Last Updated: 2021-01-19 Tue 09:38

CSCI 4061: Introduction to Operating Systems

University of Minnesota

4 credits, Spring 2021

Table of Contents

1 Basic Information

1.1 Catalog Description

Processes/threads, process coordination, interprocess communication, asynchronous events, memory management/file systems. Systems programming projects using operating system interfaces and program development tools.

1.2 Prerequisites

  • C or better in CSCI 2021
  • Entrance into the Computer Science Major

In addition to the formal prerequisites, a solid understanding of C programming is essential to completing this course. We will briefly survey aspects of C programming at the start of the course but folks with rusty C skills will want to review vigorously early on. Suggested resources on C programming appear in the Course Materials Section.

1.3 Course Goals

Students that complete CSCI 4061 will posses the following characteristics.

  • Understand some of the central abstractions most operating systems provide such as processes, files, I/O facilities, communication, paging, threads, synchronization, and network communication.
  • Can explain why these abstractions allow the OS to provide security, integrity, flexibility, and efficiency to users of a computer.
  • Knowledgeable of some of the responsibilities that the OS kernel has and how it makes hardware features available to user programs through system calls.
  • Be familiar with the specific system calls used in the Unix environment to create processes, communicate and coordinate between processes, manage memory, manipulate files, and communicate over the network.
  • Capable of creating modest-sized programs in the C language that employ Unix system calls effectively.
  • Insight into broad issues associated with systems programming such as basic communication protocols, efficiently using virtual memory, coordinating shared resources while avoiding deadlock, and internal structures to support the operating system.

1.4 Staff

Office Hours for staff will be posted on the course Canvas site. Office hours for all staff are open to all students in any section of the course governed by this syllabus.


Name Chris Kauffman
Sections 001
Office Shepherd 327
Phone 612-626-9351

Teaching Assistants

Member Email Role
Tim Salo GTA 50%
Ahmad Hassan GTA 50%
Bhaargav Sriraman GTA 50%

1.5 Meetings

Meeting Day Time Location
Lecture 001 Mon/Wed 04:00 PM‑05:15 PM Zoom
Lab 002 Mon 08:00 AM‑08:50 AM Discord
Lab 003 Mon 09:05 AM‑09:55 AM Discord
Lab 004 Mon 10:10 AM‑11:00 AM Discord
Lab 005 Mon 11:15 AM‑12:05 PM Discord
Lab 006 Mon 12:20 PM‑01:10 PM Discord

1.6 Course Materials


Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment, 3rd edition by Stevens and Rago
(REQUIRED) Our main course text which gives a good introduction to the API provided by the UNIX system.
UNIX systems programming : communication, concurrency, and threads by Robbins and Robbins
(Optional) Sometimes used as the main course text for 4061, this book has similar coverage to Stevens/Rago.
Operating System Concepts, 9th Edition by Silberschatz et al.
(Optional) A broad overview of operating systems issues without details or specifics for any individual OS.


It is assumed you will have access to a computer with the ability to edit, compile, and run Unix programs. Some university labs provide this ability; the first week of the course will cover how to set up your personal environment as well. If you have difficulty accessing a suitable environment, contact the course staff.

You will need to create a CSE Labs account for use on assignments and during labs. Accounts can be created here:

1.7 Office Hours

Office Hours for staff will be posted on the course Canvas site. Office hours for all staff are open to all students in any section of the course governed by this syllabus. No appointments are necessary but usually students receive help on a first-come-first-serve basis at office hours.

Students are strongly encouraged to visit the professor and teaching assistant(s) during office hours to further their understanding of the material: we are here to help you learn.

Special Note for Online Offerings: Office hours will be held online using Discord as be described in the first week of the course.

1.8 Communication

  • Canvas is used for coordination
  • Zoom (Video Conferencing): used to present audio/video synchronously such as during lectures.
  • Discord (Labs/Office Hours): used to visit office hours and attend labs, allows real-time audio/video communication, grouping into "rooms/tables", support for text chat also which is used to facilitate help queues. The invite link to our "guild" is available on our Canvas site.
  • Gradescope is used to submit and receive grades on most coursework including Projects, Exams, and HW Quizzes
  • Piazza (Announcements/Async Q&A): used to ask questions on course material outside of synchronous meetings and for staff to make announcements to students.

How should I contact staff?

Here are common situations for students and the best method to use to contact staff.

  • I want to get some real-time assistance with some coursework.

    Stop by office online. Locations and times for office hours are listed on the course Canvas site. Keep in mind that office hours get busy around project deadlines so there may be a queue to wait in to get help.

