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Martin Hellspong - Why you'd be better off using QuickCheck when porting to Rust

  • Nesincronizat
    >> MARTIN HELLSPONG: So I got some water and I accidentally got sparkling water, which isn't a good idea before I talk.
    But I was so nervous, it's not sparkling anymore.
    So I think it's good.
    I have my password.
    It's just star, star, star, star.
    Really, I forgot this one.
    it works.
    So my name is Martin Hellspong.
    I work at factor10.
    I'm a Software Engineer there and we are based in Sweden and it's awesome to be here at RustFest.
    (Audience interruption, pointing out that main screen is blank)
    It's there, and there, but it's not there?
    I also didn't start the Quicktime recording, right?
    So let's do that.
  • Nesincronizat
    I'm still not there?
    So it's awesome to be at RustFest and I'm here to talk about QuickCheck, which is a test method that is under-appreciated, I think.
    And the reason is that it helps you find bugs that traditional testing often don't find.
    And there have been case studies, showing that you find more bugs with less effort per bug, using QuickCheck.
    And that's a nice promise for.
    And traditional testing it works by verifying expected behavior and perhaps you poke around some of the expected edge cases.
    (Audience interruption, asking if the correct slide is shown)
    I haven't changed my slide.
    So I am where I am -- both slides.
    It's just that I have a long intro and setting you up for all kinds of failure.
    Anyway... and now, you lost me.
    The reason for this is that this isn't optimal because you write your own tests, and you won't surprise yourself.
    But the randomness will actually surprise you and your code.
    So that's why QuickCheck uses randomness to generate hundreds, or thousands or like, any number of test cases you want, according to your specification, and randomness gives QuickCheck the power to generate very varied test cases.
    As an example, there was a bug file against Google's LevelDB.
    They hadn't -- Google hadn't found it with their traditional tests.
    But that's because it needed a sequence of 17API calls to trigger the consistency problem.
    And QuickCheck found this by someone writing a test for QuickCheck that explored the API and looked for inconsistencies using randomness.
    We can all agree, no one writes a standard unit test for that, at least not that long.
    So my ambition with this talk is to get you excited about using this in your projects - and I'm not going to be very Rust-specific so most of what I'm saying is applicable to QuickCheck and randomized testing in general.
    You should be able to take something back to your projects.
    There's variants available for almost all languages, now, but it originated in the Haskell research community about 1999.
    Work from Koen Claessen and John Hughes, and John Hughes is the author of the classic paper "Why Functional Programming Matters".
  • Nesincronizat
    You need to make a testable statement about your code.
    For example, say that you've written an absolutely amazing summation function.
    And can you make a statement about that, say something like, my summation function takes a list of integers and returns positive integer always.
    And the traditional test method, it's like your intern,
    Your co-worker, "sounds like it's working.
    Because I used it in one test and it worked"
    But QuickCheck is more like your know-it-all co-worker.
    But he won't take your word for it.
    We have run hundreds of test cases to see if your statement actually works: So it looks at the signature of your statement, and generates a lot of test cases, trying to find a counter example.
    If it does, or if it doesn't, and if it does -- it has a test case used to prove you wrong.
    And this is how this could look in code.
    This summation function.
    It takes a list of integers and it's so awesome I didn't even include the implementation.
    Then you have your statement, which is something like a function that's positive.
    Takes the list of numbers and give us you the Boolean.
  • Nesincronizat
    Succeeds, returns true all the time.
    In this case, probably what will happen is it will say something lib was posted, it failed, when given the example, the example is the list of the number minus 1.
    Negative number, obviously, it wouldn't be positive.
    So that's QuickCheck helping you find discrepancies between your code and statement.
    Perhaps in this case the summation function should have unsigned integers or your assumption how it works, you should find a different statement.
  • Nesincronizat
    How does it know how to generate test cases?
    Well, for primitives these functions are built in.
    Counter example, QuickCheck does something called shrinking to minimize the test case.
    You can also provide a custom shrinker for your types.
    But that's seldom necessary.
    The possibility is there.
  • Nesincronizat
    QuickCheck now introduces randomness into your builds.
    And people will say stuff like, we don't want unstable tests.
    We must know who broke the build!
    What change did they do to make it fail?
    What if it passes QA and then fails the release build without any changes.
    I mean, that's valid criticisms.
    Some processes doesn't handle randomness well.
    And on the level of individual developer, I mean, you do a bug fix and the tests pass, is it fixed?
