CSE 120: Principles of Computer Operating Systems

Fall 2016

Geoffrey M. Voelker (voelker@cs.ucsd.edu)
CSE 3108
(858) 822-3323
Tu/Th 8–9:20am
Solis Hall 107
Teaching Assistants
Karthik Balasubramaniam (kvasukib@eng.ucsd.edu)
Kabir Gogia (kgogia@ucsd.edu)
Daniel Knapp (dknapp@eng.ucsd.edu)
Aravind Kumar (akumark@eng.ucsd.edu)
Hung Nguyen (han011@ucsd.edu)
Archana Radhakrishna (arradhak@eng.ucsd.edu)
Huajie Wu (huw021@ucsd.edu)
Discussion Sections
Wed 9–9:50am in Center Hall 214
Wed 6–6:50pm in Center Hall 212
Office and Lab Hours
Voelker (All Topics): Mon 3–4pm, Wed 4–5pm (CSE 3108)
Full TA and Tutor Schedule
CSE basement
Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau and Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau
Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces
Version 0.91   (Available free online!)
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:


The course will have roughly four homeworks. I will post them as the quarter progresses. Due to extensive copying on homeworks in the past, I have changed how homeworks are graded. As long as you submit a technical answer related to the question, you will get full credit for the question. The goal of the homeworks is to give you practice learning the material. The homework questions both supplement and complement the material from lecture and in the project, and you will also find the homework questions to be useful for practicing for the exams. We will post solutions to all homeworks after they are submitted, and you can use them for studying as well. But, even with the solutions, the amount you learn from the homeworks will be directly correlated with your effort working on them.

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).

I encourage you to collaborate on the homeworks: You can learn a lot from your fellow students. 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 hall with others, go home, and then write up your answer to the problem on your own. Do not copy from the answers by other students, copy from past homeworks and/or solutions from previous versions of the class, copy from solutions on the Web, etc.


The course has one tutorial project and three programming projects using the Nachos instructional operating system. We will be coordinating the projects across both sections of CSE 120 this quarter:


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:

The academic honesty guidelines outlined by Charles Elkan apply to this course. I urge you to resist any temptation to cheat, no matter how desperate the situation may seem. If you are in circumstances that you feel compel you to cheat, come to me first before you do so.

Course Schedule

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

Date Lecture Readings Homework Project
9/22 Course Intro Chapter 1, Chapter 2    
9/27 OS Architectural Support Chapter 6 Homework 1: Out   Project 0: Out  
9/29 Processes Chapter 4, Chapter 5    
10/4 Threads Chapter 26, Chapter 27   Project 0: Due  
Project 1: Out
10/6 Synchronization Chapter 28, Chapter 29 Homework 1: Due
Homework 2: Out  
10/11 Semaphores and Monitors Chapter 30, Chapter 31    
10/13 Semaphores and Monitors Chapter 30, Chapter 31    
10/18 Scheduling and Deadlock Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 32    
10/20 Midterm Review   Homework 2: Due    
10/21 (Friday)     Project 1: Due
10/25 Midterm Exam     Project 2: Out  
10/27 Memory Management Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 18 Homework 3: Out    
11/1 Paging Chapter 19, Chapter 20    
11/3 (No lecture, work on project)      
11/8 Paging (cont'd) Chapter 19, Chapter 20    
11/10 Page Replacement Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23    
11/15 File Systems Chapter 37, Chapter 39, Chapter 40 Homework 3: Due    
11/17 File Systems Chapter 37, Chapter 39, Chapter 40 Homework 4: Out    
11/19 (Saturday)     Project 2: Due
11/22 Virtual Machine Monitors Appendix B   Project 3: Out  
11/24 Thanksgiving Holiday Thanksgiving Food. Lots of it. Sleep. Lots of it.
11/29 Internet Scams      
12/1 Course Summary, Final Review   Homework 4: Due    
12/6 Final Exam: 8:00am – 10:59am      
12/10 (Saturday)     Project 3: Due

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.