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Session 2, 1998


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:





Subject Prerequisites

  1. a credit grade in COMP3231 or COMP9201 Operating Systems

Subject Exclusions

  1. COMP4216 Distributed Operating Systems



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

Introduction and Overview

Microkernels and User-level Servers
History and motivation for microkernel systems, Hydra, Mach, discussion, experiences; second-generation microkernel systems, L4, Exokernel, Spin

detailed discussion of design, architecture and performance of the L4 microkernel and its programming model, tasks, threads, IPC, VM mapping primitives

user-level page fault handlers, device drivers and schedulers
in general and in L4 in particular

Object-oriented operating systems concepts and examples

Persistent systems concepts and examples

Single-address-space operating systems concepts and examples

Distributed storage systems
storage services, sharing and cache consistency, availability, scaling, replication, recoverability

Security and protection in distributed OS
capability based protection schemes, cryptographic authentication and protection

Communication and process models for distributed OS
IPC, RPC, session models, broadcast, multicast, transactions, distributed virtual memory, process migration, resource allocation, load-balancing

Case studies drawn from such systems as Amoeba, Mach, Windows-NT, Sprite, Grasshopper as time permits


Lab work forms a major component of the subject. This will be carried out in the Advanced Systems Teaching (ASysT) Lab, commencing from about Week 4. The lab features locally developed 64-bit computers based on a MIPS R6400 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. It is possible that the project will require to form ``super-groups'' (of four students each) in the later phases.

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 subject, 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

A two hour open book written final examination will be conducted.

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 be oral. The supplementary final exam will be held either on the day before, or the day after, the written supplementary exams held for other subjects.


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 subject, as no published book covers the range of material.

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 subject's WWW home page at URL http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~cs9242/.

STAFFING in Session 2 1998

Some lectures may be delivered by visitors. [an error occurred while processing this directive]   Last modified: 1998-07-29.