Across the globe, tech­nology and inno­va­tion are becoming increas­ingly more reliant on mobility and acces­si­bility. For soft­ware devel­opers working on highly com­plex projects, that means being able to save their work quickly and instantly re-​​launch at the same point from another com­puter — a sig­nif­i­cant step devel­oped by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity pro­fessor Gene Coop­erman and a team of stu­dents in the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence.

The inno­va­tion grew out of work being done in Cooperman’s High-​​Performance Com­puting Lab­o­ra­tory to build and improve free, open-​​source software.

The soft­ware incor­po­rates “check­pointing,” the method of saving work progress at reg­ular inter­vals. Cooperman’s software—called “Dis­trib­uted multi-​​threaded check­pointing,” or DMTCP—allows devel­opers working in the Linux oper­ating system to save their work to a USB drive. Later, they can pop the drive back into another com­puter and con­tinue the work within seconds.

Coop­erman sees par­al­lels in this soft­ware to the issues everyday Internet users face when they need to close numerous Web browser tabs they are viewing, but don’t want to waste time and break their con­cen­tra­tion later by searching for them all over again.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take (the web browser) Firefox, save your tabs, put it all on a USB key, carry it all to another com­puter, bring Firefox all up again and see all same tabs? That’s roughly the same ben­efit a soft­ware devel­oper” will get from DMTCP, he said.

Coop­erman acknowl­edged that soft­ware devel­opers already are able to save their work over the Internet, while “vir­tual machines” can save devel­opers’ com­plex work at any par­tic­ular moment. But his team’s soft­ware takes check­pointing to the next level by saving only the pro­grams nec­es­sary to the project at hand—rather than the entire oper­ating system—thereby taking only one second to save and later reopen, com­pared to the couple of min­utes a vir­tual machine may take.

People don’t want to wait,” he explained. “They just want to do it immediately.”

Coop­erman said this soft­ware also high­lights the aggres­sive push in the tech­nology industry to make soft­ware readily avail­able to users on almost every medium, no matter where they are located. He pointed to the bur­geoning e-​​commerce market, including Google’s recent announce­ment about launching an e-​​bookstore to com­pete with other dig­ital plat­forms and devices, as an example of this trend.

His team included third-​​year stu­dent Greg Kerr, junior Tyler Den­niston, and PhD stu­dents Ana-​​Maria Visan, Xin Dong and Kapil Arya. PhD stu­dents from MIT and uni­ver­si­ties in Russia and Aus­tralia also con­tributed to the project.

View selected pub­li­ca­tions of Gene Coop­erman in IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.