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Studentsí guide to OS

One facet of engineering education has remained unchanged for the last fifty years – at least in India: the best, most lucid  text books in the really ‘ hard’ subjects seemed always, to be written by Indians. I can remember long reading lists provided by the professors in my own alma mater – College of  Engineering , Poona-- some forty summers ago. They were all  tomes by American professors – undoubted classics, in   student editions from McGraw-Hill and Wiley . We borrowed  them from the library, but never bought them.

But for exam preparation, we trooped to Allies Bookstall at Deccan Gymkhana and bought the ‘guides’ all published under the pen name of “Prof Shahane” -- a Marathi-fied morphing of the Sindhi “Shahani”. The principle was true across the spectrum of subjects – Strength of Materials? Junnarkar. Mathematical Statistics? Saxena.  And Fortran Programming? That of course had to be  Rajaraman. 

I am delighted to see that   sturdy tradition still holds good today -- even if the Indian authors concerned grace leading universities or institutions abroad rather than in India: “Operating Systems” *is a computer science graduate level text authored by Sibsankar Haldar now with Motorola in the US and Alex Aravind of the University of Northern British Columbia, in Canada.

Sixteen of the eighteen chapters form a general treatment of the concept and theory of OS, and  how it affects the hardware, processor,  I/O, memory, file management etc; how caches and address issues are handled;  and how relatively newer applications in real time or embedded systems are handled by OS. 

One chapter deals with distributed systems and it is only in the final chapter that  the authors choose to review two operating systems, Windows and Linux. It was something of a revelation to me how similar all OS   flavours are under the skin, when stripped of their ‘public faces’. 

I have also been wondering why the authors of a book published in 2009 would choose to discuss Windows XP rather than Vista… till I realised that this is an academic treatment. I am guessing  they decided to concentrate on the most widely used rather than just   the current version of Windows. In any case their judgment in giving Vista short shrift is something widely shared by the user community albeit for different, operational reasons.

 This is not a easy book to read – but then that is not what the student wants – he or she has already bought the ‘ dummies’ guide before turning to a book that  helps them gets their teeth into the hard core of OS. Bite on, if you have the jaws for IT! You won’t be disappointed –  and yes, Anand’s Principle about Indian authors hold good – again!

-        Anand Parthasarathy

*Operating Systems by Sibsankar Haldar and Alex A. Aravind; Indian Edition: Pearson Education; Rs 375

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