You learn operating systems by doing. Modern operating systems are,
unfortunately, too complex to envision programming within the context
of a semester-long class. In CS402, we will use a stripped-down version
of a modern OS which still has all the essentials necessary for
understanding the concepts behind the subsystems that constitute today's OSs.
At the beginning of the semester, you are given a skeleton of
an operating system with some of the lower-level machine specific parts
filled in. In stages, during the course of the semester you are asked to
fill in important missing pieces of various subsystems in the OS.
The OS is based on the x86 architecture and should, in theory,
compile to an image that can be run on a bare x86 machine.
For simplicity, however, you will be testing and developing parts of the
OS on an x86 emulator called Qemu.
The OS is written in C, so the programming assignments listed below assume
familiarity with the C language. If you have not programmed in C before,
we encourage you to pick it up on your own as quickly as possible before
the semester starts.
You are allowed to do the kernel assignments in teams of 2 to 4 students
(or you can do them by yourself).
Please read carefully the section below on forming teams.
Access to programming assignments is restricted. These specs are private
and you do not permissions to post/display these specs and your work based on
these specs in a public place.
GDB Assignments: (will not be graded)
(Please be aware that these are extremely difficult and can be very very time-consuming,
so you should get started on these assignments as soon as possible.)
General Information about Programming Assignments
We will use the following percentages for figuring out your
over project grade:
Looks like the ONLY working platform to do the kernel assignments is Ubuntu 14.04 (or Ubuntu 12.04).
We strongly encourage that you install Ubuntu 14.04 on your laptop or desktop as soon as possible.
To minimize hardware incompatibility issues,
the PREFERRED way is to first install a virtual machine (VMware Workstation 12 on Windows or VirtualBox on Mac OS X) onto your
laptop/desktop and then install Ubuntu 14.04 into the virtual machine.
(If your CPU is not Intel Core i3 or faster or has only 1GB of memory, running a virtual machine may be too slow
and you may have to install Ubuntu 12.04 in such a way that you can dual-boot your machine.)
If things are not working out and you cannot get Ubuntu 12.04 installed,
please contact the instructor as soon as possible.
The warmup assignments must compile and run on nunki.usc.edu (which runs the Solaris OS).
You are expected to team up in teams of 2 to 4 students for the kernel assignments
(or you can do them by yourself).
You can team up with students registered in any section.
We generally would not recommend attempting the
kernel assignments individually unless you have had
significant prior exposure to C programming and debugging and working with large software systems.
Here is how team forming will work:
If you have not worked in a team on programming projects before,
please be aware of the following:
- You must decide on your project team for doing the
kernel assignments before the
end of day on 2/18/2018 (two days after
warmup 2 is due).
Each team member must send the instructor an email listing
their team members (and copy all other team members on this e-mail).
(It would be acceptable if one person would send such an e-mail to the instructor
and copy to all team members and everyone else in the team just do reply-all
and confirm that the information is correct.)
Please only use USC e-mail addresses (and not gmail addresses).
- Once the team is formed and the kernel assignments started,
the only way you can change your team is by mutually agreed
swaps with another team. You can also break up the team if
everyone in the team agrees to the breakup. Please keep the
instructor informed if swaps or breakups are being done.
- All students not belonging to a group by the group forming
deadline will be assigned a group by the instructor using
a randomized algorithm (unless you have indicated that you
want to do the kernel assignments by yourself) as follows:
We know that this algorithm is far from perfect, that's why
it is specified before the semester starts. This way, you
can plan how to form teams given that you know our algorithm
for assigning teams.
- form a list consisting only of these students then shuffle the list in a random order
- assign 4 to a group starting from the beginning of the list
- remaining students join these randomly formed groups
- boundary conditions? Let's hope we won't get there.
Finally, and this is very important...
If you cannot form a team of your own and end up in a team that
cannot get the kernel assignments to work (because there
are problem members of the group),
is this unfair to you? No! Because you did have options.
Given that you know that this is the rule, what should you do?
You should either (1) form your own team and do it as early
as you can, or (2) do the kernel projects yourself.
If you cannot form your own team and didn't want to do the kernel
assignments yourself, we cannot grade you differently given our
- More is not necessarily better: having more people on the team also
increases the coordination overhead.
- In many teams, some of the contributors start to assume a passive role,
leaving others to assume the larger burden of the work. To avoid this,
you should have frequent team meetings, carefully delineated programming
responsibilities, and internal deadlines that help ensure that everyone
does their part on time.
- It's very risky to work with someone you don't know.
