Synopsis: This course is a bridge between the past and the
future. We will learn to appreciate abstractions already provided
by operating systems, which will help you become not only proficient
users of modern systems (from a programming perspective), but also
effective designers of your own abstractions. As multiprocessor systems
become more prevalent and more important, the principles of synchronization
and parallelization will become essential knowledge for building systems
that can effectively harness the ongoing developments in computing
Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms
or by appointment.
Course web page: http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~weinman/courses/CSC213/2008F/
"Operating Systems" should really be called "Software Systems."
This course will help you understand the abstraction from a hardware-based
machine to the software-based world of the programmer. Computational
complexity is one (very important) aspect of analysis, but another
critical aspect is "the system." Learning about what is abstracted
can help you debug your program's performance on a system.
Programs large and small will use an OS. Many growing application
areas (e.g., e-commerce, social networking, information management/retrieval)
and a diverse array of fields (such as biology, climatology, physics,
and ecology) incorporating more computation will require large systems
that effectively employ multiple CPUs, disks, network interfaces,
etc. Expanding the computational frontier will require fluency in
the areas of synchronization, parallelization, and distributed algorithms.
Perhaps it is you who will soon help craft a new language that makes
writing parallel programs to exploit multiple CPUs as easy as it is
to write a file to magnetic disk today (as opposed to the punch cards,
assembly code, and device driver bit-twiddling of yore.)
Our major objectives for this course include:
* Why take it?
If you have any interest in advanced computer science study, high-performance
computing, or adding a twist of computation to just about any other
science, this course will be highly relevant and rewarding for you!
This course fulfills the CS major's systems requirement.
* What do I need to know?
This course assumes you have taken CSC 201. That means you should
be reasonably adept at
- Learning to identify, understand, and practice the principles
of abstraction behind OS design that are supplied to the programmer
- Understanding modern OS design principles that enable you to build
effective large-scale, networked, or multi-threaded applications
- Fluency in the elements synchronization and concurrency along with
design principles for parallel processing
If you've taken any of these courses you will be equipped to thrive
in this course. If you're a little rusty on the C, you should review
your earlier class material, Nutt's background material on the student
website (http://www.aw.com/nutt), or Walker's An Introduction
to C Through Annotated Examples (http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~walker/c),
and keep a C reference handy. (After all, even writers who are perfectly
fluent speakers of English keep a dictionary or style manual close
by when practicing their craft!)
- the practice of programming (problem analysis, program design, debugging,
- programming in the C language
Our main textbook is:
Gary Nutt. Operating Systems, Third Edition. Addison-Wesley, 2000.
You may also wish to acquire a good C language reference and keep
it handy. One trusty example is:
Samuel P. Harbison and Guy L. Steel. C: A Reference Manual, Fifth
Edition. Prentice Hall, 2002. ISBN: 0-13-08952-X
Occasionally our discussions will be supplemented by other texts or
research papers. I will provide these and note them in the detailed
Short version: You are expected to attend and actively participate
in class. I am expected to make class worth attending.
Longer version: To make class time most valuable for you,
I do not plan to lecture on material that is covered in the textbook.
Therefore, you should come to class prepared to clarify, discuss,
and practice the ideas in the text by reading any assigned material
before class. To facilitate this, you will be contributing your own
questions on the readings for discussion throughout the term. In this
way, every class can be tailored to the areas you are most curious
or confused about.
Before each class, you should check the class schedule for updates
and do any reading that has been assigned. Reading the assignment
entails the following.
- You should skim through the reading once to get an overview
of the material to be covered. The first reading can (and should be)
very quick. (Expected time: 10 to 15 minutes.)
- Next, read the material closely. Not everything will
make sense at this point, but hopefully many things will. (Expected
time: 30 to 45 minutes.)
- Final Notes
- After carefully reading the material, try making
a few notes to yourself about what you think are the most important
concepts being covered, as well as any questions you have.
(Expected time: 5 to 10 minutes.)
Our class meets early, and I know that sometimes "things happen."
Therefore, you will be granted one absence from
class (not labs) with no penalty for participation. While I do not
take attendance, I will tend notice your presence or absence as a
trend, and this can make a large contribution to the participation
portion of your grade. If you wish me to acknowledge your absence
as excused, you must either:
It is very important for you to attend labs because you will work
in teams. Don't let your partner (or yourself) down!
If you do miss a class, you must first talk to a classmate about any
material that you may have missed. After that, you may follow up with
me about any further questions or concerns.
- Notify me at least 7 days in advance to make arrangements for your
- Provide me with documentation of your absence's circumstances post
hoc from Health Services or Student Affairs.
Schedule of Topics
The following is an approximate schedule of topics to be discussed
during the course. See the web page schedule for details.
|Networks and sockets
|Processes and threads
|Protection and securiy
|Current OS topics
Assignments and Activities
Under a normal 16 credit load, I expect that you will spend at
least 40 hours per week on your studies (class time, homework, and
studying). Thus, you should plan to spend 10 hours/week on work for
this course. With class and lab time clocking in at 3[1/3]
hours, you'll have 6[2/3] hours/week left for the following:
- Discussion Questions
- Throughout the term, you will be expected
to submit an average of one discussion question per class meeting
that pertains to that day's reading. See the course web page for guidelines
on question content and submission.
- Brief Exercises
- Questions that engage you in design justification
and/or a deeper understanding of abstractions will be assigned regularly
at the end of class and posted on the web page. (No more than one
question per class-thus, 1-3 per week). These are due by the beginning
of the following class (not the end, not even ten minutes in). If
you have a clear understanding of the core issues, your answers should
not be longer than one page (they will frequently be shorter, depending
on your handwriting or word processor formatting), and they should
not take you very long (perhaps 30 minutes) if you have a solid understanding
of the issues. It is also my intent that these questions will be similar
in nature to many that will be on the exams.
