Phillip Trelford's Array

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For a Few Dollars More

This is a follow up to my last post A Fistful of Dollars, where I looked at test-driven approaches to implementing a money type based on the example running through Kent Beck’s Test-Driven Development by Example book:

Test-Driven Development By Example

In this run I decided as an exercise to skip formal unit testing altogether and just script the functionality for the multi-currency report that Kent is working towards over 100 pages or so of his book:

Money Example

Unsurprisingly It ended up being relatively quick and easy to implement.

Money type

First off we need a money type with an amount and a currency and support for multiplication and addition:

type Money = private { Amount:decimal; Currency:Currency } 
   static member ( * ) (lhs:Money,rhs:decimal) = 
      { lhs with Amount=lhs.Amount * rhs }
   static member ( + ) (lhs:Money,rhs:Money) =
      if lhs.Currency <> rhs.Currency then invalidOp "Currency mismatch"
      { lhs with Amount=lhs.Amount + rhs.Amount}
   override money.ToString() = sprintf "%M%s" money.Amount money.Currency
and  Currency = string

In the code above I’ve used an F# record type with operator overloads for multiplication and addition.

Exchange rates

Next we need to be able to do currency conversion based on a rate table:

type RateTable = { To:Currency; From:Map<Currency,decimal> }

let exchangeRate (rates:RateTable) cy =   
   if rates.To = cy then 1.0M else rates.From.[cy]

let convertCurrency (rates:RateTable) money =
   let rate = exchangeRate rates money.Currency
   { Amount=money.Amount / rate; Currency=rates.To }

Here I’ve used a record type for the table and simple functions to look up a rate and perform the conversion.

Report model

Now we need a representation for the input and output, i.e. the user’s positions and the report respectively:

type Report = { Rows:Row list; Total:Money }
and  Row = { Position:Position; Total:Money }
and  Position = { Instrument:string; Shares:int; Price:Money }

Again this is easily described using F# record types

Report generation

Here we need a function that takes the rates and positions and returns a report instance:

let generateReport rates positions =
   let rows =
      [for position in positions ->        
         let total = position.Price * decimal position.Shares
         { Position=position; Total=total } ]
   let total =
      |> (fun row -> convertCurrency rates row.Total)   
      |> Seq.reduce (+)
   { Rows=rows; Total=total }

For the report generation I’ve used a simple projection to generate the rows followed by a map/reduce block to compute the total in the target currency.

Report view

There’s a number of different ways to view a generate the report. At first I looked at WinForms and WPF, which provide built-in data grids, but unfortunately I couldn’t find anything “simple” for showing summary rows.

In the end I plumped for a static HTML view with an embedded table:

let toHtml (report:Report) =
   html [
      head [ title %"Multi-currency report" ]      
      body [
         table [
            thead [
               tr [th %"Instrument"; th %"Shares"; th %"Price"; th %"Total"] 
            tbody [
               for row in report.Rows ->
                  let p = row.Position
                  tr [td %p.Instrument; td %p.Shares; td %p.Price; td %row.Total]
            tfoot [
               tr [td ("colspan"%="3"::"align"%="right"::[strong %"Total"])
                   td %report.Total]

For the HTML generation I wrote a small internal DSL for defining a page.

If you’re something a little more polished I found these static HTML DSLs on my travels:

Report data

Finally I can define the inputs and generate the report:

let USD amount = { Amount=amount; Currency="USD" }
let CHF amount = { Amount=amount; Currency="CHF" }

let positions =
   [{Instrument="IBM";      Shares=1000; Price=USD( 25M)}
    {Instrument="Novartis"; Shares= 400; Price=CHF(150M)}]

let inUSD = { To="USD"; From=Map.ofList ["CHF",1.5M] }

let positionsInUSD = generateReport inUSD positions

let report = positionsInUSD |> toHtml |> Html.toString

Which I think is pretty self-explanatory.

Report table

The resultant HTML appears to match the table from the book pretty well:

Instrument Shares Price Total
IBM 1000 25USD 25000USD
Novartis 400 150CHF 60000CHF
Total 65000USD



I was able to implement the report in small steps using F# interactive to get quick feedback and test out scenarios, with the final result being as expected on first time of running.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the brevity of the implementation. F# made light work of generating the report, and statically generated HTML produced a nice result with minimal effort, a technique I’ll be tempted to repeat in the future.

The full script is available as an F# Snippet.

Parsing with SNOBOL

Just before Christmas I came across some Java source code by “Uncle” Bob Martin aimed at “demystifying compilers” which expends about 600 lines of code to parse the following simple finite state machine:

Actions: Turnstile
FSM: OneCoinTurnstile
Initial: Locked
Locked Coin Unlocked {alarmOff unlock}
Locked Pass Locked  alarmOn
Unlocked Coin Unlocked thankyou
Unlocked Pass Locked lock

For fun I knocked up a broadly equivalent parser in F# using FParsec which was just under 40 lines of code, and posted the code on this blog.

