Student Built Xinu

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Having students build their own Xinu is one of the potential tracks presented for a professor that is Teaching With Xinu.

A student built operating system puts the student in the trenches of operating system development. The student will become intimately involved with the inner workings of an operating system. This will give the student a better understanding of the various systems that work together behind the scenes while an operating system is running. Operating systems topics that can be incorporated in a student built Xinu course include: memory management, scheduling, concurrent processing, device management, file systems and others.

Course Outcomes

Course development can parallel learning objectives and topics associated with many Communication and Networking courses. [1]


  • Overview of operating systems
  • Operating system principles
  • Concurrency
  • Scheduling and dispatch
  • Memory management
  • Device management
  • Security and protection
  • File systems
  • Evaluating system performance

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss the history of operating systems.
  • Overview of the general and specific purpose of an operating system.
  • Understanding concurrency and state flow diagrams.
  • Understanding deadlock and starvation.
  • Ability to decipher between scheduling algorithms.
  • Understanding the use of memory and virtual memory.
  • Characteristics of serial and parallel devices.
  • Deciphering the concepts behind various file systems
  • Understanding the necessity of security and locating potential system security holes

Potential Course Structure

An Operating Systems course using the below course outline or something similar will introduce students to some fundamental concepts of operating systems combined with the basics of networking and communications. Topics include: memory management, scheduling, concurrent processing, device management, file systems, networking, security, and system performance. A similar course structure is followed by Dr. Dennis Brylow at Marquette University in his sophomore level Operating Systems course. Most of the assignments where students are building Embedded Xinu are done in teams of two.

Course Outline
Week Topics Assignments Track One Assignments Track Two
01 C (basics) and OS Structures, Processes C Basics C Basics
02 C (functions, control flow) and Processes
03 C (pointers, arrays, structs) and Threads C Structs and Pointers C Structs and Pointers
04 CPU Scheduling Synchronous Serial Driver Synchronous Serial Driver
05 CPU Scheduling
06 Process Synchronization Context Switch and Non-Preemptive Scheduling Context Switch and Non-Preemptive Scheduling
07 Deadlocks Priority Scheduling and Process Termination Priority Scheduling & Preemption
08 Main Memory and Virtual Memory
09 File System Interface Preemption & Synchronization Interprocess Communication OR LL/SC
10 File System Implementation
11 Mass-Storage Structure Delta Queues Delta Queues
12 I/O Systems Heap Memory Heap Memory
13 Protection, Security and Distributed System Structures Asynchronous Device Driver Ultra-Tiny File System
14 Distributed System Structures
15 Distributed File Systems Ultra-Tiny File System Basic Networking - Ping


[1] Course topics and learning objectives have been adapted from the ACM's Computing Curricula 2001 Computer Science.

This work funded in part by NSF grant DUE-CCLI-0737476.