Saturday, January 23, 2021

books and computers

Saturdays are interesting, especially working for a multinational company with colleagues across the globe. I may have shared this sentiment before, but I still recall the tale that resonated with me from a currency arbitrage trader The person mentioned that he was working whenever a market was open. Luckily Saturday is the one day without any market open so he would use that day to do laundry, go grocery shopping, and follow-up on other chores. Feels like the work life of many in Friedman's flat world :).  Thus stealing a few moments on the Saturday nadir of activity for a quick blog.....

I'll commence this blog with observations about books, starting with my most recent

Ir is not quite small, weighing in at 930 pp.

It's the 7th physical book / printing I have in hand. It culminates a stack of dead trees spanning 3 editions of Beyond BIOS, two of the Shell, security, and embedded. Publishers of this stack range from Intel Press (shuttered 5 years ago) through De Gruyter and into Apress. And I also had 8 different co-authors spanning employers past or present including Intel, Phoenix, Insyde, Google, ARM, retirement, Sage, and Amazon. I've been at Intel the whole course of the book runs, though. The mountain of paper is shown below.

[from top down]

Now for a bit of history of Intel and tech books, at least as far as I'm aware. Prior to Intel Press, Intel technical books were done through McGraw Hill in the 1980's. Below is one example from my nearby shelf.

Then in the 1990's there were McGraw Hill / Intel joint imprints, such as the RMX and 486SL books below.

I especially like the the drop-e in the logo of those books which was removed in 2006 by Intel.

And in the 2000's Intel Press published both books and the Intel Technology Journal (ITJ). I still recall reading the first IT issue when I joined the company in 1997. I was happy to have the opportunity to lead the creation of the only printing in 2011 It made me feel like a small part of the technology history of the company.

In that 2011 issue I co-authored 3 of the papers, including networking and security

which was referenced in the Apress firmware security book, as shown below.
And luckily the Intel Technology Journal PDF's were all archived on after and Intel Press were closed down.

Another notable reference in the Apress security book was

which excerpted some of the principles of cryptography

and had the citation

I regret that only this final Apress book had rich citations. The other books were a bit light on the references. I'm still amazed by the longevity of Shannon's work on information theory and security.

Speaking of Apress, the publisher is actually an imprint of Springer Verlag  In 2009 I wrote a chapter for Springer

with original Beyond BIOS co-authors.

Outside of Intel presentations or patents, the 2004 "Update at Intel" article is the first of prose describing firmware. This was part of a series of articles posted on the Intel website about recent technology evolution. I still like the fact that it described the XScale ARM port I did in 2001 and had a Pentium 4 in the block diagram. This same XScale work was elaborated upon the 2006 Beyond BIOS book code fragment, being placed by a mobile internet device (MID) in the 2010 2nd edition of Beyond BIOS, and finally turning into a Intel FSP example in the 2017 3rd printing of the book. Interesting evolution of the platform across the decade and a half.

It's also the only publication with a 'drop-e' that I created, too.

in its many translations:  English, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian.

I still fondly recall the CDSA and ACSFL update articles, but unlike the ITJ, these pages have not been archived on, the wayback machine of, or other computer history repositories of lore such as For work that never made it to open source, I wonder how much interesting technology history is lost every year? 

In the spirit of the written word, and despite questions of the demise of print, it's nice to see that Grove, the CEO 

when I joined in 1997, and Gelsinger, upcoming CEO this year, expressed both their technology and business insights via writing. 

[from top down]

Writing books is one way to scale one's knowledge that transcends the utility of (cough cough) blogs, streaming video and podcasts IMHO.

Regarding the writing process, I am not sure about how easy of a time either my co-authors or luminaies like Grove and Gelsinger had in writing their tech and business books, but I feel like the following when trying to get the pages out.

So much for this Saturday typing. Here's looking forward to market openings and meetings commencing tomorrow. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

memories from uw and cornell

This is something of a random blog posting. 

As the new year rolls around, I became thoughtful of the page of milestones. These include my time at the University of Washington here in Seattle getting my CS Masters during the 1997-1999 time frame. 

I spoke a bit about the UWCSE in along with the now-closed Given the recent interest in retrocomputing the museum would be overrun with aficionados if it were open.

