Lecture Time/Location
Wednesday/Friday 8:00am–9:20am, Lecture Center 21
Labs Time/Location
  • Monday 8:25am–9:20am, Lecture Center 10
  • Monday 11:40am–12:35pm, Social Science 134
  • Tuesday 7:55am–8:50am, Physics 224
  • Friday 11:40am–12:35pm, Social Science 134
Amir Masoumzadeh (amasoumzadeh@albany.edu)
  • Office Hours: Wednesday/Friday 4pm–5pm (Zoom link on Blackboard), or by appointment
Teaching Assistants
Michael Phipps (mphipps@albany.edu)
  • Office Hours: Monday 12:45pm–2:45pm (UAB440 and Zoom link on Blackboard), or by appointment
Omkar Kulkarni (onkulkarni@albany.edu)
  • Office Hours: Wednesday 1:45pm–2:45pm (LC15), Friday 1:45pm–2:45pm (HU122), or by appointment

Course Overview

Machine representation of numbers (two’s compliment and floating point). Concepts of system level programming including dynamic memory management, hardware-software interface, storage management, compilation and linkage, multi-processing, and terminal I/O.

Student Learning Objectives / Outcomes

At the completion of this course, the student will:

  1. Be able to convert between number systems, including two’s complement.
  2. Be able to write idiomatic C code using various data types, loops, branches, arrays, and structs, and programs that manage memory using dynamic memory allocation functions and variables that contain a memory address (pointers).
  3. Be able to code, test, debug and internally document computer programs in C language so they follow given functional specifications, using appropriate software tools and practices.
  4. Be able to understand and articulate what system software does.
  5. Be able to write software for POSIX systems using system calls.
  6. Be able to read and understand research papers in the systems area.



No textbook is required for this class. Instead, we rely on online resources that are listed as readings for each week. If you prefer to read books for learning C programming, I recommend:

Communication and Submissions

The course syllabus and schedule is available on the course webpage. Most of the tasks in this class will be handled via course GitHub organization including the distribution of notes, assignments, assignment submission, and feedback. You will be invited to join the organization in the first week of classes. We will also use Blackboard for communication and for your grades.

Assessment and Grading

The course is A-E graded based on the following categories and corresponding weights. Conversion from the final numerical grade to the letter grade is based on cutoffs determined according to the grade distribution in the class. This results in more flexible and favorable grades compared to using a fixed conversion scale.

Labs (15%)
You work on one lab assignment every week during your registered lab session. The first lab session of the class meets on Friday, following by Monday and Tuesday sessions in the week after that. Labs are relatively simple, and you should be able to finish them during the lab session. The lab deadlines are usually the Thursday following your lab session. (Update on 10/18/21: Your two lowest lab grades will be dropped from the calculation.)
Programming Projects (40%)
You will work on four (mini) programming projects during the semester. These are more substantial programming assignments compared to the labs. You will usually have about two weeks to finish each project. (Update on 11/14/21: Your lowest project grade will be dropped from the calculation.)
Exams (45%)
There will be a midterm exam (taken during regular class sessions) and a final exam. Each exam is worth 22.5% of your total grade.

General Education Competency

While studying this course students will also develop such general education competencies as Advanced Writing, Critical Thinking, Information Literacy and Oral Discourse; first, through working on the programming project assignments.

It is required that all programming code be well documented, thus, clear and laconic written descriptions are necessary. In the written report, students will not only demonstrate increasingly sophisticated writing according to the conventions of computer science, but also able to communicate clearly in writing, employing fundamental rules of usage, style, and mechanics in the context of computer science (Advanced Writing).

To solve programming problems students need formulate complex problems clearly and precisely and apply familiar and new computer science concepts in developing solutions and conclusions (Critical Thinking).

Through the programming project work, students will learn to organize and access information from open sources such as GitHub; select the most appropriate strategies, search tools (such as Google or StackOverflow sites), and resources for each unique information need relevant to their project, and evaluate the dynamic online content as per their need. While using the publicly available (online) information in the project, students must conduct ethical practices keeping in view of intellectual property and personal privacy. As a part of team, they must produce, share, and evaluate information with other team members in a variety of participatory environments (Information Literacy).

Team programming project will require students to communicate with their teammates in the forms of discussion and brainstorming, thus they need communicate ideas effectively appropriate to a context of programming problem and according to a specific set of criteria given by the instructor (Oral Discourse).


The following schedule is tentative and will be regularly updated. It is your responsibility to check the schedule regularly. The plus sign (+) means optional reading.

