Final Exam

Text in red colour was added/modified after the start of the exam.

General Rules

Notes on hardcopy submissions

Please hand your hardcopy to the receptionist at Data61 (Level 3, K17), they are generally around 9—12. When there is no receptionist, hand it to an AOS tutor. Please don't hand it to just anyone! Also, please make sure whoever receives it dates and times it.

Notes on electronic submissions

  1. The electronic submission, when printed on a CSE printer, must appear exactly as the submitted hardcopy.
  2. The submission must be in PDF format (and use the extension .pdf).
  3. The submission must be made via the give system, mark name "exam". Please use separate PDF files for the two reports (exam1.pdf), that makes my life easier as I mark all the reports for a paper in a batch.
  4. If using give, check you can submit your exam (or any exam report) well before the deadline. We will have little sympathy for submission issues if you raise them five minutes before the deadline.
  5. Make sure that you only use Type-1 fonts, as others are unprintable on some printers. You can check for font types by running
    pdffonts file.pdf | grep 'Type '

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 working days of the end of the exam. Therefore, if you want to use the digital signature option, do the following:
  1. 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!
  2. See Gernot or Kevin with your key and proof of identity. He will then sign your key.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 9:00 on Sat, 24 August 2019):

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. In order to get an idea of what program committees at top systems conferences are looking for, have a look at this classic!

You can expect to get a bare pass if you demonstrate that you have understood what the authors are doing. Beyond that, I want to see a critical assessment, given the knowledge you gained in this course. Note that all papers are in fact published (and should therefore meet certain quality standards one hopes :-). Nevertheless, they may have flaws. If they do, then I'd like you to find them. Beyond that, you should critically assess the work against your understanding of OS issues. The more depth of analysis you demonstrate, the higher your mark will be.

What to submit

You are to submit for each paper a report which summarises 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 a very good submission should be possible to be written up in 2–3 pages. If your report gets longer than this you should step back and try to focus.

A good way to structure your review is the standard approach taken by conference program committees, which tend to use some variant of a basic structure which has the following sections:

Note: In order to help us to perform an unbiased assessment of your report, we would appreciate if you do not put your name on the report itself, only your student ID. Of course, your name must appear on the certificate that is attached to the report. However, as long as this certificate is on a separate page, we can assess the reports without looking at names.

Also, I much prefer if the two reports are submitted as separate files. This makes my life easier as I mark each exam part separately.

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 :-)

Note: this is an exam, not betting on horses. It is dangerous to guess what I might think of the paper, or to guess that there'll be a good and a bad one. Papers are selected on other criteria.

Previous exams

You may find it useful to look at the 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000, or 1999 exams, and the sample reports provided there.