CS 240

Advanced Topics in Operating Systems - Spring 2012





Course Secretary


Students will study advanced operating system topics and be exposed to recent developments in operating systems research. This course involves readings and lectures on classic and new papers. Topics: virtual memory management, synchronization and communication, file systems, protection and security, operating system structure and extension techniques, fault tolerance, and history and experience of systems programming.


The prerequisite for this class is CS 140 or the equivalent. It is necessary to have this background before taking the class, as we'll read a lot papers quickly without much time for catching up on the basics. The course assumes an understanding of topics in operating systems such as synchronization, virtual memory management, scheduling, and file systems.

Course Organization and Workload

The course consists of lectures, readings, and two exams. The two most important things to know about the class: (1) the main goal is to have interesting in-class discussions and (2) we recommend you read each paper at least three times: twice very carefully, the last time focusing on the hard parts. For any artifact the paper describes you should draw a picture. This should all be done more than a day in advance so that it sinks in.

Most of the work in this course consists of reading journal and conference papers. We will cover one paper for each class meeting. This class will be primarily discussion based (rather than organized around lectures). Active discussion will (hopefully) give you a non-trivial understanding of the material. The only way this approach can work is if you read the papers carefully. To encourage this, 40% of your class grade will come from class participation: this includes talking in class, as well as how you do on pop quizzes and (possibly) pop presentations. (Given the realities of geography remote SCPD students can get their entire grade from exams.) Class time will not be used to rehash the material in the papers. Instead, it will be used to highlight the important points and discuss some of the more interesting features. There will be as much as 10-15 hours of reading per week. Do not take this course unless you are willing and able to do a lot of reading.

Grading Policy

The class is graded on a rough curve. 40% of your grade will come from class participation, the other 60% will be based on scores on two in-class exams. The two exams will be weighted equally, each contributing 30% of the final grade. SCPD students will be graded just on exams (and any homeworks).

Participation and Attendance

Attendance is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good class participation. The general policy is that a student will automatically receive a deduction of one letter grade for missing more than 3 lectures. We will not take official roll during lecture, but because we make the effort to know everyone in the class we will notice if a student is frequently absent. If you are a non-SCPD student and have any concerns about not being able to regularly attend class (e.g., you will have to miss several classes during the quarter) please discuss this as soon as possible with the course staff.

Beyond attendance, we evaluate class participation largely by observing how prepared students are to discuss the covered paper when they come to class. This is not a trivial requirement because we expect papers to have been read thoroughly prior to lecture.


There will be two exams. They will be open book (but not open laptop). The final exam is cumulative. Sample exams with solutions are available on sites from previous years.

Contacting the Course Staff

For general questions please first post to the class Piazza site, -- if you have a question, other people probably have the same one (or should). All course announcements will be put on to the class web page and/or sent to the class mailing list. Piazza is a good place to advertise for study groups, ask questions to other students, etc.

For more private matters please send email to the staff list. Announcements from the staff will be sent via the cs240-spr1112-students@lists.stanford.edu mailing list to which any registered student will automatically be added.

Previous Quarters' Websites

You can view previous versions of the class website via the following links.


Course Outline

This course makes no attempt to cover all the interesting topics in operating systems. Instead, we will cover a few topics in depth. The course is divided into the following general topic areas:

Tentative Reading List

There is no textbook for this course. The course is based on a collection of journal and conference papers that describe the history and state of the art in operating systems. Papers will be discussed in class in approximately the order that they appear on the reading list below. You must read the papers before class.


April 3 (Tue)


April 5 (Thu)

April 10 (Tue)

April 12 (Thu)

April 17 (Tue)

Virtual Memory and Protection

April 19 (Thu)

April 24 (Tue)

April 26 (Thu)


May 1 (Tue)


May 3 (Thu)

File Systems (local)

May 8 (Tue)

May 10 (Thu)

File Systems (remote)

May 15 (Tue)

May 17 (Thu)

Lots of data

May 22 (Tue)

May 24 (Thu)


May 29 (Tue)

May 31 (Thu)


June 5 (Tue)

Previous Exams

Midterm Exams

Final Exams

CS 340

For a variety of reasons, papers that we wanted to cover will get omitted. For those students who would like some additional reading in the topics we're covering, we will list here some of the papers that didn't quite make it into the syllabus.


File systems