The Bridge Between Elixir and Zig with Isaac Yonemoto

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While NIFs provide a great way to interface with native code in the BEAM machine, the process can also be rather error-prone. Thankfully, since Isaac Yonemoto built Zigler, things have become a lot simpler, and he joins us today to talk about how. Isaac is an Elixir developer with a background in biotech and we kick off the discussion by hearing about his journey into programming and some of the ways that he has combined it with science. From there we hear more about the different languages Isaac has worked in and why he fell in love with Elixir, where he talks about its encouragement of test-driven development and how this has made him a better programmer. We dive right into the contributions Isaac is making to the Elixir community next, and he starts off by talking about Zigler. He explains how Zigler provides a bridge between Zig and Elixir that makes it far easier to build NIFs. We hear a bunch of the other cool possibilities that Zigler offers to Elixir as well, including its ability to make debugging easier by appending the Zig stack trace to the Elixir one. After hearing Isaac’s opinion of magic in Elixir, we close today's show off with a few of the other projects he is working on, contributions that are bound to make the world of Elixir even more exciting!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Isaac’s early exposure to programming and how he got started in tech.
  • The education Isaac had in the sciences and his experience in the biotech sphere.
  • Difficulties with installing Ruby and how this led to Isaac learning Elixir.
  • Support for asynchronous testing and the reasons why Isaac finds joy in Elixir.
  • The emphasis on test-driven development in Elixir and how this has made Isaac a better programmer.
  • Isaac’s experiences with Zig and the similarities between it and Elixir.
  • How NIFs allow C code in Elixir and what it is like debugging them.
  • Isaac’s Zigler project and how it provides integration between Elixir and Zig making it easy to build NIFs.
  • Cross-compiling C using Zig and why Isaac built a disassembler.
  • Aspects of the BEAM that make it harder to write NIFs in Elixir than in Julia.
  • Isaac’s opinion of magic in programming and how it should always be comprehensible.
  • Final plugs from Isaac: where to find Zigler, and some upcoming projects.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

SmartLogic — https://smartlogic.io/
Isaac Yonemoto on Twitter — https://twitter.com/DNAutics
Isaac Yonemoto on GitHub — https://github.com/ityonemo
Isaac Yonemoto on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCarZZW7eavljSdGRQx9kkSA
Selectrix — https://github.com/ityonemo/selectrix
Mavis — https://github.com/ityonemo/mavis
Chiaroscuro - https://github.com/ityonemo/chiaroscuro
Zigler - https://hexdocs.pm/zigler/Zig.html
Zigler on GitHub — https://github.com/ityonemo/zigler
Julia — https://julialang.org/
Testing Elixir with Jeffrey Matthias and Andrea Leopardi — https://smartlogic.io/podcast/elixir-wizards/s6e6-matthias-leopardi/

Special Guest: Isaac Yonemoto.

121 episodes