Department of Computer Science 

CS 6410: Advanced Systems

Fall 2009

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  Instructor: Prof. Hakim Weatherspoon
        (Office hours: Tue/Thur 1:00-2:00pm, 4105C Upson Hall, or by appointment)

TA: Dan Williams
        (Office hours: TBD)

Class Admin: Shawna Sloughter
        (4105D Upson Hall)

Class Meetings: Attendance is required.
        Tue/Thur 8:40-9:55am, 403 Phillips Hall (PHL)

[ Announcements | General Info | Paper Reading | Paper Presentations | Projects ]


Sep4: lab 1 is available and due in one week, next Friday, September 11th.

Aug31: The class time and location has changed to 8:40-9:55am still on Tuesday and Thursday and is located in Phillips Hall 403.

Aug27: Need to register for class to gain access to Course Management System (CMS), our environment on Amazon's EC2/S3, and lab 0.

Aug24: Welcome to CS 6410!
First session will be Thursday, August 27th, in room 403 Phillips Hall.

General Information

[ Overview | Prerequisities | Requirements | Grading | Collaboration | Writing a Review | Preparing Presentations ]

Course Overview

This is a graduate-level reading course that covers classic and recent papers in operating systems and distributed systems. Students will:
  • learn about systems abstractions, principles, and artifacts that have had lasting value,
  • understand attributes of systems research that is likely to have impact,
  • become comfortable navigating the literature in this field,
  • gain experience in thinking critically and analytically about systems research, and
  • acquire the background needed to work on research problems currently under study at Cornell and elsewhere.

Course Prerequisities:

The course is open to any graduate student who has mastered the material in CS 3410 (CS 314) or CS 3420 (ECE 3140), and also CS 4410 (CS 414). Undergraduates must receive permission of the instructor to enroll---attend the first class and meet with the instructor immediately afterwards.

Course Requirements
  • Presentations: Each student is expected to prepare a presentation and lead a discussionto one or more times during the semester (see below). A presentation/discussion will be of papers drawn from the reading list of the course.
  • Participation: All students are expected to participate in class by asking questions of the speakers and participating in the follow-up discussion on the assigned readings.
  • Readings: All students are required to read papers in advance of the class and submit a review via Course Management System (CMS). Paper reviews succinctly discuss the paper's strengths, weaknesses, and potential improvements or areas of future research (See how to prepare a review below).
  • Project: The project in CS 6410 is an open-ended research project, done in groups of one or two. The project requires an initial proposal, a midterm survey paper, a final report (both written and presented), and reviews of others' projects. More information can be found on the Project page.
Note: Auditors in CS 6410 are not expected to submit a term project. But auditors are expected to lead one or more class sessions, just like the students who are enrolled in the course for credit.

Grading Policy:

  • 40% class presentations, written reviews, in-class participation.
    • 20% Class Presentations. This grade will be based on both the number and quality of presentations you give. Quantity is not a substitute for quality, but failing to do your fair-share of the presentations will impact your grade.
    • 10% Written reviews
    • 10% Participation in class discussion.
  • 50% independent projects.
    • 5% Peer reviews.
    • 5% Initial project proposal.
    • 15% Midterm survey.
    • 25% Final project (written report and demo).
  • 5% Lab Assignments
  • 5% Subjective factors, including regular in-class quizes based on required readings.

Collaboration Policy

You may discuss the questions for each discussion paper with other students, but you may not look at other student's answers. You must write your answer yourself.

To draw a very clear line, you may use any idea from any other person or group in the class or out, provided you clearly state what you have borrowed and from whom. If you do not provide a citation---that is, you turn other people's work in as your own---that is cheating. Anything else is fair game. Of course, we will be grading you on the ideas you have added, but you should always borrow as much as you can as a starting point as there is no point in reinventing the wheel.

Paper Reading

An online syllabus with links to all the papers is available. Click here, here, and here to find out how to write a review.

Writing Paper Reviews

Paper reviews should be short, concise, and most importantly, critical. They should include:

  • Short paragraph (3-4 sentences) summarizing the paper and discussing any of the following suggest points:
    • What do you feel the main contribution of this paper is?
    • What did you find interesting about this work?
    • What's the essential principle that the paper exploits?
  • Two or three major strength of the paper (typically one sentence for each point)
  • Two or three weakness of the paper (typically one sentence each point)
  • One question or future work direction you think should be followed (optional)

Additionally, we will usually post a question more than 48 hours before class. The question should be answered in the review as well.

In all, a review is typically 8 to 12 sentences over two to three paragraphs. With an additional couple of sentences if there is a question to answer.

Paper Presentations

How to Prepare and Lead a Presentation

  • [Sept 1] Class participants should be prepared to select the first round of topics they will lead.
  • [At least 5 class meetings (=2 weeks + 1 meeting) before the scheduled date for your presentation] Meet with the instructor to agree on what ideas to focus on and what papers to cover.
  • [At least 3 class meetings (=1 week + 1 meeting) before the scheduled date for your presentation] Meet with the instructor to go over a draft of your presentation. Prior to that meeting, submit either a set of written (typeset) lecture notes if you are giving a "chalk talk" or a printed copy of slides if you are giving a powerpoint presentation.
  • [At least 2 class meetings before the scheduled date for your presentation] Meet with the instructor
    • for a final review / dry-run of your presentation, and
    • to decide the set of papers that constitute the assigned reading

Don't expect you'll be able to schedule the above meetings at the last minute. Schedules fill up, and the instructor is not infrequently away from Ithaca. Email the instructor a week or so in advance of when you'll want to have the above meetings.

Questions or comments? email

Policy on academic integrity

Hakim Weatherspoon
Last modified: Wed Oct 28 09:01:17 EDT 2009