Here at Kent, we have a large group of researchers working on Programming Languages and Systems (PLAS), and within this group, we have a small team focusing on research on interpreters, compilation, and tooling to make programming easier.
Last September, I had a lot of fun putting together a lecture on language implementation techniques. It is something I wanted to do for a while, but I had not had a good excuse before to actually do it.
Debugging concurrent systems is pretty hard, and we worked already for a while to make things a bit better. However, a big remaining problem is that bugs are not easily reproduced.
When we have to debug applications that use concurrency, perhaps written in Java, all we get from the debugger is a list of threads, perhaps some information about held locks, and the ability to step through each thread separately.
Note: This post is meant for people familiar with Truffle. For introductory material, please see for instance this list.
This post, the fourth in the series, is about my current work on concurrency and tooling. As mentioned before, I believe that there is not a single concurrency model that is suitable for all problems we might want to solve. Actually, I think, this can be stated even stronger: Not a single concurrency model is appropriate for a majority of the problems we want to solve.
Last week, I started a series of posts to go over some of the projects I was involved in during my first 10 years working on language implementations. Today’s post focuses on my time as PhD student.
Since SOMns is a pure research project, we aren’t usually doing releases for SOMns yet. However, we added many different concurrency abstractions since December and have plans for bigger changes. So, it seems like a good time to wrap up another step, and get it into a somewhat stable shape.
One possible way for modeling concurrent systems is Tony Hoare’s classic approach of having isolated processes communicate via channels, which is called Communicating Sequential Processes (CSP). Today, we see the approach used for instance in Go and Clojure.
Next weekend starts one of the major conferences of the programming languages research community. The conference hosts many events including our Meta’16 workshop on Metaprogramming, SPLASH-I with research and industry talks, the Dynamic Languages Symposium, and the OOPSLA research track.
It has been a while since we started working on how to extended the Actor model with mechanisms to safely share state. Our workshop paper on Tanks was published in 2013. And now finally, an extended version of this work was accepted for publication. Below you can find the abstract with a few more details on the paper, and of course a preprint of the paper itself.
We, or more specifically our colleagues from the Software Languages Lab in Brussels are looking for a post-doctoral researcher to work on a collaborative research project with us.
Last December, we got a research project proposal accepted for a collaboration between the Software Languages Lab in Brussels and the Institute for System Software here in Linz. Together, we will be working on tooling for complex concurrent systems. And with that I mean systems that use multiple concurrency models in combination to solve different problems, each with the appropriate abstraction. I have been working on these issues already for a while. Some pointers are available here in an earlier post: Why Is Concurrent Programming Hard? And What Can We Do about It?
Yesterday at the Virtual Machine Meetup, I was giving a talk about why I think concurrent programming is hard, and what we can do about it.
More than a decade ago, programmer productivity was identified as one of the main hurdles for future parallel systems. The so-called Partitioned Global Address Space (PGAS) languages try to improve productivity and explore a range of language design ideas. These PGAS languages are designed for large-scale high-performance parallel programming and provide the notion of a globally shared address space, while exposing the notion of explicit locality on the language level. Even so the main focus is high-performance computing, the language ideas are also relevant for the parallel and concurrent programming world in general.
One of the big questions that came up during my PhD was: ok, now you got your fancy ownership-based metaobject protocol, and you can implement actors, agents, communicating sequential processes, software transactional memory, and many others, but now what? How are you going to use all of these in concert in one application? Finding a satisfying answer is unfortunately far from trivial.
To prepare some experiments with Pharo’s new compiler infrastructure and a simple AST interpreter, I ported my implementation of the Ownership-based Metaobject Protocol (OMOP) to the Pharo 3. Loading the OMOP into an image will give you an STM implementation, a basic actor system, communicating sequential processes, Clojure-like agents, and active objects. Eventually, the goal is to provide a more extensive set of such concurrent programming mechanisms on top of the OMOP, but for now these five should already give an impression of how the OMOP itself works.
And another paper that’s going to be presented by Joeri is our work on Tanks, a variation of communicating event loops (à la E or AmbientTalk). Tanks add synchronous and consistent read access to the event loop model.
