Thursday Extra 10/18/18: Moving Software Testing Outside of the Box - An Expedition Beyond its Walls

Thursday, October 18, 2018
4:15 p.m. in Science 3821
Refreshments at 4:00 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Science 3817)

Myra B. Cohen, Lanh and Oanh Nguyen Endowed Chair of Software Engineering at Iowa State University, presents this Thursday Extra.

Software testing researchers have developed many sophisticated techniques to model and test complex and highly configurable systems. These techniques need to be automated and scalable to work on modern software applications, which has led researchers to use bio-inspired approaches that mimic nature, such as evolutionary algorithms. While this research continues to advance the state of the art in software testing, there is a bigger opportunity to leverage what has been learned outside of the boundaries of software testing.

Cohen will discuss some of her research on software testing and then show how they have used techniques built for software testing on living systems. Her recent work flips the nature-inspired paradigm for assurance and prediction of both natural and synthetically engineered biological organisms.

CS Table 10/16/18: Experience of blind software engineers

We will discuss two articles that describe the experiences of two blind software engineers. My hope is that our discussion will wander into a broader consideration of accessibility, the challenges that people with disabilities face when they work in the computing industry, and the responsibilities of all software developers to consider accessibility.

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:50pm in JRC 224C (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

Thursday Extra: "Finding Performance Problems with ALEX"

On Thursday, October 11, Mattori Birnbaum, Linh Bui, Zoe Grubbs, Hadley Luker, and Xinya Yang will give a talk on their summer 2018 Mentored Advanced Project:

Identifying performance problems in code is crucial for software developers. Even small inefficiencies can incur large costs in complex, long-running systems. While programmers can tune their programs by using efficient algorithms and data structures, hardware resources such as caches and branch predictors can still be a major source of inefficiency. Such inefficient uses of hardware resources are rarely obvious in the program's source code.

During summer 2018, we developed a tool called AnaLysis of EXecution (ALEX) to help developers diagnose performance problems. ALEX gathers and displays performance data from unmodified programs run on GNU/Linux. Our visualization helps developers quickly find patterns of poor performance, and the accompanying analysis leads developers to the relevant source code. In our talk, we will demonstrate how ALEX can help developers, explain how it works, and discuss our summer research experience.

At 4:00 p.m., refreshments will be served in the Computer Science Commons. The talk, "Finding Performance Problems with ALEX," will begin at 4:15 p.m. in Noyce 3821. Everyone is welcome to attend!

CS Table 10/9/18: The Big Hack

We will discuss a recent report from Bloomberg about a security breach in the hardware supply chain for servers used by almost 30 major US-based companies. Bloomberg’s reporting suggests that a group within the Chinese government’s intelligence agency were able to add a small chip to motherboards manufactured for SuperMicro, a major server hardware supplier in the US. These chips apparently inject malicious code into the server’s operating system, allowing hackers to remotely access compromised servers and bypass security controls within the operating system. We will discuss the mechanisms used to carry out these attacks, the differences between hardware- and software-based exploits, consider the impacts of such an attack, and discuss possible ways to mitigate attacks like this one in the future.

Readings include Bloomberg's original reporting (The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies, J. Robertson and M. Riley, Bloomberg Businessweek, 4 Oct 2018) and two articles providing some additional perspective on this story, which has not yet been independently confirmed (The China SuperMicro Hack: About That Bloomberg Report, N. Weaver, Lawfare, 4 Oct 2018, and Decoding the Chinese SuperMicro super spy-chip scandal: What do we know – and who is telling the truth? K. McCarthy, The Register, 4 Oct 2018.)

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224C (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

CS Extra 10/8/18: Alumni Talk Careers

Thursday, October 4, 2018
4:15 p.m. in Science 2022 (note the room is different than usual)

Careers in Computer Science and Informal Talk by Grinnell CS Alumni
Cassie Koomjian '05, Ian Young '08, Terian Koscik '12, and Alex Leach '06 talk about their careers and experiences in the software design and development field.

CS Extra 10/4/18: Internet bandwidth allocation

Thursday, October 4, 2018
4:15 p.m. in Science 3821
Refreshments at 4:00 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Science 3817)

Lisong Xu, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presents this Thursday Extra.

Bandwidth allocation is a fundamental problem of the Internet, because bandwidth is the most important type of resources in the Internet and bandwidth allocation algorithms determine the performance and fairness of the Internet. Xu will first talk about how the Internet works, then discuss recent research works on bandwidth allocation, and finally introduce the graduate program of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UNL.

CS Table 10/2/18: Grace Hopper 2018

This week at CS table we will hear from some of the students who attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last week. We’ll discuss some of the keynotes they went to, hear about the other events happening at the conference, and talk about how to get the most out of professional and academic conferences like GHC or Tapia.

There is no assigned reading for this week’s discussion, but you may want to look at the conference schedule to see what kinds of events were happening.

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224C (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

CS Table 9/25/18: Takeaways from Tapia 2018

Students, faculty, and staff who attended the 2018 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference will report on various aspects of the conference, from the keynotes to the job fair. Since FAT AI (fair, accountable, transparent) was a topic of a number of sessions, we will likely cover some perspectives on that topic.

In preparation for CS Table, you may find it useful to review the schedule for the conference.

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224C (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

CS Extra 9/27/2018: Detecting Vulnerable Code: from Mobile Apps to IoT Devices

Thursday, September 27, 2018
4:15 p.m. in Science 3821
Refreshments at 4:00 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Science 3817)

Antonio Bianchi, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at The University of Iowa, presents this Thursday Extra.

Mobile application markets, such as the Google's Play Store and the Apple's App Store, receive thousands of new applications every day. Ideally, all these apps should be properly vetted to find both security-relevant programming mistakes. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of the submitted code rules out the possibility of using human experts to analyze it. Consequently, researchers have proposed and implemented different techniques to analyze automatically mobile applications.

In this talk, Bianchi will talk about his research using automated analysis techniques to detect security issues in existing Android applications. In particular, he will present his work in detecting Android applications implementing vulnerable authentication schemas. He will also discuss some of the currently open problems in the field and future research directions.

CS Table 9/11/18: Fixing Facebook

For our first CS Table discussion of the semester, we’ll be looking at some of the findings and recommendations from ProPublica’s investigation of political advertising on Facebook. ProPublica began by offering a series of proposals for Facebook to reduce the potential for abuse of its advertising system in April, followed by an analysis of Facebook’s first attempt at revising their ad-tracking system. ProPublica then launched their own initiative to collect political ads shown to users who were willing to install a browser plugin. We’ll discuss the challenge Facebook faces with its advertising system, evaluate their work so far, and discuss the broader issues of ad targeting and content moderation online.

Here are the readings for this week:

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224C (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).

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