CSE 120: Principles of Computer Operating Systems

Fall 2014

Geoffrey M. Voelker (voelker@cs.ucsd.edu)
CSE 3108
(858) 822-3323
Tue/Thu 8–9:20am
Pepper Canyon 106
Teaching Assistants
He "Lonnie" Liu (h8liu@cs.ucsd.edu)
Peng "Ryan" Huang (peh003@cs.ucsd.edu)
Mohit Kothari (mkothari@cs.ucsd.edu)
Rizhen Zhang (riz002@csucsd.edu)
Discussion Sections
Mon 4–4:50pm
CSE 4140
Fri 2–2:50pm
Center 119
Office Hours
Voelker: Mon 3–4pm, Wed 4–5pm (CSE 3108)
Liu (Projects): Mon 1–3pm, Tue 1–2pm (CSE B240A, walking the labs)
Huang (Projects): Tue 4–5pm, Thu 1–3pm (CSE B240A, walking the labs)
Kothari (Homework): Wed 9–10am (CSE B240A), Fri 3–4pm (CSE B250A)
CSE basement
Anderson and Dahlin, Operating Systems: Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition (2014)
Recursive Books, ISBN 978-0985673529
Class Mailing List
Discussion Board

Course Objectives

This course covers the principles of operating systems. It emphasizes the basic concepts of OS kernel organization and structure, processes and threads, concurrency and synchronization, memory management, file systems, and communication. It is also a project course, providing essential experience in programming with concurrency, implementing and unmasking abstractions, working within an existing complex system, and collaborating with other students in a group effort.

Course Organization

The course is organized as a series of lectures by the instructor, discussion sections by the TAs, reading, homework, and project assignments, and exams:


Homeworks are due at the beginning of class on the day specified. We will reduce homework grades by 20% for each day that they are late (end of class is considered late). You must hand in a hardcopy of your homework; disagreements about the contents of emailed homeworks have caused too much grief in the past. (Plus, it takes far too long to print hundreds of homeworks...)

I encourage you to collaborate on the homeworks: You can learn a lot from your fellow students. However, there can be a fine line between collaboration and cheating. Collaboration consists of discussing problems with other students and independently writing your own answers to the problems based upon those discussions; as a rule of thumb, you should be able to discuss a homework problem in the library with others, go home, and then write up your answer to the problem on your own. Cheating consists of looking at other student's homeworks and copying the answers, looking at past homeworks and/or solutions from previous versions of the class, searching on the Web, etc. The consequences of cheating will correspond to the severity (e.g., failure of the assignment, failure of the course). Cheating causes many problems for all of us — don't do it, and save us all the grief.

The academic honesty guidelines outlined by Charles Elkan for CSE 130 apply to this course.


The course has one tutorial project and three programming projects using the Nachos instructional operating system. You will work in groups of at most four on each of the projects.


The course has two exams, a midterm and a final. The midterm will cover the first half of the class, and the final will cover the material for the entire quarter. Below are sample exams to help you study.

Discussion Sections

Discussion sections answer questions about the lectures, homeworks, projects, and programming environment. They may also supplement the lectures with additional material.


Your grade for the course will be based on your performance on the homeworks, midterm and final exams, and the three projects using the following weights:

Course Schedule

The following table outlines the schedule for the course. We will update it as the quarter progresses.

Date Lecture Readings Homework Project
10/2 Course Intro Chapter 1, Nachos    
10/7 OS Architectural Support Chapter 2 Homework 1: Out Project 0: Out
10/9 Processes Chapter 3    
10/14 Threads Chapter 4 Homework 1: Due Project 0: Due
Project 1: Out
10/16 Synchronization Chapter 5.1–5.3, 5.7 Homework 2: Out  
10/21 Semaphores and Monitors Chapter 5.4–5.6    
10/23 Semaphores and Monitors, Project 1 Chapter 5.4–5.6    
10/28 Scheduling and Deadlock Chapter 6.5, 7.1, 7.6, 7.7    
10/30 Review   Homework 2: Due  
10/31 (Halloween Friday)     Project 1: Due
11/4 Midterm Exam      
11/6 Memory Management Chapter 8   Project 2: Out
11/11 Veteran's Day Holiday      
11/13 Paging Chapter 8, 9.6 Homework 3: Out  
11/18 Paging (cont'd) Chapter 8, 9.6    
11/20 Page Replacement Chapter 9.1–9.5, 9.7    
11/25 File Systems Chapters 11, 13    
11/27 Thanksgiving Holiday Thanksgiving Food. Lots of it. Sleep. Lots of it.
12/1 (Monday)     Project 2: Due
12/2 Virtual Machine Monitors Chapter 2.10, 10.2 Homework 3: Due
Homework 4: Out
Project 3: Out
12/4 (No lecture, work on project)      
12/9 Internet Scams      
12/11 Course Summary, Final Review   Homework 4: Due  
12/13 (Saturday)     Project 3: Due
12/16 Final Exam: 8:00am – 10:59am      

Supplemental Reading

The supplemental readings include primary sources and in-depth supplements for concepts in the class. Supplemental reading is for your own interest — the readings are not required, nor will you be tested on the material. Note that some of the links to the documents point to the ACM Digital Library. UCSD has a subscription to the ACM Digital Library, so you will need to use a web browser on campus to access them.