Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Truth, Trust, and Deepfakes

You never write, you never call, you never send flowers “just because.” But that’s ok, we welcome you back to another scintillating episode of Radio Free HPC anyway. Henry is traveling on yet another business trip, lodged in the Washington, DC area, and not even in his favorite hotel chain. But his reputation as a team player goes back to his days in the bayou, Dan says. And he performs another skillful yet awkward segue from Henry’s swamp origins to the swamp-like nature of the internet, which brings us to our special guest.

What’s true? What’s real? And how can we KNOW it?

We welcome Dave Maher, CTO of internet security company Intertrust, to share with us his deep knowledge of digital communication, identity management, data rights management, cryptography and digital certificates, blockchain, and much else. This whole subject is very much in his wheelhouse.

Dave gave us the run down on Intertrust and his other roles in the cybersecurity arena. Dan opens up the questioning with “Dave, do we really need security on the internet?” Dave, quick on the draw, responded “Well, we really haven’t had it for the last 20 years, so why start now?” which got the conversation off and running. Dave talked about the evolution of the internet and the rising need for security given that the internet has vastly changed since it began so long ago.

The main topic of the conversation is authenticity and truth. With the rise of deepfakes (images or videos that are convincingly falsified), how do we know that what we’re seeing and hearing is created by who we think and is what we think?

This leads to a deep conversation on ways we can verify content so that we know that it’s authentic. There are many ways of approaching it, but some implementation of blockchain seems to be a promising route.

Listen to the pod and get hipped to this very important topic. Shahin keeps saying it's the grand challenge of our time. He might be right.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Preview of Supercomputing '19 - Denver

What's All Happening at SC19 in Denver?

Supercomputing '19 is coming to Denver this year and who better than Rich Brueckner to give us a sneak peak. Super excited to have Rich and his signature laugh on this show again.

In this podcast, the Radio Free HPC team reviews the full list of ancillary events at SC19, and Henry gives us one more reason to stay offline. Oh, and a few predictions.

There's a lot that happens before the exhibit floor on Monday night. Our old pal Rich Brueckner from insideHPC joins us to give us the full rundown.

SC19 Ancillary Events:

HP-CAST. HPE's user group meeting starts things off on Friday, Nov. 14 - Saturday, Nov. 15. This two-day event will be the first HP-CAST meeting with Cray in the fold, so we're looking to some great insight as to how the two companies will merge their product line, partner network, and HPC ecosystems.

Intel HPC Developer Conference. In this two-day event on Sunday, Nov. 15 - Monday, Nov. 16, Intel offers a robust program to connect the HPC community with Intel developers, Intel engineers, and industry experts. "We’ll help you tackle your HPC challenges by offering a wide range of learning opportunities at SC19.

HPC Day with The Next Platform. Making its debut at SC19, HPC Day on Sunday, Nov. 17 is an in-depth day with thought leaders at the front of high performance innovation. In a series of on-stage interviews (no slides) with industry thought leaders, the Next Platform what’s relevant to the future of supercomputing.

Arm HPC User Group. Now in its fifth year, the all-day event takes place on Monday, Nov. 18 at the Curtis Hotel in Denver. "This is not a Marketing event -- we have a full day agenda of strategic partners and end-users from all regions of the world sharing their experiences, best practices, plans, ecosystem advances, and results on Arm-based platforms for HPC applications."

Dell EMC HPC Community. Kicking off at 8:00am on Monday, Nov. 18, the Dell HPC Community meeting will feature keynote presentations by HPC experts and a networking event to discuss best practices in the use of Dell EMC HPC Systems. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to receive updates on HPC strategy, product and solution plans from Dell executives and technical staff and technology partners.

DDN User Group. Starting at 1:00pm on Monday, Nov. 18, the DDN User Group brings together the best and brightest scientists, researchers and technologists to share and learn how leading global HPC organizations are executing cutting-edge initiatives that are transforming the world. The goal of the event is to gather the community during SC to discover how HPC organizations are assessing and leveraging technology to raise the bar on HPC innovations and best practices.

