Making COTS Real

VITA Embedded Tech Trends

by Kevin Morris

COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) seems like a great idea on the surface. Rather than designing custom, one-off complex electronic systems from the ground up for each new application, we can save considerable time, money, and mistakes by taking advantage of pre-engineered, open, standards-based components and technologies for the bulk of our project. Then, we can spend the majority of our precious engineering time and talent adding the “special sauce” that makes our application unique.

However, the COTS concept is a bit more complex in practice than in theory. Realizing COTS means boiling down a wide range of applications and distilling out high-value commonalities - things that are similar enough across the entire gamut that they can be developed into useful, off-the-shelf technologies. Before we can deploy those technologies, however, we need standards. Then, we need to develop robust, generic pieces that play nicely together under a wide range of circumstances. It’s not easy.

 

3 Tales of Hardware Hacking

Creating and Detecting Compromised Hardware

by Bryon Moyer

We’ve talked a lot about security lately (a trend that’s not likely to diminish anytime soon). But much of the hard work of encryption and authentication and the like are done by software stacks – middleware that you can purchase or acquire as open source. Concerns about hacking also tend to focus on software vulnerabilities – the good news there being the patchability of software (as long as your system can be upgraded).

But what if you can attack hardware? What probably comes to mind are so-called side-channel attacks, where you listen to EMI transmissions and watch power fluctuations and somehow learn secrets from such studies. Amazing but true.

 

The VooDoo You Do

Embedded Tech Trends and the Dark Powers of Intel Processor Boards

by Amelia Dalton

Watch out Big Easy, Fish Fry is here to stay! This week’s episode of Amelia’s Weekly Fish Fry takes on the annual Embedded Tech Trends Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. In keeping with this year's conference theme, The VooDoo Behind Critical and Intelligent Embedded Systems, Nigel Forrester (Concurrent Technologies) joins us to explore what he thinks are the “dark powers of Intel-based processor boards”. He also introduces to us a new AdvancedMC module that has been used in some super cool applications in the high-speed physics community and reveals his unique connection to William Shakespeare.

 

Information Monoculture

How Instant Access to Information Might be Making Us Dumber

by Jim Turley

A reference book about reference books. It doesn’t sound like page-turning summertime beach reading, but Jack Lynch’s book, “You Could Look It Up,” is actually pretty interesting. In it, he describes the historical attempts to create dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, codices, and every form of reference work, catalog, compendium, list, and litany that you could think of.

The overarching theme of Lynch’s book is that all such attempts at creating a definitive reference work are, and always have been, doomed. It’s impossible to write down “everything worth knowing,” in part because knowledge keeps moving and changing. At best, you can capture a snapshot of your local culture’s view of the world at a certain point in time. But such works are often out of date even before they’re published (the first Oxford English Dictionary took 44 years to compile its 15,487 pages). Old dictionaries, medical references, and schoolbooks instead become time capsules, of more value to historians and anthropologists than to their intended audience.

 

Sequential and Parallel Universes

The Real Challenge of Next-Generation Computing

by Kevin Morris

There are two alternative realities out there in computation: the sequential universe - which is where our brains naturally conceptualize most algorithms, and the parallel universe - which is the way actual hardware works. These two realities have always co-existed, but the von Neumann architecture shielded us from them. Since our processor architecture was based around a program counter, we could conceive that our machine was doing one instruction at a time.

 

Green Hills/Integrity Premiers as Vehicular CA

Car Certificates Will Be Different from Browser Certs

by Bryon Moyer

Green Hills, the company known more for embedded systems and real-time OSes and such, is now a Certificate Authority (CA). Or, more accurately put, their Integrity Security Services subsidiary is the CA.

“What??” you say. Does this put them into competition with the likes of Verisign and Symantec? Actually… no. For this we need to dig deeper into the world of security and certificates. Because Integrity isn’t a CA for the types of certificates we’re used to; they’re going to serve the automotive market, which will work differently.


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