Board Market Mysteries

Unraveling the Paradox of PCB Tool Rankings

by Kevin Morris

We talk a lot about chips around here - custom ICs, FPGAs, embedded processors, memories - silicon gets a good bit of coverage in the pages of EEJ. However, all that silicon has to eventually get parked and connected up somewhere, and that somewhere is usually on a PCB.

Unlike chips, unless you’re shipping your product with a standard board or module, you have to design the board yourself, specifically for your product. That means, although we spend way more time talking about design tools for the creation of custom and customized chips, most of the EDA tools actually being used out there in the world are doing board design.


Kissing or Cussing Cousins?

Will FinFET and FD-SOI technology battle or co-exist peacefully?

by Bryon Moyer

What’s the difference between a FinFET and a FD-SOI transistor?


Admittedly, that’s the abridged version. And it would be met by howls of protest by the proponents of FinFETs and of FD-SOI transistors. Along with that right-angle rotation comes a ton of technology, accompanied by the skirmishing that comes with vested interests and big unknowns.


Cracking The Marketing Code

Intel Announces New Transistors and Cadence Snatches Up Another EDA Start-Up

by Amelia Dalton

This week, Amelia tries to crack the marketing code of Intel’s new tri-gate transistor announcement as she digs through the details to figure out how this new transistor technology will shape the future of semiconductor design. She also reports on Cadence’s new acquisition of Altos Design Automation and investigates how the newest rumblings at Cadence will affect the future of EDA360.

Did you know that video game creation is now considered art? Check out this week’s Fish Fry to find out how Amelia plans on reshaping the world of virtual conferences to include artful video game features.


Altera’s New Power Tool

Qsys Takes Embedded Design on FPGAs to the Second Generation

by Kevin Morris

One thing was crystal clear in last week’s Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. FPGAs with embedded processors are about to take over the world.

Now, we don’t really mean the WHOLE world here - just the part of it that involves flexible embedded processing systems, of course. Still, if you look at embedded systems in use today, you’ll usually find some kind of programmable logic device sitting next to the processor. FPGA companies - being what they are - looked at all those boards and thought to themselves, “Hey, we could just slurp that processor right onto our FPGA!”

So Altera did just that... in 2001... as part of their “SOPC” strategy. It was called “Excalibur,” and it failed miserably.


Gearing Up for Rain

New Soft-Error-Tolerant Circuits

by Bryon Moyer

We don’t seem to mind the rain much. I mean, yeah, we’ll carry an umbrella if we think it might rain (except for places like Seattle where an umbrella is the signature of the tourist). But, to that point, really… what’s the harm of a little water?

A lot of water can be a problem. We’re not fish, after all. But a few drops in the hair is a long way from a long, cool drink in Lake Superior. Heck, we’ll even survive a dousing with a few gallons of Gatorade; pour it on!


An Offer of Surrender

by Bryon Moyer

The West is not known for its capacity for nuance. Especially in the US, we excel at black-and-white thinking. You’re either with us or against us.

And we’re competitive. The goal is to win. And there’s only one alternative to winning: losing. And losing is for losers.

If you’re going to lose, it’s best to lose the good fight: surrender is weakness. Better to die fighting than live a loser. (Easy for the winners to say…)

But “surrender” has another related, but more subtle, meaning: release, submission, acceptance. The serenity to accept things that can’t be changed. The “surrender” to which the Arabic word “الإسلام” (“al-islam”) translates. The belligerent “Surrender, Dorothy!” becomes the well-intentioned, “Dude, chillax!”


Swimming Upstream

FPGA Startups and Mentor v. Icahn (Again)

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia swims in the pond o' FPGAs and attempts to fish out fact from fiction when it comes to new startups in this industry. She also investigates Carl Icahn's three new Mentor Graphics Board appointees and tries to figure out why in the world he picked these three guys.

Also this week, I crown the winner of last week's nerdy giveaway and offer up a chance to win an Avnet Spartan-6 LX9 MicroBoard. All you have to do to win is....oh'll just have to listen to find out!


