Course Overview


Welcome to your first course in operating systems! This course will introduce you to an exciting range of materials from the broad field of operating systems, including basic operating system structure, process and thread synchronization and concurrency, file systems and storage servers, memory management techniques, process scheduling and resource management, system security, and a few other topics of interest.

This course assumes familiarity with basic computer organization (e.g., processors, memory, and I/O devices as covered in cs354) and data structures (e.g., stacks and hash tables). You will need to be able to program in C (not C++, and definitely not Java) to perform the assignments in the course. If you don't have much experience in this language, don't worry (too much), we will spend some time covering background, but of course, learning on your own is important and valuable (in this class and in real life). For those of you who are new to C (e.g., you just know Java), realize this is an opportunity to broaden your skill set! (so congratulations are in order).


For learning about operating systems, We recommend coming to class and following the class notes. A good way to do this: get introduced to the material in class, and then go read about it on your own. This way you can make sure you are understanding what is going on as we plow through the material.

For an OS text book, there is none that we require. Instead we provide a set of written notes for your pleasure. Yes, I wrote them, and yes, they pretty much cover what we talk about in class. One day they might make a textbook, but for now they are just notes.

For help with projects, you should buy these two books. They are awesome and useful. The first is about C programming, written by the people who invented it. This is the only required book for the course.

The second is about programming in the Unix environment, and is the absolute bible. It is particularly important if you'd like to become a Unix expert. But, you could (probably) squeeze by without it.

Also useful: Expert C Programming by Peter Van der Linden. I really like this book a lot (though it is a bit dated).

You might also read this short, free, and incomplete introduction to the C programming environment, available for your viewing convenience here.

Other textbooks worth taking a look at: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) . Also: (1) (2) . Read these too if you'd like to learn more about operating systems. The more you read (and understand), the better off you will be (this is true in life too).

Mailing Lists

Important announcements will be sent to the class mailing list ( as well as posted to the web page, so please read your mail frequently (particularly around project time)! You are responsible for the material sent to that list. Note that the class list is automatically generated based on who is enrolled in the class.


There will be a few homeworks handed out during the semester. All of these will strictly be optional - you don't have to turn them in. However, as exams will certainly contain some material that is quite similar to the homeworks, it is probably in your best interest to do some of these homeworks to see if you are really understanding what is going on in the class.


As part of the course, you will complete a number of programming assignments. Project are worth 50% of your grade. You should perform these projects on PCs running the Linux operating system (new Unix users to CSL Unix facilities should attend an orientation; minimally, read the CS 1000 overview online).

The projects are a fundamental part of this course. Most projects require a significant amount of time; do not procrastinate! It is likely they will take longer than you expect. Do not wait until the day before the assignment is due to start. These assignments should be started pretty much when they are handed out. All information necessary to complete the assignments will be available from the class web page.

As stated above, all of the assignments will be in C and not Java. We assume that you have enough programming background that learning the basics of a new language (if it is indeed new to you) will not be difficult. C is actually quite similar to Java, as those who invented Java were C experts.

For the projects, you will be graded on how well your implementation works. We will test your program on a suite of input sets. Your grade will be based on how many of the tests your application passes; we will only briefly examine your code to ensure that you followed the specifications of the assignment.

Also, don't cheat (duh).


There will be some exams to test your knowledge. Exams are worth 50% of your final grade. The exams will be closed book, and will cover material from class and the projects.

  • Midterm: Monday 03/08 @ 7:15pm-9:15pm in 1221 CS
  • Final: Tuesday 05/11 @ 12:25pm-2:25pm in Noland 168