Carnegie Mellon
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Computer Science Department

15-410 Approved Readings


Advanced Configuration And Power Interface Specification Revision 5.0a Available here

Practical File System Design with the Be File System (PDF)

Daniel Bovet and Marco Cesati. Understanding the Linux Kernel (2nd Edition or newer)
Note: this book has some tendency to function as a play-by-play of what happens inside Linux (on an x86) as opposed to a design book. You may find the BSD book or the Love book more design-oriented.

Maurice J. Bach. Design of the Unix Operating System
This is a very clear overview of how Unix kernels used to be constructed (some time ago).

Bar, Moshe. Linux Internals
Some people have found this book dry due to extensive source-code walk-throughs.

Joshua J. Bloch. Effective Java
Though this isn't a book about an OS, there are many related topics covered from a different perspective (races and synchronization; access control and integrity). Also, this book is full of things Java programmers need to know (but often don't know they need to know). If you are a working Java programmer, you probably want to read the second edition rather than the first so you can be up to date. If you are curious about Java, the first edition is probably fine.

Joseph Boykin, David Kirschen, Alan Langerman, Susan LoVerso. Programming under Mach, Addison-Wesley Unix and Open Systems Series; Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. ISBN 0-201-52739-1
This is perhaps the most straightforward book on what Mach provided to programmers. Past students have found it somewhat dry.

Pete Dice. Quick Boot: A Guide for Embedded Firmware Developers, 2nd edition Available here (try from a campus IP address - you may get access via a CMU library subscription).

Eppinger, Mummert, and Spector, ed. Camelot and Avalon: a distributed transaction facility
This is the story of Mach the platform as opposed to Mach the OS: Mach served as the basis for Camelot, a distributed transaction system based on transactional virtual memory, and Avalon, a high-level language built on Camelot. The system as developed didn't enter popular use, but it's an interesting case study.

Niels Ferguson and Bruce Schneier. Practical Cryptography
This is a good nuts-and-bolts book; if you are interested in the human-factors, managerial, political, or social implications of computer security, you might prefer Secrets and Lies (below).

Brian Goetz et al. Java Concurrency in Practice
If you want to learn a lot more about concurrency, this is a good chance to cover, in more detail than we have time for, how to carefully define the problem and some good tools to address it with.

Henry M. Levy. Capability-Based Computer Systems
"This book was published by Digital Press in 1984. It is still the most thorough survey and description of early capability-based and object-based hardware and software systems." (multiple PDFs)

Robert Love. Linux Kernel Development
We received some complaints about the 2003 edition containing too much play-by-play material, but the 2005 edition has received favorable student reviews. You may find that the BSD book provides more historical and design perspective. You should also know that people familiar with other operating systems may dispute some historical descriptions and claims of architectural novelty.

These all can count as "the BSD book":

  • Marshall Kirk McKusick, George V. Neville-Neil, Robert N.M. Watson. The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley Professional, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0321968975, ISBN-10: 0321968972.

  • Marshall Kirk McKusick, George V. Neville-Neil. The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System, Pearson Education, 2004. ISBN: 0-201-70245-2

  • Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Karels, John S. Quarterman. The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN:0-201-54979-4

You may read any edition of "the BSD book", though the older ones may describe a system which seems oddly and perhaps frustratingly old.

David Loshin. Efficient Memory Programming
Note that some students reported a distracting number of minor errors in this book.

Jim Mauro, Richard McDougall. Solaris Internals: Core Kernel Architecture

Mark Russinovich, David Solomon, & Alex Ionescu. Windows Internals, 5th edition
The fifth edition contains coverage of key topics such as 64-bit mode and hypervisor support.

Bruce Schneier. Secrets and Lies
Note: his Beyond Fear is probably too layman-targeted for this class. Meanwhile, Applied Cryptography is probably too dry. If you're looking for nuts and bolts, try Practical Cryptography (above); this is a more conceptual/high-level book.


Ben Blum, Practical Concurrency Testing, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Exponential Explosion (CMU-CS-18-128) (PDF)
"Landslide is a stateless model checker specializing in undergraduate operating systems class projects."

Fay Chang, Using Speculative Execution to Automatically Hide I/O Latency (CMU-CS-01-172) (PDF)
To predict which data your application will fetch, clone a copy and run it in a world where I/O happens instantly but returns fake data. Replace out-of-date/inaccurate clones with newer ones as necessary.

Ann Chervenak. Performance Measurements of the First RAID Prototype (ps)
Note: this is a very dense piece of work, but it is an excellent example of what must be done to make real systems go fast. It is also a good example of how to graduate even if your system doesn't go as fast as you expected it to.

Richard P. Draves. Control Transfer in Operating System Kernels (PDF)
Note: this is the "continuations in the Mach kernel" dissertation.

Gregory S. Hartman, Attentiveness: Reactivity at Scale (abstract and 144M PDF)
This work attempts to explain why many applications fail to react in a timely fashion to your input (the "cancel button problem"), and lays out a roadmap for implementing attentive systems. If you're in a hurry, you can probably get by with Chapters 1, 2, and 4.

Anuj Kalia, Efficient Remote Procedure Calls for Datacenters (PDF)
"We bring the speed of fast networks to distributed systems without an expensive redesign with in-network hardware offloads."

Jay Kistler, Disconnected Operation in a Distributed File System (PDF)
Disconnected operation is a very timely topic.

