Systems Programming

UB Catalog information for CSE 410

This information is advisory only. The authoritative course description and requirements for a given semester are defined by the course syllabus.


This course is a special topics preview of the upcoming CSE 220 Systems Programming course. It will cover low-level systems programming in userspace at the userspace/kernel boundary. Students will learn about the C programming language, system calls, memory management, threads, processes, and concurrency.


Fall 2018

Current Offering: Fall 2018

Lecture MWF 09:00-09:50, Norton 214
Recitation W 13:00-13:50, Bell 340
Office Hours M 13:00-15:00
W 11:00-12:00
TA Office Hours MW 10:00-11:00 (David)
TR 14:00-15:00 (Peter)


The course syllabus is here.


Introduction (pdf) 2018-08-27
C and POSIX (pdf) 2018-08-29
C and POSIX continued 2018-08-31
C and POSIX continued 2018-09-05
C and POSIX continued 2018-09-07
C and POSIX concluded 2018-09-10
Memory Representation (pdf) 2018-09-12
Memory Representation continued 2018-09-14
Memory Representation continued 2018-09-17
Memory Representation continued 2018-09-19
Process Anatomy (pdf) 2018-09-21
Process Environment (pdf) 2018-09-24
Process Environment continued 2018-09-26
Dynamic Allocator Project (pdf) 2018-09-28
Dynamic Allocator Project continued 2018-10-01
Input and Output (pdf) 2018-10-03
Input and Output 2018-10-05
Pipes and Redirection (pdf) 2018-10-07
Virtual Memory (pdf) 2018-10-10
Virtual Memory continued 2018-10-12
Virtual Memory continued 2018-10-15
Functions and Automatic Variables (pdf) 2018-10-17
Midterm Exam 2018-10-19
Functions and Automatic Variables continued 2018-10-22
The UNIX Shell (pdf) 2018-10-24
Midterm Exam review and discussion 2018-10-26
The UNIX Shell continued 2018-10-29
The UNIX Shell continued 2018-10-31
Approaching a Large Project 2018-11-02
POSIX Signals (pdf) 2018-11-05
POSIX Signals continued 2018-11-07
Concurrency (pdf) 2018-11-09
Races and Synchronization (pdf) 2018-11-12
Races and Synchronization continued 2018-11-14
Races and Synchronization continued 2018-11-16
POSIX Threads and Synchronization (pdf) 2018-11-19
Thanksgiving break 2018-11-21
Thanksgiving break 2018-11-23
POSIX Threads and Synchronization continued 2018-11-26
Memory and Concurrency (pdf) 2018-11-28
Memory and Concurrency continued 2018-11-30
Memory and Concurrency continued 2018-12-03
Effective Systems Programming (pdf) 2018-12-05


Introduction to Git (pdf) 2018-08-29
Introduction to Make (pdf) 2018-09-05
Arrays and Pointers (pdf) 2018-09-12
Introduction to gdb (pdf) 2018-09-19
Midterm review session (pdf) 2018-10-17


PA0: Pointer Practice — Linked lists 2018-09-21 23:59:00
PA1: Dynamic Allocator 2018-10-12 23:59:00 (extended)


Students are expected to have a solid grasp of simple data structures (such as lists and arrays) and some programming experience. (CSE 250 or equivalent experience.)


The text for this course is Computer Systems: A Programmer’s Perspective, Third Edition, by Randal Bryant and David O’Hallaron.

I recommend the book The C Programming Lanuage, Second Edition, by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. This is not a required text for the course, but it is the sort of text that you will put on your shelf and consult for the rest of your career.


The ultimate authority for course policies is the course syllabus. However, my general academic integrity policy can be found here and my list of policies is here


The topics to be covered in this course include:

  • The C programming language
  • Compiler and linker invocation and their roles in program development
  • Version control, build, and other systems
  • Representation of in-memory data structures
  • Memory management
  • Process creation and management
  • Threads
  • Synchronization primitives and concurrency
  • The kernel/userspace boundary and the system call interface

Course Structure

The primary deliverables for this course are weekly labs and several larger projects. Labs will consist of short exercises intended to deepen student understanding of course material (and perhaps cover background material for course projects), and will be evaluated in-lab by teaching assistants. Course projects will be C language implementations of concepts discussed in class. Projects and labs will make up at least 50% of the final course grade, with the remainder being quizzes, and exams.

There are no graded homeworks for this course. Written homework assignments may be given to help students understand the material, and any material covered in homeworks may appear on exams or quizzes, but such assignments will not be directly evaluated.

Programming Assignments

All projects for this course must be implemented in C and compile and run correctly on the course-provided virtual machine image. Students will be expected to use version control and appropriate build tools (such as make) to manage their projects.

Virtual Machine

The virtual machine image can be downloaded here.

Ethan Blanton
Assistant Professor of Teaching

Ethan Blanton is an Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Buffalo.