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Nathan Fulton, Cyrus Omar, Jonathan Aldrich.  2014.  Statically typed string sanitation inside a python. PSP '14 Proceedings of the 2014 International Workshop on Privacy & Security in Programming.

Web applications must ultimately command systems like web browsers and database engines using strings. Strings derived from improperly sanitized user input can as a result be a vector for command injection attacks. In this paper, we introduce regular string types, which classify strings constrained statically to be in a regular language specified by a regular expression. Regular strings support standard string operations like concatenation and substitution, as well as safe coercions, so they can be used to implement, in an essentially conventional manner, the pieces of a web application or framework that handle strings arising from user input. Simple type annotations at function interfaces can be used to statically verify that sanitization has been performed correctly without introducing redundant run-time checks. We specify this type system first as a minimal typed lambda calculus, lambdaRS. To be practical, adopting a specialized type system like this should not require the adoption of a new programming language. Instead, we advocate for extensible type systems: new type system fragments like this should be implemented as libraries atop a mechanism that guarantees that they can be safely composed. We support this with two contributions. First, we specify a translation from lambdaRS to a calculus with only standard strings and regular expressions. Then, taking Python as a language with these constructs, we implement the type system together with the translation as a library using typy, an extensible static type system for Python.

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Jonathan Aldrich, Cyrus Omar, Alex Potanin, Du Li.  2014.  Language-Based Architectural Control. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Aliasing, Capabilities and Ownership (IWACO), 2014.

Software architects design systems to achieve quality attributes like security, reliability, and performance. Key to achieving these quality attributes are design constraints governing how components of the system are configured, communicate and access resources. Unfortunately, identifying, specifying, communicating and enforcing important design constraints – achieving architectural control – can be difficult, particularly in large software systems. We argue for the development of architectural frameworks, built to leverage language mechanisms that provide for domain-specific syntax, editor services and explicit control over capabilities, that help increase architectural control. In particular, we argue for concise, centralized architectural descriptions which are responsible for specifying constraints and passing a minimal set of capabilities to downstream system components, or explicitly entrusting them to individuals playing defined roles within a team. By integrating these architectural descriptions directly into the language, the type system can help enforce technical constraints and editor services can help enforce social constraints. We sketch our approach in the context of distributed systems. 

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Ian Voysey, Cyrus Omar, Matthew Hammer.  2017.  Running Incomplete Programs. POPL 2017 Proceedings of the 44th ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages.

We typically only consider running programs that are completely written. Programmers end up inserting ad hoc dummy values into their incomplete programs to receive feedback about dynamic behavior. In this work we suggest an evaluation mechanism for incomplete programs, represented as terms with holes. Rather than immediately failing when a hole is encountered, evaluation propagates holes as far as possible. The result is a substantially tighter development loop. 

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Cyrus Omar, Chenglong Wang, Jonathan Aldrich.  2015.  Composable and Hygienic Typed Syntax Macros. Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC).

Syntax extension mechanisms are powerful, but reasoning about syntax extensions can be difficult. Recent work on type-specific languages (TSLs) addressed reasoning about composition, hygiene and typing for extensions introducing new literal forms. We supplement TSLs with typed syntax macros (TSMs), which, unlike TSLs, are explicitly invoked to give meaning to delimited segments of arbitrary syntax. To maintain a typing discipline, we describe two avors of term-level TSMs: synthetic TSMs specify the type of term that they generate, while analytic TSMs can generate terms of arbitrary type, but can only be used in positions where the type is otherwise known. At the level of types, we describe a third avor of TSM that generates a type of a specified kind along with its TSL and show interesting use cases where the two mechanisms operate in concert.

Cyrus Omar, Benjamin Chung, Darya Kurilova, Alex Potanin, Jonathan Aldrich.  2013.  Type-directed, whitespace-delimited parsing for embedded DSLs. GlobalDSL '13 Proceedings of the First Workshop on the Globalization of Domain Specific Languages.

Domain-specific languages improve ease-of-use, expressiveness and verifiability, but defining and using different DSLs within a single application remains difficult. We introduce an approach for embedded DSLs where 1) whitespace delimits DSL-governed blocks, and 2) the parsing and type checking phases occur in tandem so that the expected type of the block determines which domain-specific parser governs that block. We argue that this approach occupies a sweet spot, providing high expressiveness and ease-of-use while maintaining safe composability. We introduce the design, provide examples and describe an ongoing implementation of this strategy in the Wyvern programming language. We also discuss how a more conventional keyword-directed strategy for parsing of DSLs can arise as a special case of this type-directed strategy. 

Cyrus Omar, Darya Kurilova, Ligia Nistor, Benjamin Chung, Alex Potanin, Jonathan Aldrich.  2014.  Safely Composable Type-Specific Languages. Proceedings of the 28th European Conference on ECOOP 2014 --- Object-Oriented Programming.