You are strongly encourage to "work with" other students
when you are doing the warmup assignments. "Work with" means
to work together at a high level (i.e., not coding). When it
comes time to write code for the warmup assignments, you must do it
completely independently. This way, you can learn the habits of
How To Find Kernel Partners?
If you don't belong to a team and would like to join an existing team or find other students in your section to form a new team,
please visit this page.
If you are considering to be kernel partners with another student, I strongly urge that you
work with each other on warmup assignments before committing to be kernel partners.
Grading for Group Projects
For kernel (group) projects,
half the grade is "team grade" (where everyone gets the same score)
and half is "individual grade".
In the README file your team will submit, you must (1) specify
how to split the points (in terms of percentages and must sum to 100%)
and (2) give a brief justification about the split. If you don't
specify anything, we would take it as an equal-share split.
We would like to encourage that everyone contributed equally
to the team (or at least for you to declare as so in your README file).
Therefore, your scores are maximized when you have an
equal-share split. There may be penalty for not dividing
the scores equally (i.e., for failing to work as a team).
The actual equations we will you to determine the
scores is a bit involved. The basic idea is to use "standard deviation"
to measure how skew the amount of sharing is going on. When you have
an equal-share split, the standard deviation is zero, that corresponds
to an upper bound (i.e., no penalty). When you have a completely skewed
distribution (e.g., 0/0/100 split), you would get the highest standard
deviation and the most penalty. To make things easier to figure out,
we have provided a program on nunki.usc.edu/aludra.usc.edu for
you to run. The syntax is:
~csci551b/bin/cs402calc grade p1 p2 ...
where grade is the grade the grader gave and
p1, p2, ... are percentages. For example,
if the grader gave 80 points and the breakdown is 20/30/50%, you should run:
~csci551b/bin/cs402calc 80 20 30 50
The output (among a bunch of other information)
would show that the final scores for the 3 students
will be 55.695, 63.5425, and 79.2375.
So, the person who contributed the most did not get 80 points.
A small penalty here.
If the grader gave 80 points and the breakdown is 0/50/50%, you should run:
~csci551b/bin/cs402calc 80 0 50 50
The output would show that the scores will be 40, 70, and 70.
In this case, it's more apparent that there are penalties for not
being able to figure out how to share responsibilities among 3 students.
So, may be it's not worthwhile to assign such percentages!
If the grader gave 80 points and the breakdown is 0/0/100%, you should run:
~csci551b/bin/cs402calc 80 0 0 100
The output would show that the scores will be 40, 40, and 80.
In this case, the 3rd student did all the work and should get all
the 80 points. The other two students did not contribute to the
team and got "free rides".
It's totally up to your team to decide how you want to assign the splits.
If there are disagreements, the instructor will have to interview the
team members (and ask questions such as, "What do this code do?")
and make a decision.
Grade Normalization (for all programming assignments)
[BC: entire subsection below updated 3/13/2018]
There is another issue with grading now that students in different section can be in the same team and receive the same grade.
Since not every grader grades identically (and it's pretty much impossible to have them grade identically, give that we have
more than one grader), I will track which student is graded by which grader.
This issue is also present in warmup assignments, the following applies to all programming assignments.
When I calculate your final class grade at the end of the semester,
I will "normalize" each assignment grade according to the average and standard deviation
for each grader and extrapolate your grade according to the overall class average and standard deviation.
This "normalization" only applies to the grader-dependent part of your grade (i.e., without
early/late submission extra credit and penalties and without class Google Group extra credit for kernel assignments.
(If the overall score you get for an assignment is X,
your early/late submission extra credit is Y percent, and your class Google Group extra credit for kernel assignments is Z,
your grader-dependent part of the score is (X - Z) / ((100+Y)/100).
After normalization of the grader-dependent part of your score, if your score is W,
the score we will use to calculate your class grade would be W × ((100+Y)/100) + Z.)
In the next two paragraphs, all the scores are grader-dependent part of your scores.
For example, if the average for a particular grader is 85 and standard deviation is 10 and you got a score of 87.5
(i.e., average plus half a standard deviation),
your "normalized" score will be the overall class average plus half of the overall class standard deviation.
This means that if you were graded by an "easy grader", your normalized score may be lower than your original score.
If you were graded by a "harsh grader", your normalized score may be higher than your original score.
This is not a perfect system.
But I think it's a big improvement over not normalizing your scores and
it's done this way so that you can have flexibility when you choose which section to enroll.
