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In Software Abstractions Daniel Jackson introduces a new approach to software design that draws on traditional formal methods but exploits automated tools to find flaws as early as possible. This approach--which Jackson calls "lightweight formal methods" or "agile modeling"--takes from formal specification the idea of a precise and expressive notation based on a tiny core of simple and robust concepts but replaces conventional analysis based on theorem proving with a fully automated analysis that gives designers immediate feedback. Jackson has developed Alloy, a language that captures the essence of software abstractions simply and succinctly, using a minimal toolkit of mathematical notions. The designer can use automated analysis not only to correct errors but also to make models that are more precise and elegant. This approach, Jackson says, can rescue designers from "the tarpit of implementation technologies" and return them to thinking deeply about underlying concepts.Software Abstractions introduces the key elements of the approach: a logic, which provides the building blocks of the language; a language, which adds a small amount of syntax to the logic for structuring descriptions; and an analysis, a form of constraint solving that offers both simulation (generating sample states and executions) and checking (finding counterexamples to claimed properties). The book uses Alloy as a vehicle because of its simplicity and tool support, but the book's lessons are mostly language-independent, and could also be applied in the context of other modeling languages.
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Daniel Jackson is Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and leads the Software Design Group at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT.Review:
"Abstraction is the essence of simple and effective software design, and logic is the essential tool for exploring and validating abstractions. These basic insights, which have been laboriously rediscovered by many practicing programmers, are now accessible to students and professionals at all levels of experience. Daniel Jackson supports his clear and elegant text with a powerful logical analysis tool that brings his witty examples to life."--Tony Hoare, Senior Researcher, Microsoft
"The examples and exercises, if given time, thought, and effort, can make better designers of all of us, as Alloy is a powerful force-multiplier in the war on bugs.... Jackson's Software Abstractions has my highest recommendation. It is being put to immediate use in my group's venue of software-based safety-critical systems." George Hacken Computing Reviews
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