School of Computer Science & Engineering
University of New South Wales
Advanced Operating Systems
- This is a 24h take-home exam.
- The exam runs from 19:00 on Thursday, 20 November 2003 to 19:00
on Friday, 21 November 2003
- The basic exam question is available now, but the papers you
are asked to analyse will be made available only at 19:00 on
Thursday, 20 November 2003.
- The papers will be available in hardcopy from the NICTA
reception desk and electronically via this WWW page.
- Email Kevin if you would like hardcopies so I can
print an appropriate amount.
- Note: I will only man the reception desk from 19:00-19:30pm
on Thursday for you to collect the hardcopy papers, otherwise
normal business hours apply.
- The total exam is worth 35 marks.
- You will lose 3.5 marks for each hour, or part thereof, your
submission is late.
- You are not to get any help from anyone on the exam. You should
not talk to anyone else about the exam from the time you receive
the full details until you submit your solution.
- You have the choice of three different ways to submit your
- Submit a hardcopy by the deadline (Friday, 21 November
2003). It must be accompanied by the signed certification of sole authorship. It
must be submitted to Kevin Elphinstone in person, or some
person (Ben Leslie, Charles Gray, Daniel Potts) Kevin has
specifically authorised to receive the exams if he is not
addition, you must submit an electronic version within three
days of the end of the exam.
- Submit an electronic copy, via the give system, by the
deadline, and submit a hardcopy, including the signed certification of sole authorship,
within two working days of the end of the exam.
- Submit, by the deadline, a digitally signed electronic
copy. This must contain your full name, student number,
date, and the following declaration:
I hereby declare that this submission is my own work, and I have
not received any help whatsoever.
The file must be signed with PGP, be ASCII, and have an
extension .pdf.asc or .ps.asc. This is
achieved (when using PGP 6.0 or later) with the command:
pgp -sa <file>
Notes on electronic submissions
- In the cases where a paper submission is also required (cases 1 and
2 above), the electronic submission, when printed on a CSE printer, must
appear exactly as the submitted hardcopy.
- The submission must either be in PDF format (and use the extension
.pdf) or in PostScript format (extension .ps). It
can be compressed using gzip (extensions .ps.gz or .pdf.gz)
- The submission must be made via the give system, mark
- If using give, check you can submit your report (or any
report) well before the deadline. We will have little sympathy for
submission issues if you raise them at 18:59:59 on Friday.
- If using PDF, make sure that you only use Type-1 fonts, as others are
unprintable on some printers. LaTeX users can ensure the use of Type-1
fonts by producing a PostScript file with the command
dvips -Pwww -o file.ps file
and then converting this to PDF.
Notes on digitally signed submissions
Digitally signing your submission only makes sense if we can verify your
signature. I therefore require you to have your signature signed by
Gernot or Kevin beforehand, or within three days of the end of the
exam. Therefore, if you want to use the digital signature option, do the
- Familiarise yourself with PGP (or GPG). We will not
provide tutorials on this, it's up to you. Get yourself a public key
if you don't have one. Follow the recommended safeguards to keep
it secure. It will be like your normal signature!
- See Kevin with your key and proof of identity. He
will then sign your key.
- This signed key can then be used to sign your exam. (Feel
free to get others to sign your key as well.) If you get your key
signed after the exam, make sure that it is the same key as used for
signing the exam.
- Make sure that PGP or GPG is installed on the system you are
going to use to write your exam, and that you can use it reliably. If
you stuff up, it's your own problem.
You are given two research papers (the links will be active from 19:00
on the 20th):
- Paper 1: Barham et al., "Xen and the art of
virtualization", SOSP 2003 PDF
- Paper 2: Swift et al., "Improving the reliability
of commodity operating systems", SOSP 2003 PDF
You are to read, understand, and critically assess the papers. Questions
you may want to ask yourself for each of the papers:
These are only hints, I am not asking you to explicitly answer all these
for each paper. However, you may find those questions helpful in
critically analysing the papers. Imagine you are a reviewer for a
conference to which the papers have been submitted, and you are to judge
their contribution to the field.
- What problem is it trying to address?
- How well does it address the issue?
- How does it relate to other work? Does
it reference relevant other work (as far as you can tell), does it
do the other work justice?
- How technically sound is it? Does their argumentation, the
presented data convince you? Should they have been looking at other
- How good are the results?
- How good/deep is their analysis?
- How easy would it be to reproduce their results?
- How general are their results? Can they be applied to other
systems? Did we learn some general truth?
Note that all papers are in fact published (and therefore cannot be
all that bad :-)
What to submit
You are to submit a report which summarises for each paper the basic
ideas behind their work. You are to give a critique of the technical
merits, achievements and shortcomings (if any). The papers are not
directly related, so you don't have to compare them.
I am intentionally not specifying a length limit. However, I
strongly encourage you to be concise. Lengthy submissions will almost
certainly be unfocussed and waffly. I cannot imagine a decent job in
excess of 3000 words, and would imagine that a very good submission
would stay well below 2000 words total. If your report gets longer than
this you should step back and try to focus.
What I will be looking for
You will be marked on the level of understanding and critical analysis
portrayed in you submission. All relative to what can be reasonably
expected from you (I know that none of you have a PhD in OS yet :-)
You may find it useful to look at the 1999, 2000 and 2002 exams,
and the sample reports provided there.
29 Oct 2004.