Syllabus and general information for MCS-378: Operating Systems (Fall 2000)


This course covers the basics of concurrent programming, operating systems, networking, and distributed systems. There are two principal reasons why a course on operating systems is practical to take (as opposed to just interesting), even if you never expect to be involved in the development of an operating system (which most of you won't):

Office hours

I will be available in my office (OHS 303) 2:30-3:20 Tuesdays, 10:30-11:20 Wednesdays, 9:00-9:50 Thursdays, 10:30-11:20 Fridays, and by appointment. Or try your luck: just stop by and see whether my door is open. However, I will have no office hours the week of September 18-22 (sorry). You may send me electronic mail at or call me at extension 7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt.

World Wide Web

All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page. The URL for this course is After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those students who want them.

Text and readings

The primary text for the course will be Siberschatz, Galvin, and Gagne's Applied Operating System Concepts, first edition, but I'll also be distributing some readings that are recent conference papers or journal articles, in order to provide both an update on some recent interesting work and also a bit more ``meat.' Those readings will form the basis for the student presentations, described below. Lab handouts may also include some non-trivial reading.


There will be four lab assignments. The due dates for the labs are shown in the syllabus below. We'll meet in the OHS 326 or 329 lab every Monday except one, and two Fridays as well; the exceptions are indicated in the syllabus.

Attendance is mandatory for all lab days. (If you turn in a lab report early, you are excused from the remaining days devoted to that lab.) I will excuse up to two absences per student, for any reason. Use yours wisely. If you exceed this allowance, I may reduce your course grade by one letter grade.


There will be ten days in the semester when I sit back and relax and let students teach the class instead. Each student will have half of a class period to lead discussion on one of the papers we read from a conference or journal. The whole class will be expected to read the paper at least casually, but the person leading the class will be expected to have read it more carefully and done whatever it takes to really understand it, which may involve additional background reading, talking with me, etc.

I'm going to ask you to express a preference ranking for the topics, and will try to the extent possible to assign people to topics based on that. (You can also take into account in your preference rankings the timing of the presentations.) I'll need to have you email me the rankings Friday morning (September 8) so that I can get the assignments out to you Monday, thereby leaving some preparation time for whoever gets the first couple papers.

The topics are:

  1. September 26: "Isolation with Flexibility: A Resource Management Framework for Central Servers", David G. Sullivan and Margo I. Seltzer, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 337-350.
  2. September 26: "Efficiently Scheduling X Clients", Keith Packard, FREENIX Track, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 175-186.
  3. September 27: "Borrowed-Virtual-Time (BVT) Scheduling: Supporting Latency-Sensitive Threads in a General-Purpose Scheduler", Kenneth J. Duda and David R. Cheriton, Proceedings of the 17th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, 1999, pp. 261-276
  4. September 27: "Connection Scheduling in Web Servers", Mark E. Crovella, Robert Frangioso, and Mor Harchol-Balter, 2nd USENIX Symposium on Internet Technologies and Systems, 1999, pp. 243-254.
  5. October 18: "Performing Replacement in Modem Pools", Yannis Smaragdakis and Paul Wilson, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 277-291.
  6. October 31: "The Design and Implementation of a DCD Device Driver for UNIX," Tycho Nightingale, Yiming Hu, and Qing Yang, 1999 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 295-307.
  7. October 31: "Journaling Versus Soft Updates: Asynchronous Meta-data Protection in File Systems", Margo I. Seltzer, Gregory R. Granger, M. Kirk McKusick, Keith A. Smith, Craig A. N. Soules, and Christopher A. Stein, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 71-84.
  8. November 1: "LinLogFS - A Log-Structured Filesystem For Linux", Christian Czezatke and M. Anton Ertl, FREENIX Track, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 77-88.
  9. November 1: "A Comparison of File System Workloads", Drew Roselli, Jacob R. Lorch, and Thomas E. Anderson, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 41-54.
  10. November 3: "Single Instance Storage in Windows 2000", William J. Bolosky, Scott Corbin, David Goebel, and John R. Douceur, 4th USENIX Windows Systems Symposium, 2000, pp. 13-24.
  11. November 3: "Secondary Storage Management for Web Proxies", Evangelos P. Markatos, Manolis G.H. Katevenis, Dionisis Pnevmatikatos, and Michail Flouris, 2nd USENIX Symposium on Internet Technologies and Systems, 1999, pp. 93-104.
  12. November 15: "Scalable Content-aware Request Distribution in Cluster-based Network Servers", Mohit Aron, Darren Sanders, Peter Druschel, and Willy Zwaenepoel, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 323-336.
  13. November 15: "Scalable Network I/O in Linux", Niels Provos and Chuck Lever FREENIX Track, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 109-119.
  14. November 22: "Organization-Based Analysis of Web-Object Sharing and Caching", Alec Wolman, Geoff Voelker, Nitin Sharma, Neal Cardwell, Molly Brown, Tashana Landray, Denise Pinnel, Anna Karlin, and Henry Levy 2nd USENIX Symposium on Internet Technologies and Systems, 1999, pp. 25-36.
  15. November 22: "Moat: A Virtual Private Network Appliance and Services Platform", John S. Denker, Steven M. Bellovin, Hugh Daniel, Nancy L. Mintz, Tom Killian, and Mark A. Plotnick 13th Systems Administration Conference - LISA '99, pp. 251-260.
  16. November 29: "Permanent Web Publishing", David S. H. Rosenthal and Vicky Reich FREENIX Track, 2000 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, pp. 129-140.
  17. November 29: "Publius: A Robust, Tamper-Evident, Censorship-Resistant, and Source-Anonymous Web Publishing System", Marc Waldman, Aviel D. Rubin, and Lorrie F. Cranor, 9th USENIX Security Symposium, 2000.
  18. December 8: "Security in the Real World: How to Evaluate Security", Bruce Schneier Computer Security Journal, Volume 15, Number 4, 1999, pp. 1-14.
  19. December 8: "A Role Based Access Control Model and Reference Implementation within a Corporate Intranet," David F. Ferraiolo, John F. Barkley and D. Richard Kuhn, ACM Transactions on Information and System Security, volume 2, number 1, 1999, pp. 34-64.
  20. October 18: "Reducing Startup Latency in Web and Desktop Applications", Dennis Lee, Jean-Loup Baer, Brian Bershad, and Tom Anderson, 3rd USENIX Windows NT Symposium, 1999, pp. 165-174.