The post generated some interest, and I even got a mention on Twitter from “Uncle” Bob himself:

I’d not seen SNOBOL before, but given Mr Martin’s recommendation I popped over to the SNOBOL page on WikiPedia and liked what I saw:

SNOBOL rivals APL for its distinctiveness in format and programming style, both being radically unlike more "standard" procedural languages such as BASIC, Fortran, or C.

SNOBOL first appeared in 1962 and appears to have been popular in US Universities as a text manipulation language in the 70s and 80s. The language supports pattern matching over text combined with assembler like control flow using labels and goto (like C#).

As a text manipulation language, SNOBOL code feels a little more readable than the new norm - regular expressions .

If you’d like to take it out for a spin there’s an open source SNOBOL IDE, with syntax colouring support, for Linux and Windows called TkS*LIDE.

SNOBOL Interpreter

Nowadays when I want to learn a new language I often start by implementing it, to this end over the course of about a week I built a SNOBOL interpreter with just enough functionality to run the samples on the Wikipedia page along with some more involved samples from other sources.

The SNOBOL interpreter is about 400 LOC and available as an F# Snippet.

Finite State Machine in SNOBOL

Armed with a basic knowledge of SNOBOL, I could now answer the question, is the implementation even smaller in SNOBOL.

The answer is a resounding yes, and here’s the 34 lines of SNOBOL code that proves it:


Disclaimer: unlike the FParsec version there’s no error handling/error messages and the FSM must be layed out in a specific format.


The SNOBOL finite state machine parser, like the FParsec based parser, fits on a page and is an order of magnitude shorter than the broadly equivalent clean Java implementation written by Uncle Bob Martin that aimed to demystify compiler writing.

Will I be switching from FParsec to SNOBOL for parsing? Probably not, FParsec is at least as expressive, provides pretty good error messages for free and runs on the CLR.

Special thanks to Uncle Bob Martin for the SNOBOL tip Smile

DDD East Anglia 2014

This Saturday saw the Developer Developer Developer! (DDD) East Anglia conference in Cambridge. DDD events are organized by the community for the community with the agenda for the day set through voting.


The event marked a bit of a personal milestone for me, finally completing a set of DDD regional speaker T-Shirts, with a nice distinctive green for my local region. Way back in 2010 I chanced a first appearance at a DDD event with a short grok talk on BDD in the lunch break at DDD Reading. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and speaking in Glasgow, Belfast, Sunderland, Dundee and Bristol.


There were five F# related talks on the day, enough to fill an entire track:

Tomas kicked off the day, knocking up a simple e-mail validation library with tests using FsUnit and FsCheck. With the help of Project Scaffold, by the end of the presentation he’d generated a Nuget package, continuous build with Travis and Fake and HTML documentation using FSharp.Formatting.

Anthony’s SkyNet slides are already available on SlideShare:

ASP.Net was also a popular topic with a variety of talks including:

All your types are belong to us!

The title for this talk was borrowed from a slide in a talk given by Ross McKinlay which references the internet meme All your base are belong to us.

You can see a video of an earlier incarnation of the talk, which I presented at NorDevCon over on InfoQ, where they managed to capture me teapotting:


The talk demonstrates accessing a wide variety of data sources using F#’s powerful Type Provider mechanism.

The World at your fingertips

The FSharp.Data library, run by Tomas Petricek and Gustavo Guerra, provides a wide range of type providers giving typed data access to standards like CSV, JSON, XML, through to large data sources Freebase and the World Bank.

With a little help from FSharp.Charting and a simple custom operator based DSL it’s possible to view interesting statistics from the World Bank data with just a few key strokes:

The JSON and XML providers give easy typed access to most internet data, and there’s even a branch of FSharp.Data with an HTML type provider providing access to embedded tables.


The SQLProvider project provides type access with LINQ support to a wide variety of databases including MS SQL Server, PostgreSQL, Oracle, MySQL, ODBC and MS Access.

FSharp.Management gives typed access to the file system, registry, WMI and Powershell.


The R Type Provider lets you access and orchestrate R packages inside F#.

With FCell you can easily access F# functions from Excel and Excel ranges from F#, either from Visual Studio or embedded in Excel itself.

The Hadoop provider allows typed access to data available on Hive instances.

There’s also type providers for MATLAB, Java and TypeScript.


Type Providers can also be fun, I’ve particularly enjoyed Ross’s Choose Your Own Adventure provider and more recently 2048:


Write your own Type Provider

With Project Scaffold it’s easier than ever to write and publish your own FSharp type provider. I’d recommend starting with Michael Newton’s Type Provider’s from the Ground Up article and video of his session at Skills Matter.

You can learn more from Michael and others at the Progressive F# Tutorials in London this November:

DDD North

The next DDD event is in Leeds on Saturday October 18th, where I’ll be talking about how to Write your own Compiler, hope to see you there :)