Date of Award

6-2016

Degree Name

MS in Computer Science

Department

Computer Science

Advisor

Foaad Khosmood

Abstract

One of the most important operating system topics, file systems, control how we store and access data and form a key point in a computer scientists understanding of the underlying mechanisms of a computer. However, file systems, with their abstract concepts and lack of concrete learning aids, is a confusing subjects for students. Historically at Cal Poly, the CPE 453 Introduction to Operating Systems has been on of the most failed classes in the computing majors, leading to the need for better teaching and learning tools. Tools allowing students to gain concrete examples of abstract concepts could be used to better prepare students for industry.

The PolyFS Visualizer is a block level file system visualization service built for the PolyFS and TinyFS file systems design specifications currently used by some of professors teaching CPE 453. The service allows students to easily view the blocks of their file system and see metadata, the blocks binary content and the interlinked structure. Students can either compile their file system code with a provided block emulation library to build their disk on a remote server and make use of a visualization website or place the file mounted as their file system directly into the visualization service to view it locally. This allows students to easily view, debug and explore their implementation of a file system to understand how different design decisions affect its operation.

The implementation includes three main components: a disk emulation library in C for compilation with students code, a node JS back-end to handle students file systems and block operations and a read only visualization service. We have conducted two surveys of students in order to determine the usefulness of the PolyFS Visualizer. Students responded that the use of the PolyFS visualizer helps with the PolyFS file system design project and has several ideas for future features and expansions.

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