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March 13, 2014

A six lectures OS kernel development course

Filed under: Basic Knowledge,kernel — colyli @ 12:17 pm

Since year 2010 after I joined Taobao (a subsidiary of Alibaba Group), I help my employer to build a Linux kernel team, to maintain in-house Linux kernel and optimize system performance continuously. The team grew from 1 person to 10 persons in the next 2 years, we made some successful stories by internal projects, while having 200+ patches merged into upstream Linux kernel.

In these 2 years, I found most of programmers had just a little concept on how to write code to cooperate with Linux kernel perfectly. And I found I was not the only person had similar conclusion. A colleague of mine, Zhitong Wang, a system software engineer from Ali Cloud (another subsidiary company of Alibaba Group), asked me whether I had interest to design and promote a course on OS kernel development, to help other junior developers to write better code on Linux servers. We had more then 100K real hardware servers online, if we could help other developers to improve 1% performance in their code, no doubt it would be extremely cool.

Very soon, we agreed on the outline of this course. This was a six lectures course, each one taking 120 ~ 150 minutes,


  • First class: Loading Kernel

This class introduced how a runnable OS kernel was loaded by boot loader and how the first instruction of the kernel was executed.

  • Second class: Protected Mode Programming

This class introduced very basic concept on x86 protect mode programming, which was fundamental to rested four classes.

  • Third class: System Call

This class explained how to design and implement system call interface, how priority transfer was happened.

  • Forth class: Process scheduling

We expected people was able to understand how a simplest scheduler was working and how context switch was made.

  • Fifth class: Physical Memory Management

In this class people could have a basic idea that how memory size was detected, how memory was managed before buddy system initialized, how buddy and slab system working.

  • Sixth class: Virtual Memory Management

Finally there were enough back ground knowledge to introduce how memory map, virtual memory area, page fault was designed and implemented, there was also a few slide pages introduces TLB and huge pages.


In next 6 months, Zhitong and I finished first version of  all slides. When Alibaba training department knew we were preparing an OS kernel development training, they helped us to arrange time slots both in Beijing and Hangzhou (Alibaba Group office location). We did the first wave training in 4 months, around 30 persons attended each class. We received a lot of positive feed back beyond our expectation. Many colleagues told me they were too busy to attend all these six classes, and required us to arrange this course again.

This was great encouragement to us. We knew the training material could be better, we yet had better method to make audience understand kernel development more. By this motivation, with many helpful suggestions from Zhitong, I spent half year to re-write all slide pages for all six classes, to make the materials to be more logical, consistent and scrutable.

Thanks to my employer, I may prepare course material in working hours, and accomplish the second wave training earlier. In last two classes, the teaching room was full, even some people had to stand for hours. Again, many colleagues complained they were too busy to miss some of the classes, and asked me to arrange another wave sometime in future.

This is not an easy task, I gave 6 classes both in Beijing and Hangzhou, including Q&A it was more than 30 hours. But I decide to arrange another wave of the course again, maybe start in Oct 2014, to show my honor to all people who helped and encouraged me 🙂

Here you may find all slide files for these six classes, they are written in simplified Chinese.
[There are more than enough document in English, but in Chinese the more the better ]

* Class 1: osdev1-loading_kernel
* Class 2: osdev2-protected_mode_programming
* Class 3: osdev3-system_call
* Class 4: osdev4-process_scheduling
* Class 5: osdev5-physical_memory_management
* Class 6: osdev6-virtual_memory_management

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