[Rd] ALTREP "wrapper" classes needs an Extract_subset method

Davis Vaughan d@v|@ @end|ng |rom r@tud|o@com
Mon Feb 3 18:40:15 CET 2020

Hi all,

I believe I have found a bug (or perhaps just an oversight) with the ALTREP
wrapper classes. The short form of this is that I believe that the wrapper
classes need to override the default ALTREP `Extract_subset_method()` with
a method that calls `Extract_subset()` on the "wrapped" object. I have a
patch prepared here:


There is currently no call to `R_set_altvec_Extract_subset_method()` in the
wrapper class init functions. This means that the default ALTREP method of
`altvec_Extract_subset_default()` is called, which simply returns `NULL`.

Consider what that means for an ALTREP compact integer seq that has been
"wrapped". The default subsetting code will eventually call
`ExtractSubset()`. That checks if the object is ALTREP, and calls the
ALTREP Extract_subset() method if so. If the return value from that is
NULL, then it will fallback to repeatedly calling `INTEGER_ELT()` to do the
subsetting. See below for the relevant section:


This wrapped compact integer seq is an ALTREP object, so `ALTREP(x)`
returns true. But then it just calls the default method of returning NULL
rather than calling the compact integer seq `Extract_subset()` method! This
still "works" because it falls back to `INTEGER_ELT()` for which there is
a `wrapper_integer_Elt()` method defined that will use the underlying
compact seq's `integer_Elt()` method, but it is less efficient than it
could be.

My rough benchmarks show that in R 3.6.0 the subset benchmarks at the
bottom of this message take 4ms on the compact seq, and 5ms on the wrapped
compact seq. With a patch that I have prepared, both take 4ms.

The other reason I bring this up is that it can result in bugs with some
ALTREP objects. I was working on one where it makes sense to have an
`Extract_subset()` method but not an `Elt()` method. When it gets
"wrapped", my `Extract_subset()` method is bypassed as shown above, and the
`Elt()` method is incorrectly called (which throws an error because it is
not meaningful for me).

If you all agree these changes should be made, I can submit the patch.


# Ensure we have enough elements for "wrapping" to kick in
x <- 1:65

# select the 1st element a large number of times
index <- rep(1L, 1e6) + 0L

# ALTREP - but not wrapped
# .Internal(inspect(x))

bench::mark(x[index], iterations = 1000)

# Wrap it by adding a dummy attribute
attributes(x) <- list(foo = "bar")

# ALTREP - wrapped + compact seq
# .Internal(inspect(x))

bench::mark(x[index], iterations = 1000)

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