Fuzzing FPGA synthesis tools

When you want to do some computation on an FPGA, it is traditional to enter your design in a language like Verilog, and then to use automatic synthesis tools to turn your Verilog design into a "configuration bitstream" that can be fed to your FPGA to make it perform the computation you want. These synthesis… Continue reading Fuzzing FPGA synthesis tools

A plot twist! Drawing better graphs in PL papers

In this post, I'd like to share some thoughts I've accumulated over the past few years about how to draw better graphs. To get straight to the point, I have two concrete recommendations: normalised data should usually be plotted on a logarithmic scale, andscatter plots can be easier to understand than bar charts. I'll now… Continue reading A plot twist! Drawing better graphs in PL papers

Loop invariants – where should we put them?

Many verification-oriented programming languages have built-in support for attaching loop invariants to loops. A loop invariant is a condition that holds in four different places: immediately before the loop, at the start of each iteration (before evaluating the test condition), at the end of each iteration, and immediately after the loop. Usually, the invariants are… Continue reading Loop invariants – where should we put them?

How to draw block diagrams

A huge number of academic papers, particularly in the fields of computer systems/architecture, use some sort of block diagram to give readers an overview of the solution being presented. For instance, about two thirds of the papers presented this year at ASPLOS contained at least one of these diagrams, usually towards the start of the paper.… Continue reading How to draw block diagrams

A rant about fire doors

UK housebuilding specifications require all doors that lead from a habitable room to the outside to meet certain "fire door" criteria. These include having a self-closing mechanism, since fire doors are only effective when they are closed. Housebuilders typically implement this specification using a simple and discreet spring that pulls the door closed. This is… Continue reading A rant about fire doors

Greatest hits of PLDI 2018

I had a great time at PLDI 2018 last week. Here is my take on a few of the papers that stood out for me. John Vilk presented a tool called BLeak for finding memory leaks in web browsers. One might think that leak detection is not important in a garbage-collected setting, but Vilk explained… Continue reading Greatest hits of PLDI 2018