UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Time-travel programming: programming language support for interacting with past executions Salkeld, Robin


Because software so often behaves unexpectedly or fails only in production environments, several recent tools from both industry and academia record data about execution for the benefit of post-hoc analysis. Debugging on these data instead of a live program is much more difficult, however, because the semantic abstractions provided by the programming language are no longer available. Many post-hoc analysis tools process this data through additional reflection-based code or domain-specific query languages, but do not recover the expressive power of the original programming language. This thesis proposes the concept of time-travel programming, which we define as simulating the execution of additional code in the same programming language as if it were present in the past environment of recorded data. Furthermore, we show that the aspect-oriented programming (AOP) paradigm provides a natural mechanism for specifying this additional execution, and allows us to reuse established semantics and implementations. We provide evidence of this technique’s flexibility, feasibility and effectiveness through two implementations: one an interpreter for an extremely simple AOP language in the style of a core calculus, and one for the AspectJ programming language. We evaluate flexibility via applying the implementations to multiple execution recording formats, feasibility by showing the AspectJ implementation is performant enough for post-hoc analysis, and effectiveness by demonstrating that evaluating new and existing aspects retroactively can be used to address common post-hoc analysis tasks.

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