Thursday, November 30, 2023

i/o, globalization, pqc, ai, oh yes

I talked a bit about the RAID work at Compaq, or the SMART2-SL 'Dazzler' board in my last post Another interesting thing that landed while at CPQ was I2O, or 'Intelligent Input / Output.' The idea was to bring intelligent offload engines to open platforms. The Wikipedia post has some views of its history. My view was that version 1.0 was challenging in that it asked the host to do the data movement, not the I/O card. If you are offloading the last thing you want to do is encumber the host with 'more work.' We built an adapter card on top of our CPQ RAID controller to provide the I2O hardware interface and then we mapped the commands into our internal command set. Version 2.0 described having the data mover in the I/O device, which made more sense. 

This reminds me of the cycle of technology. Patterns like offloading I/O from the host CPU, from IBM channel processors of old, I2O gestures, Myrinet smart NICs (woohoo - safe code, Modula3, too), Nitro, DPUs, IPUs,....traversing the 1950's to today.

The post also mentions UDI.  Interesting stuff. Reminds me of the complaint about UEFI that it didn't solve the 2 problems of the BIOS ecosystem - suppliers and having to write a driver 2x - once for pre-OS and again for the OS. UEFI attempted to solve a class of this issue w/ UNDI, both the 'hardware UNDI' and the software UNDI. The former would be architectural hardware like VGA to allow for runtime access. In practice the latter was solved with GOP and the framebuffer at runtime. For I/O this was a mile too far.

Speaking of blogs, I haven't quite figured out the substack phenomena. Is this the new 'blogger'? I created account but haven't posted.  Google 'the panopticon' and guess my motivation for that name. 

I really like blogger.  going on 14 years using the service.  I had fear initially that when google bought it they'd kill it, but I suspect it's a low-impact enough service like other freebies, including my homepage that it's not worth closing and generating the associated ill will?

Unlike blogging at Intel where 1st party sites like '' (mentioned 9 times in, sigh) that went away w/o redirecting the content to somewhere like, I realize how ephemeral these sites can be.

Speaking of substack, had an interesting post around globalization. I still recall how Richard Wirt set up PRC firmware team in '01.  Similar teams in Russia.  He was 'globalization before globalization was cool' IMHO.

I enjoy collaborating w/ colleagues across the globe. The 2020 book w Jiewen Yao in Shanghai, PRC. The SPDM paper w/ Jiewen and Krystian in Gdansk, Poland. Two 2022 books w/ Subrata in Bangalore, India. I think I touched on this point of book author geo's in

The SDPM talked about post-quantum cryptography (PQC). This is a space getting attention, and pages 23+ of talk about work for host firmware, including a proposal for accommodating PQC in UEFI  

Describes the proposed mapping.

Provides the deadlines. With some of the challenges in evolving the UEFI CA and Secure boot ecosystem this will be an interesting journey.

The wave keeps flowing

I argue that the workday is like barbells.  There are a spate of meetings from 6am to 10am PST for Europe, Israel and India.  Then the PRC workday starts at 5pm PST and pick up India workday at 8pm, netting out to a typical day of 6am to 11pm.  

Luckily Saturday no one has a workday afaik.  I recall this theme as a broken record with me given my anecdote on about the currency trader.

Occasionally I sneak out to Seattle in the PM to catch events. Recently  was in town to meet with alumni. It was nice to meet the creator of Cyclone & typed assembly. I had to share my tales of woe trying to use Cyclone in the early days and was happy to see a mainstream memory-safe systems language like Rust appearing on the scene. This tech inspired some interesting designs on my side, including the below that will expire in 2 weeks, viz.,

Greg mentioned the challenges of industry to hire folks for high assurance software work. 

Maybe that problem of moving folks to Rust will be ameliorated by the 'assistant gap' mentioned by IOActive? I dropped in the IOActive event tonight in Bell Town and their CTO talked about "the SDLC process and AI." He mentioned how chess assistants after the Deep Blue event with Karsparov in 1995 had a 10 year run until event an assisted human couldn't beat a machine. He then showed the exponential growth in code writing assistants commencing in 2020 and pondered how much shorter the 'era of assistants' will run for code writers until the day the machine does all of the work and the prevailing 'programming language' becomes English.

As a quite side-bar on AI, I worked my way through over the thanksgiving holiday. I liked the mixture of math and programming, along with the historical arc it described. I was amused by the point that the early deep learning efforts felt compelled to have a mathematical foundation for their work to 'justify it' whereas with the latest efforts like generative AI people haven't expected such pedagogy if things 'work well.' The book reinforced my assertion that learning the basics of math will serve you well as the trends of tech churn. For example, having mastered the basics of linear algebra, eigenvalues, etc as an undergrad decades ago are still relevant in this deep learning work today. The same holds for statistical signal processing, information theory, and signal detection from the electrical engineering corpus. But the deep learning domain is so expansive and fuses art like big data, software systems, computer architecture (e.g., array processing redux). I can now better appreciate the point Mark R. made in 38:4 about using his summer sabbatical to get more experience with these deep learning frameworks.

I'm no "Mark R.", of course, but perhaps an option to use my backlog?

BTW - the joke used to be that AI was 'the technology that didn't work.' Meaning once an AI technique proved feasible in the corpus they were ejected and relabeled as some domain of engineering. The script seems flipped today in that being labeled 'AI' is a compelling argument for the tech, irrespective of its efficacy.

So take the barbell day mentioned above and mix in  return to office (RTO). It's nice to see an office again. Sometimes I tell folks that I like the office since it's sort of like Pavlov's dog, but instead of 'ringing a bell' to get a response the stimulus is 'sitting in a cubicle.' An interesting observation, though, about others around me post-COVID. I'm not sure if folks are used to WFH and speaking into their USB speakers, or if we are just getting older and losing our hearing, but folks nearby in the office are pretty loud on the phone.  Since the bulk of the day is still on the phone for a global team, I'm getting complaints from the folks on the call that my neighbor conversations/background noise is too loud.  

From the file of neighbors in the past, Dupont circa late 90's, I sometimes recall Ken Wiletzki. He retired a week before his 40th bday so could say 'retired in my 30's'. In the following year he'd send pictures of himself mountain biking, etc, but after that he went dark. I guess retirement joy consumed any time of 'sharing retirement' with the folks still in office-land. One interesting tale from Ken is that he claimed that he tried to hire Linus Torvalds, then a computer science student in Finland, to work on his validation team at Intel.  Ken created 'kaos' - Ken's Arbitrary OS - for validation of the hardware devices. Ken claimed that Intel couldn't since Linus was overseas and didn't yet have his masters degree. I'm not so sure of this fact since there is no mention in the 'Just for fun' bio of Linus. Someone who is mentioned in that book is another Intel colleague H. Peter Anvin who in fact merits 2 appearances - once for getting Linus his first PC, and the second for bringing Linus to the US to work for Transmeta.

Other interesting meetings in the local region include the Rust meetup at the connector building on the MS campus. Nice finally meeting Ben Stoltz of Oxide in person after talking w/ him many a time during his Google Cloud security tenure. I liked when Ben asked one presenter 'what does that mean for a pertrified (or did he say 'prehistoric'?) C programmer.' My people. 

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