Upstairs Downstairs

by Bryon Moyer

Navigating Amsterdam’s picturesque waterways can be a chill way to see the town (weather permitting… sometimes the chill can be a bit too literal). Many of the buildings running alongside date far back (or are made to look like they do), with features not likely to be found in a modern suburban home.

One that sticks out in particular (literally) is a beam that juts out from the peak of the roof. It extends several feet beyond the roofline, towards the street, and it has a pulley towards the end. It almost looks ornamental, but, in fact, it has a supremely mundane function: this is how you get furniture upstairs.


Eliminating the Culprit

Who, When and How

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia digs into India’s plans to invest five billion dollars into the construction of two new wafer fabs, investigates new developments in cloud-based EDA tools, and looks into how two engineers from RF Engines Limited are raising money for humanitarian causes by riding a rickshaw. Also this week, she offers up a brand new nerdy giveaway: a Spartan-6 FPGA SP601 Evaluation Kit. All you have to do to win is...well, you'll just have to listen and find out!!


Benefits and Tradeoffs of EDA in the Clouds

by Bruce Jewett, Synopsys, Inc.

Only a few weeks after Motorola® launched the XoomTM, Apple® launched the iPad 2TM. These technological marvels, like their predecessors, illustrate several fundamental challenges that all design engineers face today: designs are getting more complex, and competition more fierce. As a result, the verification effort required to validate these designs is growing exponentially while the schedules are shrinking. Consequently, design engineers’ jobs are getting much harder.


Reaching for the Cloud

Synopsys, Cadence Take Different Approaches to Cloud Computing

by Bryon Moyer

For once, those clouds on the horizon aren’t harbingers of doom. At least, we don’t think so.

In fact, they’re almost tantalizing. Everyone is looking at them, fantasizing that that’s where they want to be. At least, we think so.

If you’ve ever watched a squirrel come and take something from your hand, you’ve seen that skittish, cautious approach, ready to bolt at any second, then snatching the food and running. Well, that’s kind of the feel you sometimes get about companies approaching the cloud. Everyone wants in, but, well, there are problems, and no one is really ready, and customers aren’t quite there yet, and EDA is harder, and, well, it’s going to happen, just not now.


It's (Not) All Fun and Games

More Girl Engineers, Video Games and Chinese Take-Out

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia reports on a new scholarship that will help get more female students interested in engineering, delves into the historical importance of video game pioneer Jerry Lawson and checks out Altium’s plans to move their operations base to Shanghai. She also awards a special bonus prize to last week’s nerdy giveaway winner and offers up a brand new contest for this week.


Connecting the Dots

Siloti Helps Reveal the Picture

by Bryon Moyer

Dot-to-dots are a fundamental part of American kiddie culture. Maybe it’s universal; I don’t want to speak to things I know nothing about… (much). But at least here in the US, it’s a typical child’s pastime (or homework busywork to placate parents that don’t want their children wasting their time playing): a piece of paper has a few strategically-placed numbered dots. You fill in the missing information by supplying the path between the dots; the result should reveal an image that wasn’t evident at the start.


Shanghaied in Sydney

If You Dig a Hole Through the Bottom of the EDA Market - Do You Wind Up in China?

by Kevin Morris

No one has ever made the mistake of calling Altium “timid.” As long as they’ve been in business, the company co-founded by Nick Martin has been making bold and controversial moves. This week, Altium’s announcement that their company headquarters would be moving from Sydney, Australia to Shanghai, China is no exception.

In the beginning, the company provided the alterna-tool for designers who wanted to do their own PCB layout but didn’t have big corporate budgets. ProTel made a name for themselves in low-cost desktop PCB design. Competing with rivals like OrCad (now part of Cadence), the company put the world on notice that they weren’t content with the status-quo in EDA and that they were going to be following their own drummer. ProTel became synonymous with low-cost PCB design.


Does the EDA Business Have a Future?

by Dick Selwood

Does the EDA business have a future? The late and very greatly missed Douglas Adams once wrote:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be all right --really.

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