I frame many of my UW memories via the professors. These included John Zahorjan on computer performance. I recall one project with a classmate Amanda Barrett (then an employee at Teledescic, Macaw's attempt at a satellite communications network in the late 90's) on modeling different web server scheduling policies, such as Round Robin DNS (RR-DNS) using C++Sim. The most interesting part of the effort was the ability to drive the simulation with anonymized, real-life web traffic from Metacrawler by way of UW alum Brian Pinkerton alumni

The next professor I recall is Anna Karlin for algorithms She taught my first class at UW. The take-away I have from that course was the value and extent of mathematical rigor behind algorithms. From my undergraduate and 5 years prior industry experience I saw algorithms more as rote recipes than evolve mathemtical objects.

Next up was the artificial intelligence course with Dan Weld Like the performance class above, my strongest impression was the project course. The specific project included writing a movie recommendation system for movies. We would create Java wrappers for websites, such as for the recently launched, to support queries written in Datalog It would allow the end user to write queries, such as 'Show me all of the movies in Seattle starring Tom Hanks.' The downside of the system is that this work predated the semantic web and the website wrappers had to continually get updated based upon the changes in sites like IMDB. 

The other part I recall from the AI adventure is that my partner was a local Intel DuPont employee in another team. His manager was much more liberal about taking classes so he had the opportunity to work on the course during the work day. My management, who had initially replied to me when I requested funding for the masters project with 'why do you want to take classes, you are already smart enough?' didn't permit such liberties. So like my patent writing of the last 20 years, my masters work was always a late-night after-hours and predominately weekend activity.

From AI I recall taking a second algorithms class with Richard Ladner I still recall a quote from Ladner early in the quarter, namely "I cannot teach you everything about algorithms since the field is so broad and continually changing, but what I can do is teach you have to do research and learn on your own." The deep project work done in that class involving assessing recent publications has stayed with me. And the wisdom still holds true today, every field is continually changing. Sort of the academic analogy to the pre-Socratic Heraclitis quote "You cannot step into the same place in a river twice."

Another part of the UW journey was sorrow, too, including the passing of my advisor

Just like my undergraduate journey, I didn't have the luxury to take so many courses, so I calculated the exact number of credits I needed to get my degree. For undergraduate urgency the timing was economic based, whereas for my masters it was lifestyle based (i.e., high pressure job with hardware power-ons, new-borne daughter, etc). As such, one way to complete the requirements was through research credits, and one effort involved working on a project with Susan Eggers She was a huge influence on me in computer architecture, and after meeting her, some of the stories I late reach did not surprise me at all.

Since distance learning was a bit nascent in the late 90's, I still recall hurrying from DuPont, WA Intel site to the U District in Seattle. I tried to time my arrival such that when the street parking became free at 6pm I could find a slot.

And the old CS building Sieg Hall, ah......

Definitely quite a change from the new EE/CS building, especially the Amazon auditorium. I luckily managed to catch a couple of interesting talks there in the last couple of years, including Patterson preaching about RISC-V (and getting one of the single-page ISA descriptions printed on green paper) and David Bacon on the evolution of quantum computing

An interesting aspect of the university, versus industry, is that the rank of a professor is much more explicit, such as the laddering of associate versus assistant versus full versus emeritus professor, respectively. Compare this with the wild variability of job titles in the technology industry, for example. A principal at one company versus a partner at another versus....although recently had an interesting discussion thread on the topic.

Speaking of partner title, I still recall one MS partner architect telling me that partner is the 'throw the other guy under the bus' job band. This spoke to the highly competitive nature of the job category since like many domains the higher you advance leads to few openings and broader expectations with the competition to advance and challenge to sustain the level being commensurately intense. 

Even in my early late teens I saw a glimpse into this. At Cornell I recall a fellow undergraduate who had interned at Goldman. He related tales of other interns sniping at each other openly during presentations each was required to make. The same calculus applies - exclusive job category with high compensation, thus some 'throw them under the bus' behaviors.

Speaking of Cornell working on my BS EE during the 1988-1991 window, a few memories come to mind. The first includes the luminaries who visited campus, such as Normal Mailer and Roger Penrose to give talks. Penrose, Kip Thorne, and other physicists were drawn to a department that still had Hans Bethe This was the same physics department that hosted the Feynman lectures. And for literature Cornell was the abode of the likes of Vladimir Nabakov, too.

