Computer Systems

"No more magic" -- Your Instructor

Course Information (Section 1)

  • Course Number: CS 5007
  • Semester: Spring 2019
  • Hours: 2:50pm-5:50pm
    • Thur. Schedule: Lecture | Activity | Lab
  • Location: Knowles Center 010 (map)
  • Piazza: Forum Board (Office Hour and locations are listed in forum)
  • Instructor: Mike Shah
  • E-mail: mikeshah( a t )Northeastern
  • Office: Nightingale 132A
  • Office Hours: Hours listed on piazza under Resources/Staff or otherwise made by Appointment through e-mail.

Course Information (Section 2)

  • Course Number: CS 5007
  • Semester: Spring 2019
  • Hours: 6:00pm-9:00pm
    • Thur. Schedule: Lecture | Activity | Lab
  • Location: Shillman Hall 420 (map)
  • Piazza: Forum Board (Office Hour and locations are listed in forum)
  • Instructor: Vidoje Mihajlovikj
  • E-mail: v.mihajlovikj( a t )Northeastern
  • Office: Nightingale 132E
  • Office Hours: Hours listed on piazza under Resources/Staff or otherwise made by Appointment through e-mail.

Image 1

Schedule/Road Map

The following is our tentative syllabus for the course, some small changes should be expected throughout the semester. I will announce in class or through e-mail any major changes.

Acquire the Course Monorepo by clicking here Do not do a 'git pull' until class officially starts (Occasionally I make changes/spelling corrections)

Module Date Topic Assignments Note(s)
1 Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019
  • Introduction to Computer Systems
    • Compilers
    • Objdump
    • Compiling with -g
  • Introduction to Machine Representation
    • Assembly and Registers
    • Condition Codes
    • x86-64 Stack
  • Lab: Assembly and Scripting
  • Begin Module!
A1 - Scripting and Assembly (Due Mar. 15 at 11:59pm)
-- --
2 Thursday, Mar. 7, 2018
-- Spring Break --
-- --
-- --
2 Thursday, Mar. 14, 2018
  • Pre-processor
  • Compilers
    • Front-end
    • Back-end
  • Linkers
  • Lab: Lottery Hack - Interpositioning
  • Begin Module!
A2 - Compiler Interpositioning
-- --
3 Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
  • CPU - Fetch Decode Execute
  • Pipelining
  • Memory Hierachy
  • Locality
  • Caching
  • Processes
  • Lab: Processes and Cache Simulator
  • Begin Module!
A3 - Mini Shell
-- --
4 Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019
  • Parallelism vs Concurrency
  • Threads vs Processes
  • Shared Variables
    • Data Race
    • Dead lock
    • Starvation
  • Thread-Safety and Semaphores
  • Lab: Concurrent Artists
  • Begin Module!
A4 - Concurrent Artists
-- --
5 Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019
  • Networking Fundamentals
  • UDP and TCP
  • Sockets Interface
  • Lab: tcp client/server
  • Begin Module!
A5 - Networking
-- --
6 Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019
  • Operating Systems
  • Pressing Power
  • xv6 Introduction
  • Lab: xv6
  • Begin Module!
-- --
-- --
7 Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019
  • Trace Evaluations
  • Class Picture
  • Exam
  • Course Wrap-up
Exam Study Guide
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Course Description

In short, we are going to learn how to work in the terminal, program in C, program in Assembly, and understand how a computer works. This course is heavily project based, meaning we will be spending time building programs and using tools to understand how a computer works.

Registrar Description: Introduces the basic design of computing systems, computer operating systems, and assembly language using a RISC architecture. Describes caches and virtual memory. Covers the interface between assembly language and high-level languages, including call frames and pointers; the use of system calls and systems programming to show the interaction with the operating system; and the basic structures of an operating system, including application interfaces, processes, threads, synchronization, interprocess communication, deadlock, memory management, file systems, and input/output control.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, you will be ready to:

  • Be comfortable managing memory in the C language.
  • Be comfortable using the terminal.
  • Understand various tradeoffs made within a computer for performance.
  • Position yourself to be successful for future systems courses or perhaps jobs as a systems programmer!


By the end of this course, you will be ready to:

  • You should have a working knowledge of some high-level programming language.
  • You should have experience compiling, writing, and debugging programs in your favorite text editor.
  • You should be familiar with your operating system and comfortalbe performing many basic tasks.
  • You should have basic knowledge in github, using any text-based editor, and how to compile, run, and debug programs.


