MEng Software Engineering

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Operating Systems

Unit code COMP25111
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Computer Science
Available as a free choice unit? No


An operating system is typically the 'lowest' layer of software in a computer.  It provides an abstracted interface so that applications can run on diverse hardware without modification and it provides security which prevents misbehaving software from crashing the hardware or disturbing other tasks which may be running simultaneously.

This course unit provides an introduction to the major principles of implementation of an operating system and some experience in how these features may be exploited by the 'higher' software layers. Note that this module is currently undergoing major redevelopment and modernisation and, whilst the principles will not change, some of the details both in the syllabus and teaching methods may differ in the autumn.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Object Oriented Programming with Java 1 COMP16121 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Object Oriented Programming with Java 2 COMP16212 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Students who are not from the School of Computer Science must have permission from both Computer Science and their home School to enrol.


This course unit assumes that students are familiar with the idea that their applications programs run on some sort of 'box'. The intention is to peel back another layer to see how the system software - and in a few cases the associated hardware - conspire to run that application safely and securely, despite the hardware itself - processors, memory, filestore etc. - differing from case to case.  It also seeks to illuminate the services a typical operating system provides, some of which will probably be unfamiliar, in a practical way.

To support this material there will also be some revision of (or an introduction to, for a few students) some architectural features and enough material on the C language to enable someone already familiar with (say!) Java to be able to poke around the machine.

Learning outcomes

  • describe the principles underlying typical modern operating systems, including scheduling and other resource allocation, memory management and paging, and filestore management

  • describe differences in strategy in the management policies of the above topics, such as would accommodate portable, desk-top, embedded systems etc.

  • use operating system (particularly Unix-like systems) facilities with familiarity



  • Overview; abstraction layers; purpose.


  • Basic C programming and pointers
  • Memory map and structure
  • Virtual memory, paging; caches et alia.
  • Processes & threads


  • Protection, priority, real-time constraints
  • Scheduling, context switching

Device management

  • Ownership, protection
  • Polling, Interrupts, DMA

File systems

  • File organisation; types; security

Multiprocessors, hypervisors and future stuff

Teaching and learning methods


22 in total, 2 per week


11 hours in total, 1 hour weekly sessions

Assessment breakdown
Exam:  85%
Mid-term test:  5%
Coursework:  10%

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Problem solving

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 90%
Practical skills assessment 10%

Feedback methods

The intention is to automate as much feedback as possible by providing many small 'exercises' to illuminate the various concepts.  Some exercises may only take a few minutes - at least for those who grasp the concept immediately - others a bit longer but wherever feasible misconceptions will be highlighted immediately and more 'goes' provided.  There is a strong intent to keep the assessment elements as minimal as sensible during the duration of the course. 

Scheduled'laboratories' are intended to support the on-line systems which will be available at all times; they are not for generating marks.

Lectures and other material are intended to guide one sensible path through the various interdependent topics.

Inevitably, there will also be an examination at the end of the semester.

Recommended reading

COMP25111 reading list can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 24
Practical classes & workshops 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 63

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Garside Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.

Return to course details