Date of Thesis


Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science


Computer Science

First Advisor

Lea Wittie


This project addresses the unreliability of operating system code, in particular in device drivers. Device driver software is the interface between the operating system and the device's hardware. Device drivers are written in low level code, making them difficult to understand. Almost all device drivers are written in the programming language C which allows for direct manipulation of memory. Due to the complexity of manual movement of data, most mistakes in operating systems occur in device driver code. The programming language Clay can be used to check device driver code at compile-time. Clay does most of its error checking statically to minimize the overhead of run-time checks in order to stay competitive with C's performance time. The Clay compiler can detect a lot more types of errors than the C compiler like buffer overflows, kernel stack overflows, NULL pointer uses, freed memory uses, and aliasing errors. Clay code that successfully compiles is guaranteed to run without failing on errors that Clay can detect. Even though C is unsafe, currently most device drivers are written in it. Not only are device drivers the part of the operating system most likely to fail, they also are the largest part of the operating system. As rewriting every existing device driver in Clay by hand would be impractical, this thesis is part of a project to automate translation of existing drivers from C to Clay. Although C and Clay both allow low level manipulation of data and fill the same niche for developing low level code, they have different syntax, type systems, and paradigms. This paper explores how C can be translated into Clay. It identifies what part of C device drivers cannot be translated into Clay and what information drivers in Clay will require that C cannot provide. It also explains how these translations will occur by explaining how each C structure is represented in the compiler and how these structures are changed to represent a Clay structure.