When Eight Is Enough

Microchip's 8-bit Challenge

by Amelia Dalton

There is a common assumption that innovation cannot be inspired in the world of 8-bit microcontrollers. If that is the case, then why haven’t they disappeared like the telegraph or the 8-track tape? Perhaps it's because we still need them and sometimes they are just what the doctor (or engineer as the case may be) ordered. In this week’s Fish Fry, I check out some cool new 8-bit MCUs from Microchip Technology with Greg Robinson (VP - Microchip Technology) and we dive down into the guts of these new 8-bit masterpieces - from the intelligent analog features to the digital pin placement capabilities. Also this week, we investigate how Israeli start-up StoreDot plans to revolutionize battery technology. (Hint: It includes chemically synthesized bio-organic peptide molecules!)

 

Freescale Goes Nuts for ARM

New Kinetis Families and a Major Acquisition Equal 900+ Parts

by Jim Turley

They say change is good, so Freescale must be the best microprocessor company in the whole world.

What hasn’t this company done? It’s change its name, changed its processor architecture(s), changed its financial structure, changed its management (repeatedly), and totally reorganized its product lines, business units, and development structure. In between, I’m sure they’ve changed the office wallpaper and the filter in the break-room coffee maker. I remember sitting down to a meeting with some Freescale marketing types. They glanced across the table at my hand-scribbled org chart of their company and asked politely, “Could we have a copy of that, please?” Seems they were as confused about the company’s structure as I was.

 

Heartbleed: Serious Security Vulnerability

Serious Wake-up Call

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors, foreword by Kevin Morris

Imagine if you woke up one morning, and found out that Walmart was now selling a device for $5 that could easily and instantly open almost any deadbolt lock. That’s right - the kind of lock that is supposed to give “extra protection” to just about every door on earth. That’s the magnitude of security problem posed by the Heartbleed Bug.

Contributing columnist Bruce Kleinman wrote the first half of this article and posted it to his “From Silicon Valley” blog on April 6, 2014. The timing of the post was a remarkable coincidence: just 36 hours before the Heartbleed Bug started making headlines.

As the creators of technology, we engineers need to re-think our commitment to security and safety. The systems we design don’t just earn us money – they are often trusted to protect people’s lives, privacy, and assets. This is a solemn responsibility that is all too often overlooked or given short shrift in our ongoing race to get timing closure, first silicon, working prototypes, and volume shipments.

 

Testing Out the Rules

Sage DA Automates Design Rule Test Creation

by Bryon Moyer

It wasn’t too long ago that we took a look at a new tool from Sage DA that could be used to create design rules in an automated fashion so that the resulting rules will be clean and consistent. It also provided a way to iron out any ambiguities in a design rule manual.

For those of you less deeply embedded in this space, what we’re talking about here is the ability to check a new chip design’s layout to make sure it doesn’t violate manufacturing rules. In order to be able to do that, we need to have a set of rules to test whether a specific IC meets the constraints of a given process. That way you ensure that no lines are too thin or spaces too narrow. (Oi, if only it were that simple.)

 

Hard Hats in Place

EELive! Part 2: Safety-Critical Systems

by Amelia Dalton

On the heels of Michael Barr’s keynote at EELive this year - "KILLER APPS: Embedded Software's Greatest Hit Jobs," this week's Fish Fry takes a closer look at embedded software for safety-critical systems. At the helm is Jim McElroy - VP at LDRA. Jim and I discuss the challenges of designing safety-critical embedded systems, and Jim explains where LDRA fits into the embedded software ecosystem. He also gives us the low down on why Boston Baked Beans get a bad wrap. (Spoiler: According to Jim, they totally deserve it.) I also give everyone a sneak peek at EE Journal’s brand new “On the Scene" video blog, and I lay out my revolutionary plans to restore the Embedded Systems Conference to its former glory. (Second Spoiler: They absolutely will not use my idea.)

 

New Approaches to Old Problems

A Hot DATE in Dresden

by Dick Selwood

The Dresden conference centre was designed to represent a stark modern contrast to the restored Baroque buildings of the old town of Dresden. For some reason, the architects decided to build a curved building with one floor on a slope, cutting through other, flat, floors. The entrance is up a long flight of stairs, exposed to the wind and rain blowing across the river Elbe. The conference rooms are all provided with wonderful glass walls overlooking the river, which have to be blacked out if you want to be able to see the information projected onto the screen.

However, it is the the main conference venue for Silicon Saxony, a “cluster” of high tech companies ranging from semiconductor manufacturers Global Foundries and Infineon to a wide range of supporting and related businesses: over 300 companies are part of the network. And it is where, in alternate years, the academic community engaged in EDA make their spring pilgrimage to the DATE Conference.

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