CS 241: Systems Programming

Semester: Fall 2008
Room: King 221
Class Time: Mon/Wed/Fri 1:30pm-2:20pm
Office Hours: Tuesday, 3:00-4:30pm
Friday, 10:00-11:30am
or by appointment
Professor: Benjamin Kuperman
email: benjamin.kuperman AT oberlin edu
Please include "cs241" in the subject.
AIM: ProfKuperman
Office: King 223B
Phone: x58556



(Will be updated throughout the semester)
1 Sep 01 Labor Day
Sep 03   Introduction and course overview HW 0
Sep 05 Chapter 1 - Quick intro to C
2 Sep 08   Chapter 2 - Types and operators HW 1
Sep 10 Last Day to Add/Drop (Sep 11)
Sep 12  
3 Sep 15   Chapter 3 - Control flow HW 2
Sep 17 GDB and Valgrind
Sep 19 Chapter 4 - functions and scope
4 Sep 22  
Sep 24 Chapter 5 - arrays, strings, and pointers
Sep 26 HW 3
5 Sep 29  
Oct 01 Chapter 5 - command line arguments
Oct 03 Misc stuff about the homework
6 Oct 06   Chapter 5 - Multi-dimensional arrays HW 4
Oct 08 Exam review
Oct 10 Midterm Exam #1 [topics]
7 Oct 13   Chapter 6 - structures
Oct 15
Oct 17
  Oct 20 October Break (Oct 18-26)
Oct 22
Oct 24
8 Oct 27   Chapter 7 - Input and Output HW 5
Oct 29
Oct 31
9 Nov 03 Last Day for P/NP, CR/NE,
  or Withdraw (Nov 04)
Huffman compression HW 6
Nov 05   Unix and Shell scripting
Nov 07
10 Nov 10  
Nov 12
Nov 14
11 Nov 17   HW 7
Nov 19
Nov 21 Exam review  
12 Nov 24 Midterm Exam #2 [topics]
Nov 26   C++  
Nov 28 Thanksgiving Break (Nov 27-30)
13 Dec 01   C++ (continued)  
Dec 03  
Dec 05  
14 Dec 08   HW 8
Dec 10
Dec 12
  Dec 18 Final Exam (7-9pm King 221) [topics]

Course Description

From the Oberlin catalog course description:

This course will consider the C programming language and its relationship to the Unix operating system. It will also introduce the C++ language and focus on differences between the Java and C++ applications. Some Unix system programminig issues will also be included. The course will require a significant amount of programming.

Goals and course objectives

My goals and objectives for students taking this course are as follows:

  1. Understand the role of C in the field of computing
  2. Understand the interrelationship of C and Unix
  3. Become fluent in C programming including
    • Compound data types such as structs and unions
    • Dynamically allocated structures (including cleanup)
    • Binary and bit-wise manipulations
  4. Develop the habit of thorough testing and become comfortable in using debugging tools including gdb, valgrind, etc.
  5. Become acquainted with the Unix tool philosophy and some common tools
  6. Be able to write a Unix tool
  7. Be able to compose Unix tools into shell scripts
  8. Learn how to use C++ and how it differs from Java and C


We'll be using the canonical K&R C textbook for this class.

The C Programming Language

The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie

You might also be interested in the following books as personal references:

I'll try to make a copy of these available in one of the labs for your use.

Useful Tools

There are a number of tools that may be useful to you.


Code browsing

Both of these can be incorporated into Vim or Emacs.


Grades will be calculated based on the following distribution:

The distribution might be adjusted based on the progression of the course.

Course Policy


Regular class attendance and participation is expected. Please talk to me if regular class attendance is going to be a problem.

Homework Assignments

There will be a number of assignments made in this class. I expect every student to attempt each assignment and turn in the results. You are encouraged to complete every assignment as this is one of the most effective ways to learn the material.

If you know that for some reason you will not be able to submit the assignment before the deadline, you should contact me in advance of the deadline. Extensions are only granted in exceptional circumstances, but need to be done in advance.

Late assignments will be penalized according to the following chart. Extra credit will not be accepted after the initial deadline.

Accommodations for students with disabilities

If you have a disability that might impact your performance in this course, or requires special accommodation, please contact me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Support is available through Student Academic Services, specifically Jane Boomer. You will need to contact them to get your disability documented before accommodations can be made.

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

I have very low tolerance for academic dishonesty, and will vigorously pursue available remedies for any incidents. All work in this class is to be performed according to the Oberlin Honor Code. Specifically I expect that:

  1. Quizzes and exams will be closed book, closed notes, and no communication between students. This includes discussing the same to students who are taking the quiz at another time.
  2. Discussion of assignments is expected and encouraged, however all work and code on assignments should be your own without outside assistance.
  3. Sources should be cited including the textbook and other web sites when you use them in your work.

Illustrative examples:

  1. Confirming that we had and exam is OK, telling another student in the class who has not taken it that it was easy/hard, what topics, etc. is NOT OK.
  2. On a project or homework, discussing what needs to be done and how it can be done is OK, having a student (other than a TA) go over your code is NOT OK, discussing what might be wrong and how to tell is OK (and encouraged).
  3. Unless otherwise specified in the assignment, you decide to use an insertion sort and copy the version from your Java textbook is OK as long as you give appropriate credit. E.g.,
        /* based on insertion sort from Weiss 3rd Ed, p. 306 */

All assignments must include the following signed statement:

"I have adhered to the Honor Code in this assignment."

Electronic submissions should include the honor statement in either the README file or header comments and must include your name.

Grader and Tutors

Contact me if you are interested in a Student Academic Services approved tutor.

The CSMC might hold walk-in tutoring sessions as well.

VI PoweredLast Modified: December 08, 2008 - Benjamin A. Kuperman

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