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[crowdsupply.git] / updates / 022_2020feb14_openpower_eula_released.mdwn
1 Several things in this update: the OpenPower Foundation released their
2 EULA (which is really exciting); we had
3 a last-minute decision to go to FOSDEM to meet NLNet (and meet lots
4 of nice people including someone from the EU Commission); we have new team
5 members helping out (and making really good progress).
7 Before we begin, however, we still have a high-priority task of
8 finding a C++/compiler developer for the NLNet-funded 3D MESA Driver
9 project. EUR 50,000 is available, tax-free: [this
10 thread](
11 describes the scope, where you're pretty much at liberty to choose the
12 approach that you'd like to take.
14 ### OpenPOWER Foundation Releases the Power ISA EULA
16 This is a big deal: the
17 [EULA](
18 for anyone wishing to create a Power ISA compatible processor, it's been
19 designed to be "libre-friendly." We will need to do a full review,
20 and would appreciate feedback on it, via
21 [this bug report](
22 A very quick read (like, right now): the really interesting bit is the
23 combination of a royalty-free grant (as long as you are fully
24 compliant with Power ISA) in combination with "if you initiate
25 patent litigation, you lose all rights immediately." This provides an
26 extremely strong disincentive for patent trolls to "try it on." It also
27 actively encourages contributors to make sure that their work becomes an
28 "official" part of Power, because that then gets them under the
29 "umbrella" of protection as part of this EULA.
31 My only concern - long-term - is the warning about Custom Extensions
32 potentially being incompatible. We remember the Altivec clash very
33 well, citing it as a historic lesson of "How Not to Manage an ISA,"
34 because both Altivec's vector extension and the one it clashed
35 with became high-profile, public, commonly used extensions,
36 and it damaged Power ISA's entire reputation and viability as a result.
38 With our extensions being designed *knowingly* in advance to be
39 high-profile, public, and commonly used, we absolutely have
40 to submit them as "official" extensions, or to work with the Open Power
41 Foundation to create an official "escape-sequence" namespace system
42 (ISAMUX/ISANS). As mentioned previously: anyone familiar with C++,
43 we need a hardware version of "using namespace," in its entirety.
45 First preliminary reading however, as Hugh kindly said privately to me,
46 there's really nothing controversial, here, and it actually looks really
47 good and extremely well-designed. More on this on
48 [Phoronix](
50 ### FOSDEM 2020
52 As mentioned
53 [on the list](
54 we received a message from Michiel that they were financially backing over
55 *25* projects that were attending and giving talks at FOSDEM!
56 They also let everyone know that the nice people from Brussels were going
57 to be attending. At which point, I went, "ah" and scrambled like mad to
58 make sure I was there, presenting a smiling face to ensure that the nice
59 EU Commission people knew that their money was definitely being put to good
60 use.
62 This actually turns out to be a serious problem for the EU. My friend Phil
63 decided a few years ago to go along to one of these "Independent Grant Review"
64 processes. He basically said that not only was the quality of the applications
65 absolutely atrocious, but worse than that the people volunteering to do the
66 review - ordinary people like solicitors, office managers, farmers - had
67 precisely zero technical knowledge and couldn't tell the difference between
68 a good application, a bad application, or a deceptive application.
70 These problems only increase as EU grants get larger and more numerous,
71 and it's a serious systemic flaw with the whole EU Grant system when
72 it comes to heavily-technical projects. Consequently, due to their high
73 level of internal expertise and dedication, the EU is extremely happy that
74 NLNet takes direct responsibility for ensuring that the money they've
75 been given reaches people who release actual free software people to
76 improve real-world infrastructure for the benefit of EU Citizens (and
77 incidentally the rest of the world).
79 I had a brief chat with the person from the EU Commission. He was
80 delighted to be able to see the sheer number of people involved and
81 being sponsored by NLNet. I had an opportunity to express some of my
82 concerns about NLNet's relationship with the RISC-V Foundation. He
83 initially expressed puzzlement, because the EU is funding quite a lot
84 of RISC-V projects, and none of them had any issues. I asked him a
85 very simple question: "how many of those projects are simply
86 *implementing* existing RISC-V Standards?," and he replied, "all of
87 them." I then asked, "how many of those projects are *innovating*,
88 developing alternative extensions to what is dictated by the RISC-V
89 Foundation?" With the answer being "none," *that* was the point at
90 which he understood the extent of the problem. I'll publish a more
91 comprehensive update on this topic soon.
93 ### Meeting Other LibreSOC People
95 It was fantastic to meet Staf, and talk to him about the upcoming
96 test chip he'll be doing. He will be including an SR-Latch cell for
97 us, because it saves such a vast number of gates in the dependency
98 matrices if we use a D-flip-flop: 50,000 gates if we use an SR-Latch,
99 and a *quarter of a million* if we use a DFF.
