SPO600 - Information for Prospective Students

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Interested in taking SPO600 -- Software Portability and Optimization?

Here is some background information you may find useful:

In a Nutshell

If you are a System/Network Adminsitration (CTY) or Software Development (CPA/CPD) student and...

  • ...are intrigued by the inner workings of computers
  • ...want to understand how computer software really works
  • ...want to find out why most of the things programmers believe about the software they write is false

And you...

  • ...are not afraid to go deep
  • ...are interested in next-generation computer technology
  • ...want to work with complex tools and software used in the real world
  • ...want to collaborate with global open source communities
  • ...want the highest performance out of your systems

Then this might just be the Professional Option course for you!

What is this course about?

This course is about making existing software work on a new type of computer (porting) and making software work as efficiently as possible (optimization). These topics lead into an investigation of computer architecture (the design of the hardware), how computer programs work at their lowest levels (assembly language / machine language) and how compilers convert high-level code into machine code, including optimizations that they perform.

In this course, you'll be working with open source software, since the source code for that software is readily available for you to examine, modify, and use. We'll specifically be working with software that runs on Linux on 64-bit ARM computers.

Specifically, you will:

  • program in assembly language on at least two architectures
  • understand how the compiler is (significantly!) rewriting your code
  • dig into some large open-source software code bases
  • test the performance impact of code and compilation changes
  • collaborate with open source communities globally

This is a project-oriented course, and each semester is different. In Fall 2018 there will be a primary focus on optimization.

Who can take this course?

This course is open to both CNS/CTY (system and network administration) and CPA/CPD (software development) students. Each group brings unique but overlapping skills: CTY students have a strong understanding of operating systems and administrative procedures, and CPA students have a strong understanding of programming. This course provides a range of project opportunities requiring different combinations of skills from each program of study.

What are the course prerequisites, and why?

IPC144 (Introduction to Programming in C) is a prerequisite for this course - you need to have a solid, basic understanding of C to participate effectively. You can select a project that fits your particular combination of other system administration and/or software development skills (system installation, Bash or Python scripting, programming in various languages, software packaging, network testing, and so forth).

In addition, you'll need skills in scripting (for task automation) or in object oriented programming (for program analysis and optimization), and therefore one of these courses is required as a prerequisite: OPS435, OOP344, or OOP345.

Why take this course?

In this course, you'll learn about the internal details of computer architecture and the lowest levels of programming - the instructions that a compiler produces from your code. You'll also learn how to port code to work on a new architecture (or on a range of architectures), benchmark software performance, improve software performance by changing the code or the way it is built, and debug code. This is a project-based course, and you will gain experience working directly with one or more open source communities on software that is in everyday use.

After completing this course, you will understand the fundamentals of computer architecture and operation and be able to build and/or write software that performs well, work with multiple computer architectures, and participate in open source projects.

Is this an easy course?

No! - It's a challenging course. However, it covers material which is not covered elsewhere in the program, and if you like to understand computer technology in detail and how hardware and software interact, you may really enjoy this course. The knowledge and skills covered in this course are of practical value to both programmers and system administrators.

Who teaches this course?

SPO600 is taught by Chris Tyler.

I've been teaching in the School of ICT at Seneca since 2001 and am now also an Industrial Research Chair (IRCC) in Open Source Technology for Emerging Platforms in CDOT -- which means that I spend the majority of my time doing applied research on open source software and next-generation computer technology.

How is this course connected to CDOT?

The Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT) is a technology centre focused on Open Source. This course is associated with the IRCC's applied research program, so participants will have access to some research resources (such as computers in the Enterprise Hyperscale Lab). In addition, participation in this course may help prepare students for CDOT Job Opportunities.

Have more questions about SPO600?

Please contact Professor Chris Tyler (via email at chris.tyler@senecacollege.ca).

Return to the SPO600 homepage.