[BC: paragraph added 3/8/2018]
Since the purpose of grade normalization is to normalize the difference in grading among the graders.
For a programming assignment, the highest possible normalized grade anyone can get is still the
original maximum score assigned to that assignment, independent of the grader.
Similarly, the lowest score one can get is 1 point given that an assignment was submitted for grading.
It's imperative that you backup your code when you are doing a major
programming assignment. For the kernel assignments, it's also imperative that
your team have a reasonable way to collaborate and share code (and be able to
modify them individually and then merge the changes). If you have
Ubuntu 12.04 installed, you can install
git for collaboration and version control and Dropbox
as your personal cloud where you can backup your source code and documentation.
The following was by Pradeep Nayak, who took CS 402 in Fall 2012.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Some people have reported problems with hosting their git repository on dropbox.
The has two problems, one of them is more serious than the other
From: Pradeep Nayak
Date: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Subject: [usc-cs402-f12: 822] Using Dropbox to manage and backup your code!
As professor mentioned in class, it's important to back up your code.I already use Dropbox for a lot of other things, hence using that as an example here. If you don't have a dropbox account, you can create one by using this link : http://db.tt/oLKgb3hw :-)
We will be using Dropbox to version control your code with git and also backing it up on Dropbox.
Things you need installed before you start:
Lets get started:
- You need git first! A simple way to install this would be sudo apt-get install git
- Setup Dropbox for Ubuntu:https://www.dropbox.com/install?os=lnx. If you followed the default install procedure i.e (I agree to license terms -> Next ->.. Finish) you would be able to see a folder called Dropbox under /home//Dropbox where username is the current user you are logged in to the machine
Also, git is awesome to use when you are working on a collaborative project like this.
- Set up a bare central repository on Dropbox. This is the place where you would be backing up your code along with version control
git init --bare
- Clone your remote repository on to your home directory. This is where you would be working on your project, committing changes etc.
git clone ~/Dropbox/kernel-project.git
You would now see a folder called kernel-project in your home directory.
- Lets make the first commit:
echo "Hello World" > foo.txt
git add .
git commit . -m "First Commit"
Now you have committed the changes to your local repository. Next step is to push your code to Dropbox
- Push code to Dropbox. Make sure you are in the kernel-project folder
git push origin master
So if your Dropbox is already running in background it would update your changes to Dropbox cloud. If not, the next time open Dropbox it would sync your changes on to the Dropbox servers.
- git runs garbage collection and updates its indexes every now and then.
When dropbox is used, it may partially update an index and not other parts of the
disk and any mistimed sync will cause damage to repo and loss of the index. This has seen been reported enough times
that there is really no doubt that this does happen!
- Unless people use different branches, or don't work on the files in the sames time. They are nullifying any collaboration going on.
BitBucket/GitHub is probably better than using DropBox because it combines version control and backup:
Once you have created a repository, say, "warmup1", you can do the following on your laptop
in a terminal:
- Create an academic account on BitBucket.
You must use your USC e-mail address.
- I do not recommend GitHub any more because a private repository automatically turns into
a public one after two years (unless you pay). So, please do not use GitHub for this class.
- You must make sure to make your git repository private. When you create a new repository,
by default, the repository would be private. So, don't change that! If for some reason it's showing "public",
select "private" before you create the repository).
Failing to do so would be considered cheating (since you are allowing other students to cheat from you)
and can lead to very serious consequences. If you cannot make your git repository private, you should NOT use BitBucket!
- For a repository, you can change its settings and you can make the repository public.
Please don't do that! If a prospective employer asks you to do that, you must tell them that
you are not allowed to do that because you have agreed to the USC student conduct code when
you were a student at USC and the USC student conduct code says that you must not cheat off other
students and you must not knowingly allow other students to cheat off of you. You can e-mail them
a private copy of your code and you must not include anything you do not have rights to distribute.
The above are just some examples to get you started quickly. To learn more about "git", please
please read the free online book, Pro Git, mentioned in the
textbooks section of our course description web page.
- Change directory (using the "cd" command) to your "warmup1" directory then do the following only once:
git remote add origin https://YOURACCOUNTNAME@bitbucket.org/billcheng/warmup1.git
- Add files to the repository. For example:
git add *.c *.h Makefile *README.txt
git commit -m 'Initial commit'
git push -u origin master --tags
- After you have made changes to some of the files, you can do the following to update the repository:
git commit -a
git push origin master --tags
You should do the above at least once a day so that what's on your laptop do not get too much out of sync with
for Programming Assignments
- The class programming assignments will be C code to
be developed on a UNIX environment. No other programming
language will be accepted and your program must compile and
run with a Makefile as is.
