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An Operating Systems Vade Mecum, Second Edition
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An Operating Systems Vade Mecum, Second Edition

Author : Raphael A. Finkel, Computer Science Department, University of Kentucky
Publication Date : 1988

Book Excerpts:

Traditionally, a vade mecum (pronounced "VAHdee MAYkem") is a laboratory manual that guides the student step by step through complex procedures. Operating systems are complex mixtures of policy and mechanism, of algorithm and heuristic, and of theoretical goals and practical experience. This vade mecum tries to unify these diverse points of view and guide the novice step by step through the complexities of the subject. As a text, this book is intended for a first course in operating systems at the undergraduate level. The subject has so many individual parts that its practitioners and teachers often concentrate on subareas and ignore the larger concepts that govern the entire subject. This book has tried to rectify that situation by structuring the presentation about the dual ideas of resource management and beautification.

A course in operating systems is not complete without computer projects. Unfortunately, such exercises require a substantial investment in software. The most successful projects for a first course in operating systems involve implementing parts of an operating system. A complete operating system can be presented to the class, with well-defined modules and interfaces, and the class can be assigned the task of replacing modules with ones of their own design. A less ambitious project has the students first build a simple scheduler for a simulated machine. After it is completed, it can be enhanced by adding virtual memory, transput, and other features. If the necessary software is not available for these assignments, students can be asked to simulate particular policies or algorithms in isolation from a complete operating system. Several exercises in the book give guidelines for this sort of project.

This book will give examples of nuts-and-bolts programming in a high-level language. Most modern operating systems are written in such languages, reserving assembler language for those few aspects that cannot be captured in a higher level language. For the sake of concreteness, this book will present programs in a Modula-like syntax. Modula is closely related to Pascal. The examples are all carefully annotated, so it should be possible to follow them even if student has only a nodding acquaintance with any language in the Algol family, such as Pascal. In most cases, written algorithms are supplemented with pictures.

Intended Audience:

Readers should be able to read this book comfortably if they have had an undergraduate course in data structures and in machine organization. Some sophistication in mathematics (for example, one semester of calculus) would also be helpful but is not required.

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