Feeds

Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS

Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?

New hybrid storage solutions

Microsoft is developing a new approach to splatting bugs in software before they take down production systems.

It involves wiring up programmers to sensors that record brain activity, track eye movement, and test how sweaty the engineers are.

If the developer is stressed – bingo, they're probably reading some rather hairy code. And, while writing software, similar signals could indicate the devs are themselves introducing bugs and security flaws while under pressure.

This new technique was outlined in an academic paper from Microsoft Research and University of Zurich researchers: Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development [PDF].

By wiring up 15 developers with an "eye-tracker, an electrodermal activity sensor, and an electroencephalography sensor" the researchers were able to successfully predict how difficult a programmer found a particular program's code to read.

Each developer was proficient in C# and had at least two years of software development experience, Redmond said. The experiment took 1.5 hours and each Microsoftie was "remunerated with a single license for their choice of Microsoft consumer software".

MicrosoftDeveloperTesting

Fancy yourself as a proficient code blagger? Not in Microsoft's future

During the experiment, Microsoft showed each developer two C# programs and asked them questions to test their comprehension of the code. They cleaned up the data taken from the body sensors attached to the developers and fed it into a machine learning classification toolkit – a Naive Bayes classifier – to help find links between the data and the task difficulty.

"Using all of the task data, a classifier trained on the three sensors achieves 64.99 percent precision and 64.58 percent recall when predicting our norminalized task difficulty measure for new participants," the researchers wrote in the study, publicized today.

"The performance increases to 84.38 percent precision and 69.79 percent recall when predicting new tasks, likely because the classifier has had a chance to see the participant in action on other tasks. For predicting participant-task pairs, the precision and recall both settle at 67.71 percent."

Microsoft is hopeful that approaches like this could help it better spot when software developers are tussling with a problem, and in doing so help organizations provide better training and project management to their various developers.

"Now that we have shown that these classifiers can be built, researchers can leverage them to develop novel programming support tools, allowing them to potentially intervene in time to stop bugs from entering the code," they write.

As for the future, one researcher said in a Microsoft blog post there is one thing "I’ve thought about [that] can help absent-minded developers, such as those who just came back from lunch and aren’t paying much attention to their code. If we reduce the contrast on the display and make the fonts harder to read, the developer will be forced to apply more brainpower to read and understand the code and will be less likely to slip up as a result."

The Register dutifully simulated this experience by having a few pints at lunchtime, but upon coming back and finding the contrast on our screen poor and the fonts blurry we confess that our writing did not improve. Hic. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
Keep that consumer browser tat away from our software says Oracle
Big Red decides it will only support Firefox's Extended Support Releases
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.