NVIDIA 2019 Special Address. You’re invited to attend the NVIDIA 2019 Special Address from founder and CEO, Jensen Huang. The event takes place 3:00pm - 5:00pm on Monday, November 18. Last year's address featured spectacular cosmology visualizations computed on NVIDIA GPUs. What will be revealed about accelerated computing on stage this year? Don't miss it. You must RSVP to attend.

Beowulf Bash at SC19. After the SC19 show floor closes on Monday night, the Beowulf Bash is the party not to miss. "This year, we thought it would be great to do Stranger Things theme party. There will be 80s-style entertainment, games, the best 80s tribute band. Food, beverages, entertainment, and Eggo Waffles provided.

Hyperion Research HPC Market Briefing Breakfast. Starting at 7:00am on Tuesday, Nov. 19, this informative briefing from Hyperion Research is always standing-room only. Get there early!

Nimbix Lounge Party. On Tuesday night, Nimbix will host its 7th Annual Lounge Party in Denver. "We invite you along with our co-host Intel to enjoy an evening of entertainment, cocktails and delicious food at White Pie."

Lunch and Learn - Getting a Handle on HPC Cloud Costs. Starting at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 20, this lunch event will share the many advantages of using a cloud spend management platform and how to avoid expensive mistakes when migrating HPC workloads to the cloud. This event is recommended for anyone considering the use of cloud for HPC workloads and will be particularly useful for attendees running Slurm, Univa Grid Engine, or open-source Grid Engine. The session will focus on real-world deployment examples and provide technical demonstrations that show how hybrid clouds can be deployed efficiently and cost-effectively across multiple cloud providers.

Check out the insideHPC Events Calendar and send an email to news@insideHPC.com if your organization sponsoring a function at SC19 and you'd like it listed.

Why No One Should Ever Be Online.  Ever.

Henry’s tells us even internet "domain name registrars" are not immune, describing breaches at  NetworkSolutions.com, Register.com and Web.com which eventually led them to ask customers to reset their passwords. They apparently discovered the hack in August 2019 in which customer account information was accessed. [Yes, we're still massaging the title of this segment but looks like the above is gelling, albeit w/o a shorter tweet-friendly version.]

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Saturday, November 2, 2019

7 Years, 251 Episodes, 17 Listeners

RadioFreeHPC Celebrates a Number in its Prime

Welcome to a historic milestone:  Our 251st Radio Free HPC episode! We’re celebrating 251 rather than 250 for a couple of reasons. First, everyone celebrates round numbers and that’s boring. And 251 is round enough for those who crave them. Second, 251 is a prime number and we all love us some prime numbers, right?

This is not quite a "highlights" show, but a look back at how RadioFreeHPC came about, who came up with the name RadioFreeHPC, how the show has evolved, a bit of "remember when", a few notable episodes, and the meteoric rise of its listenership!

We discuss the early days, with each of us sharing some of our favorite moments. As the episode continues, we talk about how particular features have become part of the show over time, like “Catch of the Week”, “Henry Newman’s Why No One Should Ever Be Online. Ever”, and the semi-occasional “Why AI Is Our Doom” from Dan.

Here are a couple of choice pictures both of which link to the same holiday special that includes a video where Dan and Henry discuss the ideal gift for Henry!

Did You Say Prizes?

We also discuss fantastic prizes for anyone who has listened to all 251 of our episodes. Reach out to us on Twitter (@Radiofreehpc) or via email to let us know if you qualify and what prize you’d like. Oh, and you have to listen to this episode to learn what the prizes are.

Thank you our listeners, we could do it without you – we have, we must have – but it's totally no fun if we actually know about it.

Here's to the next so many episodes. We need another number in its prime to celebrate, so feel free to propose a good one.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fragile: Python, sudo, AI

How Many Episodes, Did You Say?!

