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A PROGRAMMER'S PERSPECTIVE
This book is for programmers who want to write faster and more reliable programs. By learning how programs are mapped onto the system and executed, readers will better understand why programs behave the way they do and how inefficiencies arise. Computer systems are viewed broadly, comprising processor and memory hardware, compiler, operating system, and networking environment. With its programmer's perspective, readers can clearly see how learning about the inner workings of computer systems will help their further development as computer scientists and engineers. It also helps prepare them for further study in computer architecture, operating systems, compilers, and networking.
Topics include: data representations, machine-level representations of C programs, processor architecture, program optimization, memory hierarchy, linking, exceptional control flow, virtual memory and memory management, system-level 1/O, network programming, and concurrent programming. The coverage focuses on how these areas affect application and system programmers. For example, when covering data representations, it considers how the finite representations used to represent numbers can approximate integer and real numbers, but with limitations that must be understood by programmers. When covering caching, it discusses how the ordering of loop indices in matrix code can affect program performance. When covering networking, it describes how a concurrent server can efficiently handle requests from multiple clients.
The book is based on Intel-compatible (IA32) machines executing C programs on Unix or related operating systems such as Linux. Some familiarity with C orC++ is assumed, although hints are included to help readers making the transition from Java to C.
A complete set of resources, including labs and assignments, lecture notes, and code examples are available via the book's Web site at csapp.cs.cmu.edu.
This book, Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective (CS:APP), is for programmers who want to improve their skills by learning what is going on "under the hood" of a computer system.
Our aim is to explain the enduring concepts underlying all computer systems, and to show you the concrete ways that these ideas affect the correctness, performance, and utility of your application programs. Unlike other systems books, which are written primarily for system builders, this book is written for programmers, from a programmer's perspective.
If you study and learn the concepts in this book, you will be on your way to becoming the rare "power programmer" who knows how things work and how to fix them when they break. You will also be prepared to study specific systems topics such as compilers, computer architecture, operating systems, embedded systems, and networking. Assumptions About the Reader's Background
The examples in the book are based on Intel-compatible processors (called "IA32" by Intel and "x86" colloquially) running C programs on Unix or Unix-like (such as Linux) operating systems. (To simplify our presentation, we will use the term "Unix" as an umbrella term for systems like Solaris and Linux.) The text contains numerous programming examples that have been compiled and run on Linux systems. We assume that you have access to such a machine, and are able to log in and do simple things such as changing directories.
If your computer runs Microsoft Windows, you have two choices. First, you can get a copy of Linux (see www.linux.org or www.redhat.com) and install it as a "dual boot" option, so that your machine can run eitheroperating system. Alternatively, by installing a copy of the Cygwin tools (www.cygwin.com), you can have up a Unix-like shell under Windows and have an environment very close to that provided by Linux. Not all features of Linux are available under Cygwin, however.
We also assume that you have some familiarity with C or C++. If your only prior experience is with Java, the transition will require more effort on your part, but we will help you. Java and C share similar syntax and control statements. However, there are aspects of C, particularly pointers, explicit dynamic memory allocation, and formatted I/O, that do not exist in Java. Fortunately, C is a small language, and it is clearly and beautifully described in the classic "K&R" text by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie 40. Regardless of your programming background, consider K&R an essential part of your personal systems library.
Several of the early chapters in the book explore the interactions between C programs and their machine-language counterparts. The machine language examples were all generated by the GNU Gcc compiler running on an Intel IA32 processor. We do not assume any prior experience with hardware, machine language, or assembly-language programming. How to Read the Book
Learning how computer systems work from a programmer's perspective is great fun, mainly because it can be done so actively. Whenever you learn some new thing, you can try it out right away and see the result first hand. In fact, we believe that the only way to learn systems is to do systems, either working concrete problems, or writing and running programs on real systems.
This theme pervades the entire book. When a new concept is introduced, it is followed in the text by one or more practice problems that you should work immediately to test your understanding. Solutions to the practice problems are at the end of each chapter (look for the blue edge). As you read, try to solve each problem on your own, and then check the solution to make sure you are on the right track. Each chapter is followed by a set of homework problems of varying difficulty. Your instructor has the solutions to the homework problems in an instructor's manual. For each homework problem, we show a rating of the amount of effort we feel it will require:
* Should require just a few minutes. Little or no programming required.
