Computer Science 381
Programming Unix in C

Fall 2013, The College of Saint Rose



Dr. James D. Teresco, Albertus Hall 400-2, (518) 485-3755
Electronic mail: terescoj AT (best contact method)
Twitter: @JTeresco_StR_CS
Class URL: [Link]
Class hour: Wednesday, 10:25-11:10, Science Center 469A
Office hours: Monday 2:00-3:30 PM, Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-2:15 PM, by appointment


Everything on this syllabus is subject to change. Changes will be announced in class and updated in the online version of the syllabus.

Course Objectives

This course is an introduction to C programming using the Unix operating system. The course is designed for individuals who understand programming constructs and concepts in another programming language. No prior Unix experience is necessary. Students will develop a proficiency with Unix and the C programming language that will be helpful for upper-level courses, particularly CSC 432, Operating Systems. Topics to be covered include basic C syntax and program structure, separate compilation, functions, structures, pointers, and memory management. Unix tools including the Emacs editor, the Make utility, the GNU C compiler, and the GNU debugger will be used.



The required text for the course is The C Programming Language, 2nd Edition (Prentice-Hall, 1988, ISBN 0-13-110362-8) by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. This is available from the Saint Rose Bookstore (and elsewhere). If you buy elsewhere, be sure to get the correct edition.


The course is organized as a series of lab exercises that are to be started during our meetings and completed during the remainder of the week. There is no formal attendance policy, but a lack of regular attendance is certain to result in lower grades on labs and the exams. Do not expect sympathy if you are struggling but are rarely seen in class and during office hours. Supplemental readings are listed on the lab and reading schedule. Be prompt, prepared, and ready to focus on the day's topics. This should go without saying, but this means your phones and other devices not being used exclusively to follow along with class materials and/or to take notes must be powered off. Food and drink cannot be permitted in class, as we meet in a computer lab.

The lab and reading schedule has a link to a web page for each lecture/lab highlighting the day's topics, listing class examples, and the new assignment. The notes used to guide any in-class presentations will also be available as PDF files linked from the lab and reading schedule.

Your submissions for lab assignments will include several types of items. Different requirements apply to each, as described below. It is important that you adhere to file format and naming requirements to facilitate grading. Submissions that do not meet these requirements will not be accepted.

Lab Questions
The answers to all "lab questions" for a particular lab should be included within a single plain-text file named labn.txt, where n is the lab number. The file should start with your name and the lab number, followed by line-wrapped text responses to each lab question in the assignment. Your file should be appropriately line-wrapped for easy reading in a window or on a printed page with a width of 80 characters.
Output Captures
You will sometimes be asked to capture the output of an existing Unix command or one of your programs in a file for submission. The file name to use for each such task will be specified in the question.
Practice Programs
Your submissions for practice programs are graded primarily on correctness, but you will be required to include your name at the top of the program, and you must use the file name specified.
Programming Assignments
These are the most formal submissions and will be graded on design, documentation, style, correctness, and efficiency (where appropriate). A good design will use an appropriate algorithm, data structures, and language constructs to solve the problem. A well-documented program will include a comment at the top of each file that includes your name, the assignment, and a description of the contents of the file. There should also be comments for each structure definition, each function definition (including a brief description of the function's purpose, its parameters, and return value), each variable or group of related variables, and any section of code whose purpose and/or behavior is not obvious from context or the code itself. Style requirements include appropriate formatting (sufficient and consistent indentation, spacing, and punctuation, wrapping long lines of code), good use of constants, and meaningful and appropriate names for variables, functions, constants, and parameters. Correctness, of course, requires the expected output be produced for a set of test inputs (which will normally not be provided in advance). Efficiency will be more important in some assignments than others, and requires that the program does not do any unnecessary computation or use any more memory than needed. This includes returning memory to the system when using dynamic memory management. And, of course, you must use the file name specified.

You are strongly encouraged to develop your C programs using a genuine Unix environment (the Saint Rose Macintosh and Computer Science Linux systems or your own Macintosh or Unix/Linux system). If you choose to develop your programs anywhere than the Saint Rose Macintosh and Computer Science Linux systems, it is your responsibility to ensure that your program works on the grading platform.

Unless otherwise specified, late lab assignments may be turned in with a penalty computed as 1.08h%, where h is the number of hours late. Extensions will only be granted in serious situations. You can find a C program that prints out a table of the late penalties here. Work turned in after solutions have been made available cannot receive credit. All assignments are to be submitted electronically unless otherwise specified. Keep a copy of all submissions for yourself.


There will be two exams: a midterm exam in class on Wednesday, October 9, and a final exam at 10:45 AM on Wednesday, December 11.


Grades for individual assignments and exams are not scaled. Any scaling deemed appropriate will take place at the end of the semester by adjusting the thresholds. The following thresholds may be adjusted downward (thereby raising grades) but will never be adjusted upward.


Labs 60% A >= 93% A- >= 90%
Midterm Exam 15% B+ >= 87% B >= 83% B- >= 80%
Final Exam 25% C+ >= 77% C >= 70%
D >= 65%
F < 65%

College policy forbids changing of course grades after they are submitted except in very specific cases (such as an error in grading of an assignment or in computation of a grade). Any such errors that slip through must be found and rectified quickly after grades are submitted. In rare circumstances, a student request for an incomplete grade may be approved at the discretion of the instructor. Requests must be made one week prior to the end of the semester, and terms of such arrangements must be mutually agreed upon before grades are submitted.


Every college student should be motivated to attend every lecture and lab meeting for all the right reasons (e.g., desire for knowledge, desire to get the most out of every very expensive minute, etc.). As college students, you understand that regular attendance is essential to your ability to master the course material.

Therefore, there is no formal attendance policy. You are expected to attend regularly, and should still see the instructor about any excused absences. An excused absence may be any of the following:

  1. A documented athletic or academic event that conflicts with a class meeting. The required paperwork must be presented in person at least one week prior to the event.
  2. A family emergency.
  3. Personal illness.

While there is no formal penalty for unexecused absences, missing class regularly will be considered a sign that you are not taking the course seriously. History shows that students who are frequently absent perform poorly on graded work. Do not expect compassion when final grades are assigned or extensive extra help if you do not understand a topic that was covered while you were absent without a valid excuse.

Disability Accomodations

If you are a student with a documented disability and require academic accommodations please register with Lynn Cantwell, the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, located in the Academic Support Center on the 2nd floor of St. Joseph Hall (campus extension 2335 or 518-337-2335, off campus) for disability verification and for determination of recommended reasonable academic accommodations. After you have made arrangements with that office, please see me to discuss your accommodations. Please remember that timely notice will help avoid a delay in your receipt of accommodations.

Academic Integrity

You are encouraged to discuss the concepts related to course assignments and exams with your classmates. This is an essential part of a healthy academic environment. However, work submitted for grading must be your own (or the combined work of group members, for group assignments). Any unauthorized copying or collaboration is considered a breach of academic integrity and will not be tolerated. Academic dishonesty cases are unpleasant and uncomfortable for everyone involved. You are responsible for reading and understanding The College of Saint Rose Policy on Plagiarism and Academic Integrity.

The minimum penalties for a first violation will include failure (0 grade) for the assignment or exam in question and the filing of a Academic Dishonesty Report Form with the Registrar's office. A second violation will result in failure of the course and a second Academic Dishonesty Report Form.

If there is any doubt about the degree of collaboration allowed or the permitted sources for a particular assignment, please ask for clarification before collaborating or consulting the source. Any such collaborations or sources must be cited properly.