Reducing the Odds of Failure

Creating High-Integrity, Reliable Software with AdaCore

by Amelia Dalton

In today's high-reliability embedded systems, failure is not an option. Not only is failure not an option, a bug in the software could result in catastrophic consquences. In this week's episode of Fish Fry, we tackle these very issues with Quentin Ochem from AdaCore. Quentin and I discuss the myriad of challenges surrounding high-integrity, high-reliability software development, the benefits of AdaCore’s GNAT Pro software development suite, and how AdaCore's GNAT Pro was used in the ExoMars program. Also this week, I unveil the winners of this year's "Make It With Ada" contest and explain why having a solid strategy for signal integrity is crucial to your next system design.

 

The Changing World of Semiconductors Encapsulated at Electronica

Manufacturers and Distributors Merging and Evolving

by Dick Selwood

At electronica, at the beginning of November, I was talking to an exhibitor about a module controlling a power supply: "The main part of the module is a chip from Freescale - sorry, NXP – sorry again - suppose I should say 'The company soon to be part of Qualcomm.'" And also in the module was an AVR processor from Atmel - "Sorry – Microchip."

Right at the front of one of the halls was a huge open space with a banner saying, "Fairchild is now a part of ON Semiconductor. Please visit us at Hall A5 Stand 225."

 

That’s So Cool!

It’s Good to be an Engineer, the Creators of Coolness in our World

by Jim Turley

At this festive time of year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for our fellow engineers. Be grateful that we didn’t take up careers in metallurgy, or agriculture, or as stonemasons. How much do you think those professions have changed in the past hundred years? Compare that to the rapid pace of change in electronics, programming, real-time systems, networking, semiconductor fabrication, wireless technology… everything! We get to work in an area of constant change. We get to see – indeed, sometimes create – constant innovation, progress, and advancement. It’s never the same from year to year. We get to make the cool stuff. How many farmers can say that?

 

Microsemi Tackles RISC-V

Open Architecture FPGA Processor Core

by Kevin Morris

In many applications today, the combination of FPGA programmable logic fabric with a microcontroller is the magic sauce that brings the whole system together and makes it “smart.” The flexibility in interface, communication, and peripherals provided by the FPGA part, along with the software-programmability of a microcontroller, truly delivers on the promise of the system-on-chip “SoC” moniker for a number of smaller-scale systems.

Back when Microsemi’s FPGA group was called “Actel,” the company was among the first to offer a RISC core as IP on an FPGA. For the past decade or so, the company has offered options for licensed ARM cores in their Igloo, ProASIC, and Fusion branded families, including the soft-core ARM M0 and the faster, hardened, ARM M3. Because of the unique properties of Microsemi’s FPGAs (non-volatile, secure, and low-power), the devices have been popular in a wide range of applications that don’t require huge amounts of FPGA fabric or larger-scale embedded applications processors. If a few thousand (up to low hundreds of thousands) of LUTs and a good, solid MCU will solve your problem, Microsemi probably has a good contender for your socket.

 

Audio and Sensor Integration

Extracting Themes from the MEMS Executive Congress

by Bryon Moyer

If it’s November, that means it’s time for the C-level folks in the MEMS and sensor industries to assemble and assess the state of the industry at the MEMS Executive Congress. Because of the higher average title of these attendees, it has a very different feel from other conferences. And it mostly happens in lockstep (without five different tracks and an exhibit floor as distractions). Which makes it a bit easier to get a read on things.

It wasn’t so long ago when the theme of the year would typically focus on individual new MEMS structures – especially for motion. Then came the wave of sensor fusion – again, largely motion-oriented, but with promise beyond that, at least as a concept. Most of the more visible independent sensor fusion companies then were acquired, and the last few editions of the Congress have had less of the, “OMG, we’ve arrived!” feel and more of the, “Takin’ care of business” feel.

 

Finding Meaning in Randomness

New Research Uncovers a Way to Generate High-Quality Random Numbers

by Jim Turley

“Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.” – John von Neumann

Two days of the week are named after celestial bodies (the sun and moon), another four are named after Norse gods (Tyr, Odin, Thor, and Freida), and one after a Roman god (Saturn). What’s up with that?

Four consecutive months on the calendar have numeric names in Latin (septem, octo, novem, and decem) – but they’re wrong. September is the ninth month, not the seventh, December is twelfth, not tenth, and so on. Two other months are named after emperors (Julius and Augustus), and four others after Roman gods (Janus, Mars, Maia, and Juno). That leaves two, which aren’t named after anything, really.

Who’s in charge here?

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