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A type-safe apparatus executing higher order functions in conjunction with hardware error tolerance

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:10 authored by Jonathan R. R. Kimmitt
The increasing commoditization of computers in modern society has exceeded the pace of associated developments in reliability. Although theoretical computer science has advanced greatly in the last thirty years, many of the best techniques have yet to find their way into embedded computers, and their failure can have a great potential for disrupting society. This dissertation presents some approaches to improve computer reliability using software and hardware techniques, and makes the following claims for novelty: innovative development of a toolchain and libraries to support extraction from dependent type checking in a theorem prover; conceptual design and deployment in reconfigurable hardware; an extension of static type-safety to hardware description language and FPGA level; elimination of legacy C code from the target and toolchain; a novel hardware error detection scheme is described and compared with conventional triple modular redundancy. The elimination of any user control of memory management promotes robustness against buffer overruns, and consequently prevents vulnerability to common Trojan techniques. The methodology identifies type punning as a key weakness of commonly encountered embedded languages such as C, in particular the extreme difficulty of determining if an array access is in bounds, or if dynamic memory has been properly allocated and released. A method of eliminating dependence on type-unsafe libraries is presented, in conjunction with code that has optionally been proved correct according to user-defined criteria. An appropriately defined subset of OCaml is chosen with support for the Coq theorem prover in mind, and then evaluated with a custom backend that supports behavioural Verilog, as well as a fixed execution unit and associated control store. Results are presented for this alternative platform for reliable embedded systems development that may be used in future industrial flows. To provide assurance of correct operation, the proven software needs to be executed in an environment where errors are checked and corrected in conjunction with appropriate exception processing in the event of an uncorrectable error. Therefore, the present author’s previously published error detection scheme based on dual-rail logic and self-checking checkers is further developed and compared with traditional N-modular redundancy.



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