School of Computer Science and Engineering, UNSW

CRICOS Provider No. 00098G

COMP9242 Advanced Operating Systems

Session 2, 2000


To provide students with a deep understanding of modern operating system technology, implementation techniques and research issues.



Provide in-depth coverage of modern operating system issues, such as:





Course Pre- and Co-requisites

  1. a credit grade in COMP3231 or COMP9201 Operating Systems (pre-requisite)
  2. COMP9211 or COMP3211 Computer Architecture (co-requisite)



A rough outline of the lectures is (subject to change):

Introduction and Overview

Introduction to the L4 Microkernel
L4 system calls and usage (to get you started on the project)

A close look at selected OS issues

Microkernels and User-level Servers
History and motivation for microkernel systems, Hydra, Mach, discussion, experiences; second-generation microkernel systems, L4, Exokernel, Spin; design and implementation of microkernel-based systems, including user-level page fault handling and device drivers

Microkernel Implementation
A detailed look at the internals of a real microkernel (L4 in MIPS R4x00)

Persistent systems and Single-address-space operating systems
Concepts and examples; UNSW Mungi project


Lab work forms a major component of the course. This will be carried out in the Advanced Systems Teaching (ASysT) Lab, commencing from Week 2. The lab features locally developed U4600 computers based on a 64-bit MIPS R4600 processor. These nodes are set up to run a locally developed implementation of the L4 microkernel. They are connected to UNIX hosts (PCs running Solaris) running an L4 development environment. OS code is developed and compiled there and then downloaded to the 64-bit systems, which present a minimum environment ideally suited for low-level systems programming exercises. Documentation as well as sample code will be provided.

Students will also be able to run their system on simulated MIPS hardware, thanks to the locally developed CPU simulator Sulima. This allows working outside the ASysT Lab, including at home. However, any project demonstrations must be done on actual hardware, not on a simulator.

A beta-version of the kernel is also available for students who own an Alpha-based machine (such as a Multia). Alpha-based project demonstrations are permissible.

After some ``warm-up'' experiments students will work in groups of two on a project, which constructs various OS component, with the ultimate aim of producing a small (and very efficient) operating system. A series of milestones will be defined to aid the implementation.

Milestones and the final project will be demonstrated to School staff and the code submitted for assessment. Complete system documentation will form the final deliverable.

Details will be published in due course. Milestones must be demonstrated (and the code submitted) during the week in which they are due. Milestones deadlines missed by less than one week will cause a loss of 25% of the mark for that particular milestone, if missed by more that one week the penalty is 50%, up to a maximum of two weeks. No submissions/demos will be accepted later than two weeks after the deadline. Cheating will be severely dealt with.

As this is supposed to be a challenging course, I am quite concerned about boring students who already have a strong background in L4 and therefore might find the project too easy. For this reason, I am offering the possibility of alternative projects for such students. An alternative project must be discussed with me in detail and approved in advance. The main criteria for approval will be that, given the students' backgrounds, the project should present a similar challenge than the ``standard'' project would present to students with no OS knowledge beyond what is defined by the prerequisites.

Final Exam

There will be a final exam, in the form of a 24h take-home. Students will be given one day to read and analyse two recent research papers relevant to the material covered in the course, and submit a critical report on it. See the 1999 Exam for an example.

Supplementary assessments

Supplementary exams will only be awarded in well justified cases, in accordance with School policy, not as a second chance for poorly performing students. In particular, it is unlikely that a supplementary will be awarded to students who have actually sat the proper exam. Make up your mind whether or not you are sick before attempting the exam!

Supplementary exams will have the same format as the normal exam, and will be held on the day after the written supplementary exams held for other courses.


Assignments count for 65%, the exam for 35% of the final mark. A minimum mark of 14 (i.e., 40% of the maximum) is required in the exam to receive a passing grade.



There is no textbook for this course, as no published book covers the material in sufficient depth. Plenty of handouts will be provided.

Reference Books

Reference manuals for labs

The following will be provided in hardcopy as reference for the project component:

Other material

Lecture notes and other information can be found under the course's WWW home page at URL http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~cs9242/.

STAFFING in Session 2 2000

Lecturer-in-charge is Gernot Heiser, who will be delivering most of the lectures.

Some lectures may be delivered by visitors or research students.

COMP9242, School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales

This page is maintained by gernot@cse.unsw.edu.au. Last modified: Monday, 24-Jul-2000 11:33:46 AEST
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 Last modified: Monday, 24-Jul-2000 11:33:46 AEST