You must be familiar with the UNIX
development environment (vi/pico/emacs, cc/gcc, make, etc.)
Please read the general programming FAQ if you
need a refresher on C file I/O and bit/byte manipulications.
- For the warmup assignments,
you should use your USC accounts and preferably work on the
Solaris machines via ssh for testing. The
final (submitted) program must run on
nunki.usc.edu because we are going to test it in that environment.
Please note that we can only grade your
submission from the grading account on nunki.usc.edu.
It would be a good idea to test your program in another student's
account to make sure that it runs everywhere.
By the way, you should not do the whole program development
there, as nunki is a general purpose server - under heavy use
by many students. But you should definitely test your program
there. Please also note that regrades can only be done
from the grading account on nunki.usc.edu.
- For the warmup assignments,
please do not hardcode any directory path in your code!
If you hardcode something like "/home/scf-..." or
"/auto/home/scf-..." in your code to access something
in your home directory and the grader cannot access these
directories during grading, we will not be able to make changes
to the overall filesystem on nunki. You may only get
a score of 1 point as a result of this. So, please make sure
you are not doing this. All path should be specified
externally, as far as your code is concerned.
The only path that you can hardcode is probably "/tmp", and even that
is not a great idea. What you can do is to define such a path
as a compile time variable and pass it to your program. For
example, you can use the following to define TMPDIR to be
equal to "/tmp":
gcc ... -DTMPDIR=\"/tmp\" ...
Then in your code, you can do:
snprintf(tmpfile, sizeof(tmpfile), "%s/XXXXXX", TMPDIR);
... mkstemp(tmpfile) ...
Basically, using a compile time variable is the same as doing
the following in your code:
#define TMPDIR "/tmp"
The difference is that you are doing it outside of your code,
and this is cleaner.
- We will make grading guidelines available at least one week
before an assignment is due. We will grade based on the
grading guidelines (may be with minor adjustments).
Since you know exactly how we are going to grade, grading will be harsh.
The general rule is that you do not get credit for simply coding.
You only get credit for getting your code to work correctly according
to the spec and produce the correct output. (Please do not ask the grader
to look at your code so you can get more points because you have done a lot
of coding and your code looks like it should work.
If your code is close to working correctly, it's your responsiblity to
get your code to work correctly and produce the correct output.)
submissions will receive severe penalties. Please see the
- All submissions
will be timestamped by the submission server and receipts (known as
tickets) will be issued.
Whether your submission arrived to the server
by the deadline is determined by the timestamp. Please do not delete
your receipts/tickets from your home directory on nunki.usc.edu.
- If you sign up late for this class, you are still
required to turn in all the programming assignments on time
or you will receive a score of zero for the applicable assignments.
No exceptions! This requirement also applys to students on
the wait list.
- You must follow the
Electronic Submission Guidelines
when you submit programming assignments.
Please note that this is a fairly new procedure and very different
from previous procedures.
Please make sure you read the output of the
bsubmit program carefully.
It should look similar to the sample output
given on the bsubmit page. The timestamped upload ticket
issued by the Bistro server is a proof that the server has received
your submission (and you do not need additional proof such as an e-mail
You should also verify what you have submitted is what
you intended to submit by following the
Verify Your Submission procedure.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that
you have submitted valid submissions and that you have received
timestampted upload tickets for them.
Please understand that a file system timestamp can be easily forged.
The only kind of timestamp that we can accept is a timestamp given by a server under my control.
Using Code Written by Other People
You must NOT submit code you (or your group) did not write yourself (or yourselves).
You have committed plagiarism if you submit work done by
others and claim that it's your own work.
It should be clear that you cannot use code written by other students
in a previous semester no matter what. As clearly in spelled out in the
academic integrity policy of this class,
if you have a copy of any of our programming assignments written by someone else,
looking at the code or running the code is considered cheating,
let alone copying code from it.
There are two exceptions to the above rule:
- Code fragments done by yourself for another class or given to you as class resource in another class (which you have taken and completed) must be cited explicitly.
Just mention that you got some code in another class in your README file is no good. You must surround such
source code by the following comment blocks:
* Begin code I did not write.
* The code was given to the (class information) in
* (semester, year) at (institution name).
* If the source code requires you to include copyright, put copyright here.
[ code you did not write yourself ]
* End code I did not write.