Alexia Henry Massalin. Synthesis: An Efficient Implementation of Fundamental Operating System Services (ps.gz)
The practical implications of this work are very unclear, but it's definitely a good vehicle for thinking differently about what a kernel might be.

Lily B. Mummert, Exploiting weak connectivity in a distributed file system (PDF)
Adaptive mobility from the file system perspective.

Hugo Patterson, Informed Prefetching and Caching (CMU-CS-97-204) (PDF)
Instead of an application-blind cache eviction policy such as LRU, use your cache space to hold data your particular application is likely to want in the future.

Michael J. Sullivan, Low-level Concurrent Programming Using the Relaxed Memory Calculus (CMU-CS-17-126) (PDF)
"The Relaxed Memory Calculus (RMC) is a novel approach for portable low-level concurrent programming in the presence of the relaxed memory behavior caused by modern hardware architectures and optimizing compilers."

Alfred Z. Spector, Multiprocessing Architectures for Local Computer Networks, STAN-CS-81-874.
This is old and not trivial to find (I think the E&S Library has a copy), but it's fascinating...

Michael Wayne Young, Exporting a User Interface to Memory Management from a Communication-Oriented Operating System, CMU-CS-89-202.

Paper collections

If multiple tracks are listed for an area, the suggestion is to read one track's worth of papers on the expectation that they have been chosen because they work well together.

  • Autonet (N.B. The papers are interesting though the technology is dead)
  • CHERI (related topic: EROS) - ok to read a subset of two or three
    • An Introduction to CHERI (PDF)
    • Beyond the PDP-11: Architectural support for a memory-safe C abstract machine (PDF)
    • CheriABI: Enforcing Valid Pointer Provenance and Minimizing Pointer Privilege in the POSIX C Run-time Environment (PDF)
    • Exploring C Semantics and Pointer Provenance (PDF)
    • Efficient Tagged Memory (PDF)
  • Exokernel (related topics: Xen, VMware)
    • 1994: The exokernel approach to extensibility (panel statement) (PS)
    • 1995: The operating system kernel as a secure programmable machine (PS)
    • 1995: Exterminate all operating system abstractions (PS)
    • 1995: Exokernel: an operating system architecture for application-level resource management (PS)
    • 1997: Application performance and flexibility on exokernel systems (HTML) (PS)
    • 2002: Fast and flexible Application-Level Networking on Exokernel Systems (PS)
  • EROS - Yes, you can read about EROS, but you need to propose a particular list of papers, see below.
  • Plan 9
    • File system track
      • Introduction: Plan 9 From Bell Labs (PDF)
      • The Plan 9 File Server (PDF)
      • Venti: A new approach to archival storage (PDF)
    • Network track
      • Introduction: Plan 9 From Bell Labs (PDF)
      • The Organization of Networks in Plan 9 (PDF)
      • The IL protocol (PDF)
    • Naming track
      • Introduction: Plan 9 From Bell Labs (PDF)
      • The Use of Name Spaces in Plan 9 (PDF)
      • Lexical File Names in Plan 9, or, Getting Dot-Dot Right (PDF)
    • Or suggest your own track of two to three other papers...
  • Xen (related topics: Exokernel, VMware)
    • Xen and the Art of Virtualization (PDF)
    • Safe Hardware Access with the Xen Virtual Machine Monitor (PDF)
    • Live Migration of Virtual Machines (PDF)
  • VMware (related topics: Exokernel, Xen) - ok to read a subset of two or three
    • Fast Transparent Migration for Virtual Machines (PDF)
    • VMI: An Interface for Paravirtualization (PDF)
    • A Comparison of Software and Hardware Techniques for x86 Virtualization (PDF)
    • The evolution of an x86 virtual machine monitor (ACM--fetch while on campus)
  • User-level isolation & execution of untrusted code (read two or three)
    • Native Client: A Sandbox for Portable, Untrusted x86 Native Code (15 pages) (PDF)
    • Vx32: Lightweight User-level Sandboxing on the x86 (14 pages) (PDF)
    • User-Level Sandboxing: a Safe and Efficient Mechanism for Extensibility (13 pages) (PDF)
  • Stretching Linux
    • An Analysis of Linux Scalability to Many Cores (16 pages) (PDF)
    • FlexSC: Flexible System Call Scheduling with Exception-Less System Calls (14 pages) (PDF)
  • Scheduler activations (a different threading approach)
    • Scheduler Activations: Effective Kernel Support for the User Level Management of Parallelism (PDF)
    • An Implementation of Scheduler Activations on the NetBSD Operating System (PS)
  • Filesystem reliability options (you can read one, two, or three)
    • Analysis and Evolution of Journaling File Systems (various)
    • Soft Updates: A Technique for Eliminating Most Synchronous Writes in the Fast Filesystem (various)
    • Journaling Versus Soft Updates: Asynchronous Meta-data Protection in File Systems (various)

Remember, you are not required to read something on this list. This is the list of pre-approved readings. If you want to read something else, make a suggestion on the book choice page.

If you are proposing a collection of papers which has not already been approved, please send me a list of titles, page counts, and URLs.

I would appreciate it if you would make submissions in HTML according to the format used in this document so I can easily add approved readings. For example:

<A HREF="...">(PDF)</A></P>

<LI>Paper collection name
<LI><CITE>Paper Title 1</CITE> (NN pages),
<A HREF="...">(PDF)</A>
<LI><CITE>Paper Title 2</CITE> (NN pages),
<A HREF="...">(PDF)</A>

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[Last modified Friday December 06, 2019]