Class Information

Staff | Course Objectives and Scope | Course Prerequisites | Textbook | Lectures | Final | Dishonesty |

Lorenzo Alvisi
Office: ACES 6.244
Phone: 471-9792
Office Hours: M, Th: 18:300-19:30
Teaching Assistant
Navid Yaghmazadeh
Email: nyaghma (at)
Office Hours: M: 15:00-16:00; W: 15:00-16:00; in PAI 5.33, Desk 6

Make-up classes

As I mentioned. I will be traveling a few weeks during this semester. I have set up make up classes for the following dates (these are all Friday afternoons): All classes will take place in GAR 0.128 from 5:00 to 6:15 pm.
Class participation is important: if these times don't fit with your schedule, you should consider whether CS380d is the right class for you to take this semester.

Course Objectives and Scope

In this course you will learn some of the key ideas that have proved useful or are expected to be useful for designing and building tomorrow's distributed systems. The course focuses on fundamentals. We will cover problems, models, algorithms, and impossibility results. But to keep ourselves honest, we will integrate the theoretical discussions with a substantial project, that will allow to apply some of the concepts discussed in class.
Topics will include the majority (we are going to shoot for all and see what happens) of the following:

Course Prerequisites

You should have a good undergraduate background in Operating Systems and be willing to participate in class. You should also be comfortable about developing proofs, e.g. by induction) as many of the homework problems will require you to develop protocols and prove them correct.


There is no required textbook for this class. You will be able to integrate your class notes with pointers to papers relevant to the material discussed in class, which I will post on the class web site.

If you want to purchase a book, I recommend one of the following:

Other books that we may occasionally refer to or that you may want to browse include: The material presented in lecture will be integrated with articles that will be available for download from the web site (most of them already are!).


5:00-6:30 pm Tuesday and Thursday in GAR 3.116

A note about email

While the TA is going to be available for questions by email, I would like to discourage you from contacting me by email with substantive technical questions; instead, I would like to encourage you to come see me in person during office hours, asking for an appointment outside of them if necessary, to discuss questions you may have about the material. There are two reasons for why I strongly discourage you from having a technical conversation by email: 1) DOS defense. As you know, a one-line email may require several pages of explanations back: a perfect Denial of Service attack! The problem is that the attacker (you :-) ) can at very low cost for himself cause the server (me) to perform an unbounded amount of work. A strategy to counter denial of service is to structure protocols so that a potential attacker must perform approximately the same amount of work as the server: if the question is important enough to require 30 minutes of my time, then it should justify at least 30 minutes of yours. 2) It may sound cheesy, but I want to get to know you, and you visiting my office is the best way for me to accomplish this.


It is important for you to realize what grades in this class reflect and what they don't reflect. All we can grade you on is how well you demonstrate that you know the material this semester. We can't grade you on how much of a success you'll be after graduation, how smart/creative/persistent/self-motivated you are, or even how well you'll be able to apply the material in the future. And after all, it is what you do in the future, not what you do this semester, that's really important.

That said grades will be determined as follows:



Homework (3)


Projects (3)



Thursday, December 8, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. (To be confirmed)

If you have a conflict, please inform the instructor by September 1. After this date, conflicts will be considered only if they are caused by either:

  1. Illness, which has to be documented by a doctor and approved by the university.
  2. Death in the immediate family.


In some courses, the TAs and instructor have to spend a lot of time dealing with re-grading appeals, time that would be better spent helping students learn the material. Absolutely come to us if we make an arithmetic error, but realize that a few points here and there are extremely unlikely to make any difference in your final grade. If you believe that we assigned too little credit for your work, you may submit your work for a re-grade under the following restrictions. (1) All re-grade requests must be submitted with a clear, written statement that explains why you believe the original grade was incorrect. (2) All requests for re-grades must be submitted within 1 calendar week of when the graded work is returned. (3) We will re-grade the entire exam, problem set, or project assignment, and if we were overly generous we will deduct points. Thus, you grade can go up or down on a re-grade.

Late policy. No extensions will be given for completing the homework or the programming projects, except that students will be allowed 6 flexible slip days for projects and homework during the semester. A student may divide slip days across projects in any way he or she wishes to extend deadlines for the projects (or a homework) except for projects or homework due at the end of the semester. To help the TA track your slip-day status, the top of your project README file (or your homework) should include the line:

Please note that: Slip days will be tracked at the granularity of a day; if an assignment is 1 minute late, it is one day late: this is not to be draconian, but to show some respect for your TA. If two project partners have different numbers of slip days remaining on their accounts, the slip days account for the team is the min of the partners' slip day balances. Project slip days may not be used for homework and vice versa. Exemptions of the above rules will be allowed in two cases:
  • Illness, which has to be documented by a doctor and approved by the university.
  • Death in the immediate family.
  • Code of Conduct

    The UTCS Code of Conduct applies to this class: I urge you to read it. Violation to the Code of Conduct will be prosecuted. In particular, you should be aware that anyone who is caught cheating will, unless circumstances demand even stricter sanctions, receive an F in this class.

    This page is maintained by Lorenzo Alvisi. Last updated August 23, 2011