Home > Uncategorized > Automatic Model Generation, part 3: Choice and IO

Automatic Model Generation, part 3: Choice and IO

This is the third part in a multi-part series describing a technique to generate formal CSP models of CHP programs by redefining the CHP monad and primitive actions to output the model of the program. In part 1 we saw the redefinition of the monad and the specification type; in part 2 we saw how to pretty-print the model, including the parallel composition alphabets. In this part, we look at choice and IO actions.

In part 1 of this guide, we saw how to define parallel composition. The specifications for each branch were generated, composed into a Par item, and added to the model. Choice is not so straightforward, because it can introduce branching execution paths. Consider this code:

alt [syncBarrier b >> return Nothing, syncBarrier c >> return (Just x)]
    >>= maybe p q

The choice doesn’t return a single value — it returns one of two, and which value is returned will affect the code coming afterwards. So we need a different approach from just putting a choice on the front of the sequential execution of the model. In fact, there is quite a simple solution just by using one of the laws of CHP from the tutorial:

alt [p, q] >>= k = alt [p >>= k, q >>= k]

This rule is usually useful because you can use it to remove the code duplication on the right by transforming to the form on the left. Here, we will use the rule in the opposite way, to move the binding of the multiple results back into the alt and attach it to each branch.


The alt :: [CHP a] -> CHP a function chooses between several alternatives. We define it by using the Alt specification item:

alt :: [CHP a] -> CHP a
alt [] = stopSpecT $ return Stop
alt ps = altSpecT ps

altSpecT :: Monad m => [CHPSpecT m a] -> CHPSpecT m a
altSpecT ms = CHPSpecT $
  \k -> do xfs <- mapM (flip runSpecT k) ms
           return (error "alt return", \s -> [Alt $ map (($ s) . snd) xfs])

The key aspect of this code is that due to the continuation-passing style of the replacement CHP monad, we have a continuation (“k” in the above code) that represents all actions that would be taken after the alt. We pass this as the continuation when we run each of our branches of the alt (the first line of the do block). The specification-modifying functions from each branch are applied to future specifications, then returned as a specification containing a single Alt item. This can be depicted as follows:

Note that the eventual return values of all of the branches are discarded. This is not as bad as first appears, because the result values are only used if this choice is in a parallel composition and its result is needed (which is surprisingly rare in CHP code) or if the choice is in a recursive process where the result is needed (this again is surprisingly rare, and will be dealt with in a future part of the guide).

IO Actions

The real CHP monad is really a monad transformer on top of the IO monad, and supports IO actions being lifted into the CHP monad. An IO action may perform all sorts of actions, but these fall outside the scope of our modelling. The more significant problem for the modelling is that the IO actions may return a meaningful value (i.e. one other than a unit return). These values can then be used in the CHP program, and in particular they may be used to branch execution. If we simply return an error value in these cases, the code will fail. We can do slightly better than that, to allow partial support for IO actions when modelling.

In the case of an IO computation, we have some code (the code following the IO computation) that takes a value (the return value of the IO computation) and produces an output based on the value (the model of the code following the IO computation). This is, in effect, a testing problem, and we can borrow techniques from software testing to solve it. Haskell has several clever testing libraries: QuickCheck is one of the most well-known, but an even cleverer library is Lazy SmallCheck. Lazy SmallCheck allows for an efficient search of the input space to a function by starting off with undefined values, and partially defining them as necessary. Not only can this be efficient, but a particularly nice aspect is that it allows us to know if the search was complete or not.

The Lazy SmallCheck library doesn’t actually expose enough of its implementation as it currently stands, so I took it and modified it until I was able to produce a fuzz function:

fuzz :: (Serial a) => (a -> StateT s IO b) -> StateT s IO ([b], Bool)

This function takes an IO computation that sits inside a state monad transformer (I needed this, and it was much easier to embed this in the fuzz function than to do it any other way). The input space for this function is searched (with the stateful side-effects of any successful returns being kept) and a list of return values (the models) is produced. The boolean parameter indicates whether the search was complete: that is, whether it examined all possible values in the search space (either by exhaustion of all fully-defined values, or because it explored a complete set of partially defined values).

We can use the fuzz function on the continuation passed to the IO computation in order to explore the continuation’s possible models with different input values to the continuation. This will give us a collection of models, each of which represents a possible behaviour of the program from this point, based on an event (the IO action) that we must treat as unpredictable and out of our control. In CSP we can join these models together as an external choice between processes that are prefixed with non-synchronising events: that is, events that are not featured anywhere else in the model. The external choice between such events indicates that the process’s behaviour will depend on which event is offered by its environment, and that we must assume that any event might be offered (i.e. any input value might be returned). This code achieves that:

liftIO_CHP :: Serial a => IO a -> CHP a
liftIO_CHP _ = CHPSpecT $ \k ->
    do (vals, complete) <- fuzz k
       unless complete $
         liftIO $ putStrLn "Incomplete fuzzing of IO computation"
       nonces <- replicateM (length vals) newEvent
       let firstLabel = "IO_" ++ show (head nonces)
       zipWithM_ labelEvent nonces (map (firstLabel++) suffixes)
       modify $ \st -> st { chpIOEvents = Set.union
                              (Set.fromList nonces) (chpIOEvents st) }
       return (error "liftIO return",
         \s -> [Alt $ zipWith (\n f -> Sync (Left n) : snd f s) nonces vals])
    suffixes = map (:[]) ['A'..'Z'] ++ map show [(0::Integer)..]

