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 hot topics.

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! (i.e., stop complaining).


For learning about operating systems, We recommend coming to class and following the class notes (which will be made available below).

You should buy these two books. They are awesome and useful. The first is about C programming, written by the guys who invented it. Awesome. The second is about programming in the Unix environment, and is the absolute bible. Buy both and thank me later.

Also useful is Expert C Programming by Peter Van der Linden; I really like this book a lot, but can't make you buy too many, can I?

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

It would also be useful to figure out how to use the debugger (gdb), makefiles (with a program called, well, make), and a few other tools. See if you can find some documentation on these; of course, we'll be talking about them in class too.

As 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. However, if you like to read and want a different perspective on operating systems than that provided in the class, any of the following books would be a reasonable choice: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) . Perhaps even more interesting but perhaps more from a historical perspective, although a bit specific/detailed: (1) and (2) .

So feel free to buy one of these and read it on your own time.

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; hence, sign up and start getting the emails!


There will be a few homeworks handed out during the semester. All of these will strictly be optional , in that 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.

See this page for more details.


As part of the course, you will complete a number of programming assignments. You may perform these projects on PCs running the Linux operating system.

New Unix users and novice Unix users new to the CSL Unix facilities are encouraged to attend an orientation session as early in the semester as possible. You may also purchase a copy of CS 1000 (An Introductory Manual to the Unix Operating System and the Computer Sciences Department's Instructional Computing Environment) at the DoIT Tech Store (first floor of the Computer Sciences and Statistics Building).

The projects are a fundamental part of this course. Although the first assignment will be relatively easy, the remaining projects each require a significant amount of time, so do not procrastinate! It is likely things 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, well before they are due. 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 and how well you are able to answer our questions about the program; we will only briefly examine your code to ensure that you followed the specifications of the assignment.


There will be some exams to test your knowledge. The exams will be closed book, and will cover material from class and the projects.

  • Midterm: Monday 10/19 @ 7:15pm in 1221 CS
  • Final: Thursday 12/17 @ 10:05am in Noland 168


Projects are worth 50% your total grade, and the exams are worth the other 50%.