A Runtime Assertion Checker for the Java Modeling Language (JML)

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Cheon, Yoonsik
Leavens, Gary
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Computer Science

Computer Science—the theory, representation, processing, communication and use of information—is fundamentally transforming every aspect of human endeavor. The Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University advances computational and information sciences through; 1. educational and research programs within and beyond the university; 2. active engagement to help define national and international research, and 3. educational agendas, and sustained commitment to graduating leaders for academia, industry and government.

The Computer Science Department was officially established in 1969, with Robert Stewart serving as the founding Department Chair. Faculty were composed of joint appointments with Mathematics, Statistics, and Electrical Engineering. In 1969, the building which now houses the Computer Science department, then simply called the Computer Science building, was completed. Later it was named Atanasoff Hall. Throughout the 1980s to present, the department expanded and developed its teaching and research agendas to cover many areas of computing.

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Debugging is made difficult by the need to precisely describe what each piece of the software is supposed to do, and to write code to defend modules against the errors of other modules; if this is not done it is difficult to assign blame to a small part of the program when things go wrong. Similarly, unit testing also needs precise descriptions of behavior, and is made difficult by the need to write test oracles. However, debugging and testing consume a significant fraction of the cost of software development and maintenance efforts. Inadequate debugging and testing also contribute to quality problems. We describe a runtime assertion checker for the Java Modeling Language (JML) that helps in assigning blame during debugging and in automatic generation of test oracles. It represents a significant advance over the current state of the art, because it can deal with very abstract specifications which hide representation details, and other features such as quantifiers, and inheritance of specifications. Yet JML specifications have a syntax that is easily understood by programmers. Thus, JML's runtime assertion checker has the potential for decreasing the cost of debugging and testing.


To appear in International Conference on Software Engineering Research and Practice (SERP) 2002, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, June 24-27, 2002. Copyright © Computer Science Research, Education, and Application (CSREA) Press, 2002.

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