Computer Science (COMP) 374

Unix System Administration (Revision 1)

COMP 374 Course website

Permanently closed, effective August 4, 2011.

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Science

Prerequisite: COMP 315

Centre: School of Computing and Information Systems

SCIS Orientation

COMP 374 has a Challenge for Credit option.

Course website

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**Note: Students who are concerned about not meeting the prerequisite for this course are encouraged to contact the course coordinator before registering.

Students in this course are required to contact their tutor using email.
Please see the Tutor and Coordinator Support page for more information.


UNIX is a multi-user operation system that has found wide use in networking environments. Students are required to install a Linux operating system on their own computer before starting this course.

Students completing the prerequisite course, COMP 315, are expected to have the required knowledge and skills to install UNIX/Linux on their personal computers. There are many Linux releases on the market. Although there are differences between these releases, COMP 374 is designed to work for all. The textbook used will explain the original UNIX (BSD and AT&T) rather than deal with a specific version or distribution. Red Hat Linux is supplied to provide a common platform for all students. The course has six labs that are to be done on the student's system and submitted to the tutor for grading.

Learning Objectives

Students successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • explain booting and shutting down procedure including all involved files.
  • define file structures and file attributes.
  • define and manage processes.
  • manage user accounts.
  • manage devices and drivers.
  • manage Unix base networks.
  • manage Unix queues.
  • explain Syslog file contents.
  • install and configure the kernel.
  • define Network File Systems.
  • explain Unix security issues.
  • manage secondary storage and backups.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, students will be able carry the duties of a Unix system administer. Students will learn to do file processing, process management, IO management, queues management, networking, storage backup, account management, proper system startup and shutting down, as well as other tasks.


COMP 374 consists of the following sixteen units:

  • Unit 1: Booting and Shuting Down: Kernel initialization, system processes, startup scripts, etc. Important users: superuser, daemon, bin, sys.
  • Unit 2: The File System: Regular files, directories, character and block files, hard links, symbolic links, permission bits, etc.
  • Unit 3: Controlling Processes: PID, PPID, UID, GID, priority and nice value, signals, process states, etc.
  • Unit 4: Adding New Users: editing passwd file, initial passwd, startup files, accounting info, quotas, etc.
  • Unit 5: Devices and Drivers: Adding device drivers, naming conventions, loadable kernel modules, etc.
  • Unit 6: Periodic Processes: cron, changing crontabs, UUCP polling, accounting, etc.
  • Unit 7: Backups: Backup devices and media (floppies, flopticals, tapes), incremental backup regime, restoring, archiving programs, etc.
  • Unit 8: Syslog and Log Files: syslog, configuring syslogd, using syslog programs, etc.
  • Unit 9: Configuring the Kernel: Building, compiling and installing the kernel.
  • Unit 10: TCP/IP and Routing: Packets, Internet addresses, address translation, setting up a network, network debugging, etc.
  • Unit 11: The Domain Name System: DNS name space, components of BIND, the DNS database, etc.
  • Unit 12: The Network File System: Server-Side NFS, Client-Side NFS, automatic mounting, security of NFS, etc.
  • Unit 13: SLIP and PPP: Basic connection model, network concersetc.
  • Unit 14: Network Management: Detecting network faults, SNMP.
  • Unit 15: Security Issues
  • Unit 16: Disk Space Management


To receive credit for COMP 374, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least “D” (50 percent), consisting of a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination and a grade of at least 50 percent on each assignment. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Lab 1-6
(6% each)
Examination Total
36% 64% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Textbook: UNIX System Administration Handbook, Evi Nemeth et. al.

The course materials for COMP 374 come with 4 CDs. The first 3 CDs are enough to install a completely operational Fedora Core 2 Linux, which is actually Red Hat Linux 9 with additions. All the information you need to install Fedora Core 2 Linux is available on The CDs are the 32-bit version. If you have a better hardware, then you can download the 64-bit version available on the site.

The remainder of the learning materials for COMP 374 are distributed in electronic format.

Special Course Features

COMP 374 is offered through computer mediated communications (CMC) on CCIS' Web-based delivery platform, and can be completed at the student's workplace or home.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, May 23, 2001.

Updated January 20 2016 by Student & Academic Services