Course Description - CSCI 558L, Spring 2009

This class covers operating systems and networking technology. It focuses on practical systems design, performance evaluation, monitoring and diagnosis. Through the class, students will gain detailed understanding and hands-on experience about how systems work in the real world.

The class will equip students with three specific skills:

  • Presentation: Each student will give one 30-minute presentation on a particular topic of their choice from a list suggested by the instructor. There will be questions and answers following each presentation.
  • Laboratory Exercises: Each student will conduct three lab exercises on routing and TCP with Cisco routers and Linux workstations. The exercises will familiarize students with modern routers and common tools for network diagnosis and data analysis.
  • Class Project: Each student (or a team of two students) will implement and demonstrate a systems project. Students may choose their projects from a list suggested by the instructor, or define their own ones with the instructor's approval.
Academic Integrity Policy
Please make sure you read the Academic Integrity Policy of this course.
There are no required textbooks for this class. The following resources are recommended books. In most cases, you will find the necessary material in man pages, Linux HOWTOs and other publicly available Web resources. These books merely make that information more readily available. The following books were ordered and should be available at the USC bookstore: Cisco IOS in a Nutshell, Essential System Administration, Linux Device Drivers, and The Linux TCP/IP Stack: Networking for Embedded Systems.
Academic Calendar
A link to the USC Spring 2009 academic calendar is provided here for your convenience.
Most class related announcements will be done through e-mail via an e-mail reflector setup by the instructor. Please see instructions on how to get on this list (you should do this as soon as possible).
There are no exams for this class.
Class participation:   10%
Presentation:   15%
Lab exercises:   35%
Project:   40%

Pleaes also note the following:

  • The above percentages will be used to calculate your total score. Final grades (A,B,C,D,or F) will be determined using a modified curve (i.e., we won't necessarily assign an equal number of failing grades as passing grades) based on this total score. No other methods will be considered. (So, please do not ask the instructor to take how much you have improved since the beginning of the semester into account. You are expected to try your best from the beginning!)

  • We will assign grades of C and below to individuals who do not perform satisfactorily in the above areas. (i.e., you should not assume a B- or even C if you perform unsatisfactorily.) However, we hope that most students will perform well.

  • Your assignments are your own work! No group assignments are allowed or will be tolerated. You are free to talk to other students about assignments but no actual material (files, photocopies etc.) should be shared. We will act harshly at any sign of copying.

  • We will not assign incompletes unless it is for a documented medical reason (in accordance with USC policy).
Late Policy
You are strongly encouraged to turn in all assignments on time. Late submissions of presentation topics, lab exercises, and project-related documents will receive a 25% penalty per day. [BC: updated 4/13/2009] Your project demo must be done during the timeslot assigned to you (i.e., late demo will not be accepted and will receive a score of zero).

If you are unable to complete an assignment due to illness or family emergency, please let the instructor know as soon as possible to get an extension. A doctor's note is required as proof of illness or emergency. In general, when you get sick, it's best to see a doctor and get a note just in case you may need it later.

Note From A Doctor
Recently, there has been a change in the policy at the Student Health Center regarding giving a "note from the doctor" to you to bring to a faculty member so that you can be execused from deadlines. Basically, they will not give you such a note any more. What they would give you is an Authorization for Disclosure of Medical Information form. With this form, you give them permissions to discuss your illness with me.

So, if you visit a doctor at the Student Health Center, please make sure you fill out one of these forms, check the "limited discussion with faculty" checkbox, get it stamped, signed, and dated by someone there (a clerk/receptionist would sign at the "witness" line), and bring it back to me. This would satisfy the "note from a doctor" requirement so that you can get an extension.

If you visit a doctor somewhere else, please either bring a "note from the doctor" or a similar authrozation letter so I can contact them.

Regrading Policy
Requests to change grading of lab exercises must be submitted in writing within one week of the time the initial grade was given. Requests must be specific and explain why you feel your answer deserves additional credit. A request to re-grade an assignment can result in the entire assignment being re-evaluated and as a result the score of any part of the assignment be increased or lowered as appropriate.
Office Hours
The instructor's office hours are held twice a week for one hour each.

You are welcome to make an appointment to see the instructor outside of office hours.

Extra Credits
No extra credit assignments will be given for this class. So, there is not need to ask. Try your best from the beginning!
Implicit Student Agreement
All work including homeworks, programming assignments and exams must be that of the individual student. It is often productive to study with other students. However, if any portions of homeworks or programming assignments are found to be shared between two (or more) students, zero credit will be given to all students concerned and all students will be disciplined. This policy is in the interest of those students who do their own work, which hopefully applies to all of you in this class. 

This policy also holds for  programming assignments. In this class, we will use sophisticated automated program checkers to detect cheating. Be aware that the program checkers have demonstrated very good results and are widely used within the academic community. Any student caught cheating will be given zero credit and will be disciplined.

It is the students responsibility to submit their assignments to the TA in time. 

For students who satisfied the CSci402 prerequisite at other universities or through work experience, this course assumes that you are familiar with programming on the UNIX platform. You should be able to write programs in C/C++ and be familiar with the UNIX development environment (vi/pico/emacs, cc/gcc or g++/CC, make, etc.) No special assistance or consideration will be offered if your background is inadequate.

Student Responsibilities
During the semester you are responsible for completing the assigned readings, homeworks, programs, and exams.

You are expected to read all the papers in detail. Not all details will be covered in class.  We will assume knowledge of material covered in CSci402 and a C language programming proficiency from CSci402 or its equivalent. If you covered the introductory material at some other school it is YOUR responsibility to fill in any missing background. Feel free to ask me for advice on appropriate introductory readings if you feel your background is insufficient.

We expect you to attend every class meeting. If you do happen to miss a session, you are responsible for finding out what material was covered and if any administrative announcements were made. You must do so BEFORE the next session (e.g., if there is an assignment given during the missed session, you are still responsible for completing it by the next week along with the other students).  You are advised to read the papers for a particular lecture before attending the lecture. This will greatly enhance your understanding of the subject matter.

The instructor must treat all students equally and cannot give special treatment to any particular student. Therefore, please do not ask special favors from the instructor because of your circumstances. This may seem unfair to you because you believe that your circumstances are special (understandably, everone does). But the rule the instructor must follow is that whatever he offers you, he must offer to the entire class.
Auditing is not permitted for this class.
Additional Resources
  • C Programming (by Steve Holmes at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, England) - includes notes on make, separate compilation, file I/O, etc.
  • Makefile tutorial (at Indiana University)
  • C/C++ at USC from USC ISDWeb
  • Steve's Software Trek (by Steve Karg) - includes some useful C/C++ source code for string manipulation, INI file manipulation, etc.
  • C Examples - lots and lots of sample C code for basic stuff.

[Last updated Sat Sep 19 2020]    [Please see copyright regarding copying.]