Fall 2014 SPO600 Weekly Schedule

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It's Alive!
This SPO600 weekly schedule will be updated as the course proceeds - dates and content are subject to change. The cells in the summary table will be linked to relevant resources and labs as the course progresses.

Summary Table

This is a summary/index table. Please follow the links in each cell for additional detail -- especially for the Deliverables column.

Week Week of... Tuesday Friday Deliverables
(Summary - click for details)
1 Sep 1 (Experience Seneca Orientation - No Class) Introduction to Software Porting, Portability, Benchmarking, and Optimization / How is code accepted into an open source project? Set up accounts and a Fedora system
2 Sep 8 Computer Architecture Overview Introduction to Assembly Language Blog a commentary on code reviews in two communities (Lab 1) and on the Compiled C Code lab (Lab 2).
3 Sep 15 Linaro Connect 2014 - No classes scheduled - Prepare your presentation on assembly language code Assembly language presentations
4 Sept 22 Assembly language presentations Assembly language presentations Set up a Fedora system / Blog on binary analysis (Lab 2)
5 Sep 29 Writing x86 Assembly Language Writing Aarch64 Assembley Language Blog about writing in assembly language (Lab 3)
6 Oct 6 Lab 3 results, inline assembler, and compiler optimizations Potential Project Analysis - Analyzing a codebase for assembler and non-portable code Blog post about your selected projects
7 Oct 13 Memory Barriers and Atomics Group hack session - Porting Identify the assembler in your projects and contact your upstream communities.
Study Week Oct 20 Study Week
FSOSS 2014 on Thursday-Friday
8 Oct 27 Architecture-specific Code for Performance]] Group hack session - Porting Blog about your progress.
9 Nov 3 Portability - Removing platform-specific code Group hack session - Portability Blog about your progress.
8 Nov 10 Project Work Project Work Get code into review and blog about it.
9 Nov 17 Status Update Foundation Models Install and Test With Foundation Model and blog about it.
10 Nov 24 Profiling Baseline Profiling Post baseline stats for your software.
11 Nov 17 Optimizing Code Group hack - Profiling and optimizing Post a code review update.
12 Nov 24 Using complier optimizations Project Work Post a code review update.
13 Dec 1 Final Presentations Final Presentations Code accepted upstream. Blog about it!
Exam Week Dec 8 Exam Week - No exam in this course!


Category Percentage Evaluation Dates
Communication 20% September 30, October 31, November 21, December 10
Quizzes 10% May be held during any class, usually at the start of class. A minimum of 5 one-page quizzes will be given. No make-up/retake option is offered if you miss a quiz. Lowest 3 scores will not be counted.
Labs 10% See deliverables column above.
Project work 60% October 10, November 21, December 10

Week 1

Friday (Sep 5)

Introduction to the Problem

  • Most software is written in a high-level language which can be compiled into machine code for a specific architecture. However, there is a lot of existing code that contains some architecture-specific code fragments written in Assembly Language (or, in some cases, machine-specific high-level code).
  • Reasons for writing code in Assembly Langauge include:
    • Performance
    • Atomic Operations
    • Direct access to hardware features, e.g., CPUID registers
  • Most of the historical reasons for including assembler are no longer valid. Modern compilers can out-perform most hand-optimized assembly code, atomic operations can be handled by libraries or compiler intrinsics, and most hardware access should be performed through the operating system or appropriate libraries.
  • A new architecture has appeared: Aarch64, which is part of ARMv8. This is the first new computer architecture to appear in several years (at least, the first mainstream computer architecture).
  • There are over 1400 software packages/modules present in GNU Linux systems which contain architecture-specific assembly language code. Most of these packages cannot be built on Aarch64 systems without modification.

Course Projects

In this course, you will:

  1. Select two software packages from a list compiled by Steve Macintyre of Linaro. Each of the packages on this list contains assembly language code which is platform-specific.
  2. Prepare a fix/patch for the software so that it will run on 64-bit ARM systems (aarch64). This may be done at either of two levels:
    1. Port - Add additional assembly language code for aarch64 (basic solution).
    2. Make Portable - Remove architecture-specific code, replacing it with compiler intrinsics or high-level code so that the software will successfully build on multiple platforms.
  3. Benchmark - Prove that your changes do not cause a performance regression on existing platforms, and that (ideally) it improves performance.
  4. Upstream your Code - Submitting your code to the upstream (originating) software project so that it can be incorporated into future versions of the software. This will involve going through a code review to ensure that your code is compatible with and acceptable to the upstream community.
  • Introduction to the Linaro Code Porting/Optimization project.

General Course Information

  • Course resources are linked from the CDOT wiki, starting at http://zenit.senecac.on.ca/wiki/index.php/SPO600 (Quick find: This page will usually be Google's top result for a search on "SPO600").
  • Coursework is submitted by blogging.
  • Quizzes will be short (1 page) and will be held without announcement at any time. Your lowest three quiz scores will not be counted, so do not worry if you miss one or two.
  • Course marks (see Weekly Schedule for dates):
    • 60% - Project Deliverables
    • 20% - Communication (Blog and Wiki writing)
    • 20% - Labs and Quizzes (10% labs - completed/not completed; 10% for quizzes - lowest 3 scores not counted)
  • All classes will be held in an Active Learning Classroom -- you are encouraged to bring your own laptop to class. If you do not have a laptop, consider signing one out of the Learning Commons for class, or using a smartphone with an HDMI adapter.
  • For more course information, refer to the SPO600 Weekly Schedule (this page), the Course Outline, and SPO600 Course Policies.

Discussion of how open source communities work

(Background for the Code Review Lab (Lab 1) which is homework due Week 2).

Week 1 Deliverables

  1. Set up your SPO600 Communication Tools - in particular, set up a blog and add it to Planet CDOT (via the Planet CDOT Feed List).
  2. Add yourself to the Fall 2014 SPO600 Participants page (leave the projects columns blank).
  3. Generate a pair of keys for SSH and email the public key to your professor.
  4. Sign and return the Open Source Professional Option Student Agreement.
  5. Set up a Fedora 20 system.

Week 2

Tuesday (Sep 9)

Bring Your Laptop
Classes are held in a Active Learning Classroom. If you have a laptop or other device with a VGA or HDMI output (such as a smartphone!) please feel free to bring it.

Friday (Sep 12)

Week 2 Deliverables

Week 3

  • Prepare to teach the class about a specific topic related to assembly language / machine language programming (to be assigned).