As ever, this technique is limited: the search may be incomplete, in which case the model may be incomplete. We print a message in these cases to warn the user of the problem. The search will only be incomplete if the return value has a large flat domain (e.g. integers) and/or the subsequent computation makes full use of the domain. If the return value is ignored or if it is not used to make decisions about the control path, the search will be complete (because the value will never be defined). So if, for example, a String is returned and then passed to a different IO action to write to a file, this will not cause a problem in the modelling because the behaviour in terms of CSP processes is invariant to the return value. The only time this search above comes into play is when the return value is used to affect the execution path, for example if the process acts differently when the String is empty. (This is reminiscent of the different between monads and applicative functors: if CHP was only an applicative functor, IO actions could be completely ignored.)


For an example, I will use a simple simulation example with a tick-tock barrier to divide time into time-steps. The simulation has six site processes wired up in a ring, with each site connected to its neighbours via a pair of barriers, representing incoming and outgoing movements. A site may be full or empty. If it is full (i.e. contains an agent), it makes a random choice as to which direction to send the agent in a time-step (and then ends the time-step). If it is empty, it offers to receive a new agent from either side, or to end the time-step. Here’s the diagram (the star indicates a full site) and the code:

site :: EnrolledBarrier -> (EnrolledBarrier, EnrolledBarrier)
     -> (EnrolledBarrier, EnrolledBarrier) -> Bool -> CHP ()
site = process "site" $ \bar (inL, outL) (inR, outR) occupied ->
  (if occupied
     then do shouldMove <- liftIO_CHP' "shouldMove" $ getStdRandom random
             if shouldMove
               then do moveLeft <- liftIO_CHP' "moveLeft" $ getStdRandom random
                       if moveLeft
                         then syncBarrier outL
                         else syncBarrier outR
                       syncBarrier bar
                       return False
               else syncBarrier bar >> return True
    else alt [syncBarrier inL >> syncBarrier bar >> return True
             ,syncBarrier inR >> syncBarrier bar >> return True
             ,syncBarrier bar >> return False
  ) >>= site bar (inL, outL) (inR, outR)

main :: IO ()
main = specify True (runSiteRing [True, False, False, True, False, False])
          >>= putStrLn

I’ve omitted a couple of uninteresting wiring functions. You can see that I’m using a version of liftIO_CHP that allows me to supply a label, which helps in reading the model. The program uses choice, and lifted IO actions to get random boolean values. It also has a potential deadlock, which we will find using the FDR model-checker.

One problem with this whole technique at the moment is that each site generates a separate model, even though they are all similar enough to be expressed in one model. So here are the processes that make up the behaviour of the first site — there are similar pairs for the other five sites:

  (((IO_shouldMove7A -> tock -> site_2)
     ((IO_moveLeft5A -> right_0 -> tock -> site_3)
      (IO_moveLeft5B -> left_5 -> tock -> site_3)))))
  (((right_5 -> tock -> site_2)
    (left_0 -> tock -> site_2)
    (tock -> site_3)))

The site_2 process is the full process. It makes a choice between two events: IO_shouldMove7A and IO_shouldMove7B. These are the two possible outcomes of asking for a random boolean. In one case, it synchronises on the tock event and recurses — this must be the won’t-move case. In the other, it chooses between two other events: IO_moveLeft5A and IO_moveLeft5B. These are the decisions as to whether to go right or left: it next either synchronises on its right event or its left event, and then becomes site_3. The site_3 process is the empty process. It will agree to synchronise with its neighbours, end the timestep and become the full process — or to just end the timestep and remain the empty process.

There are six such pairs of processes in the model, one for each site in our model. The only difference between them is the names of the dummy IO events, and the numbers of the right and left events. They are all wired up in the main process:

    [|{| left_0 , left_5 , right_0 , right_5 , tock |}|]
      [|{| left_4 , right_4 , tock |}|]
        [|{| left_3 , right_3 , tock |}|]
          [|{| left_2 , right_2 , tock |}|]
          (((site_10) [|{| left_1 , right_1 , tock |}|] (site_12)))))))))))

We can add a single line at the end of the model: assert main_1 :[ deadlock free] and feed it to FDR, asking it to produce a trace if it finds a counter-example. FDR does find a counter-example for our assertion: a trace that ends in deadlock. Here it is:


We can take this trace (a chronological list of events that occur) and relate it to the model. Here’s the short form: the agent in the first site moves right, while the agent in the fourth site stays put, and the time-step ends. Then the agent that is now in the second site moves right, and the agent in the fourth site decides to move left. At this point, one agent is in the third site (which is waiting to end the time-step) and the other is in the fourth site trying to move into the third site. Deadlock!

There are several ways to solve this problem, but I’m not really interested in them — the point here was to show that we took a simple example, we generated our model and fed it straight to the proof-checker which gave us a trace that produces deadlock. Reading the CSP and relating the trace to the model is straightforward, but can be long-winded. What might be nice in future is to have an option to somehow encode the source location in the event name, to then easily point back to the source and say “this bit of the source happened, then that bit happened, then deadlock”. In the next part of the guide I’ll show how we can deal with tracking communications when building the model.

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