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  1. In Topic: Why is there no boolean datatype in MySQL?

    Posted 14 May 2015

    Take a look at the documentation for the BIT type. It's for storing bit fields, not individual bits. It even has a funky specialized syntax for expressing bit literals. So if all you want to do is store a simple true/false flag, a BIT type is probably a bad choice. As e_i_pi said, just stick with TINYINT(1).
  2. In Topic: Formal Verification of Programs

    Posted 20 Mar 2015

    View PostBetsemes, on 20 March 2015 - 11:16 AM, said:

    It's actually a question asking for you to clarify what did you mean by "formal modeling languages" and "code-level verification". The myth was your assumption on what motivated my question.
    On rereading my post, I realize this may sound rude. Sorry if it does. I meant no offense.

    No offense taken. Sorry I misunderstood what you were asking. I just meant that I looked at methods and notations that dealt more with higher-level abstractions, such as modeling the overall design of a system, as opposed to techniques for verifying implementations at the code level. So more things like applying VDM or Z to system specifications as opposed to analyzing source code. Nothing terribly deep - I probably could have phrased it better.

    View PostBetsemes, on 19 March 2015 - 12:34 PM, said:

    This apparently says that VDM can model a system at a higher level and then drop to code level verification. Is this true? Can VDM be used on all levels? Am I misreading it?

    Your understanding is correct. I don't claim to be an expert on VDM, and I didn't get too deep into the refinement part of it, but it does include methods for refining your models from higher to lower level. And yes, you can go all the way down to the code level if you really want to. Of course, as Skydiver was getting at, the semantics of a low-level VDM specification will not necessarily map to your implementation language, so you'd just be verifying the logic of your program, not the actual implementation. But depending on your goals, that's not necessarily a problem.

    View PostBetsemes, on 19 March 2015 - 12:34 PM, said:

    EDIT: Or maybe, if the model have been proven correct, we can generate correct code without verification? True? False?

    If you have a sufficiently detailed model, this is theoretically possible. At the lowest level, an explicit VDM specification is essentially equivalent to source code. And there are "model animators" that will allow you to "execute" a specification like a program. I seem to recall that Overture could do model animation, though it was limited to explicit specifications. It's been a while, though, so I'm not certain.

    As far as actually generating code from a specification, I've only read about it. I have no experience with it so I don't know if there are any tools available to do it or what their quality is.

    View PostBetsemes, on 19 March 2015 - 12:34 PM, said:

    I chose C++ for this and I was looking around for a formal method that can enable me to enter a less buggy beta testing stage. I think I can achieve this with VDM++. Is this true?

    Maybe. Using formalism can help you to think more rigorously about the program you're building and give you another tool to analyze it. This can help you verify that your program covers all your requirements, that you haven't missed things in the design, that your logic is correct, etc. My own experience, and what I've read in case studies, is that they can help you find bugs before you've written them in the implementation language. But as I said in a previous post, formalism is just another tool and how much value you get out of it will depend on how you use it. If this is your first project with VDM++, it might be useful, but because the learning curve is steep you shouldn't expect huge quality improvements right away.

    View PostBetsemes, on 19 March 2015 - 12:34 PM, said:

    Maybe VDM-SL is well suited for such a project. Is it?

    I don't know. It really depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Actual execution speed is more of a low-level, implementation-dependent thing, so I wouldn't necessarily expect a notation like VDM-SL to be too helpful in analyzing that (though to be honest, I haven't looked into that at all). Now if you wanted to use VDM to model different implementations and make sure that they're still behaving correctly, that's a different story. I can see VDM working well for something like that.

    View PostBetsemes, on 19 March 2015 - 12:34 PM, said:

    Is there a drawback on using formal methods for developing those two projects, other than the learning time I have to take?

    Well, it really all comes down to time.

    First, there's the learning curve. For most formal methods, it's pretty steep, even if you already have the mathematical background for them. In addition to the notation, it's kind of a different way of thinking. As one article I read put it, writing formal specifications is a different skill set than writing code. It's a new way of doing things that you'll have to integrate into your development process.

    Second, there's the time spent actually working with the formalism. Experienced formal methods practitioners do the formal analysis and get the project done in the same or less time than without it, because the extra up-front analysis translates to fewer issues during implementation. However, if you're not experienced, this may not be the case. The formalization will probably take you longer; you may find holes or errors in your analysis and have to revisit it later in the development cycle; you may do too much formalization and end up doing a lot of analysis that just isn't that useful.