Week Topic/Reading Lab/Proj.
Module 1: Shell/Git
Aug23 Course Introduction, Git No Lab
Aug30 Unix Files, Shell Basics lab01 (Setup)
Module 2: C Programming
Sep06 C Basics, Number systems lab02 (First Program)
Sep13 Memory: Pointers, Strings, Arrays lab03 (Bitwise)
Sep20 Memory Management lab04 (Pointers)
Sep27 Developing Modular C Programs lab05 (Strings)
Oct04 File I/O lab06 (Linked Lists), project1
Oct08 Midterm Exam (Oct08)
Module 3: POSIX/Linux Programming
Oct11 System Calls, File I/O lab07 (C Files) (take-home)
Oct18 Processes, Executing Programs lab08 (POSIX Files)
Oct25 Signals, Pipes, FIFOs lab09 (Processes), project2
Nov01 Networking lab10 (Signals/Pipes)
Nov08 Threads lab11 (Networking), project3
Nov15 Shared Memory Segments, Memory Mapped Files lab12 (Threads)
Nov22 No Class -- Thanksgiving Break (Nov24 & 26)
Module 4: Misc. Topics & Recap
Nov29 Rust, Recap & Review lab 13 (Shared Memory), project4
Dec10 Final Exam (Dec10, 10:30am-12:30pm)


No Late Submission
Assignments will be released at least a week before their due date. You are highly recommended to study an assignment as soon as it becomes available. There will be ample opportunities to benefit from office hours and communication with me and the TAs before the due date. Assignments are due 11:59pm on the day of their deadline. Submissions after due time will receive no points.
Review of Grades
Any issue regarding your grade in a specific assignment must be communicated to us no later than 5 business days after the posting day of the grades. There will be no re-grading after the 5-day period has passed.
Attending Exams
The midterm exam is given in regular hours of the class. The final exam will be during the final exam period. Tentative exam dates are given in the course schedule, and there will be usually reminders about them in the lectures. Makeup exams will be given only for valid and verifiable extenuating circumstances (e.g., a major medical situation). It is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor at least a week ahead of the exam date and arrange to take a makeup exam at an alternate date/time. Makeup exams are not guaranteed and will be generally harder than the regular exams.
Academic Integrity
It is every student’s responsibility to become familiar with the standards of academic integrity at the University. Claims of ignorance, of unintentional error, or of academic or personal pressures are not sufficient reasons for violations of academic integrity. Any incident of academic dishonesty can result in (i) no credit for the affected assignment, (ii) report to the appropriate University authorities (e.g., Dean of Undergraduate Education or Graduate Studies), and/or (iii) a failing grade for the course.

For all assignments and papers, you must submit your own work, except where collaboration is explicitly permitted or required. Also, you must properly cite any resources from which you borrow ideas and clearly distinguish them from your contributions.

Use of Electronic Devices
Computers or other electronic devices may be only used during class for note-taking, in-class exercises, or other class-related activities. You are not allowed to perform any unrelated tasks during class.
Students with Disabilities
Reasonable accommodation will be provided for students with documented disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring accommodation in this class, please notify the Disability Resource Center (Campus Center 130, 518-442-5490). That office will provide me with verification of your disability, and will recommend appropriate accommodations. In general, it is your responsibility to contact me at least one week before the relevant activity to make arrangements.
Mental Health
As a student, there may be times when personal stressors interfere with your academic performance and/or negatively impact your daily life. The University at Albany Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free, confidential services including individual and group psychological counseling and evaluation for emotional, social, and academic concerns. Given the COVID pandemic, students may consult with CAPS staff remotely by telephone, email, or Zoom appointments regarding issues that impact them or someone they care about. For questions or to make an appointment, call (518) 442-5800 or email consultation@albany.edu. Visit https://www.albany.edu/caps/ for hours of operation and additional information.

If your life or someone else’s life is in danger, please call 911. If you are in a crisis and need help right away, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Students dealing with heightened feelings of sadness or hopelessness, increased anxiety, or thoughts of suicide may also text “GOT5” to 741741 (Crisis Text Line).

Mask Mandate
The university health and safety protocols including face mask guidelines will be strictly followed. All students must wear masks while inside any campus building, including inside classrooms. Students not wearing a mask in class will be asked to leave. Students who forgot a mask may obtain one at the Campus Center Help Desk and the Academic Support Center in LI36. See the university’s basic safety protocols.