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SubjectRe: An Andre To Remember
On 7/28/2012 7:11 PM, Nicholas A. Bellinger wrote:
> On Fri, 2012-07-27 at 13:56 -0400, Jeff Garzik wrote:
>> An Andre To Remember
>> July 2012
>>
>> Linux lost a friend and advocate this month. Though never a household
>> name, Andre Hedrick had a positive impact on everyone today running
>> Linux, or using a website, with any form of IDE (ATA) or SCSI storage
>> -- that means millions upon millions of users today.
>>
>> For a time, Andre interacted with practically every relevant IDE
>> drive and controller manufacturer, as well as the T13 standards
>> committee through which IDE changes were made. He helped ensure
>> Linux had near-universal IDE support in a hardware era when Linux
>> support was a second thought if at all. As the Register article[1]
>> noted, with CPRM and other efforts, Andre worked to keep storage a
>> more open platform than it might otherwise have been.
>>
>> [1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/26/andre_hedrick/
>>
>> Andre also played a role in IDE technology coalescing around the idea
>> of a "taskfile", which is IDE-speak for an RPC command issued to a
>> disk drive, and the RPC response returned from the drive. It was
>> very important to Andre that the kernel have a "taskfile ioctl",
>> an API enabling full programmable access to the disk drive. At the
>> time, a more limited "cmd ioctl" API was the best option available,
>> but Linux's cmd ioctl did not give users full and complete access to
>> their own disk drive.
>>
>> Andre's taskfile concept was a central component of the current,
>> rewritten-from-scratch Linux IDE driver "libata." libata uses an
>> "ata_taskfile" to communicate with all IDE drives, whether from a
>> decade ago or built yesterday. The taskfile concept modernized
>> IDE software, by forcing the industry to move away from a slow,
>> signals-originated register API to a modern, packetized RPC messaging
>> API, similar to where SCSI storage had already been moving.
>>
>> I spent many hours on the phone with Andre, circa 2003, learning all
>> there was to know about ATA storage, while writing libata. Andre could
>> be considered one of the grandfathers of libata, along with Alan Cox.
>> I became friends with Andre during this time, and we talked a lot.
>>
>> Andre was unquestionably smart, driven and an advocate for Linux user
>> freedom.
>>
>
> Hi Jeff,
>
> Thank you for sharing your thoughts + memories of Andre.
>
> As we grieve this extreme loss, I'd like to try to share some of my own
> experiences with Andre that will hopefully help others to begin to
> understand the kind + generous type of person that Andre really was, and
> just some of his staggering technical feats + accomplishments that can
> be talked about publicly today.
>
> Along with Andre being involved in the history of libata and IDE/ATA
> development, those of us in the Linux kernel storage development
> community also know, he was also instrumental in creation of the
> original out-of-tree PyX iSCSI target code that's now in mainline.
>
> In summer 2002, I sitting next to Andre when he coined the term 'IBLOCK'
> after drawing a rough sketch on a notebook after an idea in Walnut
> Creek, California, and the name ending up sticking.. The interesting
> development bits really started to unfold in the spring of 2004 when we
> finally managed to get drivers/ide/ export working with iscsi-target on
> x86 using 2.4.x code.
>
> That quickly unfolded into a Sony Playstation-2 (MIPS EE) port using IDE
> disk DMA mode + network PIO on 2.2.x era kernel code capable of
> streaming multiple DVD quality streams to hungry iSCSI clients..
>
> Left to my own devices for hardware hacking, I managed to turn our first
> disassembled PS2 into a broken parts machine (whoops) but Andre was
> going to made sure that it was not going to happen again.. I bought
> another PS2, and he was the person who soldered wires to the handful of
> tiny via pin-outs to access the one-way serial output for EE boot
> information last at night, while I worked on the necessary kernel bits
> needed for bring-up of the PS2 specific IDE backend target driver. (The
> PS2 IDE driver required contiguous memory for IDE DMA ops to function
> via a single struct buffer_head (TCQ=1) on the non-cache coherent MIPS
> based platform.)
>
> He carefully made physical space in the machine's cramped chassis, using
