E6998-1 Reliable Software

Fall 2009 -- Junfeng Yang

  • Location: 252 ENG
  • Time: M 4:10pm-6:00pm
  • Credits: 3 (w/o project) or 6 (w/ project)
  • Instructor: Junfeng Yang
  • Address: 460 CSB
  • Office Hours: M 3:00pm-4:00pm
  • TA: Heming Cui
  • Address: 122A MUDD (TA room)
  • Office Hours: F 4:00pm-6:00pm
  • Staff Email: reliability-course@lists.cs. Best way to reach us.

Course Description

Despite our increasing reliance on computing platforms, making reliable software systems remains difficult. Software errors have been reported to take lives and cost billions of dollars annually. Making reliable software is one of the most important problems in computer science. In recent years, this problem has drawn huge attention from researchers in systems, software engineering, and programming language communities. A number of automated techniques have been developed to increase system reliability. In this course, we will study the most practical and most important of these reliability techniques. Specifically, we will study:

For a complete list of topics, go to the Course Syllabus page.

Course Goal

The general goal of this course is to help you make reliable systems. It will help you gain a better understanding of software bugs and techniques to detect, debug, and fix them. This understanding will make you a more effective programmer.

If you are interested in doing research in the area of system reliability, this course can help you get started; if you are currently involved in research in other areas such as operating system, networking, security, and database, this course can help you apply the techniques learned in this course to your research area.

Course Format and Student Workload

This course will center around readings and discussions; it has an optional project component (described here). The course readings include a list of research papers selected from top system, software engineering, and programming language conferences. We will discuss two papers every class meeting. In the first half of a class meeting, the instructor or students will present the papers; in the second half, we will discuss the papers in depth. For the in-depth discussions to be possible, you will have to read the papers carefully before class. To help achieve this, I will post reading questions and you will have to answer these questions and turn in your answers before the day of the class.

You have three basic responsibilities for the papers covered in the course:


The project component is optional. It is essentially a mini research project that may involve building a new system, designing a new algorithm, improving an existing technique, or performing a large case study. If you are interested in doing a project, please discuss it with me. With my approval, you can register a project course with me and get 3 additional units. You are encouraged to come up with a topic of your own, which I'll help refine; alternatively, you can choose one of the projects I suggest. More details are available once you sign up for a project.


COMS W3137 Data Structures and Algorithms, COMS W3157 Advanced Programming (or good working knowledge of C), and COMS W3827 Fundamentals of Computer Systems.

In addition, students are expected to have done significant programming, by taking an advanced programming course (e.g., COMS W4118 OS or COMS W4115 PLT) or working in industry.


The Fall 2009 enrollment for this class will be limited. Please register early if you plan to take this class in Fall 2009. If the class is full and you would like to take the class, please email the instructor and come to the first day of class.

The enrollment is open to PhD, MS and undergraduate students. If you are an undergraduate and would like to take the course, please email the instructor for permission.


There is no required textbook; all relevant materials will be made available online at the Course Syllabus page.


40%: Class participation. To encourage in-depth discussion, 40% of the grade will be assigned to class participations: this includes talking in class, as well as how well you do on pop quizzes and (possibly) pop presentations.
30%: Answers to reading questions. I will post one or two reading questions for each paper. You should answer these questions and turn in your answers before the day of the class. Your answer to each question must be less than 100 words.
30%: Paper Presentation. You will present one paper. You should get your slides ready and go through them with me one week before your presentation day. I will provide you feedback so you can revise your slides. Your presentation must be less than 15 minutes.