    In any event, I expect the only thing you stand to lose is time. If you're not experienced, then it's debatable how much using VDM will increase the quality of your software, but I doubt it would make it any worse. The only risk is that you end up taking more time than you'd like to complete the project. Just make sure your expectations are reasonable. If you're looking for immediate results on these projects, you may be disappointed. I would look at these projects more as "pilot programs" to help you learn VDM so you can use it to better effect in the future. That's one of the big lessons from the literature - learning formal methods is a long-term investment.
  3. In Topic: [PHPUnit] organise large test set

    Posted 19 Mar 2015

    As a rule of thumb, you can apply the same organizational principles to test code that you do to your application code. It may be a common pattern, but there's no law that says you have to have exactly one test class per application class. If the test class is getting too unwieldy, then by all means go ahead and break it up. You could also do one test class per method, or one for each logical feature, or something else entirely - whatever makes the most sense for your case. The exact scheme you use isn't that critical so long as the organization is consistent and it's easy to figure out where a particular test would be located.

    However, you can also look at it from the other direction. Maybe the huge test class is an indication of other problems. Does the class under test really need to be that big? Maybe the solution is to refactor your application class into multiple smaller classes, in which case the test organization would take care of itself. (Not that I know one way or the other - I'm just playing devil's advocate here.)
  4. In Topic: Formal Verification of Programs

    Posted 18 Mar 2015

    View PostBetsemes, on 18 March 2015 - 11:39 AM, said:

    What is the difference?

    This is actually myth number 2 in Hall's 7 Myths of Formal Methods. The term "formal methods" encompasses a number of techniques for dealing with systems mathematically. Code verification is just one of those. I looked at modeling systems at a higher level using what is often referred to as a formal specification. The idea is that rather than proving properties about a program in terms of lines of code, you can model a larger system using mathematical entities (often based on predicate logic and set theory) and verify properties of it at that level. At that level, the formal models are more about validating the design of the system and not so much about the low-level implementation details.


    I then looked into VDM. It looks like something similar to what Prof. Gries taught in his book, so it grabbed my attention.

    I can relate to that. :) I started out looking mainly at Z and Object-Z, but ended up switching to VDM++. It just felt more natural to me. It also didn't hurt that it was easier to write the specifications, as the Z notation uses some funky characters and, at least at the time, required a special editor unless you wanted to write in LaTeX, whereas VDM++ had a handy ASCII-only version.


    Could you recommend books and/or websites about VDM?

    Two of the books that I used are Systematic Software Development Using VDM by Cliff Jones (1990) and Validated Designs for Object-oriented Systems by Fitzgerald, Larsen, et al. (2004). I would also definitely take a look at the website for Overture. It's an open-source toolset, built on top of Eclipse, for working with VDM and VDM++. It's been a while since I worked with it, but I understand it's come a long way since then. The website also has a lot of good information on VDM and links to other books.
  5. In Topic: Formal Verification of Programs

    Posted 18 Mar 2015

    View PostSkydiver, on 17 March 2015 - 03:47 PM, said:

    If it's not obvious, I've been a skeptic when I first heard of formal methods many years ago.

    The main reason my skepticism is is that somebody trying to verify the correctness of a program has to not only verify the correctness at the problem domain level, but they will also have to do the same down at the implementation language level, and perhaps at the machine language level? Compilers do have bugs. Have the compilers been proven to be correct? How about the libraries used? Have they been proven correct?

    Your skepticism is not unwarranted - formal methods have definitely been over-sold in some circles. It should be too obvious to bear repeating, but formal methods cannot guarantee bug-free software. Nothing can. That was actually the first item in Anthony Hall's list of 7 Myths of Formal Methods. But just because formal methods have limitations doesn't mean they have no value. They're just another tool in the toolbox. They can be a useful way to increase confidence in the correctness of a system, but like any tool you need to understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to get good results. They are not a silver bullet.

My Information

Member Title:
Resident Curmudgeon
37 years old
August 16, 1977
Brockport, NY
On the technical front, I'm interested in software design methods, formal modeling, database theory, etc.. In more general terms, I like to play the piano, study philosophy, and work in my garden.
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PHP, Python, VB.NET/6, C#, SQL, ActionScript (mostly FLEX), and whatever other stuff I've worked with that I feel like including today.

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  1. Photo

    AdaHacker Icon

    09 Feb 2011 - 15:18
    <shrug> Never really had anything to ask. I prefer to just take a quick browse through my favorite forums once in a while and provide a few quick answers. Less of a time commitment.
  2. Photo

    modi123_1 Icon

    09 Feb 2011 - 13:39
    Odd.. you are a member since Jun 2008, have 572 active topics, but have zero posts originated by you. Quirky.
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