> sticky pads where necessary to hold the small PCB containing a simple
> ASIC doing the conversion of the signal into PC RS-232 serial output.
> He made it look completely flush, like exactly how it was supposed to
> come from the factory. Or you know, from the magical place near the old
> Bell Labs R&D center where new development kits for cutting edge tech
> are born.
>
> CBS Sunday Morning even did a story on Andre and his family in the
> summer of 2004 while all of this was going on.. Not for the PS2
> iscsi-target or any other code of course, but for the fact that he was
> chosen by EBay to represent California small business as part of a group
> that lobbied in Washington DC. The reason that E-bay chose Andre is
> because he built PyX using recycled server + storage hardware bought
> from E-bay, including the family Mini-van often used to cart gear
> between home, and even him driving the PyX team right up to the service
> entrance of the Moscone Center show floor in downtown San Francisco.
>
> So we managed to get iscsi_target_mod up + stable with three different
> concurrent Linux x86, MSFT x86, and LinuxPPC laptops watching three
> different DVD videos just in time LinuxWorld West that August. All of
> the hard work was leading up to a public demonstration in prime
> real-estate of the Unbreakable Linux pavilion at the entrance to the
> hall for PyX to have a hance to really show it's stuff. The real-estate
> at the expo was also comped by Oracle out of respect for Andre's work on
> the Linux kernel.
>
> I did not sleep for one second the night before the show, and was so
> excited to be with Andre to show-off this particular demo to all of the
> people at the expo. I was part of a hard-earned demo that was going to
> change the world with *the* Linux IDE guy!!
>
> Andre was there that first day wearing a suit jacket + dockers + cowboy
> boots (what he usually wore to conferences when doing serious buisness)
> and it was one of the times during PyX that he really genuinely seemed
> happy. People where flocking to come and talk to *him*. All of the
> people walking by who stopped and saw the demo that summer who knew
> Andre, understood that he pulled off something very special. It was the
> type of technology that even seemingly non-technical people are quickly
> attracted to (especially younger people), and like a piece of technology
> to those who don't understand it, or have had it explained in an
> accessible manner, becomes indistinguishable from magic.
>
> But for Andre at the show that summer, I noticed it wasn’t so much about
> the tech itself (and really did love the tech), or the social events, or
> even about trying to work out some business angle for PyX, or anything
> like that..
>
> He was on the show-floor doing the thing that he really loved to do, and
> people he had never met before where coming up in waves wanting to talk
> to *him*. Andre was always quick to greet new people at a technical
> level that they could understand, and would also do his best when a
> person came to him asking for help regardless of context.
>
> Even if it was just a young programmer asking too many questions for a
> trade-show about how the demo actually worked, while serious looking
> business people waited impatiently behind.. Andre always took the time
> to try to impart some of his own hard-earned knowledge and wisdom to
> others with a hungry mind, also regardless of context.
>
> I'm really going to to miss Andre very much, and my deepest thoughts go
> out to his family + friends during this very difficult time.
>
> --nab

I'd never heard of Andre until reading this as I'm not a dev. If he'd
died in an auto accident I wouldn't be typing this.

I think we dishonor Andre's memory and do a disservice to other
technical folks by avoiding the subject of 'why'. Or has this been
discussed and I'm simply unaware? He apparently made a decent living at
Cisco, had a wife and 4 kids, a prototypical nice life. So why did he
end it? Pressure/stress, bipolar disorder, depression?

He's not the first super talented tech to take his own life, and won't
be the last. If we continue to shove "why" under the rug there's little
chance of preventing another friend/colleague from doing the same in the
future.

If those who knew him well would talk about the 'why' that just might
raise awareness and maybe help save a life down the road. Then again
maybe no devs actually got to really know the man.

--
Stan

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