  • I have a question on an assignment or course content and there aren't any office hours coming up soon.

    Post your question on Piazza; staff members check several times a day and answer questions there. Make sure to post an answerable question as described in the Etiquette Piazza post and avoid publicly posting large portions of your code.

    You might also try searching Piazza first to see if someone already asked your question and received an answer.

  • I have a logistics questions such as when something is due, when something will happen, etc.

    Also use Piazza for most of these. If a staff member isn't sure how to answer the question, they'll give you they're best guess sooner and ask the Professor to confirm later.

    Staff will often use Piazza for Announcements such as upcoming deadlines or canceled office hours. These announcements will go to student email so check your UMN account regularly.

  • I think some of my work was graded wrong and I want someone to look at it again.

    Gradescope has a "Request Regrade" feature which will be open for students to use after grades are posted. Using this feature will notify whoever graded your work to have another look. If you cannot resolve the issue, your grader will involve the professor. There are some exceptions to this:

    • Homework Quizzes allow you to retake the Quiz to improve your score. No online Regrade Requests will be available, just retake the quiz up to the deadline.
    • Lab Quizzes can only be regraded in Labs/Office Hours up to the next lab. No online Regrade Requests will be available, visit your lab or office hours to talk to a staff member about your mistakes.
  • I need help some one-on-one help and I can't make it to office hours to talk to a staff about it.

    Email one or two of your favorite staff members to see if they can meet outside of their normal office hours. If you don't have luck in the first go, try contacting a different staff member including Prof Kauffman.

  • I had a major life event (got sick / family problem / mental health problem) and I'm wondering how to cope with it and this class.

    Email Prof Kauffman as soon as you can. Explain the situation and we'll work out a plan for how to proceed such as rescheduling exams, extending deadlines, or providing some additional help

  • I'm going to miss a lecture / lab meeting. What should I do?

    No special action is required: all course meetings will be recorded and will be viewable within a day or two of them happening to support the inevitable conflicts that arise.

2 Coursework and Grading

2.1 Graded Components

Final grades will be determined by scores obtained on the components below according to their associated weight.

Component Weight Policy
Engagement Points 10% 1% per point, 0.25% per point above 10, Earned through Lab/Lecture/Piazza
Homework / Quizzes (14) 10% Drop two lowest scores
Programming Projects (3) 30% No drops
Midterm Exam 1 15%  
Midterm Exam 2 15%  
Final Exam 20%  

2.2 Final Grade Determination

Final grades will be assigned without rounding according to the following criteria.

Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade
>= 93 A 87-89 B+ 77-79 C+ 65-69 D+
90-92 A- 83-86 B 73-76 C 60-64 D
    80-82 B- 70-72 C- <60 F

If circumstances require it, the grading scale may be adjusted, generally in the students' favor.

2.3 Engagement Points

Throughout the semester, students will have opportunities to earn and use engagement points. These are:

  • Attending lecture and participating in discussion
  • Attending labs and participating in the activities
  • Answering discussion board questions from other students and receiving "Good Answer" marks from course staff
  • Participating in optional activities announced during the course
  • Late Project submissions COST Engagement Points

Each Engagement Point is worth 1% to a maximum of 10% for a student's overall grade. Each engagement point beyond this earns 0.25% Bonus Credit to a student's overall grade. This is the sole bonus credit mechanism in the course so students are encouraged to attend Lecture and Lab to earn Engagement points.

2.4 Lectures and "Hot Seats"

Lectures will be delivered synchronously at the times mentioned in the course schedule via Zoom. During lectures, students will frequently be asked to work on short exercises in Breakout Rooms with a few of their colleagues. After working on these exercises, the Professor will select a 1-2 "Hot Seat" groups to discuss their answers with the remainder of the class. Showing effort on these exercises will earn Engagement Points for the group facilitating the discussion of answers.

All lectures will be recorded and posted for asynchronous viewing within 48 hours of the meeting. Students not able to attend lecture synchronously will miss the chance to ask questions and earn Engagement Points there can still earn full credit through other means of acquiring Engagement Points such as completing required Lab work.

2.5 Lab Activities

Lab sections meet once per week online. Credit for Labs will be earned by submitting work online which, if completed correctly, will earn 1 Engagement Point.

Students do not need to attend lab synchronously to earn credit but during Lab meetings, staff will give brief demos, group students to help complete the lab exercises, and be on hand to help students surmount difficulties with lab work. Attending lab mostly guarantees earning credit and is a great place to meet other students in the class.