101 I met several other people, including one who can help us develop a
102 [board support package (BSP)](
103 Also, we got a chance to talk to several people with cross-over skillsets.
105 This alone was worth the time to go to FOSDEM this year. Now we have
106 to make sure to plan properly in advance, to put in some papers at
107 appropriate conferences. We really need to organise a proper
108 conference where everyone meets up.
110 ### New Members
112 We created an [about us]( page for
113 members -- if you'd like to help, check out the [How can I
114 help?]( section of the website.
116 We now have four new people who are contributing: Cole, Veera, Yehowshua,
117 and Michael. Veera is a sysadmin and I would be delighted to get some
118 help managing the server. In particular I would like to install `public-inbox`
119 but it requires `exim4` and `mailman` to be converted to `Maildir`. This is
120 the kind of thing that would be great to hand over to
121 [another sysadmin](
123 Cole just loves the idea of what we're doing and wants to learn, so
124 what I've asked him to do is simply to follow instructions and
125 tutorials, and give us feedback on whether they're clear. If not,
126 that's a problem that needs to be fixed -- it's precisely his *lack*
127 of experience that is absolutely perfect for testing that.
129 Yehowshua -- a friend of Michael -- got in touch around the time of the
130 last update, and he's been helping find funding. As he is at Georgia Tech,
131 he will be applying for the LAUNCH-X Programme, funded initially by my
132 old boss, Chris Klaus. Chris has been really helpful here, and he's really
133 delighted to be able to help other Georgia Tech Alumni. Yehowshua has
134 also been encouraging and helping with a redesign of the website CSS,
135 and has been instrumental in a major rewrite of the wording.
137 Michael has just jumped straight in to the processor design. Yehowshua
138 tells me he first met Michael as he was sitting in a cafe with an FPGA
139 board attached to his laptop. He's another of these extremely rare
140 self-motivated, self-taught, "auto-learner" types who are worth their
141 weight in gold. He's currently helping with the
142 [Dynamic SIMD partitioner](
143 which we will need to do a special update about, at some point.
145 One particularly fascinating common theme between all of us turns out
146 to be music, maths, and high-coordination sports. Yehowshua loves
147 skate-boarding, and I love rollerblading, for example.
149 One very interesting thing came out of the contact with Georgia Tech's
150 CREATE-X Programme: we are looking to create a Public Benefit Corporation.
151 More on this later, however it became clear to us that we need good
152 "communicators" at least as much as need more "programmers," although we do still
153 urgently need a C++ compiler type person for the
154 [MESA 3D Driver](
155 We need entrepreneurs -- especially undergraduates from Georgia Tech -- willing
156 to take on the responsibility for going out and finding, meeting, and talking to
157 clients and customers, coming up with ideas, and giving us, as "engineers,"
158 the feedback we need to target the processor at an actual market.
160 ### Other Stuff
162 The extra NLNet budgets are helping, as is the continued sponsorship
163 from Purism. I am beginning to get slightly overloaded with the
164 managerial and bureaucratic tasks, combined with the "Engineering"
165 tasks that, as is always the case, require 100% sustained week-long
166 focus. Making all these things compatible is a challenge.
168 I still have to coordinate the NLNet tasks for each of the Memoranda
169 of Understanding, at which point people can then get paid for
170 completing the associated tasks. I can't quite get over the fact that
171 NLNet was happy to allocate such a huge amount of money to this
172 project, it's amazing, humbling, and a huge responsibility.
174 Also, we got word that the 180 nm tape-outs (one in March 2020, one in
175 October 2020) are actually subsidised. In addition, we have *verbal*
176 informal confirmation that some proprietary cell libraries are about
177 to be announced as being libre-licensed. This is particularly
178 fascinating.
180 Right now, when it comes to creating Libre ASICs, people basically
181 give up and don't even bother because it's so ridiculously costly --
182 no individual Libre ASIC developer could possibly imagine themselves
183 contributing to, let alone raising the multi-million funds for, say, a
184 4 GHz 10-stage 12-core SMP multi-issue processor, so they don't even
185 bother to design or release anything that *could* be part of such a
186 design. Yet, reading between the lines, we can hypothesise that
187 various "noises" about how hardware is proprietary, and how difficult
188 it is to do Libre ASICs, are starting to yield some results, as
189 various large companies who shall remain nameless for now are quietly
190 and subtly waving around very large amounts of cash in front of the
191 noses of Foundries, tempting them to release things like cell
192 libraries under Libre licenses. Given that the U.S. trade war has
193 recently caused a whopping **12%** drop in [ASIC
194 sales](,
195 with U.S. ASIC sales dropping **24%**, foundries might be quite open
196 to large up-front cash deals.
198 Anyway, as always, if you'd like to help out (and actually receive
199 money for doing so), we have a nice shiny new section [on the
200 website](, "How can I help?" and there is a
201 heck of a lot to do. Feel free to get in touch, any time.