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CSCI 3500: Operating Systems - Class Page

Fall 2017

Instructor David Ferry, Homepage
Course Web Site
Course meeting times Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 1:10 - 2:00, Ritter Hall Rm. 115
Midterm exam
Oct 13th, regular class time
Final exam
Dec. 15th, 12:00 - 1:50
Office hours See my schedule

  1. Course Description
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Studios
  4. Labs
  5. Course Schedule
  6. Textbooks and Other Resources
  7. Grading
  8. Academic Honesty
  9. Academic Support
  10. Disability Services
  11. Title IX Statement

Course Description

Operating systems are the fundamental bridge between computer hardware and the software programs we use and create. As a concept, operating systems are one of the oldest software disciplines, yet they continue to adapt and reinvent themselves as the computing landscape evolves. Modern operating systems must tackle the same challenges of the original mainframes, but must also meet the varied needs of personal computers, severs, mobile/embedded devices, and virtualized systems.

The four elements of this course are lectures, studios, labs, and exams. Studios are short assignments intended to be completed primarily within class time and to augment lecture topics. Labs are longer assignments that will ask students to apply and analyze OS mechanisms. Most class periods will consist of a short lecture followed by studio time. Expect a lab assignment approximately every two weeks.

Topical outline:

Assessment Objectives- at the completion of this course, students will be able to:

Catalog Description:Theory and practice of operating systems, with emphasis on one of the UNIX family of operating systems. File organization and database systems. Focus on a multi-user system in the client-server model. Hands-on experience.


Please see the instructor if you're missing a prerequisite or uncertain about your preparation for this course.


Computer science is an eminently practical discipline, and studios are daily assignments intended to complement and reinforce lectures through practice. Studios will be completed in a team of two students. Students from different teams may discuss studios, but sharing of code or solutions is strictly prohibited.

Studios are usually due the last class day the week following their assignment. For example, the three studios assigned August 30th and September 1st are all due the following Friday on September 8th, even though Monday September 4th is a holiday. However, the midterm exam and other cirumstances may modify this, see the complete course schedule below.

Studios will be graded on a trimodal scale: complete, partial credit, or no credit. Studios that are turned in late or not turned in at all will receive no credit, studios graded as partial will receive 60% credit.


There will be approximately seven lab assignments for this course. These are programming assignments whose purpose is to apply course concepts and to analyze operating system mechanisms. As such, each lab will require a written report detailing your findings in addition to a code submission.

Some labs will require a team of two students, while others are individual projects. Students from different teams may discuss the lab assignments only during course meeting times. Students from the same team are of course encouraged to discuss and work on lab assignments at any time.

Labs submitted on time (as determined by electronic time stamp) are eligible for full credit. Labs submitted up to 24 hours late will be given a ten percent penalty. Labs submitted between 24 and 48 hours late will be given a twenty percent penalty. Labs submitted after 48 hours late will not be given credit, except in the case of extenuating circumstances pre-approved by the instructor.

Course Schedule

A tentative course schedule is below. Note that this schedule may change over the course of the semester. When changes occur, students will be given enough advance notice so that readings and other preparation may be accommodated.
Date Topic Readings Studios Labs
Aug 28 Intro to OS MOS 1.1 - 1.3 Make sure you can login
for next time
Lab 1 Assigned
Aug 30 Types of OSes, OS concepts MOS 1.4 and 1.5 Studio 1
Sep 1 Lab 1 Discussion
(ecb_crypt example)
Studio 2
Sep 4 Labor Day - No class
Sep 6 System calls and OS architectures MOS 1.6 - 1.8
man syscalls
Studio 3 Lab 1 Due
Sep 8 Processes MOS 2.1 Studios 1, 2 Due
Studio 4
Lab 2 Assigned
Sep 11 fork(), exec(), wait(), and kill() Studio 5
Sep 13 Lab 2 Discussion Studio 6
Sep 15 Pipes, stdin, stdout MOS 2.2 Studios 3, 4 Due
Studio 7
Sep 18 Threads Studio 8
Sep 20 Pthreads, C++11 threads MOS 2.3 Studio 9
Sep 22 Race conditions, critical sections, locks, and atomicity MOS 2.5.1 Studios 5, 6, 7 Due
Studio 10
Lab 2 Due
Sep 25 Mutexes, semaphores Studio 11
Sep 27 Atomic Instructions Studio 12 Lab 3 Assigned
Sep 29 Lab 3 Discussion Studios 8, 9, 10 Due
Oct 2 OpenMP, Cilk Plus MOS 2.4 Studio 13
Oct 4 Batch and interactive scheduling Studio 14
Oct 6 Real-time scheduling Studios 11, 12 Due
Oct 9 Cooperative and Preemptive Scheduling Lab 3 Due
Oct 11 Midterm review (example questions) Studios 13, 14 Due
Oct 13 Midterm Exam
Oct 16 Memory management MOS 3.1 Studio 15-a
Oct 18 Address spaces and swapping MOS 3.2 Studio 15-b
Oct 20 Virtual memory and paging Studio 16
Oct 23 No class - Fall Break
Oct 25 Exam Discussion
Oct 27 Page tables and the TLB Studios 15-a, 15-b, 16 Due
Studio 17
Oct 30 Lab 4 Discussion Lab 4 Assigned
Nov 1 Page Replacement Algorithms Studio 18
Nov 3 Linux Memory Maps Studio 17 Due
Nov 6 Files and the File System Studio 19
Nov 8 File allocation on disk
Nov 10 Directory structure and Inodes Studio 18 Due
Studio 20
Nov 13 OSI and TCP/IP Models of Networking Studio 21 Lab 4 Due
Nov 15 Physical and Data Link Layers Studio 22 Studio 22
Nov 17 Network Layer Studios 19, 20 Due
Studio 23
Nov 20 Transport Layer Studios 21, 22, 23 Due
Studio 24
Nov 22 Thanksgiving Break - No class
Nov 24 Thanksgiving Break - No class
Nov 27 Session Layer
Nov 29 Presentation and Application Layers Studio 25
Dec 1 Lab 5 Discussion Studio 24 Due Lab 5 Assigned
Dec 4 Security Concerns - CIA
Dec 6 Secure Systems and a Trusted Computing Base
Dec 8 Permission Domains and Permission Management Studio 25 Due Lab 5 Due
Dec 11 Final Exam Review
Dec 15 Final Exam - 12:00 to 1:50