Lab Exercises are Open Resource and Open Collaboration. Students will be encouraged to work in groups during lab to complete the work and can submit their work as a group (one submission, several students getting credit for it). Generally lab work is automatically graded so feedback is available immediately.

No late submissions will be accepted for labs. All lab work must be completed by the next week's lab.

2.6 Weekly Homework Quizzes

Each week a set of Homework exercises will be posted online which reinforce and apply lecture topics. Associated with this Homework is an online Quiz. Completing Homework exercises will prepare students to take the online Quiz. Homework and Quizzes are open resource and open collaboration: students may work together with other students in our section(s) of the course to complete homework/quizzes and are encouraged to do so. Submitting identical answers for homework/quizzes is acceptable so long as it does not violate the PRIME DIRECTIVE.

Online Quizzes are graded automatically and scores will be available immediately after completing the quiz and quizzes may be retaken an unlimited number of times up to the deadline.

No late submissions for weekly Homework/Quizzes will be accepted and no regrade requests are allowed. Missing the deadline results in 0 credit. The two lowest HW Quiz scores will be dropped in final grade calculations

2.7 Projects

Students will receive a number of programming projects during the semester. Each project will involve writing programs and answering questions about them to illustrate an understanding of course material. Specific projects may allow collaboration between pairs of students or require individual work. Pay careful attention to the guidelines for each programming project. Projects are usually large and require a significant amount of work to complete.

Project grading will include the following elements.

  1. Manual Inspection: Projects will include a checklist of features of completely correct answers. These usually comprise things that cannot be easily checked automatically such as showing the process to reach an answer, inclusion of key elements of an answer, or style aspects of computer code. These features will be checked by graders and assigned credit based on level of compliance.
  2. Automatic Testing: Some projects may have automatic tests provided which check for correctly functioning programs or answers. In most cases, these automatic checks will be publicly available for use while working on the assignment.

2.8 Late Project Submission

Late submission of Projects is governed by the following.

  • No projects will be accepted more than 48 hours after a deadline
  • On-time Projects receive no penalties
  • Submitting 1-24 hours will result in the loss of 1 Engagement Point
  • Submitting 25-48 hours late will result in the loss of 2 Engagement Points
  • Engagement points can be earned in a variety of ways mentioned in the Engagement Points Section.
  • Students may submit projects as many times as they wish: the most recent submission will be graded though if it is submitted late it will cost Engagement Points.

NOTE: If students attend all 14 Labs, they will earn full engagement scores and have credit for 4 days of late project submissions.

2.9 Exams

There will be a series of midterm exams during the semester and a comprehensive final exam at the end of the semester. Exams take place during the regularly scheduled lecture period and are worth a significant portion of the overall course grade. Exams will be administered Online via Gradescope. No special monitoring/proctoring software is required but students are expected to work individually and adhere standard academic integrity policies.

All exams are Open Resource Exams: unless otherwise specified you may use any course content during exams including lecture slides, your notes, the textbook, editors/compilers/shells, and any code the you have written or received from course staff. No communication is allowed during the exam (no email/texting/chat), and no Internet searches are allowed (do not "google for answers"). In addition, you may only use exams from previous versions of 2021 if you personally took the exams. If in doubt, ask about specifics before or during the exam.

All exams will be preceded by official Practice Exams so that students can acquaint themselves with the tools and tactics to be successful.

Missing an exam results in a zero score and make-up exams will be considered only in situations involving significant life events. Proof of such circumstances will be required for a make-up to be considered.

2.10 Regrade Requests

Most Project and Exams will be graded via Gradescope which features a Request Regrade Button associated with specific problems and criteria. This will notify the specific individual responsible grading about the dispute. Raise regrade requests respectfully and specifically: mention what you think a grader missed in your answer or why you feel a deduction was unfair. Keep in mind that graders assign credit based on what appears on the project and exams, not post-hoc explanations of answers.

If a Student and Grader are not able to resolve a grading issue to the satisfaction of both, the student can ask the grader to consult the Professor who will review the dispute and resolve it. Students should ask their grader to do this, not email the Professor directly.

When grades are published, there will generally be a 1 week window in which disputes are considered. Failing to request a regrade in that time will forfeit further opportunity to contest the grade.

2.11 Textbook Readings

Readings from the textbook relevant to each lecture are listed in the schedule. You will increase your understanding of lectures by reading associated textbook sections ahead of time, though this is not assumed. We may provide additional reading material to supplement the textbook which will be posted on the course web page.