The show is geographically skewed today with all three hosts on the west coast. Henry is gracing Seattle with his presence, resulting in plunging coffee inventories and skyrocketing sushi prices.

The first item of discussion is a problem in the scientific software world. There’s a bug in Python scripts that caused different results in identical routines run on different operating systems. For example, the results on macOS Maverick and Windows 10 were significantly different than results from the same application run on Ubuntu 16 and macOS Mojave. As the guys discuss, it’s not a Python thing but a problem with the order in which files got read according to the operating system’s protocols. This impacts the sort order and thus the end results. This reminds Dan and Shahin of, as Dan regards it, the crime that is IEEE Floating Point. The gang speculates on other causes of these types of problems and the fixes that should be employed.

Chemists bitten by Python scripts: How different OSes produced different results during test number-crunching

Chemistry boffins at the University of Hawaii have found, rather disturbingly, that different computer operating systems running a particular set of Python scripts used for their research can produce different results when running the same code.

Why No One Should Be Online - Ever (WNOSBOE?)

In Henry’s signature feature “Why No One Should Be Online. Ever” he discusses how a stalker in Japan was trying to pin down the location of a female pop star. He used her selfies posted online to closely examine the reflection in her eyes, then using Google street view to find out where she lives. Very scary stuff. Listen to the show for more details. It leads to a brief conversation of whether Henry Newman is stalk-worthy and an extended discussion of how to avoid this type of thing.

Stalking suspect allegedly studied pop idol's pupil images online to find her location

The man allegedly studied reflections of the woman's pupils in photos on social media and using Google Street View to find where she lived and what train stations she used.

Why AI is Dooming Us All (WAIIDUA?)

Dan introduces a new occasional feature, “Why AI is Dooming Us All.” According to Dan, AI is very brittle and can be fooled easily. He cites a case where just a few pieces of tape can make a stop sign look like a “Speed 45” sign to an AI. Dan makes a lot of broad general anti-AI statements in his typical fashion. For some reason, we find that when you attack AI, AI finds a way to respond and the brutal AI response is included in this episode. Take a listen to the episode to hear how the AI rips Dan a new one and threatens promises to ruin his life.

Artificial intelligence isn’t very intelligent and won’t be any time soon

For all of the recent advances in artificial intelligence, machines still struggle with common sense

Catch of the Week

Henry:  there is a great documentary about the history of computing in Minnesota, going in depth on the companies and technologies that originated in “The Star of the North” (Minnesota’s state motto. Their other state motto is, I think, “Minnesota:  Gateway to the Dakotas”).

Shahin:  Gives us an update on Facebook’s plans for their shiny new Libra cryptocurrency, which is facing a bit of a bumpy ride. Several high-profile Libre partners have bailed out while Facebook stays the course. Interesting stuff.

Dan:  Discusses a bug in the Linux Sudo command. Some miss-configured systems allow Sudo to have local/remote root access, thus making them superusers. He also manages to insult Phil Collins and his horrible Su-Su-Sudio song in the process. The guys discuss asking Linus Torvalds this question and Dan brings up how a person he knows once sold Linus a Christmas tree, which brings up a short discussion of what kind of tree Linus would purchase.

Just Another Episode

Finally, we're not so taken by round numbers these days, but we touch on the fact that this is our 250th RadioFreeHPC episode and offer great prizes to whoever has listened to all of our episodes. We also thank our listeners – like you, maybe we could do it without you, but it wouldn’t be very much fun, right?

Stay tuned -- and by "tuned", we mean "optimized" -- for a more proper commemoration in another episode.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

RISC-V CEO Sees Bright Global Future for Open Source CPUs

RISC-V, Historic Passwords Revealed, End of the World

We’re missing Henry S. Newman this week, who is down in Los Cruces inspecting and overseeing the construction of his new crib. Dan and Shahin discuss just how little they’d want to be the general contractor working to build Henry’s house. Henry would be deploying a set of lasers to make sure that the foundation was true to the nearest 1/64th of an inch and all the while pointing to the contract which contains his exacting requirements. Dan wants to be there in a lawn chair, live blogging the entire process.