Programming languages often include specialized syntax for common datatypes e.g. lists and some also build in support for specific specialized datatypes e.g. regular expressions, but user-defined types must use general-purpose syntax. Frustration with this causes developers to use strings, rather than structured data, with alarming frequency, leading to correctness, performance, security, and usability issues. Allowing library providers to modularly extend a language with new syntax could help address these issues. Unfortunately, prior mechanisms either limit expressiveness or are not safely composable: individually unambiguous extensions can still cause ambiguities when used together. We introduce type-specific languages TSLs: logic associated with a type that determines how the bodies of generic literals, able to contain arbitrary syntax, are parsed and elaborated, hygienically. The TSL for a type is invoked only when a literal appears where a term of that type is expected, guaranteeing non-interference. We give evidence supporting the applicability of this approach and formally specify it with a bidirectionally typed elaboration semantics for the Wyvern programming language.

Cyrus Omar, Jonathan Aldrich.  2016.  Programmable semantic fragments: the design and implementation of typy. GPCE 2016 Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Generative Programming: Concepts and Experiences.

This paper introduces typy, a statically typed programming language embedded by reflection into Python. typy features a fragmentary semantics, i.e. it delegates semantic control over each term, drawn from Python's fixed concrete and abstract syntax, to some contextually relevant user-defined semantic fragment. The delegated fragment programmatically 1) typechecks the term (following a bidirectional protocol); and 2) assigns dynamic meaning to the term by computing a translation to Python.

We argue that this design is expressive with examples of fragments that express the static and dynamic semantics of 1) functional records; 2) labeled sums (with nested pattern matching a la ML); 3) a variation on JavaScript's prototypal object system; and 4) typed foreign interfaces to Python and OpenCL. These semantic structures are, or would need to be, defined primitively in conventionally structured languages.

We further argue that this design is compositionally well-behaved. It avoids the expression problem and the problems of grammar composition because the syntax is fixed. Moreover, programs are semantically stable under fragment composition (i.e. defining a new fragment will not change the meaning of existing program components.)

Cyrus Omar, Ian Voysey, Michael Hilton, Jonathan Aldrich, Matthew Hammer.  2017.  Hazelnut: a bidirectionally typed structure editor calculus. POPL 2017 Proceedings of the 44th ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages.

Structure editors allow programmers to edit the tree structure of a program directly. This can have cognitive benefits, particularly for novice and end-user programmers. It also simplifies matters for tool designers, because they do not need to contend with malformed program text. This paper introduces Hazelnut, a structure editor based on a small bidirectionally typed lambda calculus extended with holes and a cursor. Hazelnut goes one step beyond syntactic well-formedness: its edit actions operate over statically meaningful incomplete terms. Naïvely, this would force the programmer to construct terms in a rigid “outside-in” manner. To avoid this problem, the action semantics automatically places terms assigned a type that is inconsistent with the expected type inside a hole. This meaningfully defers the type consistency check until the term inside the hole is finished. Hazelnut is not intended as an end-user tool itself. Instead, it serves as a foundational account of typed structure editing. To that end, we describe how Hazelnut’s rich metatheory, which we have mechanized using the Agda proof assistant, serves as a guide when we extend the calculus to include binary sum types. We also discuss various interpretations of holes, and in so doing reveal connections with gradual typing and contextual modal type theory, the Curry-Howard interpretation of contextual modal logic. Finally, we discuss how Hazelnut’s semantics lends itself to implementation as an event-based functional reactive program. Our simple reference implementation is written using js_of_ocaml. 

Cyrus Omar, Ian Voysey, Michael Hilton, Joshua Sunshine, Claire Le Goues, Jonathan Aldrich, Matthew Hammer.  2017.  Toward Semantic Foundations for Program Editors. 2nd Summit on Advances in Programming Languages (SNAPL 2017).

Programming language definitions assign formal meaning to complete programs. Programmers, however, spend a substantial amount of time interacting with incomplete programs -- programs with holes, type inconsistencies and binding inconsistencies -- using tools like program editors and live programming environments (which interleave editing and evaluation). Semanticists have done comparatively little to formally characterize (1) the static and dynamic semantics of incomplete programs; (2) the actions available to programmers as they edit and inspect incomplete programs; and (3) the behavior of editor services that suggest likely edit actions to the programmer based on semantic information extracted from the incomplete program being edited, and from programs that the system has encountered in the past. As such, each tool designer has largely been left to develop their own ad hoc heuristics. 
This paper serves as a vision statement for a research program that seeks to develop these "missing" semantic foundations. Our hope is that these contributions, which will take the form of a series of simple formal calculi equipped with a tractable metatheory, will guide the design of a variety of current and future interactive programming tools, much as various lambda calculi have guided modern language designs. Our own research will apply these principles in the design of Hazel, an experimental live lab notebook programming environment designed for data science tasks. We plan to co-design the Hazel language with the editor so that we can explore concepts such as edit-time semantic conflict resolution mechanisms and mechanisms that allow library providers to install library-specific editor services.