Textbook and Class Resources

Required Course textbook: Modern Operating Systems, 4th Ed. by Tanenbaum and Bos. A classic computing textbook on the fundamentals of operating systems, with a bent towards Unix-like operating systems.

Linux skills references:

References for Linux software development.

Software resources:

Linux kernel hacking references:

We aren't doing any kernel hacking in this course, but these are great references if you're interested.


There are three activities for which you will receive credit in this course: studios, labs, and exams. Studios are daily guided assignments primarily designed to familiarize students with course concepts and development tools (i.e. knowledge and comprehension tasks). Lab assignments will ask students to apply general course concepts and analyze OS design alternatives. A midterm and final exam will evaluate your technical understanding of course concepts.

Studios are graded on the following scale: complete, partial credit, or no credit. Studios will not be turned back with detailed comments. Labs and exams will be graded on a points scale and will be turned back with detailed comments.

Make up exams will only be given for severe and documented reasons.

Your grade will be determined as follows:

Activity Grade Percentage
Studios 20%
Labs 50%
Midterm 15%
Final 15%

Grading is done on a straight scale (uncurved). The following scores are guaranteed. The grading scale may be curved upwards (in your favor) at the discretion of the instructor.

Academic Honesty

Most work assigned in this course, other than exams and some labs, is expected to be completed collaboratively. Student teams may change from assignment to assignment, but the sharing of written work or significant portions of code between teams is strictly prohibited.

Some specific guidelines for this course:

Academic integrity is honest, truthful and responsible conduct in all academic endeavors. The mission of Saint Louis University is "the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity." Accordingly, all acts of falsehood demean and compromise the corporate endeavors of teaching, research, health care, and community service via which SLU embodies its mission. The University strives to prepare students for lives of personal and professional integrity, and therefore regards all breaches of academic integrity as matters of serious concern.

The governing University-level Academic Integrity Policy was adopted in Spring 2015, and can be accessed on the Provost's Office website here. The College of Arts and Sciences policies on academic honesty can be found here.

Academic Support

In recognition that people learn in a variety of ways and that learning is influenced by multiple factors (e.g., prior experience, study skills, learning disability), resources to support student success are available on campus. The Student Success Center assists students with academic and career related services, is located in the Busch Student Center (Suite, 331) and the School of Nursing (Suite, 114). Students can visit to learn more about:

Disability Services

Students with a documented disability who wish to request academic accommodations must contact Disability Services to discuss accommodation requests and eligibility requirements. Once successfully registered, the student also must notify the course instructor that they wish to access accommodations in the course.

Please contact Disability Services, located within the Student Success Center, at or 314.977.3484 to schedule an appointment. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries. Once approved, information about the student’s eligibility for academic accommodations will be shared with course instructors via email from Disability Services and viewed within Banner via the instructor’s course roster.

Note: Students who do not have a documented disability but who think they may have one are encouraged to contact to Disability Services.

Title IX Statement

Saint Louis University and its faculty are committed to supporting our students and seeking an environment that is free of bias, discrimination, and harassment. If you have encountered any form of sexual misconduct (e.g. sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, domestic or dating violence), we encourage you to report this to the University. If you speak with a faculty member about an incident of misconduct, that faculty member must notify SLU’s Title IX coordinator, Anna R. Kratky (DuBourg Hall, room 36;; 314-977-3886) and share the basic facts of your experience with her. The Title IX coordinator will then be available to assist you in understanding all of your options and in connecting you with all possible resources on and off campus.

If you wish to speak with a confidential source, you may contact the counselors at the University Counseling Center at 314-977-TALK. To view SLU’s sexual misconduct policy and for resources, please visit the following web addresses: