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One of the core missions of Microsoft Research Connections is to support the creation of software tools that advance data-intensive science, especially those tools that are judged praiseworthy by their creators’ peers. With this in mind, we were pleased to present the first Microsoft Research Distinguished Artifact Award at ESEC/FSE 2011, the joint meeting of the European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering.
This new, competitive award honors the most outstanding software tool submitted to the ESEC/FSE series of conferences. As explained in the call for submissions, the Distinguished Artifact competition is intended to reward creation of artifacts and replication of experiments. An Artifact Evaluation Committee was established to review the submissions and to formally recognize those artifacts that pass muster and fast-track them for additional presentation. Artifacts deemed especially meritorious were singled out for special recognition in the proceedings and at the conference, and the creators of the best artifact received a prize of US$1,000, a handsome certificate, and a memento from the Pacific Northwest, the last a reminder of their friends at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington.
Professor Andreas Zeller (left) presents the award to Jérôme Vouillon (right) while Christian Bird (center) of Microsoft Research looks on.
So, are you wondering which artifact took home the big prize? Well, wonder no more: the winning artifact was Coinst, an application based on the paper “On Software Component Co-Installability,” by Jérôme Vouillon of CNRS and Roberto Di Cosmo of Université Paris Diderot and INRIA. Coinst resolves the common and frustrating problem of finding co-installation conflicts; what’s more, it does so in a scientifically strong manner (by using a theorem prover), and it runs very effectively. Coinst not only satisfies all the expectations established in the paper, but exceeds them in several ways: by working quickly, performing better than presented in the paper, finding real errors in installed systems, and rapidly identifying frustrating problems that the reviewers have encountered in their own computer usage.
Professor Andreas Zeller of the University of Saarland, the initiator of the award, spoke about its importance, noting that "Far too often, researchers publish their results, but keep their data and tools for themselves. In the long term, this hurts science, because one cannot reproduce results or build on the achievements of others. Vouillon and Di Cosmo make their tools widely available and usable, providing value not only for other researchers, but for everyone. This way, they act as role models for the research community. With this award, we are proud to recognize their extraordinary efforts."
The winners themselves had this to say: “Free software components are growing at an astonishing pace, and it is important to identify quality issues quickly. We show how to efficiently extract from huge collections of free software a compact representation that quickly identifies component incompatibilities that would go otherwise unnoticed for a long time. We are thrilled to provide a tool based on a sophisticated algorithm that has been machine checked and that paves the way for the large-scale analysis and visualization of software component collections."
Well done, Jérôme and Roberto.
—Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research Connections
Working as an intern at Microsoft has many benefits, but a vacation in Hawaii is not usually one of them. This year, summer interns had an opportunity to work on exciting new mobile technologies, while competing with their peers for an all-expenses paid trip to one of the Hawaiian islands. Microsoft Research Connections—in partnership with Microsoft Research’s Mobile Computing Research Center and Windows Phone—hosted a first-of-its-kind intern competition: Hawaii XAPFest. The competition was open to all U.S.-based Microsoft interns. The challenge: develop Windows Phone apps by using Project Hawaii services and that make use of new consumer features coming in the next version of Windows Phone, code-named “Mango.”
All participants were trained in the key Windows Phone development areas to provide them with necessary background to complete the challenge. The training included a series of lectures about relevant Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Silverlight, XNA, Project Hawaii services, and Windows Azure. Armed with this knowledge, each participating intern developed a Windows Phone app for submission to the evaluation committee comprised of researchers and developers from Microsoft Research and Windows Phone.
The final round of XAPfest judging took place on August 9, when finalists presented their projects to a panel of judges comprised of Microsoft executives. Each finalist was required to present their project to the judging panel and provide a live demonstration of their app. The judges selected the top four projects based on their creativity, presentation, use of Project Hawaii, and use of features in the next version of Windows Phone.
Top Award Winners
The grand-prize winner was Julia Schwartz, a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University and an intern with the Microsoft Research Human Computer Interface (HCI) group. Julia’s app, “Headshot,” uses facial detection and audio feedback to make it simpler to get the perfect self-portrait every time. Julia’s prize for this victory is a trip for two to Hawaii. Congratulations, Julia!
The top three runners up were:
All of the presentations we saw this year were very impressive, which made it tough to pick a final winner. The quality of work we saw from our participants demonstrates the innovation we continue to see with Windows Phone. I’m pleased to say I received overwhelmingly positive comments from contestants, who shared that they had a great time participating in this unique, exciting competition. Of course, the most excited of all is Julia, who started out working with Project Hawaii, and is now set to take off and see the “real” Hawaii!
—Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
Each year, Microsoft Research awards competitive grants to computer science academics through the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF). In the first grant round, conducted in 2010, Professor David Notkin and his colleagues at the University of Washington were the recipients of one of the 12 awards for their proposal, “Speculation and Continuous Validation for Software Development,” which resulted in the project, “Crystal: Precise and Unobtrusive Conflict Warnings.” I’m pleased to announce that the achievements of Notkin and his colleagues are being recognized this month with an ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award. The award will be presented at the European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (ESEC/FSE) in Szeged, Hungary (September 5–9, 2011). I’d like to share some of this exceptional research with you today.
(From left to right) Reid Holmes, David Notkin, Judith Bishop, Michael Ernst, Yuriy Brun
About the Crystal Project
Collaborative development of large software projects can be hampered when conflicts arise because developers have created inconsistent copies of a shared file, Notkin explains. The Crystal approach is designed to help developers identify and resolve inconsistencies early, before those conflicts become severe—and before relevant changes fade from the developers’ memories. The Crystal paper presents three outcomes of the project:
Notkin’s study spans nine open-source systems totaling 3.4 million lines of code. The conflict data is derived from 550,000 development versions of the system. The complete paper, which goes into great detail on all three points, plus other research that was conducted as part of the project, is available to read online.
The SEIF grants are just one way through which we continue to strengthen our support for outstanding university software engineering programs. These grants are intended to stimulate research in all aspects of software engineering, with an aim to cultivate interest in Microsoft Research tools and technologies. They also strengthen our ties to the university community.
In fact, one of the postgraduate students who worked on Notkin’s Crystal project, Kıvanç Muşlu, came to work for us as an intern. He was jointly mentored by Christian Bird and Tom Zimmermann of the Research in Software Engineering group (RiSE) and me. During his internship, Muşlu explored how Crystal’s principles could be expanded for use in a full industrial context. The testbed was the full Bing development history. The result of his work, a new tool called Beacon, will be deployed to Microsoft product groups in the near future. Like Crystal, Beacon can alert developers when code they are writing will conflict with changes to another branch of the code. By using Microsoft Lync, it can quickly put the developers of the two sections of code in touch so that they can resolve the conflict. The challenge was to make the system work in real time with the enormous number of files and developers involved in a system like Bing. We look forward to seeing more from Muşlu in the future.