On-Line Survey 2006
Many thanks to all students for taking the time to answer the course
The results mostly speak for themselves. The course seems to be in good
shape, overall satsifaction was one of the highest ever (but given the
small size of the class, the statisitical significance of this result
is low, so should not be overrated).
- The change of hardware platform seems to have worked well. There
was a high degree of satisfaction with the Slugs (compared to the
u4600's in previous years). It also looks like there were no major
glitches with using a completely new lab setup for the first
time. Many thanks to Dave Snowdon and Dave Johnson, who did the
hardware mods, and Godfrey, who did a lot of the software
- Someone complained bitterly about the libnfs documentation, and
the distribution mode for patches. No-one else said anything, but
this is definitely something we'll look into for the next time
- Someone found some of the milestones tedious (presumably the
file system). This seems to be an isolated sentiment, but we'll
think about it. The last thing COMP9242 aspires to be is tedious!
- The three-hour block and lecture theatre are a recurrent
complaint, but hard to fix. We might try to pack less material in
and rely more on students reading up on the recommended
readings. Experience, however, shows that the majority of students
won't do this.
Each year we get comments about the time of the lectures. Students
are pretty much split over whether they prefer them in the evening
or afternoon. They were originally in the evening but moved forward
based on student feedback.
At least with the theatre, we could hold the course
in a more relaxed environment at NICTA. Will consider this (but it
means an extra 5-minute walk each way for the students).
- I'll think about the suggested “decision making in
SOS” component. Talking a bit about the tradeoffs might be
good. But keep in mind, one of the main strengths of the course
(much appreciated by students) is that you get to find out for
yourself, and thus really appreciate why some decisions are
better than others.
- Re “harshness” of the prerequisite: I am always open
to someone making a case, especially based on excellent programming
experience. But experience has shown that people who have only
achieved a CR in OS, and have nothing else in their favour, have a
high probability of failing, and generally don't get much out of the
- I had to smile about the one answer about what to scale back:
“Virtual machines. They are an hot topic but are they worth a
three-hour lecture?” These days there are whole conferences
about VMs, and most of the actual OS work (as opposed to middelware
crap) that is published in the main OS conferences these days is on
- Lecture overlap with COMP3231, especially in security: Will try
to focus more on special issues in the future.
- What one student describes as a “disconnect” between
lecture (on caching) and project is intented. The lecture covered
the general issue of caching and its relevance to OS, your hardware
exhibited one particular aspect of this (but all you had to know
about caching was indeed covered in the lecture).
- I'll think about the “reading group” suggestion.
- Complaints about spec being “too informal” are
balanced by “don't over-prescribe”. I think they are
- The old discussion of are balanced by “should be
12UoC” vs “should be harder”. I still maintain
that the complete project can be done in 2 weeks F/T (and this has
been demonstrated by students several times). The secret is to be
very disciplined and do no more than what the spec asks. The problem
(although most see it as a feature ;-) is that the project entices
students to do more. That's fine, but don's say I didn't warn
All up, that was a lot of useful feedback. Thanks to all those who
20 Feb 2007.