CS615A -- Aspects of System Administration

Team Missions

By enrolling in this class, you all have chosen the red pill already. You are now in Wonderland, and will soon see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The Reliable CS615 Sorting Hat has identified you as a prime cadidate for one of the following guilds: Correctness and Quality (Black Team), the Adversarial View of the Breakers (Red Team), the noble Builders and Defenders (Blue Team), or the Guardians of Usability (Green Team).

Each team is expected to focus on their area of expertise throughout the semester, to challenge our thinking, our solutions, and how we address the problems we encounter to ensure their objective is met. In so doing, each team will:

  • share on the class mailing list at least one link each week; this link would cover either the previous class, the immediately upcoming class, or a current event with a focus on the team's topic; this link must be shared before 19:00 the day before class
  • in every class, each team will briefly summarize a core problem for the given subject
  • at the end of the semester, each team will present a summary review of their take-aways
  • participation in team missions accounts for 10% of your grade

No team is inherently superior, and all areas of focus have clear advantages and disadvantages, with the benefits and tradeoffs of the different approaches not always obvious. Click the name of each team to see how the Sorting Hat judged you:

Black Team

The Black Team focuses on correctness and quality. The team assures that programs and protocols follow their specification, that adequate documentation exists, that systems implement solutions correctly and according to the highest quality standards. Shortcuts are not appreciated, and correctness must be proven, not assumed. The Black Team pedantically looks for, creates, and runs regression tests, seeking formal verification of functionality.

Red Team

The Red Team will do anything to break your tool, to abuse your system, to wreak havoc. Creative ways to utilize unexpected input or exploiting loopholes in the implementation or definition of a system or protocol are pars for the course. However, the team also must focus on specific objectives and must avoid being detected.

Blue Team

The Blue Team defends the system, ensures it remains functional and usable, makes things (continue to) run. A deep understanding of the ways the system could be abused is necessary to build strong defenses; creative applications of threat detection mechanisms are mixed with functional requirements, aspects of observability, always ensuring the owners of the systems don't lose control.

Green Team

The Green Team is the end user's staunchest advocate: it does not tolerate inefficiencies, and unintuitive user interfaces are a thorn in their side. Systems need to operate at peak efficiency, regardless of the circumstances they are exposed to; at the same time, the team understands that cumbersome UIs lead to a plethora of problems. The Green Team points out usability concerns, balancing performance requirements while ensuring the systems spark joy.

[Course Website]