CS 142, Fall 2019

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Distributed Computing


  • Richard Murray (CMS)
  • Mani Chandy (CMS)
  • Lectures: MW, 9-10 am, 213 Annenberg
  • Office hours: by appointment

Teaching assistants

  • Prithvi Akella (ME), Tung Phan (ME)
  • Problem solving sessions: Fri, 9 am, 213 Annenberg
  • Office hours: Sun, 5-6 pm, Mon, 5-6 pm and Tue, 5-6 pm; 243 Annenberg
  • Online resources: Piazza] (Q&A forum), Moodle (HW submission)

Course description

CS 142. Distributed Computing. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Prerequisites: CS 24, CS 38. Fundamental concepts for the design and analysis of distributed systems and algorithms, including reasoning about distributed programs, handling the lack of global time and global state, achieving distributed consensus in the presence of faults and asynchrony, and designing fault-tolerance for distributed systems. Review of state-of-the-art distributed systems, particularly cloud computing systems. Instructor: Murray/Chandy.

Course announcements

  • 9 Oct 2019: HW #2 has been posted; due 16 Oct (Wed) at 2 pm
  • 2 Oct 2019: HW #1 has been posted; due 9 Oct (Wed) at 2 pm
  • 29 Sep 2019: Monday lecture posted + Piazza signups created (if you didn't get added, sign up using the link above)
  • 21 Sep 2019: web site under construction; use with care

Course syllabus and schedule

Lecture Schedule

Date Topic Reading/Homework
W1 (30 Sep)
  • Motivation, course admin
  • Logic and computation
  • Propositional logic, guarded command programs
W2 (7 Oct)
  • Specifications and proofs
  • Program properties (invariants, safety, liveness)
  • Simple examples and proofs of correctness
W3 (14 Oct)
W4 (21 Oct)
  • Time, clocks
  • Gossip algorithms
W5 (28 Oct)
  • Mutual exclusion
W6 (4 Nov)
  • Dining philosophers
W7 (11 Nov)
  • Specifications, refinement, program composition
  • Snapshots
W8 (18 Nov)
  • Byzantine agreement and the PAXOS algorithm

  • Paxos Made Simple (Lamport, 2001)
  • HW #8 due on 6 Dec (Fri)
  • Mon lecture slides
  • No office hours on 27 Nov (Sun)
  • Office hours: 5 Dec (Thu), 5-6 pm, 243 ANB
W9 (25 Nov)
W10 (2 Dec)
  • Distributed consensus and distributed ledger


The final grade will be based on homework sets, a midterm exam, and a final exam:

  • Homework (50%): Homework sets will be handed out weekly and due on Wednesdays by 2 pm (submitted via Moodle). Each student is allowed up to two extensions of no more than 2 days each over the course of the term. Homework turned in after Friday at 2 pm or after the two extensions are exhausted will not be accepted without a note from the health center or the Dean.
  • Midterm exam (20%): A midterm exam will be handed out at the beginning of midterms period (25 Oct) and due at the end of the midterm examination period (1 Nov). The midterm exam will be open book (textbook and course notes OK: access to the Internet is not allowed).
  • Final exam (30%): The final exam will be handed out on the last day of class (1 Dec) and due at the end of finals week. The final exam will be open book (textbook and course notes OK: access to the Internet is not allowed).

Collaboration Policy

  • Collaboration on homework assignments is encouraged. You may consult outside reference materials, other students, the TA, or the instructor, but you cannot consult homework solutions from prior years and you must cite any use of material from outside references. All solutions that are handed in should be written up individually and should reflect your own understanding of the subject matter at the time of writing.
  • No collaboration is allowed on the midterm or final exams.

Course Text and References

The primary course text is

The following additional references may also be useful:

  • K.M. Chandy and J. Misra, Parallel Program Design: A Foundation, Addison-Wesley, 1988
  • M. Singhal and N. G. Shivaratri. Advanced Concepts in Operating Systems. McGraw-Hill, 1994