Visible to the public Safe Stream-Based Programming with Refinement Types

TitleSafe Stream-Based Programming with Refinement Types
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsStein, Benno, Clapp, Lazaro, Sridharan, Manu, Chang, Bor-Yuh Evan
Conference NameProceedings of the 33rd ACM/IEEE International Conference on Automated Software Engineering
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-5937-5
KeywordsCollaboration, Human Behavior, human factors, Metrics, mobile applications, policy-based governance, pubcrawl, refinement types, resilience, Resiliency, Safe Coding, stream-based programming

In stream-based programming, data sources are abstracted as a stream of values that can be manipulated via callback functions. Stream-based programming is exploding in popularity, as it provides a powerful and expressive paradigm for handling asynchronous data sources in interactive software. However, high-level stream abstractions can also make it difficult for developers to reason about control- and data-flow relationships in their programs. This is particularly impactful when asynchronous stream-based code interacts with thread-limited features such as UI frameworks that restrict UI access to a single thread, since the threading behavior of streaming constructs is often non-intuitive and insufficiently documented. In this paper, we present a type-based approach that can statically prove the thread-safety of UI accesses in stream-based software. Our key insight is that the fluent APIs of stream-processing frameworks enable the tracking of threads via type-refinement, making it possible to reason automatically about what thread a piece of code runs on - a difficult problem in general. We implement the system as an annotation-based Java typechecker for Android programs built upon the popular ReactiveX framework and evaluate its efficacy by annotating and analyzing 8 open-source apps, where we find 33 instances of unsafe UI access while incurring an annotation burden of only one annotation per 186 source lines of code. We also report on our experience applying the typechecker to two much larger apps from the Uber Technologies, Inc. codebase, where it currently runs on every code change and blocks changes that introduce potential threading bugs.

Citation Keystein_safe_2018