Signals for Noise

Three New Processors Deal with Noise in Different Ways

by Jim Turley

Noise is big business these days. And, this week, we look at three brand new chips that all make noise, more or less deliberately.

First up, there’s Cirrus Logic’s new CS47L90, the first of what I suspect will be a series of high-powered audio chips. Cirrus calls it a “smart audio codec,” but that undersells the device’s capabilities. This is a 7-processor beast designed to wrestle audio streams to the ground and make them beg for mercy. If it happens in the audio spectrum, this chip can probably do it.


The FPGA Tool Problem

Why Not Open Source?

by Kevin Morris

Wouldn’t it be great if there were more options in FPGA tools? For decades now, the FPGA community has decried the lack of FPGA design tool options. You’d think that a technology that has been evolving and maturing for over thirty years would have long ago reached the point where there were a wide variety of competitive programming options to choose from. However, we are still basically at the point where there is one and only one option for doing your FPGA design - the tool suite sold and distributed by the FPGA company itself.

It’s not that the third-party and open-source communities haven’t tried to find ways to produce viable alternative design flows. They have. Numerous EDA companies, from fast-moving, highly-motivated, innovative startups to big lumbering institutionalized EDA vendors have poured creativity, energy, determination, and piles of cash into efforts to build a third-party ecosystem for FPGA design. Well-minded communities have unleashed proven formulas for open-sourcing solutions to complex problems, looking for an alternative to proprietary tools. All to practically no avail.


Organically-Shaped Antennas

The Antenna Company Leverages the Superformula

by Bryon Moyer

Imagine if there were one formula. All of existence, explained by one formula. All of the formulas we use today? Simply special cases of that one formula. Like the elusive unified field theory that would embrace all known forces, this would be a Formula for Everything. And you’d call it the Superformula.

Well, it turns out that there is a thing called The Superformula, and credit goes to one Johan Gielis. It’s relatively recent (by scientific standards, not by technology standards): 2003. But, the name notwithstanding, this isn’t a Formula That Describes Everything. It is pretty super in its own way, but it’s not quite as earth-shattering as the moniker might otherwise suggest.


Software Cat and Mouse

IP, Ownership, and Cyber Piracy Today

by Amelia Dalton

So you’ve built yourself some lovely software. You've shined and polished the corners, field tested it, and even gotten the approval of the VCs on high. But what if, the whole time, there was a tiny hole in your code? And because of that tiny hole, the bad guys were able to waltz right in and are now using your software all willy-nilly-like without paying. Well folks, this is happening a lot more than we know. Or, maybe we do know about it but we just don’t want to talk about it. This week we’re pulling back the curtain on software piracy, IP thievery, and unlicensed software usage with Ted Miracco from SmartFlow Compliance Solutions. Ted and I discuss where the biggest piracy threats are coming from these days and how companies big and small can protect themselves from those sneaky, scurvy-ridden cyber pirates.


Move Over, Connected Toaster; Here Comes the Connected Climbing Wall

When Does an Embedded System Become Part of the IoT?

by Dick Selwood

Yannick Chammings, CEO of French company Witekio, was explaining to me why they were changing the company name (previously they were called Adeneo Embedded), and why this was intended to show how they were changing the way in which they worked with their customers. As a part of this, he started talking about a connected climbing wall. Now climbing walls, while becoming increasingly popular, I think of as essentially dumb. You have an imitation rock face, built from a range of materials, with hand- and foot-holds screwed into a matrix of sockets. The holds can be colour-coded to indicate different routes up the wall, so a mix of different skills can use the same wall, and the routes can be reconfigured by moving the holds. (Oh - and usually the climbers are attached to a safety rope – limiting the damage should they fall off.)


Programmability for the People

Xilinx Kicks Up Cost-Optimized Offering

by Kevin Morris

It’s always fun to fantasize about Ferraris and FinFETs. After all, what true engineer doesn’t get a little tingly talking about terabits of bandwidth, single-digit nanometers, and gazillions of LUTs. But, in practical terms, the vast majority of us don’t have an actual application need for the biggest, fastest FPGAs and SoCs on the market. And, while it’s fun to watch and speculate about which company can cram the most transistors onto an integrated circuit, the reality is that, for most of us, our actual requirements are much more modest.

Fortunately, the programmable logic companies realize this, and, in the midst of all the marketing bravado and chest beating about the new high-end FPGA families, Xilinx is announcing a major upgrade to their non-bleeding-edge families - Zynq, Artix, and - back by popular demand - Spartan.

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