CS-736: Advanced Operating Systems

University of Wisconsin, Madison
Department of Computer Sciences
Fall 2002

Basic Information

When: Tuesday and Thursday, 11am to 12:15pm
Where: 2355 Engineering Hall ( timetable entry )
Who: Professor Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau (remzi@cs) and TA Matthew Allen (matthew@cs)
Office Hours: Remzi: W at 3-4 and F at 11-12 (and always by appoinment if need be) and Matt: Mon at 2-3 and Thu at 3-4


1/21: USEDNIX Conference Proceedings are now available.

1/21: All final grades should be available on-line now using this form.

Old Notes

Short Cuts

Project List
Reading list , auxiliary reading , advice papers
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 systems, security and a few other "hot" topics. We will examine influential historical systems, important current efforts, extracting lessons both on how to build systems as well as how to evaluate them.

The course will center around two 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. The real key to the class will be your final project: 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's what research is all about). More details will be available below in the weeks to come.

Sep 3 Come to class! Sep 5 THE(1) Nucleus(2)
Sep 10 Hydra(3) UNIX(4) Sep 12 Pilot(5)
Sep 17 Disco(6) Sep 19 More Disco
Sep 23 Exo(7) Exo(8) Vino(9) Sep 26 Graybox(10)
Oct 1 Impact(11) Oct 3 FFS(12)
Oct 8 No Class (ASPLOS) Oct 10 LFS(13)
Oct 15 RAID(14) Oct 17 AutoRAID(15)
Oct 22 NFS(16) Oct 24 AFS(17)
Oct 29 Coda(18) Oct 31 Measurements(19)
Nov 5 IO-Lite(20) Nov 7 Class cancelled
Nov 12 Monitors(21) and Mesa(22) Nov 14 Lottery(23)
Nov 19 Resource Containers(24) Nov 21 Scheduler Activations(25)
Nov 26 Vax/VMS(26) Nov 28 Thanksgiving
Dec 3 Mach(27) Dec 5 Multics(28)
Dec 10 Data Security and Using Encryption Dec 12 Last Day


The current Reading List is available here. All of the readings are available on-line. Note that you shouldn't read too far ahead, as the list may change during the semester.

Some additional papers are available in the Auxiliary Reading List. You are not required to read these, but there are many excellent papers in the list which are certainly worth reading at some point.

Finally, a collection of advice papers is available in the Advice Papers List. I highly recommend that you read these papers on your own; however, you will not be held responsible for them.

You will have three basic responsibilities for the readings covered in the course:

1 - Read the assigned papers before class. Without doing so, discussion is a little more difficult.

2 - 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.

3 - Write-up 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 can be found here. Turn in your write up via email to me (remzi@cs) before 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. Write-ups should be in plain text.

Readings will probably be heavy up front, so make sure not to fall behind. That way, you will have more time towards to end of the semester to focus on your project.


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. In general, people should work in groups of size one or two -- I will not allow groups larger than that. We will provide some suggestions for you to pick from, although you are encouraged to think of a project on your own, which we can 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: Spring 2000 :: Fall 2000


There will be two exams to test your knowledge. The exams will be closed book, and will cover the papers read to date, as well as topics discussed in class. The first exam is currently scheduled for 10/21. The second exam (final) will be held upon December 16.
Final Exam: December 16 at 7-9pm in TBA location

Midterm Exam: October 21st at 7-9pm in 1325 CS
Midterm grade distribution


In addition to reading, exams, and your final project, there may be a few assignments to get each of you a little more hands on experience with operating systems, experimental procedure, and professional duties such as paper reviewing. Stay tuned for details.

Assignment #0: Digital Picture/Reading Group (due 9/10)
Assignment #1: Warm-up Project (due 9/30)
Assignment #2: Project Proposal
Assignment #3: Project Status Meeting (1) (due week of 11/11)
Assignment #4: Project Status Meeting (2) (due week of 12/2)
Assignment #5: Final Presentation (Friday, December 13)
Coming soon: Assignment #6: Final Write-up (Friday, December 20)


A rough outline of grading is: reading and other assignments (25%), exams (25%), and final project (50%). However, this rough breakdown is subject to change at the whim of the instructor.

Use this form to see your grades.

Mailing List

The mailing list is cs736-1list@cs.wisc.edu. I will use it for general postings. A log of email is available at this url.

Useful Links

Here are some Random potentially useful links.

Complaints should be sent to Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau. Mostly, the complaints should focus on the class, but if you really need to get something off of your chest, feel free.