CSE 60641 - Operating Systems - Fall 2010

9:30-10:45 Tue-Thu in Fitzpatrick 356

Prof. Douglas Thain
Email: dthain at cse dot nd dot edu
Office: 382 Fitzpatrick
Office Hours: TBA

Course Web Page:: http://www.cse.nd.edu/~dthain/courses/cse60641/fall2010


This is a graduate course in the theory and practice of operating system design and implementation. We will examine and discuss a wide variety of technical concepts found in operating systems both current and historical. Topics will include storage and file systems, concurrency, memory management, virtualization, and distributed operating systems. Within each topic, we will study foundational work, established advanced topics, and recent research.

The medium of the course will be the short academic paper. The short paper is the primary method of communicating new results in science and engineering, so students will gain experience in carefully absorbing this sometimes difficult literary form. The course readings will be taken from a selection of both "classic" and recent technical papers. Students will be expected to engage in discussion of assigned readings in every class period.

In parallel with the readings, students will undertake a course project. Projects will be designed by the students with the advice of the instructor. Each project must be highly literate undertaking. A significant amount of time will be spent on developing and revising the ideas to be explored. The final paper will be a highly polished result within "striking distance" of submission to an academic conference. To encourage a process of continuous refinement, the course will include a series of milestones: an annotated bibliography, a project proposal, an office conference, a progress report, a draft paper, peer reviews, a final talk, and a final paper.


Course Outcomes

Students successfully completing this course will be able to:
  • Describe and evaluate advanced concepts in operating system design and implementation.
    Presented in course readings, evaluated in midterm and final.
  • Compare and contrast competing architectures and implementations of operating system components.
    Presented in class discussions, evaluated in midterm and final.
  • Describe important historical developments in operating systems in terms of architectural philosophies, influential personalities, and well-known systems.
    Presented in readings and discussions, evaluated in midterm, final, annotated bibliography, draft paper, and final paper.
  • Design and perform perform a small piece of operating systems research with some guidance.
    Presented, practiced, and evaluated in each of the project milestones.
  • Effectively communicate research results orally and in writing.
    Presented in readings and class discussions, practiced and evaluated in progress report, final talk, draft paper, and final paper.
  • Readings

    The primary material for this course will be a selection of research papers. Some will be "classic" papers that are widely known in the research community, and others will be more recent results in the literature. Each class period will involve lecture and discussion on the papers assigned for that day. Every student must be prepared to discuss the papers assigned each class period.

    Although most papers are short -- usually 8-12 pages -- many are quite dense and will require several readings to absorb completely. To get the most of each paper, students will form small reading groups and meet outside of class to discuss the papers. Sign-ups will be provided in class in order to facilitate this.

    Here is a good way to work on the papers:

    1. Alone, skim the paper quickly to pick up the general ideas.
    2. Alone, read the paper again carefully, taking detailed notes on the main ideas and difficult sections.
    3. In group, review the main ideas and help each other to understand difficult sections.
    4. Alone, skim the paper again to see what you missed the first time.
    Be prepared to answer the following questions about each paper:
    1. What is problem that the paper is addressing?
    2. What is the primary technique used to attack the problem?
    3. What are the major components of the system described and how do they interact?
    4. If the paper is experimental, then what precisely does each of the experiments demonstrate?
    5. How exactly to the experiments, proofs, or examples presented serve to support the primary argument of the paper?
    6. What lessons can you apply to your own paper writing?

    Course Project

    Each student will undertake a semester project resulting in a paper of form and style similar to those discussed in class. The instructor will suggest several project ideas early in the semester. Students may propose their own project ideas, but should consult with the instructor very early in the semester to ensure that the project has appropriate size and scope. Projects may be done singly or in pairs.

    The course project must be highly literate. A significant amount of time will be spent on developing and revising the ideas to be explored. The final paper will be a highly polished result within "striking distance" of submission to a conference. To encourage a process of continuous refinement, the course will include a series of milestones: a project proposal, a progress report, a draft paper, peer reviews, a final talk, and the final paper. Details of each milestone will be forthcoming. The class will conclude with a workshop in which each student presents their results.

    Caution: The most important results of the project will be the ideas and results presented in the final paper. Students will not receive credit simply for creating a software or hardware artifact, no matter how sophisticated. Any artifacts created must serve to flesh out the ideas in the final paper. The project milestones will help to maintain focus on the writing process.


    Several facilities are available for carrying out your project.


    Projects may be done singly or in pairs. Pairs will be expected to accomplish more than singletons. Both members of a pair will receive the same grade on work done jointly. Both members of a pair are expected to contribute to the project. If any serious difficulty should arise between you and your project partner, consult the instructor sooner rather than later.

    All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date due. Late assignments will receive no credit. This includes assignments submitted after class has begun. Exceptions will be made only for grave emergencies.

    For each assignment, a numeric grade will be assigned. Throughout the semester, students will be advised of their numeric grades and the class average. At the end of the semester, number grades will be converted to letter grades.

    The relative weight of each assignment is as follows:

    Warm-Up Assignment 5
    Annotated Bibliography 5
    Project Proposal 5
    Progress Report 5
    Draft Paper 10
    Final Talk 5
    Final Paper 15
    Exam I 15
    Exam II 15
    Exam III 20

    Collaboration and Attribution

    As a Notre Dame student, you are bound by the Academic Code of Honor. (http://honorcode.nd.edu) Be sure to read and understand it.

    As a scholar-in-training, you will be adding your own ideas and discoveries to a body of work with many previous contributors. Collaborating with others and building upon their ideas is normal and encouraged, but you you have a professional responsibility to clearly indicate what is your work, and what has been done by others. Anything that you submit -- paper, email, computer code, slides -- with your name attached is assumed to be entirely your creation. If any part of your submission contains someone else's words, ideas, or work, it should be clearly indicated by a proper citation or acknowledgement.

    Submitting someone else's words, ideas, or work as if they were your own is a serious violation of professional ethics and will result in severe consequences up to and including failure of the course and dismisal from the University.

    Collaboration rules specific to this class:

    To understand the class readings, you may consult with anyone at all. You are strongly encouraged to form a reading group of 3-4 people, and meet to discuss the papers at least once a week.

    To undertake the course project, you may work singly or in pairs. To refine your project ideas, you may consult with anyone at all. You may employ software written by others and hardware provided by others, provided that you obtain the necessary permissions and give credit within your work. However, all software development, experimental work, and paper writing must be done solely by you and your partner.

    Exams are closed book and to be taken alone.