There will be no required textbook for this course. However, these resources have been vetted, and I recommend for mastery (while taking this course, and reviewing later on in your career).

Academic Integrity and Non-Discrimination

Students and instructors are to follow the Northeastern policies on these important issues.

  • Northeastern Non-Discrimination Policy - This classroom is a safe space for the instructor and students to talk about ideas, share viewpoints, and learn.
  • Northeastern Academic Integrity Policy - You only cheat yourself if you are not honest. Most often cheating occurs when an individual falls behind or perhaps has other circumstances occurring in their life. Please consult the instructor before ever considering cheating.
    • If you are caught cheating I have to report the violation. My official policy is you receive a 0 in the course. Always remember, if you use any external sources, you must cite them.
  • Student Code of Conduct: Students and instructors will follow the following guide for how we conduct ourselves. This is to create a respectful environment where everyone can learn.

Make-Up Policy

Students participating in varsity athletics(this does not include club sports or intramurals) or other University sanctioned events may have the need for a make-up. Please contact me in advance of such events, so that appropriate accommodations can be made.

Occasionally, other life events and circumstances occur that were not planned. If this is the case, please e-mail me privately.

E-mailing me asking for extensions just because is unfortunately not fair to your classmates. The 10% penalty for each day late has to be enforced so I do not get taken advantage of.


Part of what makes Northeastern University unique, is our diverse cohort of students, faculty, and staff. In order to support this, Northeastern is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the University experience. If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Student Accessibility Services office at or (617) 373-2675 to make an appointment with the Disability Resource Center representatives in 20 Dodge Hall to determine appropriate accommodations.

Lateness and Attendance Policy

Students who do well in this course tend to show up to the course consistently, participate, and engage with their peers. Come to class, come on time, and build good habits! In-Class activities that are not attended are a zero.

Assessment/Course Polices

Please find below the grading distribution that will be used for this course to compute a weighted average for your final grade. You will find the grade you earn in this course on blackboard.

  • In-Class Activity: 5%
  • In-Class Labs:     20%
  • Exam/Quiz:         20%
  • Assignments:       55%
    • (Each Assignment worth the same % of points)

  • The grade system follows the University Grading System.
    • A  = 95 – 100
    • A- = 91 – 94
    • B+ = 87 – 90
    • B  = 83 – 86
    • B- = 80 – 82
    • C+ = 77 – 79
    • C  = 73 – 76
    • D+ = 67 – 69
    • D  = 63 – 66
    • F  =  0 – 62
  • In the event of a snow day (i.e. we miss a lab or in-class activity) the weight of each assignment increases (There may also be shuffling of course material if we are interrupted).
  • The expectation is that the assignments are fair but difficult, so you should start early!
  • Late Submissions of Assignments receive 10% off per day submitted late (up to 3 days max, then 0% received).
    • Unfortunately, with 100+ students I cannot make individual exceptions fairly to your classmates who are likely making other personal sacrifices.
  • Assignments that do not compile/open receive no credit Simply put, programs that do not compile do not do anything.
  • There are no "re-grades" or points awarded one week after your grade is posted. "re-grades" may result in a higher, equal, or lower score.
    • There are no "re-grades" after the semester is over.
    • Do not ask multiple members of the course staff for "re-grades"
  • If you are currently wait listed, you must submit your homework on time. That is the gamble! If you do not have blackboard access, you will submit by e-mail or other course mechanism.
  • There are no extra credit assignments. I reserve the right to add points to assignments that do go above and beyond however.
  • I reserve the right to modify the grading scale in your favor if you show exemplary proficiency in any of the categories. I will never modify the scale to lower a students grade.
  • In class work cannot be made up at a later date unless otherwise arranged with the instructor well in advance.
    • Course work completed after the date cannot be graded, as solutions will have been discussed (this includes if taking this course for an Incomplete).
    • Once again, "in-class" work must be completed in-class unless there is a documented emergency or you have prearranged with the instructor a make-up well in advance.
  • No Facebook, no cell phones. Not only does it distract you, it distracts others! (Divide your tuition by lecture hours and perhaps you will be more motivated as well!)
  • Everyone needs to come see me in office hours (or by appointment) at least one time during the semester to introduce yourself. The purpose is so that you:
    • Know where my office is.
    • Get used to coming to office hours.
    • Let me know how I can help you achieve your goals.