** Might require up to 20 minutes. Often involves writing and testing some code. Many of these are derived from problems we have given on exams.
*** Requires a significant effort, perhaps 1-2 hours. Generally involves writing and testing a significant amount of code.
**** A lab assignment, requiring up to 10 hours of effort.
Each code example in the text was formatted directly, without any manual intervention, from a C program compiled with Gcc version 2.95.3, and tested on a Linux system with a 2.2.16 kernel. All of the source code is available from the CS:APP Web page (csapp.cs.cmu.edu). In the text, the file names of the source programs are documented in horizontal bars that surround the formatted code. For example, the program in Figure P.1 can be found in the file hello. c in directory code/intro/. We encourage you to try running the example programs on your system as you encounter them.
Finally, some sections (denoted by a "*") contain material that you might find interesting, but that can be skipped without any loss of continuity. Origins of the Book
The book stems from an introductory course that we developed at Carnegie Melton University in the Fall of 1998, called 15-213: Introduction to Computer Systems (ICS) 7. The ICS course has been taught every semester since then, each time to about 150 students, mostly sophomores in computer science and computer engineering. It has since become a prerequisite for most upper-level systems courses in the CS and ECE departments at Carnegie Melton.
The idea with ICS was to introduce students to computers in a different way. Few of our students would have the opportunity to build a computer system. On the other hand, most students, even the computer engineers, would be required to use and program computers on a daily basis. So we decided to teach about systems from the point of view of the programmer, using the following filter: We would cover a topic only if it affected the performance, correctness, or utility of user-level C programs.
For example, topics such as hardware adder and bus designs were out. Topics such as machine language were in, but instead of focusing on how to write assembly language, we would look at how C constructs such as pointers, loops, procedure calls and returns, and switch statements were translated by the compiler. Further, we would take a broader and more realistic view of the system as both hardware and systems software, covering such topics as linking, loading, processes, signals, performance optimization, measurement, I/O, and network and concurrent programming.
This approach allowed us to teach the ICS course in a way that was practical, concrete, hands-on, and exciting for the students. The response from our students and faculty colleagues was immediate and overwhelmingly positive, and we realized that others outside of CMU might benefit from using our approach. Hence this book, which we developed over a period of two years from the ICS lecture notes. Overview of the Book
The CS:APP book consists of 13 chapters designed to capture the core ideas in computer systems:
|About the Authors|
|1||A Tour of Computer Systems||1|
|Pt. I||Program Structure and Execution|
|2||Representing and Manipulating Information||24|
|3||Machine-Level Representation of Programs||122|
|5||Optimizing Program Performance||376|
|6||The Memory Hierarchy||454|
|Pt. II||Running Programs on a System|
|8||Exceptional Control Flow||584|
|9||Measuring Program Execution Time||650|
|Pt. III||Interaction and Communication Between Programs|
|A||HCL Descriptions of Processor Control Logic||905|
Posted September 16, 2007
This book serves as a great introduction to systems programming. The examples are clear and insightful the concepts of computer systems are explained thoroughly. Best of all, this books makes the boring aspects of systems design fun!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2004
This book exlplains the fundamentals extremely well. (In response to one of the other reviews, this book is about explaining *concepts* unlike K & R which is meant to describe a language. You're comparing apples and oranges.) This book also has interesting, stimulating exercises that along with the explanations make a pretty complete introductory course to computer systems. I would strongly reccomend this to anyone who is trying to self-teach the topic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 28, 2003
Dont buy this book . It is waste of money and doesnt solve the purpose.I have taken this course and this was the text book for my masters. The authors completely failed to explain it properly. For every concept he explains it in the most prolonged way where you get lost. I really pity all the schools and students where they have this book as the text book. Cant they write something shorter and nice version which gives key concepts? Why cant these authors learn from authors like'kernighan and ritchie'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.