CMSC 433, Fall 2014

Programming Language Technologies and Paradigms


Last updated: September 2, 2014, 8:00am

Topics and Textbook

This course will focus primarily on concurrent and distributed programming. We will identify pitfalls and difficulties in writing such programs and explore design patterns and best practices for avoiding them. Most of our work will be done with the Java programming language. We may also look at the Erlang programming language, and consider various frameworks, as time permits, to see more practical examples of technologies used to write scalable web services.

The textbook for the course is Java Concurrency in Practice, ISBN 978-0-3-2134960-6, by Brian Goetz.


Most of the topics in the class you will learn by doing, so there will be a substantial emphasis on programming projects, and in-class programming and code-reading exercises. An expected breakdown of the grade is as follows:

  • Projects (5 total) 50%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final exam 29%
  • Meet your professor 1%

Any regrades for project or exams must be requested within one week of the date your grade for the assignment or exam is given to you. Students get 1% for "meeting the professor" one time for 5 minutes during office hours or at another arranged time, to discuss the student's academic goals, the course, and anything else that seems interesting. Final course grades will be curved as necessary, based on each student's total numeric score for all coursework at the end of the semester. Important: Completing the programming assignments is an essential part of the course. Therefore, we may fail any student who does not make a good-faith attempt on all course projects, regardless of the student's performance or scores on the other coursework.

Exam Scheduling

The class includes one midterm and one final exam. The date of the final exam is set by the University; for our class time it is set to be Saturday, December 20, 10:30am-12:30pm. The date for the midterm exam will be October 16, 2014 (Thursday, in class). If the date needs to change for some reason, we will let you know as soon as possible.

Programming Projects

Developing key insights to the programming projects yourself will be critical to success on the mid-term and final. Do not let anyone spoon-feed you the way to solve the programming projects, because this will leave you unprepared for the exams.

Projects must be submitted electronically following the instructions given in class. Projects may not be submitted by any other means (e.g., please do not email your projects to us). It is your responsibility to test your program and verify that it works properly before submitting. All projects are due at 11:59:59pm on the day indicated on the project assignment, according to the submission server's internal clock.

Projects may be submitted up to 24 hours late for a 20% penalty. For example, a project that would earn 90 points for an on-time submission will earn 72 (which is 90 times 0.80) if submitted late. Note that your project score as it appears on the project submission server will not include any late penalties. Any penalties will be incorporated into the final project grade on the grade server. If you submit both on-time and late, your project will received the maximum of the penalty-adjusted scores.

Project extensions will not be granted due to system problems, network problems, power outages, etc., so do not wait to submit a project until the night it is due. You may submit multiple times up to the deadline, and only your last on-time submission is graded. Similarly, if you submit late, only your last submission before the deadline will be graded. No consideration in grading will be made for errors made in transferring files or submitting the wrong version of your project. Having a working, unsubmitted version will not count; only submitted code will be be counted.

Your projects will be graded based on test cases not provided in advance, and on manual inspection. Because grading is done automatically, you must follow the project specification exactly. Concurrent programming is difficult, and exhaustive testing is not feasible, so manual inspection will factor into the grade.

Finally, any "hard coding" in a project assignment may result in a score of zero for that project, and is considered a bad-faith effort. Hard coding refers to attempting to make a program appear as if it works correctly, when in fact it does not. One example of hard coding would be printing the desired output instead of computing it. This is only one example, and if you have any questions as to what constitutes hard coding, be sure to ask ahead of time.

Outside-of-class communication with course staff

We will interact with students outside of class in primarily three ways: in-person during office hours, electronically via the web forum and course web page, and electronically via e-mail. The large majority of communication should employ the first two methods, reserving e-mail for personal (presumably rare) circumstances.

Personalized assistance, e.g., with programming assignments or exam preparation, will be provided during office hours. You are responsible for developing and debugging your own programs. Do not rely on the instructional staff to make your project work. Lower-level CMSC courses provide extensive debugging and development help in office hours, but upper-level CMSC courses expect students to complete projects with minimal extra help. If you come in with a question, expect to be pointed in the right direction, but it will be up to you to finish solving the problem on your own. Office hours for the instructional staff will be posted on the course web page a few days into the semester.

Additional assistance will provided via the Piazza web forum. You may use this forum to ask general questions of interest to the class as a whole, e.g., administrative issues or project clarification questions. The course staff will monitor piazza on a daily basis, but do not expect immediate answers to questions. Please do not post any information that would violate the university academic integrity policy.

Important announcements will be made in class or via piazza.

Personal e-mail to instructors or TAs should be reserved for issues that cannot be handled by the above methods. Do not send project-related questions via e-mail; they will be ignored or redirected.

If you are experiencing difficulties in keeping up with the academic demands of this course, contact the Learning Assistance Service, 2202 Shoemaker Building, 301-314-7693, or visit them on the web at Their educational counselors can help with time management, reading, math learning skills, note-taking and exam preparation skills. All their services are free to UM students.

Policies and Responsible Conduct in Class

Cell phones. As a courtesy to your fellow classmates, pagers and cell phones must be off or on vibrate during class. Having cell phones or pagers ring during class repeatedly can result in points being deducted from a student's semester grade.

Laptops. Laptops can be a blessing or a curse. We encourage the use of laptops to perform programming and code-reading exercises during class. However, if personal laptop use becomes too much of a distraction for other students in the class, their use may be curbed or eliminated.

Excused Absences

Any student who needs to be excused for an absence from a single lecture, recitation, or lab due to illness shall:

  1. Make a reasonable attempt to inform the instructor of his/her illness prior to the class.
  2. Upon returning to the class, present their instructor with a self-signed note attesting to the date of their illness. Each note must contain an acknowledgment by the student that the information provided is true and correct. Providing false information to University officials is prohibited under Part 9(h) of the Code of Student Conduct (V-1.00(B) University of Maryland Code of Student Conduct) and may result in disciplinary action.

