress and might change at some point, but it is interesting to read in this draft spec the direction Valhalla is currently headed from the JVM specification perspective. Here is a sample of some of the document's more interesting points (that are subject to change):

  • "This document describes changes to the Java Virtual Machine Specification, as modified by Improved Treatment of JVM Types, to support inline classes."
  • "There are five kinds of reference types: identity class types, inline class types, array types, interface types, and the Object type. Their values are references to objects."
  • "Most reference types are nullable, meaning the special null reference (representing the absence of an object) is a value of the type. Some reference types are null-free, meaning that null is not a value of the type."
  • "An identity class type names a non-inline, non-interface class defined in a class file (excluding the special class Object). Identity class types are nullable."
  • "An inline class type names an inline class defined in a class file. For each inline class, there is a nullable and a null-free inline class type; these types share the same set of values, with the exception of null."
  • "An array type consists of a component type with a single dimension (whose length is not given by the type). The component type of an array type may be boolean, any numeric type, or any reference type. Array types are nullable."
  • "An interface type names an interface defined in a class file. Interface types are nullable."
  • "The Object type names the Object class. The Object type is nullable. ... Instances of the Object class have identity but no fields, and behave like identity class instances."
  • "The default value of a nullable reference type is null. The default value of a null-free inline class type is a reference to a class instance whose fields all have the default value for their type."

OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki: L-World

The OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki page "L-World" asks and answers the questions "What Are Inline Types?" and "What is the L-World Project?" In answering those questions, the page currently describes Inline Types as "small, immutable, identity-less types" that were "formerly known as 'Value Types'" and are now known as "inline-types." The current page describes the "L-World Project" as "a series of early prototypes for bring[ing] Inline Types to the language and JDK" that "builds on work of the previous Minimal Values Types prototype (MVT)."

OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki: LW2

The OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki page "LW2" describes the LW2 prototype as "an iteration of a previous prototype, adding further language support and JDK API support for 'inline types' (formerly referred to as 'value types')." The page indicates that the LW2 prototype is based on the JDK 14 branch and the page includes several current characteristics of "inline types," some of which I list here:

  • "Inline Types may not declare an explicit super class (except Object)."
  • "All instance fields of a inline class are implicitly final."
  • "'Indirect' projections of inline types via the '?' operator."
  • "javac automatically generates hashCode, equals, longHashCode and toString computed solely from the instance's state and not from its identity"
  • "javac allows comparison of inline type using ==, !="
  • "Inline Types can not be assigned null, null can not be cast to or compared with inline types With the exception of an 'indirect' reference using the '?' operator."
  • New methods to potentially be added to java.lang.Class: isInlineClass(), asPrimaryType(), asIndirectType() / isIndirectType(), asNullableType() / isNullableType().
  • Inline types cannot be synchronized on, cannot be serialized, cannot reference themselves as direct fields, and cannot be assigned null.

Valhalla Early Access Builds

As of this writing, the Valhalla Early Access Builds page (now renamed "Project Valhalla 'L-World Inline Types' Early-Access Builds") features "Build jdk-14-valhalla+1-8 (2019/7/4)." The page opens with the paragraph, "This is an early access build, from Project Valhalla, aimed at testing a prototype implementation of L-World Inline Types." The page also mentions, "This build is based on an incomplete version of JDK 14." As is typical for early access builds, there are limitations and disclaimers regarding use of an early access build. It sounds like there are plans to periodically update these builds "with bug fixes and performance updates."

OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki: LW2 Command Line Options/p>

For developers wanting to test out the LW2 prototype, command-line options are listed in the OpenJDK Valhalla Wiki page "LW2 Command Line Options." As stated on the page itself, it "describes the command line for the experimental Java compiler, the Java launcher and HotSpot JVM for the support of L-World LW2 Inline Types in the Valhalla project."

Meeting Minutes from 19 June 2019 Valhalla Expert Group Meeting

Karen Kinnear has provided meeting minutes from the 19 June 2019 Valhalla Expert Group Meeting that provide insight into design topics on the minds of the expert group ("nullable", "flattenable", "inlinability", "specialized generics"). The notes indicate that the LW2 specification draft discussion is not intended to finalize all design decisions.


There's still quite a bit of work required for "inline types" (formerly "values types") to be fully introduced to Java. However, the current focus on "inline types" and the artifacts and builds associated with this concept are evidence that progress is being made in a concrete direction.