    Or is it just because a failure case wasn't generated?
    Or you add a feature, and the tests fail.
    Did a failure case just happen to be generated?
  • Nesincronizat
    However, in practices, often, much more stable than you would think when you heard randomness.
    It's not like it flips flops.
    It works because you generate hundreds of test cases.
    If you have some case that's only generated once in every 200 test cases, and you run 100 tests, perhaps it flops and flips between.
    But otherwise, it's mostly in my experience, they always at the same time they are programmatic.
    But we must remember, the correct decisions now we introduce untable tests.
    An unstable test is something with the same input gets two different results, and you don't know why.
    But the unlikely case, it happens and then you get the counter example.
    That's when given this, it always results in this failure.
    So you need to take good care of the counter-example, and you can produce a unit test.
    You can also tweak a generator, if you have generator for your type.
    You can tweak that to generate edge cases more often.
  • Nesincronizat
    On the process level, we could look at fixing the seed to the random number generator.
    However, that trades test coverage for stability, which is not perhaps a good trade-off.
    Depends on if you want to find bugs or you want your build to always work.
    You can always give up.
    You don't run the QuickCheck tests in your build.
    Perhaps you then need traditional test and you could do a nightly bug-hunt running for 3 hours, to see if you could flush out some bugs.
    There's a tradeoff you need to make.
  • Nesincronizat
    So now, we can look at how I use QuickCheck.
    So in my project, it's kind of a microcontroller project.
    I really like how the previous talks have geared into this.
    It's very much helpful to have a couple of concepts explained.
    It's kind of microcontroller projects.
    Do I it on my experimental time.
    So I get paid, but the company doesn't.
    But think about that, it wasn't that funny to, not that exciting to do.
    I want to do something more outrageous.
    I probably need to make a simulated world, with a space ship, with a simulated microcontroller, and then I knew what kind I wanted and see if you can guess which one it is.
    This is the classic version of the Macintosh. The Atari ST, and the Commodore Amiga 500.
    This was the first computer for me, so for nostalgic reasons, I chose the processor, running in all these machines.
    The Motorola 68,000.
    And also 40 years old, the computers.
    Or the processor, rather.
    So it's possible to emulate it at the original speed.
    Something like 8 megahertz.
  • Nesincronizat
    So now in reality, we have a simulated micro controller project.
    The Motorola 68,000 CPU, which is often called M68K.
    I took an existing C library, running in the MAME emulators.
    And I had become excited about Rust and I decided to do this, rather recklessly, as the project right after Hello World.
    And it's called R68K.
    And it's off of GitHub.
    It isn't fully functional yet, but it's useful.
    For me.
    If you look at a CPU emulator, what do you need to test this.
  • Nesincronizat
    It's only 56 instructions.
    So possibly, can you just write 56 unit test?
    However, this doesn't really work because it's a combinatoric explosion of instructions, data size, registers, and you can easily come up with 10 tests for one single opcode and there's 65,000 opcodes, 54000 of them valid, and about 11,000 invalid ones.
  • Nesincronizat
    I think its has done transition. Anyway.
  • Nesincronizat
    So I knew then, I needed QuickCheck!
    I couldn't possibly write enough tests.
    So how did I use it?
    I basically made a statement.
    There's two CPU's.
    They should behave Identically.
    And by identically I mean.
    Given random initial states.
    Execute one instruction ethical.
    And verifying state is checking the contents of registers and memory, as well as all memory accesses are correct size and alignment and what not.
  • Nesincronizat
    Then I thought, QuickCheck, just go ahead and disprove me on this.
    And it did, repeatedly.
    Annoying but ultimately helpful.
  • Nesincronizat
    I ended up with 1,600 QuickCheck tests.
    One test is testing combination of register and covers all the possible cases.
    Hundreds of trials each.
    Running all the tests, is something like three hours, 45 minutes.
    So Musashi is single threaded so I can't run parallel.
    I've used gnu parallel to run cargo in parallel, the tests.
    It's one test per instance, I ended up doing 16PR's.
    Elements like cycle counts.
    How many cycles it took.
    And I had a single complex statement about the identical behavior.
    You don't need to have a perfect comparison.
    This statement was much simpler in the beginning, it was still very, very useful to get something and as soon as you take the statement and improve it.
    It will improve this test.
    Now runs a more thorough comparison.
    I'm very happy to say, verified with QuickCheck.
    I'm basically, 100% sure.