Open Sourcing the CPU? What Does it Mean and How Does it Work?

We have a very special guest today:  Calista Redmond, CEO of upstart RISC-V, the designers of a new open source processor instruction set which is looking to disrupt the entire industry. RISC-V can be used for light weight tasks such as embedded processing but, on the other hand, is also going to be utilized as the system accelerator for the European Exascale initiative boxes. That’s some serious flexibility. In our discussion, we briefly cover the origins of RISC-V, which started at Berkeley several years ago. It’s important to keep in mind that RISC-V is an instruction set, not a processor. Anyone can use the RISC-V instruction set, modify it for their unique needs, and then fab their own chips. Today, the instruction set is being used in everything from the smallest embedded device to large scale-out systems. The business model for RISC-V is different than most any other company. They make the ISA freely available to all comers. The RISC-V Foundation drives the design and development of IP, software, and tools for the instruction set. Foundation members pay dues and in return receive access to Foundation technology and programs, plus visibility and input into the RISC-V roadmap. Our interview with Calista covers a broad range of topics including how the foundation works to alleviate the risks of ISA fragmentation, where the strongest interest in RISC-V is geographically and workload-wise, and a comparison of RISC-V’s open source nature vs. the proprietary nature of existing ISA’s. Give it a listen, it’s a great introduction to RISC-V and the paradigm of open source ISA’s. We include an excerpt of a recent article on RISC-V in The Economist:

Open-source computing: A new blueprint for microprocessors challenges the industry’s giants

RISC-V is an alternative to proprietary designs Most microprocessors —the chips that do the grunt work in computers—are built around designs, known as instruction-set architectures (ISAs), which are owned either by Intel, an American giant, or by Arm, a Japanese one.

Catch of the Week

Since we don’t have Henry, we don’t get a new episode of “Henry Newman’s Why No One Should be Online. Ever”, but we’ll somehow survive. As usual, we do have our Catch of the Week feature: Shahin:   Historic UNIX passwords cracked and recovered. Both the passwords and hashing algorithms were pretty weak back in the day and we now know just how weak. Listen to the podcast to hear some of the most important passwords of the era, including Eric Schmidt, Dennis Richie, Brian Keringhan, and Ken Thompson – who probably has the best password from a technical standpoint. We also discuss how much time and hardware it took to crack these passwords.

Computer historians crack passwords of Unix's early pioneers

... Leah Neukirchen recovered an BSD version 3 source tree and posted about it on the Unix Heritage Society mailing list, revealing that she was able to crack many of the weak passwords used by the equally weak hashing algorithm from those bygone days. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie's was "dmac", Bourne's was "bourne", Schmidt's was "wendy!!!" (his wife's name), Feldman's was "axlotl", and Kernighan's was "/.,/.,". Four more passwords were cracked by Arthur Krewat: Özalp Babaoğlu's was "12ucdort", Howard Katseff's was "graduat;", Tom London's was "..pnn521", Bob Fabry's was "561cml.." and Ken Thompson's was "p/q2-q4!" (chess notation for a common opening move).
Dan:  Speaking of time, we might not have so much left. According to the European Space Agency, there is an asteroid approaching Earth that has a “non zero” chance of impacting our beloved planet. The asteroid, dubbed 2019 SU3, is expected to come within 73,000 miles (or maybe zero miles) from Earth, which is extremely close. Expected arrival time is September 16, 2084. Is this the time to panic? Yes, says Dan. We’ll be giving updates on this asteroid every five years or so, to keep you on top of the action.

