Testing Dataflow Analyses for Precision and Soundness

[This piece is co-authored by Jubi Taneja, Zhengyang Liu, and John Regehr; it’s a summary of some of the findings from a paper that we just recently completed the camera ready copy for, that is going to be published at CGO (Code Generation and Optimization) 2020.] Update from Jan 12 2020: Looks like there’s a …

Helping Generative Fuzzers Avoid Looking Only Where the Light is Good, Part 1

Let’s take a second to recall this old joke: A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost …

Write Fuzzable Code

Fuzzing is sort of a superpower for locating vulnerabilities and other software defects, but it is often used to find problems baked deeply into already-deployed code. Fuzzing should be done earlier, and moreover developers should spend some effort making their code more amenable to being fuzzed. This post is a non-comprehensive, non-orthogonal list of ways …

Design and Evolution of C-Reduce (Part 2)

Part 1 of this series introduced C-Reduce and showed how it combines a domain-independent core with a large collection of domain-specific passes in order to create a highly effective test-case reducer for C and C++ code. This part tells the rest of the story and concludes. Parallel Test-Case Reduction C-Reduce’s second research contribution is to …

Design and Evolution of C-Reduce (Part 1)

[This piece is posted in parallel on the IEEE Software blog. Karim Ali copyedited.] Since 2008, my colleagues and I have developed and maintained C-Reduce, a tool for programmatically reducing the size of C and C++ files that trigger compiler bugs. C-Reduce also usually does a credible job reducing test cases in languages other than …

It’s Time for a Modern Synthesis Kernel

Alexia Massalin’s 1992 PhD thesis has long been one of my favorites. It promotes the view that operating systems can be much more efficient than then-current operating systems via runtime code generation, lock-free synchronization, and fine-grained scheduling. In this piece we’ll only look at runtime code generation, which can be cleanly separated from the other …

Floating the Dirty Devil River

Packrafts are tough, light, individual-sized inflatable boats that people use to put together really amazing wilderness trips by combining rafting, hiking, and sometimes even biking. I’ve had sort of a low-grade obsession with packrafting since 2009 when I ran into some people in Alaska who were on their way to hike up and over the …

Explaining Code using ASCII Art

People tend to be visual: we use pictures to understand problems. Mainstream programming languages, on the other hand, operate in an almost completely different kind of abstract space, leaving a big gap between programs and pictures. This piece is about pictures drawn using a text character set and then embedded in source code. I love …