Author Archive

Type Driven Development with Idris

Type Driven Development with Idris, published by Manning, is now in print.

There’s a couple of free sample chapters, and an excerpt from Chapter 3 (including a discount code for 37% off the book) on interactive development in Atom.

Posted March 23, 2017 by edwinb in Idris

State Machines All The Way Down

A new draft paper, State Machines All The Way Down, which describes an architecture for dependently typed functional programs. Abstract:

A useful pattern in dependently typed programming is to define a state transition system, for example the states and operations in a network protocol, as a parameterised monad. We index each operation by its input and output states, thus guaranteeing that operations satisfy pre- and post-conditions, by typechecking. However, what if we want to write a program using several systems at once? What if we want to define a high level state transition system, such as a network application protocol, in terms of lower level states, such as network sockets and mutable variables? In this paper, I present an architecture for dependently typed applications based on a hierarchy of state transition systems, implemented as a library called states. Using states, I show: how to implement a state transition system as a dependent type, with type level guarantees on its operations; how to account for operations which could fail; how to combine state transition systems into a larger system; and, how to implement larger systems as a hierarchy of state transition systems. As an example, I implement a simple high level network application protocol.

Comments welcome! You can get the draft here.

Posted October 21, 2016 by edwinb in Uncategorized

Elaborator Reflection: Extending Idris in Idris

A new paper by David Christiansen and myself, to appear in ICFP 2016. Abstract:

Many programming languages and proof assistants are defined by elaboration from a high-level language with a great deal of implicit information to a highly explicit core language. In many advanced languages, these elaboration facilities contain powerful tools for program construction, but these tools are rarely designed to be repurposed by users. We describe elaborator reflection, a paradigm for metaprogramming in which the elaboration machinery is made directly available to metaprograms, as well as a concrete realization of elaborator reflection in Idris, a functional language with full dependent types. We demonstrate the applicability of Idris’s reflected elaboration framework to a number of realistic problems, we discuss the motivation for the specific features of its design, and we explore the broader meaning of elaborator reflection as it can relate to other languages.

You can get the PDF here.

Posted July 1, 2016 by edwinb in Dependent Types, Idris, Papers

Cross-platform Compilers for Functional Languages

I’ve just submitted a new draft, Cross-platform Compilers for Functional Languages. Abstract:

Modern software is often designed to run on a virtual machine, such as the JVM or .NET’s CLR. Increasingly, even the web browser is considered a target platform with the Javascript engine as its virtual machine. The choice of programming language for a project is therefore restricted to the languages which target the desired platform. As a result, an important consideration for a programming language designer is the platform to be targetted. For a language to be truly cross-platform, it must not only support different operating systems (e.g. Windows, OSX and Linux) but it must also target different virtual machine environments such as JVM, .NET, Javascript and others. In this paper, I describe how this problem is addressed in the Idris programming language. The overall compilation process involves a number of intermediate representations and Idris exposes an interface to each of these representations, allowing back ends for different target platforms to decide which is most appropriate. I show how to use these representations to retarget Idris for multiple platforms, and further show how to build a generic foreign function interface supporting multiple platforms.

Constructive comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly if you’ve tried implementing a code generator for Idris.

Posted July 4, 2015 by edwinb in Idris, Papers

Practical Erasure in Dependently Typed Languages

Matus Tejiscak and I have produced a new draft paper titled Practical Erasure in Dependently Typed Languages, in which we explain how Idris erases computationally irrelevant parts of programs. The abstract is:

Full-spectrum dependently typed languages and tools, such as Idris and Agda, have recently been gaining interest due to the expressive power of their type systems, in particular their ability to describe precise properties of programs which can be verified by type checking.

With full-spectrum dependent types, we can treat types as first- class language constructs: types can be parameterised on values, and types can be computed like any other value. However, this power brings new challenges when compiling to executable code. Without special treatment, values which exist only for compile-time checking may leak into compiled code, even in relatively simple cases. Previous attempts to tackle the problem are unsatisfying in that they either fail to erase all irrelevant information, require user annotation or in some other way restrict the expressive power of the language.

In this paper, we present a new erasure mechanism based on whole-program analysis, currently implemented in the Idris programming language. We give some simple examples of dependently typed functional programs with compile-time guarantees of their properties, but for which existing erasure techniques fall short. We then describe our new analysis method and show that with it, erasure can lead to asymptotically faster code thanks to the ability to erase not only proofs but also indices.

Comments, feedback, questions, etc, all welcome!

Posted February 28, 2015 by edwinb in Uncategorized

Resource-dependent Algebraic Effects

A new draft paper, Resource-dependent Algebraic Effects, is available. Abstract:

There has been significant interest in recent months in finding new ways to implement composable and modular effectful programs using handlers of algebraic effects. In my own previous work, I have shown how an algebraic effect system (called “effects“) can be embedded directly in a dependently typed host language. Using dependent types ought to allow precise reasoning about programs; however, the reasoning capabilities of effects have been limited to simple state transitions which are known at compile-time. In this paper, I show how effects can be extended to support reasoning in the presence of run-time state transitions, where the result may depend on run-time information about resource usage (e.g. whether opening a file succeeded). I show how this can be used to build expressive APIs, and to specify and verify the behaviour of interactive, stateful programs. I illustrate the technique using a file handling API, and an interactive game.

I’ve just submitted this, although constructive comments and suggestions are still of course very welcome!

Posted July 10, 2014 by edwinb in Uncategorized

Dependent Types for Safe and Secure Web Programming

To appear in the post-proceedings of IFL 2013, a paper by Simon Fowler and myself. Abstract:

Dependently-typed languages allow precise types to be used during development, facilitating reasoning about programs. However, stronger types bring a disadvantage that it becomes increasingly difficult to write programs that are accepted by a type checker and additional proofs may have to be specified by a programmer.

Embedded domain-specific languages (EDSLs) can help address this problem by introducing a layer of abstraction over more precise underlying types, allowing domain-specific code to be written in a high-level language which uses dependent types to enforce invariants without imposing additional proof obligations on an application programmer.

In this paper, we apply this technique to web programming. Using the dependently typed programming language Idris, we introduce an EDSL to facilitate the creation and handling of statically checked web forms, reducing the scope for programmer error and attacks such as SQL injection. We also show how to enforce resource usage protocols associated with common web operations such as CGI, database access and session handling.

You can find the accepted draft here. A revised version will appear later.

Posted December 20, 2013 by edwinb in Uncategorized