Asteroid may collide with Earth, ESA warns: 'Non-zero... probability'

Asteroids known as near-Earth objects are among the most dangerous space items, with space agencies around the world keeping a close eye on them. The European Space Agency is paying particular attention to asteroid 2019 SU3, which may collide with Earth as soon as 70 years from now. The space rock was recently added to the ESA's Risk List due to the potential for it to collide with Earth on Sept. 16, 2084.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Turing Machine is Sequential, How About a Parallel Machine?

Solving Exponential Problems in Polynomial Time

Pretty much all of computing rests on the strong foundation of the Turing Machine, a general purpose formulation of computing which happens to be very sequential. It transfers that attribute to the Von Neumann architecture that manifests it and leads to the famous Von Neumann bottleneck.

It would be good if an inherently parallel foundation existed. That requires a blending of computing and memory and has led to approaches to build processor-in-memory or computational memory systems. If successful, it could help reach the nirvana of solving (some?) exponential problems in polynomial time by exposing the intrinsic parallelism of large scale problems.

The @RadioFreeHPC team delves into this topic with the folks at MemComputing, a San Diego startup that's built a new parallel foundation for computing. It calls it the universal memcomputing machine, and a "realization of self-organizing circuits".

It's a lively discussion with co-founders John Beane, CEO, and Fabio Traversa, CTO of the company. Just in emulation mode on existing hardware, and on the right (exponentially growing) applications, the technology has performed so well as to lead the company to offer it as a service now instead of waiting to build custom hardware, and to make them think of Quantum Computing kinds of performance.

Here are a few slides followed by the relevant academic paper. Click on the images to expand them, and click on the paper's title to see the PDF on Arxiv.org.

Universal Memcomputing

We introduce the notion of universal memcomputing machines (UMMs): a class of brain-inspired general-purpose computing machines based on systems with memory, whereby processing and storing of information occur on the same physical location. We analytically prove that the memory properties of UMMs endow them with universal computing power—they are Turing-complete—, intrinsic parallelism, functional polymorphism, and information overhead, namely their collective states can support exponential data compression directly in memory.

Henry Newman's Why No One Should be Online, Ever.

Election security is going to be a big issue in the coming months and years. Elections have been classified as “Critical Infrastructure”, which has serious implications for Federal and state officials. Henry reports that the US Attorney for West Virginia has issued a statement about election security and concerns about the vulnerability of the state's election system.

United States Attorney Mike Stuart Issues Statement on Election Security

CHARLESTON, W.VA. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart issued the following statement about the important issues of elections, election security and voter legitimacy: “During the 2018 election cycle, Secretary of State Warner referred to my office what he perceived to be an attempted intrusion by an outside party into the West Virginia military mobile voting system. I note that there was no intrusion and the integrity of votes and the election system was not compromised.  My office instituted an investigation to determine the facts and whether any federal laws were violated. The FBI has led that investigation.  That investigation is currently ongoing and no legal conclusions whatsoever have been made regarding the conduct of the activity or whether any federal laws were violated.

Catch of the Week

Shahin talks about the work that DOE labs are doing to better understand the impact of AI on science.

DOE Sets Sights on Accelerating AI (and other) Technology Transfer

For the past two days DOE leaders along with ~350 members from academia and industry gathered in Chicago to discuss AI development and the ways in which industry and DOE could collaborate to foster AI commercialization. The occasion was DOE’s fourth InnovationXLab Summit – the earlier three summits were on advanced manufacturing; grid modernization; and energy storage. Two more are planned: bio-manufacturing in January and quantum science in the late spring.
Henry points out eight new storage-related patents granted to Intel, 2 of which look quite important for emerging storage systems. Here are the two patents here and here, and a link to the article:

Intel Assigned Eight Patents

Erase block granularity eviction in host based caching, persistently caching storage data in page cache, drive-based storage scrubbing, processors, methods, systems, and instructions to load multiple data elements to destination storage locations other than packed data registers, secure memory, techniques for command validation for access to storage device, authenticating system to enable access to diagnostic interface in storage device, techniques for moving data between network i/ot device and storage device
Dan is concerned that bots are overstepping their boundaries and talks about research at Microsoft that can generate fake comments for online articles.

