CSCI-UA.0202: Operating Systems (Undergrad)

Latest Announcements

5/21: Final grades submitted to registrar.
Have a nice summer!
5/18: Distribution of final exam scores posted.
Here is the distribution of scores on the final exam.
5/16: Final exam grades are posted
Final exam grades are posted on NYU Classes. Average: 64.1. Median: 68. Standard deviation: 18.9. We are aiming to file letter grades by Monday evening.
5/15: Lab weights
The weights of the individual labs are now on the labs page.
5/14: Solutions to final exam posted
Solutions to the final are posted on the exams page. Please let us know if you see any errors.
5/12: Taping fail
Unfortunately, the battery in the microphone was dead, and as a consequence, the review session was not taped in any useful way. We will be posting detailed notes on Piazza.
5/11: Review session will be taped
The review session will be taped.
5/11: Change in location of review session
We will meet Tuesday evening in WWH 101 rather than WWH 109.
5/11: Emergency office hours
Mike will hold office hours Wednesday May 13, 5:00-7:00 PM. The location is 715 Bway, Room 709.
5/7: HW10 Solns posted
The solutions for HW10 are posted on the schedule page.

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Course information



Office hoursLocation
Michael Walfish Instructor Fri, 3:00–4:00 PM, or by appt. 715 Broadway, Room 709
Yang Cui (pron: “ts-way”) TA Wed, 2:00–4:00 PM 719 Broadway, Room 1221
Ye Ji TA Tue, 1:00–3:00 PM 719 Broadway, Room 709
Ryan Keavney TA Mon, 3:30–5:30 PM 719 Broadway, Room 1221
Cheng Tan TA Thu, 1:00–3:00 PM 719 Broadway, Room 709


We want to make sure that our replies to your questions are consistent and timely. Thus:

Description and goals

We hope you learn three sets of interrelated things. The first thing is how computers work. Students graduating with CS degrees should believe "there is no magic": they should be able to describe the chain of events that occurs when they hit a key and cause a letter to appear on the screen from the register level (or logical gate level or transistor level) to the system architecture level to the operating system level to the application level. This is philosophically important, but it is also of practical interest to developers who need to figure out how to make a system do what they want it to do.

The second goal is for you to learn the core ideas in operating systems: concurrent programming, memory protection, virtual addressing, file systems, scheduling, transactions, etc. Often, such ideas are best explained as abstractions that some software layer (usually the operating system) provides above imperfect hardware to make that hardware usable by programmers and users. The intent is for you to understand such abstractions well enough to be able to synthesize new abstractions when faced with new problems.

Many of the ideas and abstractions that we will cover are relevant not only to operating systems but also to large-scale systems. Thus, a third goal of this course is to enhance your ability to understand, design, and implement large-scale systems.

The coding workload in this class will be substantial. This is a necessity: understanding many of the ideas above requires implementing them or working through them in code. The good news is that if things go according to plan, you will learn a lot in this class, and ideally find it rewarding. For example, you will learn how operating systems are implemented, and how to effectively use the abstractions exported by operating systems.

The work

We assume that you check the announcements (either on this site or by RSS) every 24 hours. Also, we will use Piazza. Finally, we will occasionally email you (for the most urgent communications). You are responsible for monitoring all three of these media.

A note about the labs

We recommend that you start the labs long before they are due. The standard advice is "Start the labs early", but that is not quite right. The best advice, we think, is "Start the labs on time, but on time is probably much earlier than you think it is".


Required texts

OSTEP Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces, by Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau and Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau. Arpaci-Dusseau Books, May 2014, edition 0.80.
Note: This book is freely available online, at the link given.
OSM:SCI Operating Systems and Middleware: Supporting Controlled Interaction, by Max Hailperin. January 2014, Revised Edition 1.1.6.
Note: As with the preceding text, this text is online and free. It is available under this Creative Commons license.
CS:APP2e Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, Second Edition, Randal E. Bryant and David R. O'Hallaron. (Addison-Wesley), 2010. ISBN: 0136108040.
Note: The prerequisite to this class (CS201) required this text, so we assume that you already have it.

Optional texts

  • Highly recommended: The C programming language (second edition), Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. (Prentice Hall, Inc., 1988. ISBN: 0-13-110362-8.) This book is a classic reference to C.
  • Optional: Operating Systems: Principles and Practice, Beta Edition, Anderson and Dahlin. (Recursive Books, 2012. ISBN: 0985673516.)
  • Optional: Modern Operating Systems (third edition), Andrew S. Tanenbaum. (Prentice Hall, Inc., 2008. ISBN: 0-13-600663-9.) Note: the NYU bookstores list this text as required; it is not (it was in an earlier version of this class.)
  • Optional: Principles of Computer System Design: An Introduction, Jerome Saltzer and M. Frans Kaashoek (Morgan Kaufmann, 2009. ISBN: 0-12-374957-3.)
  • Optional: Operating System Concepts (eighth edition), Abraham Silberschatz, Peter Baer Galvin, and Greg Gagne. (John Wiley & Sons, 2008. ISBN: 0-47-012872-0.)
  • Acknowledgments

    We are indebted to the staffs of related past courses at MIT, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, and UT Austin (cs372h, cs372, and cs439 a, b, c), and ancestors of these courses. Credits are particularly due to Mike Dahlin (UT Austin), Eddie Kohler (Harvard), David Mazières (Stanford, formerly NYU), and Allison Norman (UT Austin). This site relies on software to generate course Web pages, developed by Dave Andersen and Nick Feamster.

    Last updated: Thu May 21 17:23:58 -0700 2015 [validate xhtml]