Discussion of the class material with your classmates is of course
encouraged. However, collaboration is not permitted on the exercises;
engaging with the material yourself to discover what the relevant
issues are will greatly increase your learning. The idea is for you
to frequently practice analyzing system considerations and get feedback
in a low-stakes framework.
Grading of the exercises will be on a simple ternary scale:
|for an adequate, sufficient response
|for a particularly clear or insightful response
|for an unclear or insufficient response
I expect most work will receive checks. Of course, no credit will
be given if no response is submitted. No late submissions will be
- Significant Bits
- From time to time (typically on Mondays), one
member of the class will present a five minute overview/preview/insight/review
of a recent development in the broad area of "systems." The
idea is to establish a practice of following technological developments
in the popular and technical press as well as research publication
venues. In doing this, you will inform your classmates, at a high
level, about something that relates to the course material in principle
and goal, rather than necessarily a particular topic. Your presentation
should include what the development is, why it is
important, a bit about how it is/was done, and perhaps something
on who did it. You will asked to do just one during the semester,
so find something interesting and share it with us! See the course
web page for the schedule, details, evaluation rubric, and suggestions
for finding topics.
- Laboratory Work
- We will practice using programmer-level OS elements
via the UNIX system call interface and C standard library in our weekly
lab sessions. Since lab time is limited, it is very important for
you to come prepared by reading the assignment and any other
related material beforehand. You will start your work in our
weekly sessions but complete it outside of lab. Assignments may be
broken into parts with multiple due dates to help you structure your
time. You will typically complete these labs in pairs or groups, oftentimes
assigned by me on a rotating basis, and only one lab will be submitted
for the group. Everyone whose name appears on a submitted lab report
has the responsibility to ensure everyone fully understands the submission.
Lab reports will typically be due the following Friday and/or Monday
after the Tuesday meeting. See the course webpage and the particular
lab for submission guidelines and formats.
You are not limited to collaborating only with the members of your
group. Discussion of concepts and approaches with other classmates
is encouraged. Debugging C programs and concurrent algorithms can
be difficult and is often helped by explaining your code to someone
else (which will also frequently help you to explain the bug to yourself).
All such contributions by others (not in your gruop) should be properly
attributed in your report. Furthermore, all the work you submit (code,
experimental data, write-ups, etc.) must be that of the group. Code
provided by the instructor or the text should be attributed, but no
other code or written work (from any source) may be shared with others
or copied for your own use.
- As opportunities for you to demonstrate your design prowess
and grasp of OS abstraction principles, there will be two hour exams
as well as a cumulative final exam.
Do not make airline reservations that will conflict with your final
You are highly encouraged to use the PioneerWeb Discussion Board for
questions related to the course or laboratory exercises. If a post
is related to an assignment, it must adhere to the standards of collaboration
for that particular assignment. If you are debugging, one good rule
of thumb is to not post code; however, it is possible that error messages
may be enlightening to others. (I often find that when I am explaining
some error by writing up a post or email, I typically find its source.)
|Hour Exam 1
|Friday, October 3
|Hour Exam 2
|Friday, November 14
|Tuesday, December 16 (2 PM)
My goal is for everyone taking this course to be able to demonstrate
familiarity and fluency with the course concepts. I would be very
happy if you all met the goals above and received "A"s. The
following weighting will provide a basis for evalution,
with the caveat that you must pass the final exam to pass the course.
|Discussion & Participation
You, as students, are members of the academic community. Both the
College and I expect the highest standards of academic honesty. (See
the Grinnell College Student Handbook, e.g.,
Among other things, this means clearly distinguishing between work
that is your own, and work that should be attributed to others. It
is expected that the collaboration policies given in this syllabus
and on particular assignments will be followed. Furthermore, any program
results or output must be faithfully recorded, not forged. (A thoughtful
explanation of unexpected behavior can often be a worthwhile submission
and is much better than the alternative.)
As an instructor, I will meet my obligation to bring any work suspected
to be in violation of the College's Academic Honesty Policy to the
attention of the Committee on Academic Standing, after which there
is no recourse with me.
Assignments are due at the beginning of class (or lab) on the
specified date. Exercises and laboratory reports due on days for which
you have a prior excused absence must still be submitted by the deadline
(via email or classmate proxy).
For the laboratory reports, a late penalty of 33.33% will
be deducted at each subsequent class or lab meeting. Thus, you have
at most two additional meetings to submit your work.
Because the brief exercises are intended to be relatively
frequent, low-stakes assignments, no late submissions will be accepted.
Exception: Deadlines for programming-based assignments will
automatically be extended by at least one class period if MathLAN
is down for an unscheduled period of 3 or more hours during the week
preceding the assignment due date.
Please come by during my office hours to discuss the course content,
get any extra assistance, or just talk about how the course is going.
Note that if multiple students have similar questions or issues, we
may work together as a group. If you cannot attend a scheduled office
hour, you may also email me to schedule an appointment; please include
3-4 possible meeting times so that I can pick one that works for me.
I enjoy getting to know my students, but I prefer to reserve office
hours for academic matters. If you would like to have a more informal
conversation, I would be delighted to accept an invitation to lunch
Email is also a reliable way to contact
me, but please allow 24 hours for a response? (except on weekends,
when I do not regularly read email). You may also call me in my office
(x9812) for more urgent matters (e.g., you will be missing a lab due
If you have any disability that requires accommodations, please meet
with me right away so that we can work together to find accommodations
that meet your learning needs. You will also need to provide documentation
of your disability to the Dean for Student Academic Support and Advising,
Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702).
With thanks to Janet Davis for the "Reading Suggestions"
and other key policies.
File translated from
On 26 Aug 2008, 13:18.