Princeton University
Computer Science Dept.

Computer Science 333:
Advanced Programming Techniques

Spring 2007

Brian Kernighan

Fri May 11 17:27:00 EDT 2007

Thanks to everyone for really fine presentations. By the way, the somewhat older generation sitting in the back row was mostly community auditors from various of my courses. Most of them have technical backgrounds in computing, and they have often had significant managerial roles as well. When they say that they are really impressed with your work, it means something.

Now all that's left is the final submission: final submission information.

Lecture notes:    2/6    2/8    2/13    2/15    2/20    2/22    2/27    3/1    3/6    3/8    3/13-15    3/27    4/3    4/5    4/10    4/12    4/17    4/19    4/24    4/26    5/1    5/3   

Assignments:    1     2     3     4     5    

Project:    preliminary description (2/6)     planning and organization (2/20)     previous projects     comments from previous projects     potential external projects     design document template     authentication code     SVN help file     Project groups and TA assignments     Demo information (4/10, updated 5/1) Demo schedule

Readings:    general bibliography     language tutorials     Epigrams on Programming     original 02/57 Fortran paper     John Backus obituary     O'Reilly: Web 2.0     Spolsky: software frameworks    McIlroy: Virology 101     Dave Touretzky's Gallery of CSS Descramblers    

Old stuff:    Newsgroup     playlist     Python challenge     web page techniques     assignment 5 hints     Fall 07 registrar data    

Dates: All dates are subject to minor changes.

	 S  M Tu  W Th  F  S
Feb	             1  2  3
	 4  5  6  7  8  9 10	first class
	11 12 13 14 15 16 17	assignment 1 due; preliminary project info
	18 19 20 21 22 23 24	assignment 2 due
	25 26 27 28
Mar	             1  2  3	assignment 3 due
	 4  5  6  7  8  9 10	assignment 4 due
	11 12 13 14 15 16 17	assignment 5 due; project proposal due this week
	18 19 20 21 22 23 24	spring break
	25 26 27 28 29 30 31	first TA meeting
Apr	 1  2  3  4  5  6  7
	 8  9 10 11 12 13 14	project prototype
	15 16 17 18 19 20 21
	22 23 24 25 26 27 28	alpha test
	29 30
May	       1  2  3  4  5	last class; beta test
	 6  7  8  9 10 11 12	project presentations
	13 14 15 16 17 18 19	Dean's date; project due
	20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Course Summary

This is a course about the practice of programming, an attempt to expose students to the development of real programs. Programming is more than just writing code. Programmers must also assess tradeoffs, choose among design alternatives, debug and test, improve performance, and maintain software written by themselves and others. At the same time, they must be concerned with compatibility, robustness, and reliability, while meeting specifications. Students will have the opportunity to develop these skills by working on their own code and in group projects.

COS 333 is about programming, not about a specific language. The course will assume that you are familiar with C and Java, and will include excursions into C++, Visual Basic, and scripting languages like shells, Awk, Perl, and Python. There will be significant emphasis on tools, both how to use them and how they are designed and built. The course will use Unix more than Windows, but not exclusively. Students must be comfortable with C and Java programming and with Unix, and able to write modest-sized programs that work. COS 217 is a prerequisite.


This syllabus is definitely subject to change. Each topic will take roughly one week; there's no guarantee that we will cover all of them.

This is meant to be more than a laundry list, however. Each section will also discuss issues of design, implementation, testing, performance, portability, and other software engineering concerns, and these will also be part of the programming assignments. With luck there will be a few guest lecturers as well.


There will be two lectures each week. During the first half of the semester, there will be a modest-sized programming assignment each week, which should take perhaps 5 hours to complete. During the second half of the semester, students will work in groups of 3 or 4 on a project that will involve a significant amount of design and implementation.

There is one required text: The Practice of Programming, by Kernighan and Pike; you should also know basic Unix tools and usage as described in, for example, The Unix Programming Environment. Other readings will be handed out in class or found on the Web. The books listed in this bibliography are also worth looking at; they cover a wide variety of material related to programming.

Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:20, somewhere.

Brian Kernighan, 311 CS Building, 609-258-2089, bwk at Depending on class size, I may set up regular office hours once things get rolling; alternatively, make an appointment, or just drop in if my door is open, which it usually is.

Teaching Assistants:
      Wei Dong, CS 318a, 258-1759, wdong@, Thu 2:00-3:00
      Xiaojuan Ma, CS 313, 258-6126, xm@, Tue 2:00-3:00


Five programming assigments will be assigned during the first half of the term; each is intended to take about five hours, but is sure to take longer unless you are careful.

Assignments are together worth about 30-35 percent of the course grade. Assignments are due by midnight on Thursdays unless there are extraordinary circumstances. For the record, extracurricular activities and heavy workloads in other classes don't count as "extraordinary", no matter how unexpected or important or time-consuming. You must complete all assignments and project requirements to pass the course.


The second half of the semester will be devoted to a group project; more details will be given soon. The project can be done in whatever combination of languages and techniques makes most sense; one of the goals of the project is to encourage careful tradeoffs among alternatives, and planning of interfaces to minimize dependencies among components. The project is a good place to explore personal interests further than can reasonably be covered in class.

The project will have frequent checkpoints along the way for which you will have to present status reports, preliminary designs, and the like. There will be a public presentation and demo at the end, a written writeup, and submission of a system for testing and evaluation. All of these are graded.

The project will be worth about 60-65 percent of the course grade; it will be shared equally among group members, with the possibility of negative adjustments for members who fail to contribute their fair share.


There may well be sporadic unannounced, very short, in-class quizzes to test your understanding and verify your existence. These will be worth perhaps 5-10 percent of the course grade.

Regular class attendance is expected and class participation helps. Frequent absences are grounds for a failing grade regardless of other performance. This means you.

Collaboration Policy for Assignments

(This policy on collaboration in assignments is adapted from the COS 217 web page.) Programming, like composition, is an individual creative process. Individuals must reach their own understanding of the problem and discover a path to its solution. During this time, discussions with friends are encouraged. However, when the time comes to write the code that solves the problem, such discussions are no longer appropriate - the program must be your own work (although you may ask teaching assistants for help in debugging). If you have a question about how to use some language or operating system feature, you can certainly ask your friends or the teaching assistants.

Do not, under any circumstances, copy another person's program for an assignment. Writing code for use by another or using another's code in any form violates the University's academic regulations.

Examples of unacceptable behavior for assignments include:

The program you turn in must be your work. You may get help from the instructor or TA after you have started writing code, but not from other students. Computer science assignments are not like physics or math problem sets: there is no single right answer. Each student is expected to come up with his or her own individual solution.

If you plan to do something that you are not absolutely sure is legal, ask first. Ignorance of this policy will not be accepted as an excuse for your actions.

You are responsible for ensuring that your files are not readable by your classmates. We recommend doing your COS 333 work on your own machine or in a private subdirectory, i.e.:

	% mkdir cos333
	% chmod 700 cos333

Collaboration Policy for Projects

Projects will often use open source code and other publicly available material as building blocks or as the basis for modification and adaptation. This is permitted and indeed encouraged, but such code must be properly attributed, and the project as a whole must be substantially your own work. Please consult with the instructor if you are uncertain about a proposed course of action.

Project groups are encouraged to share insights and information about how things work, how to get things done, and other aspects of programming knowledge.