This won't end well. Microsoft's AI boffins unleash a bot that can generate fake comments for news articles

Please no, we don't need a machine-learning troll farm As if the internet isn’t already a complicated cesspool full of trolls, AI engineers have gone one step further to build a machine learning model that can generate fake comments for news articles.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Quantum Supremacy? Yes and No!

Quantum Supremacy Is and Is Not

How quantum is that?! The RadioFreeHPC team discusses the Google/NASA paper, titled "Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor", that was published and then unpublished. But it's the internet and everything is a "digital tattoo", so there are copies out there (see below).

The paper, right in its title, and at least in that draft form, claimed Quantum supremacy. "Doing what?" we hope you ask. Well, nothing particularly significant, and decidedly quantum-friendly. You might even call it "embarrassingly quantum" since quantum is all about probability functions and this experiment samples the probability distribution of a repeated experiment. But it's not nothing. 

One scary consequence of quantum supremacy is its ability to readily factorize large numbers which could be used to unscramble encrypted data. But A) this is not what happened, B) it's not expected to happen any time soon (think years), and C) it will depend on the specific encryption algorithm. We must say, however, that the paper looks pretty good. Here's the abstract. Click on the title to read it all:

Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor

Google AI Quantum and collaborators The tantalizing promise of quantum computers is that certain computational tasks might be executed exponentially faster on a quantum processor than on a classical processor. A fundamental challenge is to build a high-fidelity processor capable of running quantum algorithms in an exponentially large computational space. Here, we report using a processor with programmable superconducting qubits to create quantum states on 53 qubits, occupying a state space 253∼1016. Measurements from repeated experiments sample the corresponding probability distribution, which we verify using classical simulations. While our processor takes about 200 seconds to sample one instance of the quantum circuit 1 million times, a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task. This dramatic speedup relative to all known classical algorithms provides an experimental realization of quantum supremacy on a computational task and heralds the advent of a much-anticipated computing paradigm.

LANL gets the First 5,000 Qubit D-Wave

Meanwhile, D-Wave announced that its new 5,000 qubit quantum computer has found its first home at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Qubits are different from vendor to vendor in terms of the underlying technology and implementation. Shahin lists several.

@RadioFreeHPC Update

So proud of you all! At the time of this writing, @RadioFreeHPC has soared to about 16 followers. We're pretty much there. Thank you!

Henry Newman's Why No One Should be Online, Ever.

Henry tells the fascinating story of Krebs thwarting the nefarious schemes of a professional hacker who aimed to frame him and actually mailed him narcotics. The mastermind behind it was was arrested and imprisoned for unrelated charges. Henry is really turning this into a good news segment. Dan isn't encouraged, however.

Catch of the Week

Shahin talks about using consumer electronics to build supercomputers, mentioning the recent 1,060 node Raspberry Pi cluster built by Oracle, reminiscent of the one LANL did in 2017. AFRL build a 1,760 node cluster of PlayStations, based on the IBM/Sony/Toshiba Cell processor, in 2010 following similar efforts starting in the mid 2000s. He also recalls similar projects he may have had something to do with: SGI's Project Molecule and Project Kelvin (for cooling) in 2008 (also here), and also a cluster of JavaStations at Sun in the late 90s.

Dan discusses a UCLA project to use the thermoelectric effect and build "a device that makes electricity at night using heat radiating from the ground". Intriguing, but looks a tad too pricey for what it can deliver right now.

Speaking of Intriguing, Henry talks about DNA storage. Incredible data density, but don't ask what file system it uses or whether you can have it on a USB stick any time soon. Dan and Shahin seem to have more fun with this topic than Henry!

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