Homework assignment policy

I will assign homework problems. You may turn in any individual homework problem whenever you think you have it solved. I will return it to you as quickly as I can, but normally with only an indication of whether it is acceptable or needs more work. (Sometimes I may give a brief indication of what area it needs more work in.) If a problem needs more work, and you aren't sure what sort of work it still needs, you should treat that as an invitation to come talk with me about it. Once you've done the additional work, you may turn the problem in again. In fact, you may turn in each problem in as many times as you like, until it is marked as acceptable. Your grade for the homework portion of the course will be based on the fraction of homework problems that you eventually did acceptably.

Normally homework problems may be turned in at any time. However, if the class is not being responsible, and it looks like I may be faced with a flood of problems at the end of the semester, I may set due dates (always at least a week in the future). Also, if we would benefit from discussing a homework problem in class, I may issue a "last call" for solutions to that problem (again, at least a week in advance).

Unless I indicate that a particular problem must be done individually, you may work on any problem in a group of two or three students. One copy of the solution produced by the team should be turned in, with all team members names on it. Write "we all contributed fairly to this solution" and have all team members sign under that statement.


There will be midterm and final exams. The midterm will be as shown on the syllabus below, and the final exam will be as scheduled by the registrar.


Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised by the assignments. However, the solutions to assignments should be individual original work unless otherwise specified. If an assignment makes you realize you don't understand the material, ask a fellow student a question designed to improve your understanding, not one designed to get the assignment done. To do otherwise is to cheat yourself out of understanding, as well as to be intolerably dishonorable.

Any substantive contribution to your solution by another person or taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary action.

The same standards regarding plagiarism apply to team projects as to the work of individuals, except that the author is now the entire team rather than an individual. Anything taken from a source outside the team should be be properly cited.

One additional issue that arises from the team authorship of project reports is that all team members must stand behind all reports bearing their names. All team members have quality assurance responsibility for the entire project. If there is irreconcilable disagreement within the team it is necessary to indicate as much in the reports; this can be in the form of a ``minority opinion'' or ``dissenting opinion'' section where appropriate.

Late lab assignments

All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. Late assignments will be penalized by one ``grade notch'' (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction thereof. However, no late assignments will be accepted after graded assignments are handed back.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply write ``late due to illness'' at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Grade changes

Please point out any arithmetic or clerical error I make in grading, and I will gladly fix it. You may also request reconsideration if I have been especially unjust.


I will provide you with a letter grade on each lab assignment, on your presentation, and on each test, in addition to the mid-term and final grades, so that you may keep track of your performance. As a guideline, the course components will contribute to your final grade in the proportions indicated below:

Style guidelines

All homework and lab reports should be readily readable, and should not presuppose that I already know what you are trying to say. Use full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere) and clear diagrams, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.


Please contact me immediately if you have a learning or physical disability requiring accommodation.


In the reading column, a single number with no decimal point indicates an entire chapter. Section 0 means the material at the beginning of a chapter before the first section.

This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised syllabi.
9/82Computer-system structures

9/11Lab 1: Scheduling experiments
9/123Operating-system structures

9/18Lab 1 (concludes)
9/19No class
9/206CPU scheduling
9/22No class

9/25Lab 2: Kernel-level experimentationLab 1
9/26papers 1, 2Scheduling papers
9/27papers 3, 4Scheduling papers
9/297.0-7.6Process synchronization

10/2Lab 2 (continued)
10/67.7-7.10More on process synchronization

10/9Lab 2 (continued)
10/119Memory management
10/1310.0-10.5Virtual memory

10/16Lab 2 (concludes)
10/1710.6-10.8More on virtual memory
10/18papers 5, 20Virtual memory related papersLab 2

10/25mid-term exam
10/2711.0-11.5File systems

10/3011.6-11.11More on file systems (class instead of lab)
10/31papers 6, 7File systems papers
11/1papers 8, 9File systems papers
11/3papers 10, 11File systems papers

11/6Lab 3: Filesystem locality
11/712I/O systems
11/813Mass storage
11/1014Network structures

11/13Lab 3 (continued)
11/1415Distributed communication
11/15papers 12, 13Distributed systems papers
11/17Lab 3 (continued) (a Friday lab)

11/20Lab 3 (concludes)
11/2116Distributed coordination
11/22papers 14, 15Distributed systems papersLab 3

11/27Lab 4: Distributed communication
11/2817Distributed file systems
11/29papers 16, 17Distributed systems papers
12/1Lab 4 (continued) (a Friday lab)

12/4Lab 4 (continued)
12/8papers 18, 19Security papers

12/11Lab 4 (concludes)
12/12Infrastructure tour
12/13review/catch-up/evaluationLab 4

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>