If you decide to make changes to this type of source code, you
should change the phrase "This code was given to ..." to
"This code was derived from code that was given to ...".
- You are allowed to use code given to you as part of this class (i.e., from textbook or lectures). You do not need to cite such code.
Modifications after Deadline
You are allowed to submit modifications via
e-mail to the instructor, up to 24 hours
after the submission deadline (and preferably after the submission deadline).
The first 3 lines of modifications are free
of charge within this time frame. Additional modifications cost 3 points per
line (each submission is worth 100 points).
One line (128 characters max) of change is defined as
one of the following:
where x and z are line numbers and y is a specified file.
Please also mention what line z looks like so I can verify that I have
made the modification at the right place.
- Add 1 line before (or after) line x of file y
- Delete line x of file y
- Replace line x of file y by 1 line
- Move line x of file z to before (or after) line y
Afterwards, additional modifications cost 12 points
per line until 7 days past the submission deadline.
After 7 days past the submission deadline, an additional
modification costs 30 points per line.
Please note that this applies to source code, Makefile, and README files.
Please understand that the grader is NOT allowed to modify your source code
or Makefile during grading.
Just want to be very clear about this... The free 3 lines of changes
are only applicable if you submit them within 24 hours of the submission deadline.
Also, a "modification" is NOT considered a "new submission". So, sending a "modification request"
will not change the timestamp of the submission we grade.
Segmentation Faults and Bus Errors
I often get questions regarding segmentation faults and bus errors.
Sometimes, these occue when one calls library functions such as
malloc() or free(). Some students think this is
some kind of a system bug. Well, it's often not. I will
try to answer this type of questions here once and for all.
Chances are that you have corrupted memory (or have corrupted the memory allocation chain).
Memory corruption means that a memory location got modified in a bad way
and you have no idea when it happened or how it happened. It's as if it has gone bad
all by itself. But since it really cannot go bad all by itself, it just be your code
that somehow corrupted memory! When you notice that memory corruption has occurred,
this usually implies that you have corrupted memory a while back.
It just happened that when you call malloc() or free(),
the corrupted memory caused a bus error or the execution of an illegal instruction.
By the way, bus errors and illegal instructions are basically the same thing as segmentation faults.
If you see something like "stack smash", it's another form of memory corruption bug (unless
you really try to "smash the stack").
How does one corrupt memory (or corrupt the memory allocation chain)?
You can write beyond an allocated
memory block. You can free the same object twice. You can
free an object that was not allocated. You can write to an
object that's already freed. You can write to a portion of a stack space
that is no longer valid. These bugs are hard to find
because most of the them you only see that there is problem
long time after you have "corrupted memory". We will talk about all this
when we go over "dynamic storage allocation" in Ch 3 of the textbook.
If you have access to a professional/expensive debugging tool, it may be helpful.
Otherwise, you just need to do binary search and see where the
bug(s) might be. There's no magical cures in debugging
memory corruption bugs, not even for professionals!
I, unfortunately, do not have any magic tricks that can help
anyone find memory corruption bugs.
One thing you might try is to temporarily turn off memory
deallocation (if you suspect that you have freed the same
object twice or freed an object that was not allocated).
You can do the following to define free() as a
no-op in a common header file when you are debugging:
#endif /* free */
#endif /* DEBUGGING_MEMORY_CORRUPTION */
Then use -DDEBUGGING_MEMORY_CORRUPTION
are a commandline argument when you run gcc
to enable this code.
As your code gets more and more complicated, you may get more of
these bugs. This is one reason why you want to keep your code
nice and clean.
If you develop your code on a Linux machine, you can try
If you have installed Ubuntu 14.04
on your laptop/desktop, you should give it a try.
Just prefix your commandline by "valgrind"
(or "valgrind --tool=exp-sgcheck") and read the output carefully.
Figure out why valgrind is complaining and fix EVERYTHING
it's complaining about. Although valgrind cannot catch every memory corruption
bug, it does a pretty good job. For warmup programs, it's worthwhile to make
your code runs on both Linux and Solaris because you can use valgrind
to look for bugs on Linux. This way, you won't have to look for all your bugs on Solaris
which can be more painful!
If you have installed Ubuntu 14.04
on your laptop/desktop, just use the following command to install valgrind:
sudo apt-get install valgrind
If your program is memory-corruption free and you just want to look for memory leaks,
you can run your program by prefixing it with "valgrind --leak-check=full"
and see what valgrind has found for you.
Recently, I have heard about two more memory debuggers.
I haven't tried them. I'm hoping that they may be useful.