Sending Mixed Signals

by Amelia Dalton

This week we’re talking mixed signals. My guest is Mladen Nizic (Cadence) and we’re talking about a brand new book published just a couple weeks ago called “Mixed-Signal Methodology Guide”. Mladen and I chat about who this book is for, what companies collaborated to make this manual happen, and even where mixed-signal education is headed. Also this week, I check out Altera’s newly released roadmap for 20nm and a new “magic carpet" that can not only map a person’s individual walking patterns but also predict when they are going to fall.

 

Machine-2-Machine Conference Call

by Bryon Moyer

Technology is supposed to make us more efficient, but one of the great time-wasters of all time, the meeting, has yet to disappear. OK, ok, I know… Meetings can be useful for communication, and communication is increasingly important as people get busier and busier and have no time to communicate. So a well-planned, well-executed, to-the-point meeting can be a good thing.

What has changed is the need for people to be physically present: conference calls have taken the place of face-to-face meetings in many areas, facilitating communication without the overhead of having to go somewhere else. Those meetings typically consist of an organizer that sets things up and then participants that call in to participate.

 

Priming The Pump

SystemC, Advanced Verification, and Vehicular Wi-Fi

by Amelia Dalton

Get your motor runnin’ folks, we’re talking verification this week. In a special Fish Fry interview double-header, I chat with Brett Cline (Forte Design Systems) about what Forte’s SystemC synthesis tools look like, what’s behind their collaboration with High IP, and what his secret ingredient is for the best Bloody Mary. I also talk with Graham Bell (Real Intent) about the struggles of advanced verification, what their tool flow looks like, why Real Intent isn’t just a bug-hunting tool, and why foosball is like accelerated advanced verification signoff.

 

Targeting Internal-State Scenarios in an Uncertain World

by Matthew Ballance, Mentor Graphics

Verifying internal design states is the unheralded bugbear of chip design today. Even the preliminary step of identifying and exercising the panoply of operating modes is fraught, largely due to design complexity. As an extreme example, transistor counts for Intel’s newest chips now top 1.4 billion.

The introduction of random test methodology several years back helped ease the burden of creating sufficiently comprehensive tests. However, few would leave the task of verifying critical cases strictly to chance – and for good reason. Consider the travails I witnessed recently at one Mentor customer, a Bay Area semiconductor company in the high-performance network infrastructure market.

 

Patently Obvious

Patents, IEEE for EDA, and Sting’s Sister

by Amelia Dalton

Patent litigation - can't live with it, can't survive without it. This week we're checking some recent rumblings in patent litigation. We're even bringing in a council person to help mediate the fight. Ok, not really. My guest is Dontatella Sciuto, the current president of the IEEE Council for EDA. Donatella and I chat about what the IEEE Council for EDA is all about, what project the Council plans on attacking next, and why Donatella can call herself Sting’s sister.

 

Municipal Clock Design

by Bryon Moyer

Picture yourself living in a big city with lots of traffic. That could be anywhere in the world. Now picture that city with a robust subway/rail system (in other words, not busses that also have to contend with traffic). Admittedly, that narrows things down (to places mostly outside the US, but never mind… work with me here.)

In this city, you have a choice. When you want to go from your home to your work (both within the city), you could drive the entire distance. Or, if you were lucky, you could take public transit the entire distance and not use your car at all. Perhaps you wouldn’t even need to own a car.

 

Electromechanical Interlocutor

SoftMEMS Facilitates IC/MEMS Co-design

by Bryon Moyer

Let’s say you form a group in the United States with the purpose of setting up “offices” or camps in various impoverished foreign countries for the purposes of helping the local denizens. You know, an NGO kind of thing.

If you’re gathering a team of typical Americans (well, typical except for their willingness to go live in harsh foreign conditions), then it’s unlikely that you’ll be blessed with large numbers of people speaking obscure Amazonian or Khoisan or Altaic languages. So if you all just hop on a plane one day and go set up shop, you’re going to have a hard time getting things done.

