A Personal Virtual Computer Recorder
Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Computer Science, Columbia University, April 2011
Continuing advances in hardware technology have enabled the proliferation of faster, cheaper, and more capable personal computers. Users of all backgrounds rely on their computers to handle ever-expanding information, communication, and computation needs. As users spend more time interacting with their computers, it is becoming increasingly important to archive and later search the knowledge, ideas and information that they have viewed through their computers. However, existing state-of-the-art web and desktop search tools fail to provide a suitable solution, as they focus on static, accessible documents in isolation. Thus, finding the information one has viewed among the ever-increasing and chaotic sea of data available from a computer remains a challenge.
This dissertation introduces DejaView, a personal virtual computer recorder that enhances personal computers with the ability to process display-centric content to help users with all the information they see through their computers. DejaView continuously records a user’s session to provide a complete WYSIWYS (What You Search Is What You’ve Seen) record of a desktop computing experience, enabling users to playback, browse, search, and revive records, making it easier to retrieve and interact with information they have seen before.
DejaView records visual output, checkpoints corresponding application and file system states, and captures onscreen text with contextual information to index the record. A user can then browse and search the record for any visual information that has been previously displayed on the desktop, and revive and interact with the desktop computing state corresponding to any point in the record. DejaView introduces new, transparent operating system, display and file system virtualization techniques and novel semantic display-centric information recording, and combines them to provide its functionality without any modifications to applications, window systems, or operating system kernels. Our results demonstrate that DejaView can provide continuous low-overhead recording without any user-noticeable performance degradation, and allows users to playback, browse, search, and time-travel back to records fast enough for interactive use.
This dissertation also demonstrates how DejaView’s execution virtualization and recording extend beyond the desktop recorder context. We introduce a coordinated, parallel checkpoint-restart mechanism for distributed applications that minimizes syn- chronization overhead and uniquely supports complete checkpoint and restart of net- work state in a transport protocol independent manner, for both reliable and unreli- able protocols. We introduce a scalable system that enables significant energy saving by migrating network state and applications off of idle hosts allowing the hosts to enter low-power suspend state, while preserving their network presence. Finally, we show how our techniques can be integrated into a commodity operating system, main- line Linux, thereby allowing the entire operating systems community to benefit from mature checkpoint-restart that is transparent, secure, reliable, efficient, and integral to the Linux kernel.laadanthesis