CS-736: Reading Questions

Welcome to graduate operating systems! This course will cover an exciting range of materials from the broad field of operating systems, including basic operating system structure, file systems and storage servers, memory management techniques, process scheduling and resource management, threads, distributed and peer-to-peer systems, security and a few other hot topics. We will examine influential historical systems and important current efforts, extracting lessons both on how to build systems as well as how to evaluate them.

The course will center around three basic entities: readings and a final project. For most every class, you will have to read one or more papers (as assigned), which we will then discuss in class. You will also have to think and write a little bit about each paper. During the first half of the semester, you will also have to perform a few mini-assignments, just to get warmed up for the project. Then, finally, you will work on your projects, which is the real key to the class: a mini-research project on the topic of your choice. Though we will provide some suggestions, you are encouraged to come up with a topic of your own (after all, that is what research is all about). More details will be available below in the weeks to come.


The expected background for this course is an undergraduate operating systems course, in which you learned the basics of an OS: virtualizing the CPU, virtualizing memory, file systems, and so forth. Probably you learned it out of some book like Silberschatz or Tanenbaum. Or, perhaps some notes like these we use here.

You should also have some hardware background, as in a basic understanding of how a machine works, what caches and TLBs are, and things like that. This knowledge is particularly useful because the OS sits at the lowest levels of the system, and thus we sometimes need to know things about the hardware.


The reading list is determined by the schedule on the main page. You will have three basic responsibilities for the readings covered in the course:

  • Read the assigned papers (as in the schedule) before class. This is a must!
  • Form a discussion group. You should have about four people in your group, and discuss each paper sometime before class meets. When you have formed a group, please send me email with a list of group members.
  • Answer the question posed for each paper. Your individual write-up should consist of a short-essay answer to the question(s) posed. The write-up should not exceed half of a page in length. The list of questions to answer is available here. Turn in your write up via email to me (remzi@cs) before 9am on the day of the class where we discuss the paper, with the class and date in the subject line (e.g., 736 Reading 9/12). Late write-ups will automatically receive a null score.

The reading load will be heavy, so make sure not to fall behind.


The project list is not yet available.

The final project is the main focus of the course. You are expected to perform work which could eventually be suitable for publication in a major operating systems conference; indeed, each year one or two projects end up becoming published works in some major OS conference! In general, people should work in groups of size one or two -- I will not allow groups larger than that. I will provide some suggestions for you to pick from, although you are encouraged to think of a project on your own, which I can then help to refine. Project write-ups will be similar in format to a conference submission, and all will be entered into a class-wide mini-conference. The best papers will receive some kind of recognition. More details are forthcoming.

Here are links to some previous class projects:


There will be a midterm and a final to test if you've really been paying attention. The exams will be closed book, and will cover the papers read to date, as well as topics discussed in class.

  • Midterm Exam: Monday, 10/25 at 7:15pm in 1325 CS.
  • Final Exam: Wednesday, 12/15 at 7:15pm.

At some point, I will link to some old exams, so you can get an idea of what they are like.


In addition to reading, exams, and your final project, there will be a few assignments. Stay tuned for details. The topics will be things like how to measure systems, how to build/modify/debug a kernel, and how to simulate a system.


A rough outline of grading is: reading and other assignments (1/3), exams (1/3), and final project (1/3). However, this rough breakdown is subject to change at the whim of the professor. He is whimsical, after all.

Mailing List

There will be a mailing list. Read your mail at least once a day, it may actually contain something important (probably not from me, though).