Missing an exam for reasons such as illness, religious observance, participation in required university activities, or family or personal emergency (such as a serious automobile accident or close relative's funeral) will be excused so long as the absence is requested in writing and the student includes documentation that shows the absence qualifies as excused; a self-signed note is not sufficient as exams are Major Scheduled Grading Events.

For medical absences, you must furnish documentation from the health care professional who treated you. This documentation must verify dates of treatment and indicate the timeframe that the student was unable to meet academic responsibilities. In addition, it must contain the name and phone number of the medical service provider to be used if verification is needed. No diagnostic information will ever be requested. Note that simply being seen by a health care professional does not constitute an excused absence; it must be clear that you were unable to perform your academic duties.

It is the University's policy to provide accommodations for students with religious observances conflicting with exams, but it is the your responsibility to inform the instructor in advance of intended religious observances. If you have a conflict with one of the planned exams, you must inform us prior to the end of the first two weeks of the class.

For missed exams due to excused absences, the instructor will arrange a makeup exam. If you might miss an exam for any other reason other than those above, you must contact the instructor in advance to discuss the circumstances. We are not obligated to offer a substitute assignment or to provide a makeup exam unless the failure to perform was due to an excused absence.

The policies for excused absences do not apply to project assignments. Projects will be assigned with sufficient time to be completed by students who have a reasonable understanding of the necessary material and begin promptly. In cases of extremely serious documented illness of lengthy duration or other protracted, severe emergency situations, the instructor may consider extensions on project assignments, depending upon the specific circumstances.

Besides the policies in this syllabus, the University's policies apply during the semester. Various policies that may be relevant appear in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who have been certified by Disability Support Services (DSS) as needing any type of special accommodations should see the instructor as soon as possible during the schedule adjustment period (the first two weeks of class). Please provide DSS's letter of accommodation to the instructor at that time.

All arrangements for exam accommodations as a result of disability must be made and arranged with the instructor at least three business days prior to the exam date; later requests (including retroactive ones) may be refused.

Academic Integrity

The Campus Senate has adopted a policy asking students to include the following statement on each examination or assignment in every course: "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination (or assignment)." Consequently, you will be requested to include this pledge on each exam and project. Please also carefully read the Office of Information Technology's policy regarding acceptable use of computer accounts.

Programming projects are to be written individually, therefore cooperation or use of unauthorized materials on projects is a violation of the University's Code of Academic Integrity. Any evidence of this, or of unacceptable use of computer accounts, use of unauthorized materials or cooperation on exams or quizzes, or other possible violations of the Honor Code, will be submitted to the Student Honor Council, which could result in an XF for the course, suspension, or expulsion.

  • For learning the course concepts (including the programming languages), students are welcome to study together or to receive help from anyone else. You may discuss with others the project requirements, the features of the programming languages used, what was discussed in class and in the class web forum, and general syntax errors. Examples of questions that would be allowed are "Does a Java class definition end in a semicolon?" or "What does a 'class not found' error indicate?", because they convey no information about the contents of a project.
  • When it comes to actually writing a project assignment, other than help from the instructional staff a project must solely and entirely be your own work. Working with another student or individual, or using anyone else's work in any way except as noted in this paragraph, is a violation of the code of academic integrity and will be reported to the Honor Council. You may not discuss design of any part of a project with anyone except the instructor or teaching assistants. Examples of questions you may not ask others might be "How did you implement this part of the project?" or "Please look at my code and help me find my stupid syntax error!". You may not use any disallowed source of information in creating either their project design or code. When writing projects you are free to use ideas or short fragments of code from published textbooks or publicly available information, but the specific source must be cited in a comment in the relevant section of the program.

Violations of the Code of Academic Integrity may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Failing to do all or any of the work on a project by yourself, other than assistance from the instructional staff.
  2. Using any ideas or any part of another person's project, or copying any other individual's work in any way.
  3. Giving any parts or ideas from your project, including test data, to another student.
  4. Allowing any other students access to your program on any computer system.
  5. Transferring any part of a project to or from another student or individual by any means, electronic or otherwise.

If you have any question about a particular situation or source then consult with the instructors in advance. Should you have difficulty with a programming assignment you should see the instructional staff in office hours, and not solicit help from anyone else in violation of these rules.

It is the responsibility, under the honor policy, of anyone who suspects an incident of academic dishonesty has occurred to report it to their instructor, or directly to the Honor Council.

Every semester the department has discovered a number of students attempting to cheat on project assignments, in violation of academic integrity requirements. Students' academic careers have been significantly affected by a decision to cheat. Think about whether you want to join them before contemplating cheating, or before helping a friend to cheat.

You are welcome and encouraged to study and compare or discuss their implementations of the programming projects with any others after they are graded, provided that all of the students in question have received nonzero scores for that project assignment, and if that project will not be extended upon in a later project assignment.

Course Evaluations

If you have a suggestion for improving this class, don't hesitate to tell the instructor or TAs dring the semester. At the end of the semester, please don't forget to provide your feedback using the campus-wide CourseEvalUM system. Your comments will help make this class better. CourseEvalUM is scheduled to be open at the end of the semester, usually at the start of December.

Right to Change Information

Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, the instructors reserve the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials.


All course materials are copyright Dept. of Computer Science, University of Maryland (Adam Porter, Bill Pugh, Chau-Wen Tseng, Michael Hicks, Evan Golub, Rance Cleaveland). All rights reserved. Students are permitted to use course materials for their own personal use only. Course materials may not be distributed publicly or provided to others (excepting other students in the course), in any way or format.

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