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How to Find Information in the Specification

You can use a PDF reader to search all four parts of the specification. Sometimes the bit of information you're looking for isn't where you might think it would be. For instance, even though Part 1 isn't normative and isn't targeted at describing structures, it often has the best descriptions of the functionality of certain data structures and their fields.

If you have access to a TPM library header file, you may be able to use the header to find a complete description of how the structure is used. The easiest way to do this is as follows:

1. Find the data structure of interest in the C header file that describes the TPM 2.0 data structures.

2. A well-written instantiation of this header file lists the table number for the structure in comments above the data structure or type. Find this table number in Part 2 of the spec; the descriptive text above the table provides the additional information needed to understand the structure. This is one of the most useful tricks to know.

Strategies for Ramping Up on TPM 2.0

Engineers come in many flavors, so there are many approaches to cracking a specification like TPM 2.0. As authors, we have different personalities and have used different strategies to approach this spec. In this section we describes how we ramped up on TPM 2.0 and what worked best for us. You may pick and choose from one or all three of our approaches or develop your own. We hope our journeys will facilitate yours.


I am the newbie of the bunch. I started working on TPM 2.0 in May 2012. I had worked previously with TPM 1.2 but only with the functionality I needed to know for enabling Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT). This means I had never learned about sessions and how they worked in TPM 1.2, and I didn't know much about keys and key management.

As an engineer with product schedules to meet, my goal was to “Get 'er done.” I first tried to read through the spec but quickly bogged down in the massive quantities of unfamiliar terms and what was, to me, confusing lingo. So, I started figuring out which TPM 2.0 functions I needed and how to implement them. This led me to Part 3 of the specification as a starting point. As I tried running my coded functions against the simulator, I quickly ran into errors that I couldn't explain, and this caused me to singlestep through the simulator. This was when I first understood the difference between the canonical byte stream data that the TPM understands and the C structures used to specify the inputs to TPM 2.0 commands. Painstakingly, I debugged all the functionality needed for a TPM 2.0–enabled TXT prototype in order to meet my scheduled deliverable. In parallel, I began to develop the TSS 2.0 system API code. This required a greater depth of TPM 2.0 knowledge, which came as I simultaneously coded, read the specification, and debugged through the simulator. To be honest, there were still parts of the spec that resisted my attempts at comprehension—my only remedy was telephone consultations with the TPM Working Group chairman, who was extremely helpful in answering my questions about HMAC and policy sessions. As understanding dawned during my consultations with him, we developed some graphical representations of the different types of sessions and how they relate to each other, some of which appear in this book; and thus my idea for this book was born.

After completing much of the TSS system API development work, I had enough knowledge to go back and do a deep dive through the specification; this was largely motivated by the need to prepare training slides for an upcoming TPM 2.0 training session I was slated to present at Intel. For three months, I read the spec from cover to cover, and for the most part, it made sense. This wouldn't have happened if I had tried a deep dive from the very beginning. Here's another tip, which may sound strange: I've found it very effective to read the specification from my Kindle while exercising at the gym. I think the physical exercise keeps me alert; if I did this at my desk, I would be battling to stay awake. And 30 to 45 minutes per day seems to be the right amount of time to make progress, stay alert, and avoid completely overloading my brain.

To summarize my strategy:

• Initially read some of Parts 1, 2, and 3 but struggled to comprehend them. In spite of the difficulties, this initial read helped me get an overview of what's different from TPM 1.2.

• Focused on a bare-bones TPM 2.0 development deliverable by beginning with the Part 3 descriptions of TPM 2.0 functions.

• Developed the TSS system API while reading the spec, developing code, debugging through the simulator, and consulting with an expert more or less in parallel.

• Did a deep dive through the spec by reading 30–45 minutes per day.

Some final pieces of advice: start somewhere, and don't sweat all the details at first. Get a high-level understanding, and then keep digging progressively deeper. And don't be afraid to ask for help when you get stuck. I'm still learning myself.

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