Systems Programming

C on Google Cloud     |     CS 355 - Summer 2022

Catalog description:

Prerequisites: C- or better in both CS 253 and 254. Design and development of systems software. Topics include machine and operating system organization, hardware/software interfaces, hardware-specific constraints on software applications, and using application programming interfaces and system libraries for the design and development of systems applications.


Instructor Dr. Stan Kurkovsky, Professor of Computer Science
Office MS 303-06
Phone (860) 832-2720
Office hours by appointment
Class meetings MTWR 8:00 - 10:00 am online

Textbook and other things you will need

  • The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, Second Edition. Prentice Hall, 1998, ISBN 0131103628.
  • Understanding Unix/Linux Programming: A Guide to Theory and Practice, by Bruce Molay. Prentice Hall, 2003, ISBN 0130083968. Companion web site.
  • An interactive C programming tutorial
  • A Google Cloud account to access the Cloud Shell
  • Access to a laptop computer that can be brought to class on a regular basis
  • Instructor's web site available at
  • Course project document
  • In-class code examples on GitHub

Course learning outcomes

Program educational objectives and student outcomes are supported by the following course learning outcomes achieved by students upon a successful completion of this course:

  1. Understand the role of systems programming in bridging the hardware/software interface;
  2. Apply appropriate knowledge of computing to solve systems programming problems (SO-1);
  3. Design and implement an integrated hardware/software system that meets a well-defined set of specifications;
  4. Function effectively as a team member working on a software development project (SO-4);
  5. Produce and present software projects specifications, design, and other software project artefacts (SO-3).

Tentative schedule

KR - Kernighan and Ritchie, The C Programming Language
M - Molay, Understanding Unix/Linux Programming: A Guide to Theory and Practice

Week 1: May 31 - June 3

Topic: The big picture (M Ch. 1): What is systems programming?
Topic: Google Cloud shell & "Hello, world!" (KR Ch. 1.1)
Topic: C programming review (KR Ch. 2,3): Data types, conditions, loops
Topic: C programming review (KR Ch. 4): Functions, parameters, scope
Lab 1 intro: Loops, conditions, and functions
Work on lab 1
Topic: C programming review (KR Ch. 5): Pointers, arrays, strings, command-line arguments
Lab 2 intro: Command line programming and strings
Work on lab 1 & 2
Work on lab 1 & 2
Lab 1 due

Week 2: June 6 - 10

Topic: C programming review (KR Ch. 6): Structures
Topic: Unix login records (Molay Ch. 2.1-2.5): Unix commands, user records, file IO
Lab 3 intro: who
Work on lab 2 & 3
Lab 2 due
Work on lab 3
Topic: How to copy a file (Molay Ch. 2.6-2.8): Implementing cp, buffering
Lab 4 intro: cat
Lab 3 due
Work on lab 3 & 4
Work on lab 4
Work on lab 4
Lab 4 due

Week 3: June 13 - 17

Topic: Files and directories (Molay Ch. 3.1-3.5): File system, directory structure
Lab 5 intro: ls v.1
Work on lab 5
Work on lab 5
Topic: File properties (Molay Ch. 3.6-3.9): stat, file mode, bitmasks
Lab 6 intro: ls v.2
Work on lab 5 & 6
Lab 5 due
Work on lab 6
Work on lab 6
Lab 6 due
Midterm exam available through Sunday, June 19

Week 4: June 20 - 24

Topic: File systems (Molay Ch. 4): HDD structure, inode-based file systems, trees of directories
Lab 7 intro: find
Work on lab 7
Work on lab 7
Topic: Connection control (Molay Ch. 5): Devices vs files, disk and terminal connections, terminal drivers
Lab 8 intro: write
Work on lab 7 & 8
Lab 7 due
Work on lab 8
Work on lab 8
Lab 8 due

Week 5: June 27 - July 1

Topic: Terminal control and signals (Molay Ch. 6): Terminal modes, signal handling
Lab 9 intro: prime
Work on lab 9
Work on lab 9
Topic: Event-driven programming (Molay Ch. 7.1-7.6): OS-level support for games, the curses library, alarms and timers
Lab 10 intro: matrix
Work on lab 9 & 10
Lab 9 due
Work on lab 10
Project part 1 due
Work on lab 10
Lab 10 due
Final exam available through Sunday, July 3
Project part 2 due

Online activities

Students are required participate in all course content items listed as "Topic" and "Lab intro" in the course schedule above. These will be conducted synchronously online. Each course topic will be presented through a live coding session, which will include an opportunity for students to discuss the presented material with the instructor and ask questions. All lab introductions will contain a detailed explanation of the lab requirements, demonstration and discussion of possible test cases, as well as discussion of any code olding.

Midterm and final exams

Each exam will focus on the most recent material. However, each exam will very likely include some questions aimed at the material covered by the earlier exam(s). Make-up tests may only be given if a student can provide a written proof of a serious reason for missing a test (such as illness or accident).

Labs and course project

During the labs and the course project students will work on hands-on problems focusing on the material covered in class and the corresponding reading materials. Students are required to work on labs individually. Each lab must be submitted using BlackBoard following the instructions specific to each lab. Late submissions will be accepted with a penalty of 10% per day.

Course project must be completed by students working in teams of two and submitted using Blackboard in two separate increments.

Academic misconduct

All students are expected to demonstrate integrity in the completion of their coursework. Academic integrity means doing one's own work and giving proper credit to the work and ideas of others. It is the responsibility of each student to become familiar with what constitutes academic dishonesty and plagiarism and to avoid all forms of cheating and plagiarism. Students who engage in plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct will face academic and possibly disciplinary consequences. Academic sanctions can range from a reduced grade for the assignment to a failing grade for the course. From a disciplinary standpoint, an Academic Misconduct Report may be filed and a Faculty Hearing Board may impose sanctions such as probation, suspension or expulsion.

For further information on academic misconduct and its consequences, please consult the Student Code of Conduct and the Academic Misconduct Policy.


All students are expected to attend class sessions regularly. However, recognizing individual differences, each student is responsible for his/her own attendance and for making-up any missed study or work. Limited assistance will be offered to those with plausible reasons for absences; unexcused absences will result in the student being completely responsible for the make-up process.

Students with disabilities

Please contact me privately to discuss your specific needs if you believe you need course accommodations based on the impact of a disability, medical condition, or if you have emergency medical information to share. I will need a copy of the accommodation letter from Student Disability Services in order to arrange your class accommodations. Contact Student Disability Services if you are not already registered with them. Student Disability Services maintains the confidential documentation of your disability and assists you in coordinating reasonable accommodations with the faculty.

Other statements

Here's a link to a document containing information about other policies and resources.

Grades and evaluation

Students will be evaluated regularly during the semester and should be aware of their progress continuously during the semester. The final course grade will be reported according to the stated University policy.

The final course grade will be calculated according to the following distribution of points:

Labs (10 labs @ 4 pts each) 40
Course project 20
Midterm 20
Final exam 20
Total 100

Course letter grade will be determined as follows:

A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
94-100 90-93.99 87-89.99 84-86.99 80-83.99 77-79.99 74-76.99 70-73.99 67-69.99 64-66.99 60-63.99 0-59.99