    And identical for all the instructions.
    I still have work to do with exceptions and stuff, still provides me a use value.
  • Nesincronizat
    Let's look at the bigger picture.
    Not talking about my project anymore.
    I could talk about this for hours but you'll have to catch me tomorrow.
    So we could here, take a look at a statement, what is the problem of coming up with a statement?
    It's hard to, when you start using QuickCheck, it's hard to come up with different kind of statements.
    You normally, write the unit test "If input 42, I should get this back".
    But saying for any number that hold, it's not that useful.
  • Nesincronizat
    So now, I get to the fact part and fact part is just saying something about your code.
    There's basically - if I back up a little bit, there's three different things about statements.
    Facts, inverse functions, and there's comparison with a known good one.
    Facts will already -- we have already seen.
    Summation function.
    Inverse is something like encode, decode.
    You encrypt something and then you then decrypt it.
    It should return the same value.
    If you compare something with a known-good, one thing you can use is the unoptimized version of your code.
    If you have an implementation, and it had a very nice implementation of something, it was slow, but it worked.
    Then if you need to do a performance hack, you can have your QuickCheck run against your standard non-optimized case and compare it against the optimized case.
    With caching - Without caching.
  • Nesincronizat
    The guy wrote an idealistic model of the database, with capabilities and ran that together with LevelDB, and check that they matched all the time.
    The model is much simpler.
    It could be in-memory storage.
    You don't need to make all the guarantees.
    You can also take existing code.
    That's the third one.
    And one of them is third party which I was using.
    You can have the old version of your code.
    If you have version one that does something interesting and you want to do a reimplementation of that and you want it to be as good.
    You can compare version 1 and version 2.
  • Nesincronizat
    So I have skipped one thing.
    What happens if you have irrelevant cases, and you want to discard those when you're testing?
    There's also an example of an inverse - assemble is the inverse of disassemble.
    Thank you for mentioning that.
    Now, have you to return a TestResult.
    What you do is you have a function.
    Disassemble an opcode, which is basically, 16 bits.
    If you disassemble it you should have a -- not all codes are valid.
    If it is not valid, it'll return an error.
    Don't bother doing this test now because it's not valid because I can't assemble, but if it happens to be valid, I get some assembly text.
    It's something like, word-sized ADD of data register 3, to where address register 2 points.
  • Nesincronizat
    In code we test if you assemble this text, do you get the same opcode you started with?
    And you create the test result from that.
    And this means that this tests that all the places where disassemble works,
    assemble should work.
  • Nesincronizat
    I also want to mention, other places where is QuickCheck is used.
    I looked at, and I think it was 107.
    They all use QuickCheck.
    Regex tests utf8 encode/decode.
    Byteorder tests buffer read/write.
    Itertools, test facts about its functions.
  • Nesincronizat
    And the wider industry, not talking about Rust at all, Basho uses it for Riak, ERICSSON is using to find race conditions in the Mnesia database, in 4G base stations.
    Volvo Cards - they tested integration.
    They buy stuff from suppliers and put it in their cars.
    They found bugs in their communication and also found inconsistencies in the AUTOSAR standard.
  • Nesincronizat
    I have one last story, the LevelDB one.
    It was even more absurd than the one I started with.
    There's a talk about this.
    LambdaJam, 2013.
    A guy called Joe Norton.
    Found the 17th step sequence that failed.
    Google provided a fix.
    He ran the same QuickCheck test.
    Now after a couple of minutes, it found a 33 step sequence that resulted in the same inconsistency, and I think you can agree this is almost impossible to write the unit tests, that would catch something like that!
    So the take away is: You won't surprise yourself.
    Randomness will.
    Stop worrying and learn to love the nondeterminism!
  • Nesincronizat
    Thank you very much!
Martin Hellspong - Why you'd be better off using QuickCheck when porting to Rust

For about half a year I’ve been doing a Rust port of a CPU emulator library written in C. This talk will tell you why on earth someone would want to do that, and why the effort likely would have failed without the use of QuickCheck, which has enabled me to thoroughly compare and test that the port has identical behavior to the original (as well as the CPU spec).

It will also tell the tale of macro madness, the discovery of a O(n²) bug in the Rust compiler, and why I think most Rust tradeoffs are near-optimal, seen from someone with years of experience with C/C++, C#, Scala and Clojure. It will also explain the complications when using Cargos multi-threaded testing model interfacing a single-threaded C library, and some potential solutions.

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