Wednesday, February 06, 2008

new opensolaris course material

I recently wrote the material and taught the second day of a three day course
on OpenSolaris for a group of university professors in Bangalore, India. The
first day was largely a "getting started on OpenSolaris" session, along with
an introduction to dtrace, and the third day was mostly administration
specifically about zones and zfs. The second day was an introduction to
OpenSolaris Internals. The topics I covered included processes and threads,
synchronization, memory management, and file systems. Those who have taken
the 5 day Solaris Internals course with me will find that several of the
diagrams and hands-on exercises that I use during that course are now written
up in this material. Note that the material for the second day uses only two
pages that are come from pre-existing sources. So this is new material.
The material contains both overhead slides and accompanying text.

I did something similar for professors in China almost 2 years ago, except
that session was a 5 day internals session. The India professors looked at
materials prepared by the Chinese professors, and decided that the depth of
coverage in the materials was too deep to use as a starting point for a course
on operating systems. Having looked at the Chinese professor's materials, I
am inclined to agree with the Indian professors. The Chinese material is
an excellent guide through the source code and through McDougall and Mauro's
Solaris Internals book. As a study guide for people trying to learn about
the way OpenSolaris works, it is quite good and complete. As a tool for
teaching, especially classes without prior operating system experience, I feel
it misses the mark. While a professor that has good operating system knowledge
can use the Chinese material to learn OpenSolaris internals for him or her
self, I think the materials may assume too much prior knowledge of the
students. The new material tries to give professors a starting point that can
be used to teach OpenSolaris, not just to learn it.

For those of you who already have an Operating Systems background, (though not
in OpenSolaris), I think you'll find this new material quite useful. The
new material is not elementary (there is plenty of useful information, even
for people who have extensive OS and even extensive Solaris kernel experience).
It makes assumptions that, for instance, you understand why one needs locks,
or why virtual memory is useful, among others. The material explains the
implementation of various concepts/mechanisms using a combination of tools,
mostly mdb and dtrace, and various diagrams. In a 1 day session, there are
many topics not covered, and some are covered very superficially, but most
of the major OS topics are covered in a good amount of detail.

The new material is at:
Look at the OpenSolaris Curriculum "Plugins Preparation" section for overheads
and course guides.