Course Overview

Note: This semester's offering is very similar to the 2012 and 2013 offerings (including projects) and similar to the pre-2010 offerings.

Course Description: The purpose of this course is to teach the design of operating systems and other systems. Topics we will cover include concepts of operating systems, networking, database systems and systems programming, including multiple-program systems (processes, interprocess communication, and synchronization), memory allocation (segmentation, paging), resource allocation and scheduling, file systems, basic networking (packet switching, file control, reliability), basic databases (transaction, SQL) security, and privacy.

Course Prerequisites: CS 61A, CS 61B, CS 61C, and CS 70. This means, in particular, that you know C, Java, and data structures (at the level covered in CS 61B/61C), have done some MIPS assembly language programming, and that you know about series and products, logarithms, advanced algebra, some calculus, and basic probability (means, standard deviations, etc.). The TAs will spend a small amount of time reviewing some of the material you are less likely to remember. We will assume that you either know the material that is supposed to be covered in those courses, or that you are willing to learn the material as necessary. We will not spend time in lecture covering any of this material. If you are not proficient at Java programming, we recommend that you take CS 9G, the self-paced Java course "JAVA for Programmers".

Enrollment: Enrollment: All decisions concerning appeals for enrolling in the course are made by CS departmental staff; the course staff have no say in the matter. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to visit 379 Soda.

Grading: Grades will be determined roughly as follows: (Note that the final grade components may change!)

It is important that you attend discussion sections and get to know your TA as input from the TA's will be used to help determine the grades of students near the borderline.

The course will be graded on a curve, with a mean grade of roughly a B, and a median of roughly a B+. Graduate students are not included in establishing the curve (to be fairer to undergraduates), but they will receive grades based on where they would fall on the curve. This is EECS department policy for undergradute courses.

We grade on a curve rather than on an absolute scale because it protects students from stressing out if we happen to give an overly hard exam. The downside of grading on a curve is that it tends to lead students to think they are competing against each other; in practice, this is mistaken belief in a class this large. We're told told that in past years, the absolute difference between each half-step grade (between a B+ and an A-, for example), has been roughly 5%, while the largest impact any individual student's performance is likely to have on your grade is less than 0.1%... in other words, well into the noise.

Students often stress about whether they will be penalized because their project may not be as elaborate as that of some other group in the class; again, this is a myth. The project is hard enough without worrying about competing with other project groups. By and large, most students do quite well on the project. The consequence is that the project has less effect than you might think on the curve; only groups that do poorly on the projects will see their grades significantly affected by their project scores.

Any requests for grade changes or regrading must be made within two weeks of when the exam was returned or when the grade for the assignment was first posted.

Exams: There will be two in-class midterm exams in leiu of one midterm and one comprehensive final exam (though the second midterm will take place during the last week of lecture, so will, for all intents and purposes, serve as a final exam). If you have a conflict, let us know, and we will schedule a makeup for the day before the exam is given to the rest of the class. All exams will be closed book, and will cover material from lecture, sections, the readings, and the project. In particular, you are likely to do poorly on the exams and in the course if you do not do your share of the work on the project.

Project and Sections: The project in this course is to build a multi-tier system. The project is the core of this course, and most of what you learn will be from doing the project.

If you plan to do software or hardware development after graduation, you will almost certainly need to know how to work in a large group. Recent CS grads almost all say that the ability to work in large groups was the single most important thing they wished they had learned at Berkeley. Hence, for this project, you will need to form into groups of 4 to 5 people; the assignments will be the same no matter what size group you have. We will not permit anyone to do the project in a group smaller than 4. In order to ensure everyone in the group does their fair share of the work, we will ask each of you to turn in assessments of the relative contributions of your project partners. Many employers do this, by the way, in determining salaries and bonuses.

Enrollment for sections will not be handled through Telebears. Current Telebears enrollment is temporary. Sections will be assigned after you have chosen your groups. Take a look at the Group/Section Registration page for more info. Your entire group must be enrolled (and attend!) the same discussion section; you are not permitted to attend sections in which you are not enrolled. The idea is to provide continuity within each section: to break an anonymous large class into more interactive smaller sub-classes. If you have questions about the lectures or the project, you should try to go to your TA first before asking the other TAs.

The TA for your section will grade all phases of your project. The TAs have been instructed to grade in part on design and implementation style and to be increasingly strict about this as the semester proceeds. In other words, it is not enough to get a working solution; you must implement the solution in a clean way that would simplify making further enhancements. (Several employers in the area have said that many of our graduates don't know how to program well -- it will really benefit you in the long run to work on your software engineering skills.) Although we will attempt to ensure that the grading criteria are applied uniformly, there may be slight variations between sections. However, we believe that any decrease in fairness will be outweighed by the benefit of continuity in the sections in teaching the course material.

For each project phase, you will turn in an initial design document and your TA will meet with your group for an oral presentation of your design at a design review. These reviews serve several purposes:

  1. To encourage you to get an early start on the assignments (a key to success in this course).
  2. To catch design errors early, before you spend a lot of time debugging.
  3. To give you an opportunity to explain and defend your approach (this is an important skill to learn as engineers).
Following the review, you will turn in the actual project code.

Late policy: Projects will be docked 10% per each day the project is late. In addition, you will have a total of 4 slip days available.

Computing Facilities: All students enrolled in the class will be given an instructional account, cs162-??@cory. Account forms will be handed out at the end of the first lecture (if you did not receive an account form, see your TA). Most of the Unix systems should have cross-mounted file systems, so you should actually be able to work on most of the EECS Unix systems. Your final run for each assignment must be done under that account, and must run on x86 Solaris machines.

Cheating: It's OK to ask someone about the concepts, algorithms, or approaches needed to do the project assignments, I encourage you to do so; both giving and taking advice will help you to learn. However, what you turn in must be your own, or for projects, your group's own work; copying other people's code, solution sets, or from any other sources is strictly prohibited. The project assignments must be the work of the students turning them in. We will punish transgressors severely.


We will use an automated system for detecting cheating: it performs a pairwise comparison of all homework assignments with all others, and reports any suspicious similarities. The TAs and/or instructor will check any such similarities. If two assignments are determined to be obviously very similar (i.e., we believe that they were done together or one was copied from the other), then the course grade for all the students involved in the incident will be reduced by one letter grade for the first offense, and to an F for the second offense. ("All" means both the copy-er and the copy-ee). The letter grade for that assignment will also be reduced to 0. The reduction in grade will be taken without discussion or warning; the first notice you will receive may be a letter indicating the penalty. In addition, for every instance, a letter to the Office of Student Conduct will be attached to your permanent record, and a copy will be placed in the CS division office. More serious cases of cheating, such as copying someone else’s work without their knowledge, cheating on exams, etc. will probably result in the person cheating receiving an F, and having a letter placed in their permanent file in the Office of Student Conduct and in the CS division office. Note that you are responsible for not leaving copies of your assignments lying around and for protecting your files. You must set up your files and directories so that they are protected from anyone other than members of your group reading them.