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Zig Is Great

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Zig Is Great
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A little while ago, I start to play with a shiny new systems programming language called Zig
. Pretty
quickly, I was thrilled by it: it had a slew of interesting ideas that I enjoyed, and its syntax was nice to
boot. The first thing I found
really nice was comptime
. comptime
means what it says: anything marked as comptime
will either be known or
calculated at runtime. If you’re familiar with Jai, this is somewhat similar to #run
, but a little
less powerful (currently). comptime
can be used to mark variables, mark function arguments, or use it to set off a code block
for more powerful
computation. In a sense, this is metaprogramming in Zig, since there is no preprocessor or macros. And honestly,
I love it. Back when I
was writing an x86 kernel (which I quickly turned away from, because x86), I was able to instantiate both my GDT
and IDT at compile time.
I’ll admit that this isn’t a massive runtime performance boost, but it gives a good example of how powerful
comptime is. Zig also does
this, at first, seemingly peculiar approach to allocation: there is no default allocator. Any function that
needs to allocate memory on
the heap has to be given an allocator as a function argument. While the standard library does feature a number
of different allocator
types (you can use whichever one gives you the best performance, and its great for hosted code), that isn’t even
the best part. Using
an allocator model like that means that the standard library can be used in freestanding code. You can create a
temporary heap by making
an array of u8, getting a slice of it ( array[0..]
), and passing that to an allocator creator
function to get a little heap
of your own. Need to use a HashMap
in your freestanding aarch64 code? No problem! Make an
allocator. It is, for me, the
greatest thing I’ve come across in quite some time. Also, man, is it easy to do systems programming in Zig. The
language features some
great things, like the align(N)
keyword, which lets you align a variable with ease. Or the linksection(".section")
keyword, which lets you put a function or variable in its own linksection. This any plenty of other functions
and keywords make Zig a joy
to write code in, and allow for writing really powerful code. I’ll conclude my gushing with mention of the C
interop. Zig has amazing
C interop, that only keeps getting better. While it does have some limitations right now (for example, integers
small than a u32
can’t be targeted for the C ABI), for most things it works wonderfully. Zig’s creator, Andrew Kelly
,
has a youtube video
where he ports some C++ Vulkan
code to Zig, which to me just
goes to show how well it works together. I’ve moved a shocking amount of code from Rust to Zig over the last few
days, which may be surprising
to some: why would I move away from Rust, the mature-ish, safe, language of the future for a young language that
doesn’t have a godly borrow
checker? Mainly, because Zig embodies what I love about programming: simple tools for the masterful craftsman to
use for something amazing.
If you’re interested in Zig too, check out the links peppered throughout this entry for more.

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