One problem with making datastructure in Perl that are a little bit
more advanced than searching for exact queries, is that it's hard
to parameterize the compare function. Suppose you want to create
a search tree. What kind of keys are you going to store? Numbers?
Strings? But to compare them, you need different operators. And when
dealing with data structures, you'll do lots of comparisons.

I know of three solutions to solve this problem:

- Use a code ref that does the compare. The drawback is that for
each compare that's been made, a function call needs to be made,
and that's not exactly where Perl speed shines.
- Use a single compare function in the code. If you are going to
deal with different data, store objects that overload the compare
function. This even has more overhead as described above.
- Use
`eval` to create customized functions. Here you
pay a penalty of having to do some extra compiling, but you only
pay that once.

Below is a benchmark that compares the first and third options, for
heapsort. It shows the eval option to be a winner.

Abigail

`#!/usr/bin/perl
use strict;
use warnings;
use Benchmark;
my @heap;
my $M = @ARGV ? shift : 1000;
sub heapify;
sub heapify {
my ($idx, $cmp) = splice @_ => 0, 2;
my $max = $idx;
for my $try (2 * $idx + 1, 2 * $idx + 2) {
$max = $try if $try < @heap && $cmp -> ($heap [$try], $heap [$
+max]);
}
return if $max == $idx;
@heap [$idx, $max] = @heap [$max, $idx];
heapify $max, $cmp;
}
sub extract {
return unless @heap;
my $cmp = shift;
my $min = $heap [0];
my $tmp = pop @heap;
if (@heap) {
$heap [0] = $tmp;
heapify 0, $cmp;
}
return $min;
}
sub heapsort_cmp (&@) {
(my ($cmp), @heap) = @_;
for (my $i = int (@heap / 2); $i --;) {
heapify $i => $cmp;
}
my @result;
push @result => extract $cmp while @heap;
@result;
}
my %cache;
sub heapsort_eval ($@) {
(my ($cmp), @heap) = @_;
unless ($cache {$cmp}) {
$cache {$cmp} = 1 + keys %cache;
my $sub_heapify = "heapify_$cache{$cmp}";
my $sub_extract = "extract_$cache{$cmp}";
eval <<" --";
sub $sub_heapify;
sub $sub_heapify {
my (\$idx) = shift;
my \$max = \$idx;
for my \$try (2 * \$idx + 1, 2 * \$idx + 2) {
\$max = \$try if \$try < \@heap &&
\$heap [\$try] $cmp \$heap [\$max];
}
return if \$max == \$idx;
\@heap [\$idx, \$max] = \@heap [\$max, \$idx];
$sub_heapify \$max;
}
sub $sub_extract {
return unless \@heap;
my \$min = \$heap [0];
my \$tmp = pop \@heap;
if (\@heap) {
\$heap [0] = \$tmp;
$sub_heapify 0;
}
return \$min;
}
--
if ($@) {die "eval failed: $@\n"}
}
no strict 'refs';
my $sub_heapify = "heapify_$cache{$cmp}";
my $sub_extract = "extract_$cache{$cmp}";
for (my $i = int (@heap / 2); $i --;) {
&$sub_heapify ($i);
}
my @result;
push @result => &$sub_extract ($cmp) while @heap;
@result;
}
our @data = 1 .. $M;
for (my $i = @data; $i --;) {
my $r = rand @data;
@data [$r, $i] = @data [$i, $r];
}
timethese -10 => {
cmp => 'heapsort_cmp {$_ [0] < $_ [1]} @::data',
eval => 'heapsort_eval "<", @::data'
};
__END__
Benchmark: running cmp, eval for at least 10 CPU seconds...
cmp: 11 wallclock secs (10.20 usr + 0.01 sys = 10.21 CPU) @ 3.23/
+s (n=33)
eval: 11 wallclock secs (10.19 usr + 0.00 sys = 10.19 CPU) @ 4.61/
+s (n=47)
`