 

Toolin' Around

by Amelia Dalton

Tools are the name of the game this week. From Synopsys's acquisition of Taiwanese EDA company SpringSoft to the remarkable debugging capabilities of Vennsa Technologies. This week my guest is Andreas Veneris (CEO - Vennsa). Andreas and I chat about what their flow looks like, how Vennsa fits into Gary Smith’s vision of the future of EDA, and how debugging is going to be more important than ever on your next design. I also talk with Andreas about his former life as a rock journalist and who he thinks was the most fun rockstar to interview.

 

Attack on Many Fronts

The Analog World is Awash in New Tools

by Bryon Moyer

The name “Silicon Valley” is, to some extent, a reminder of a glory age, when the perfect confluence of innovative minds and a couple of world-class universities all within spitting distance fell together into a cauldron of innovation.

Innovation still happens here, of course. And many original sparks of brilliance still flash here. But much of the work that supports the elaboration and implementation of those sparks – not to mention outright manufacturing of the goods themselves – has long gone someplace where engineers don’t expect to make six figures. Ever. It’s as if the Valley overheated and exploded like a supernova, casting gasses and elements throughout the world and burning itself down from the crazy hot of freshly lit coals to the more reliable, ruddy glow of ashen coals ready for grilling.

 

Robots, Emulators and Even More Mega Fun

by Amelia Dalton

Have you ever been sitting back in your cube, resting and having a coke after lunch thinkin’ "Hey, I really should get into the emulation business." Oh, you haven’t? I guess that’s just me then. Yep, there are some certain aspects of electronic design that we should just let someone else deal with. This week my guest is EVE CEO and President Luc Burgun. Luc and I discuss what emulation is all about, where EVE fits into the grand scheme of EDA, and how emulators can help you debug your next design. Oh, and I officially challenge Luc to a karaoke face off.

 

IP Standards, Price-Fixing, and the LCD Cartel

by Amelia Dalton

We’re talking standards this week -- from the LCD Cartel "standardizing" the prices of their TFTs (otherwise called "price-fixing") to the standards we all need to employ to make sure our IP works the way we intend. I interview Ian Mackintosh (President - OCP-IP) about why IP standards are important, how OCP-IP can help us all get on the same IP page, and how Ian is trying to help us all become managers in our spare time.

 

WaterFail

Why Agile Must Come to Hardware

by Kevin Morris

Just over a decade ago, 17 frustrated software engineers made a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain in Utah. (OK, they really just went to a resort for a boondoggle, but bear with us here). After several days of soul-searching, they descended from the mountain with a manifesto that would forever change the face of software development. The Agile Manifesto codified what coders had been thinking and saying for years: The waterfall development process - the prime directive for professional-grade software development for most of the history of software development itself - was badly broken.

 

Beyond Free Space

RSoft Adds to Synopsys’s Light Tools

by Bryon Moyer

Light has always been a finicky physical phenomenon. It seems all straightforward until you get to high school and learn about how Einstein burst our naïve bubble by positing light as a jealous god that brooks no competition in the race between here and wherever.

And then there’s that shape-shifting thing it does, “Look Mom, I’ve a wave! Ooo, now look: Ta-daaaa! I’m a particle!” That has put a permanent end to the days of blithely placing maple leaves over photo-sensitive paper to create a facsimile that can be tacked to the refrigerator. Much as the centipede trips over itself if it actually tries to think about the algorithm that orders which leg moves when, nothing about light can be simple anymore now that our age of optical innocence has flickered out.

 

The Delicate Divide Between Dreams and Reality

Uniquify Makes Silicon Happen

by Amelia Dalton

Do you dream of silicon? Do those dreams involve full-chip implementation? (Man, you are a serious nerd). This Fish Fry dives into the dreamy details of Uniquify’s ASIC design flows, custom IP, and making your silicon dreams come true.

 

Hot Links

Are Symbolic Links Evil?

by Bryon Moyer

This topic was going to be a blog post, but, when the dust settled, it got turned into an article (as you can see by the length). You see, what should be a simple discussion became not so much so. And there’s a tendency in some corners of our industry not to come out and deal with an issue, but to whisper things in blogs and anonymous posts here and there, raising more questions than are answered.

My desire in what follows was originally to clear up facts. I must confess that I have not come out of my research feeling like I had a complete handle on what all the facts are – and contradictory claims remain. So I invite both the companies involved and anyone else with experience or an interest in the matter to weigh in via comments.

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