Last Friday, I defended my PhD dissertation. Finally, after 4 years and a bit, I am done. Finally. I am very grateful to all the people supporting me along the way and of course to my colleagues for their help.
My second talk at Smalltalks 2012 was most likely the reason why the organizers invited me in the first place. It was a slightly extended version of the Sly and RoarVM talk for the FOSDEM Smalltalk Dev Room from the beginning of the year, reporting on the Renaissance Project.
Yesterday was the first day of Smalltalks 2012 in Puerto Madryn. The organizers invited my to give a keynote on a topic of my choice, which I gladly did. Having just handed in my thesis draft, I chose to put my research into the context of Smalltalk and try to relate it to one of the main open questions: How do we actually want to program multicore systems.
My paper, on how to support various concurrency models, with an ownership-based meta-object protocol (MOP) was accepted at TOOLS’12. Below, you will find a preprint version of the paper. A later post will provide details on how to use it and how to experiment with the MOP in Pharo 1.3.
The second day of the technical tracks started with a keynote by Markus Püschel. He is not the typical programming language researcher you meet at OOPSLA, but he does research in automatic optimization of programs. In his keynote, he showed a number of examples how to get the best performance for a given algorithm out of a particular processor architecture. Today’s compilers are still not up to the task, and will probably never be up to it. Given a naïve implementation, hand-optimized C code can have 10x speedup when dependencies are made explicit, and the compiler knows that no aliasing can happen. He was then discussing how that can be approached in an automated way, and was also thinking about what programming languages could do.
The first day of the technical tracks including OOPSLA started with a keynote by Ivan Sutherland titled The Sequential Prison. His main point was that the way we think and the way we build machines and software is based on sequential concepts. The words we use to communicate and express ourselves are often of a very sequential nature. His examples included: call, do, repeat, program, and instruction. Other examples that shape and restrict our way of thinking are for instance basic data structures and concepts like strings (character sequences). However, we also use words that enable thinking about concurrency and parallelism much better. His examples for these included: configure, pipeline, connect, channel, network, and path.
As preparation for SPLASH’11, here my paper for the VMIL workshop. It is a position paper discussing in which direction virtual machines should evolve in the future with regard to the challenges manycore architectures and concurrent programming bring.
In October, I will give a brief presentation on the state of affairs with my PhD research at the SPLASH 2010 Doctoral Symposium. The basic idea has not changed since my last presentation at the TiC’10 summer school. I haven’t been able to do a lot of real work for it, but the ideas are a bit clearer now. The following two-page proposal will be published as part of the conference proceedings.
This is the last post about the TiC’10 summer school and covers the two remaining lectures. Mark Moir talked about concurrent data structures and transactional memory, and last but not least, Madan Musuvathi presented the work they did at Microsoft Research to improve the testing of concurrent applications.
This post is a follow up on my first report on the TiC’10 summer school. It covers mainly the talks about X10 and formal aspects of concurrency.
I already posted the presentation I gave at the summer school earlier. In the following posts, I will report a bit about the lectures of the summer school, similar to my posts about the TPLI summer school of last year.
Already quite a while ago, I was involved in writing a workshop paper about an actor model for virtual machines. Actually, the main idea was to find a concurrency model for a VM which supports multi-dimensional separation of concerns. However, AOP is not that interesting for me at the moment, so I am focussing on the concurrency, especially the actor-based VM model.
My second workshop paper got published at the ACM Digital Library. This is actually only an abstract, but nonetheless, it might be interesting for people looking into the design of virtual machines and especially bytecodes/intermediate languages.
Finally, my first workshop paper got published, which was a little odyssey with some misunderstandings, but anyway, now it is out. It is just a position paper, thus, do not expect to many insights. However, what it describes is my big plan, and hopefully the story of my PhD. Am working on it…
The third and last part of the summer school started with Ondrej Lhotak talking about pointer analysis. David Bacon presented a basic introduction to garbage collection and detailed description of the real-time Metronome GC. The last lecturer for this summer school was Patrick Cousot, who gave a very basic and thus understandable introduction to abstract interpretation.