3 Academic Integrity

PRIME DIRECTIVE: Be able to explain your own work including assignment answers, program code, and exam solutions. The work you submit should be the product of your own effort and reflect your personal understanding.

Nearly all cheating in programming can be averted by adhering to the PRIME DIRECTIVE. Students may be asked at any time to explain code or exam solutions they submit. Inability to do so will be construed as evidence of misconduct. More specific guidelines are given below.

3.1 Thou Shalt Not

Unless otherwise specified, all assessments in this course are individual efforts involving no unfair collaboration. For the purposes of this course, the following actions constitute scholastic misconduct (cheating) and will be reported.

  • Directly copying someone else's solution to an assessment problem, including student solutions from a previous semester
  • Directly copying an answer from some outside source such as the Internet or friend for a homework problem.
  • Making use of an Instructor Solution manual to complete problems.
  • Submitting someone else's work as your own.
  • Using or sharing Exam materials from another student from past offerings of this course
  • Paying someone for a solutions to assignments.
  • Posting solutions to any web site including public posts to our course web site.
  • Collaborating or copying the work of others during an exam.
  • Taking another student's code with or without their consent.
  • Giving another student one's own code on assignments or exams
  • Aiding or abetting any of the above.
  • Witnessing any of the above and failing to report it to an instructor immediately.

REMEMBER: Once you give away your code/work, you lose control of it. This may lead to pain in the following non-obvious cases

  • Using a public Github repository to track your code allows anyone to copy it and submit it as their own.
  • Sharing code with a classmate "just to help them" may lead to them submitting it as their own, sharing it with others, or selling it for profit
  • Giving someone access to your accounts or devices may to help them may mean that they use your account to steal your work subsequently.

All of these have happened. All of these will happen again. Don't become one of your Professor's stories.

Refer to the following links for additional information.

3.2 Penalties

Any instance of misconduct that is detected will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and will likely result in failing the course. Be advised that the teaching team will be employing electronic means to detect plagiarism. This is extremely easy with computer code so keep your nose clean.

3.3 Fair Collaboration

The purpose of this course is to learn about programming and learning from one another is a great help. To that end, the following actions will NOT be considered cheating in this course.

  • Collaboration on Lab Activities and weekly Exercises/Quizzes is allowed and encouraged. These are a great opportunity to help one another on work that counts towards your final grade. Just make sure that you understand any solutions you submit as per the PRIME DIRECTIVE.
  • Discussing projects at a high level with other course students is fair so long as no code is shared. Take great care at the point of directly showing your work to others as your answers are subsequently out of your own control.
  • Asking public questions on the course discussion board so long as limited information about your own solution is included. To convey details of your solution, use private posts.
  • Asking any course staff member questions in person or online is acceptable and encouraged. Staff members may initiate small group discussions in which collaboration is fine.
  • Making use of your own code or exam materials which you accumulated from past semesters of this class. If you are retaking the course, make sure staff understand this so that no misunderstandings occur.
  • If you are unsure whether a given collaboration is fair or not, stop the activity and clear it with your instructor.

At all times keep the PRIME DIRECTIVE in mind when studying with other students. The above collaborations should be limited to getting someone over a hurdle, not carrying them across the finish line.

3.4 Collaboration and other Sections

There is another section of CSCI 4061 running under a different instructor which is not coordinated with this one. Projects, homeworks, quizzes, lab topics, schedule, and exams will differ between sections. The policies within this syllabus apply only to our section and students should refrain from collaborating outside of their own section to avoid problems.

4 General Policies

General university policies which apply to our course are listed here:

Summaries of those policies are below.

Students are expected to maintain a high level of civility for all participants in and out of class meetings. This includes respecting participants of all genders, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. Harassment of any type will not be tolerated and failure to behave in a respectful manner will be reported to the University.

Observance of religious events will be accommodated for students of any faith. All possible accommodations will be made for students with disabilities. Please contact the Disability Resource Center and the instructor for further information.

Online Behavior

This being an online class, the following additional policies on student/staff behavior and Academic Integrity also apply:

The gist of the behavior policies are "Don't be a troll" and the Academic Integrity portion reflects our PRIME DIRECTIVE.

Use of Recordings

This course will include video and audio recordings of class lectures and classroom activities. These recordings will be used for educational purposes and the instructor will make these available to students currently enrolled in this course. Students must seek instructor permission in order to share either course recordings or course content/materials. Similarly, instructors who wish to share zoom recordings with other sections or classes must seek and document permission from students whose image or voice are in these recordings.

Author: Chris Kauffman (
Date: 2021-01-19 Tue 09:38