Just like UW the professors made some of the largest impacts. These include Dynkin for real analysis, Terrence Fine on probability, and the father of information retrieval Gerard Salton for discrete math. Cornell didn't just send TA's to instruct undergraduates but instead offered access to world class researchers in their fields.

Moving from maths to engineering, Prof Torng taught the course on digital design. K-maps, Mealy-Moore machines, etc. Good stuff. 

And closest to home there was Professor Gries class on computability theory. This started with computational complexity, big-O notation, and other rudiments, leading into Hoare triples, such as pre-conditions, post-conditions, and invariants.  I still remember walking down the hall of the computer science building and seeing a room filled wall-to-wall with silver-covered Springer-Verlag "Texts and monographs in computer science."

Beyond visiting speakers and professors I recall lots of lake-effect snows and winds during the winter, and beautiful changes of seasons and the rugged environment of Ithaca, New York. There was a common theme on T-shirts and car stickers of 'Ithaca is gorges' as a play on the terrain and 'gorgeous' scenery up upstate New York.

Since I was so far from home and living on a budget, I would only return back to Houston for events like Christmas or summer. I recall one thanksgiving holidays eating at gas station since I had forgotten to do grocery shopping ahead of time. Other times I would travel to visit my aunt in New Jersey by way of New York Port Authority. Port Authority was definitely a stark contrast from bucolic Ithaca, NY or suburban Houston. I recall one trek through Port Authority when there was a body in a wheel chair parked outside of the bathroom. A sheet covered the bulk of the person but the hands were protruding with what looked like the stiffness of rigor. The crowd in the bus terminal where walking around the body as if it were just another obstruction on the path of their daily routine. Another trick I learned going through Port Authority with my suitcase was to put my money in my shoe. I'd leave $5 in my wallet so that when someone invariably wanted to 'help me' find my connecting bus terminal and then requested a gratuity because "you know I could be doing much worse to make money", I could satisfy the request and not get rolled for all of my traveling money.

When I think of growing up in Houston, or the US Southwest, doing undergrad in Ithaca in the US Northeast, and now leaving in the US Pacific Northwest, I'm mostly covered the continental US. Heat in the SW, cold in the NE, and rain in the NW. I'm only missing living in the US Southeast, such as Florida. But after reading Thomas McGuane's 'Ninety-two in the Shade' in my youth, I wasn't so anxious to move to that area.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

innovation and invention redux

In reading Bezos' book 'invent and wander' he mentioned a couple of different problem solving techniques. The first includes a skills-forward problem solving approach where a team leverages what it knows to create products. This is more common in the industry and represents an amortization of an established set of capabilities and perhaps a given moat.' This is in contrast with a customer-problem first approach where you may need to invent a solution or build a competency. Bezos cited the Amazon Kindle which represented an approach to a customer problem, namely handling their library. And in pursuing solution of this problem, Amazon had to acquire skills in hardware development, create new models of cellular downloads, and evolve screen technologies..

Reading this passage coincided with the recent update of my patent list, namely hitting the 450 milestone of issued US patents, viz.,$

As always with invention, I am as excited by the problem being addressed as my collaborators and co-inventors, including the following parties:

Yao, Chaganty, Ma, Rangarajan, Poornachandran, Aggarwal, Mudusuru, Zimmer, Yarlagadda, Chan, Das, "Enhanced Secure Boot," Issued 1/5/2021, US Patent #10,885,199

This small incremental increase cannot stem the tide of getting pushed further outside of the top 100

I fear, but the absolute number of patents was never the figure of interest. It has always been about supporting business-driven innovation

Speaking of numbers, passed 300k downloads, too, during this same week.

The downloads on this book are probably 10x those of, which speaks to the power of the open access model. I see similar diminutive numbers on other pay-walled publications, such as the Simics fuzzing paper with small double and single digit downloads, respectively.

Beyond downloads, another interesting statistic is citations. has the broadest collection of citations, whereas,, and find differing subsets.

2020 was quite an interesting year. Let's see if 2021 offers the same vicissitudes. Hopefully these ramblings about invention and numbers auger well for 2021. As I heard once, put a number next to someones name on the internet and they will obsess or do what they can to increase it. Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, video views...... Hopefully I don't subscribe to that numeric obsession.