The Good, The Bad and The Timely

Bruggeman Takes On EDA

by Amelia Dalton

At the Design Automation Conference this year, Amelia had the pleasure of sitting down with Cadence CMO John Bruggeman and they chatted about all sorts of things...including why he thinks the "style" of EDA needs re-invention, where he thinks EDA360 is headed, and why he believes EDA isn't getting its fair share of the electronic market revenue pie.

Also this week, Amelia has a Lattice ECP3 Versa Development Kit to give out to one lucky listener, but you'll have to tune in to find out how to win.


Light Show

Synopsys’ OSG Group Helps Designers Put Photons in the Right Place

by Bryon Moyer

Way back in the 80s, I remember talking to someone about the delicacy of putting together the lens stack used to project the light that exposes circuit patterns onto silicon wafers. Those machines must seem hopelessly primitive today (pellicles were just being introduced), and yet, even then, the optics were a delicate matter.

As described to me, the lenses were carefully ground and assembled with thin sheets of paper between them – like the wax paper that keeps slices of deli cheese from sticking together. To assemble, you carefully positioned one lens over its adjoining one, and, when alignment was perfect, you gently slid the paper out. If you got it wrong, there was no return once the paper was removed: the lenses were so precisely ground that the cohesive attraction between the two lenses would make any further minute adjustments impossible.



Who’ll Use the Next Generation of Design Tools?

by Kevin Morris

The Von Neumann architecture is a miracle of efficiency if you count the algorithmic complexity that can be completed by any given number of transistors. If you’ve got enough transistors to create a 32-bit processor plus peripherals plus enough memory to store a decent size program, you can execute an enormously complicated algorithm.

Where Von Neumann isn’t so efficient is in the amount of computation for a given amount of power, or in the number of computations in a given amount of time. Those battles are won handily by custom, parallel hardware like we might create in an FPGA, or in a custom, algorithm-specific block in an ASIC or custom SoC. Optimized hardware that specifically implements our algorithm will always win in terms of speed and power - at a cost of vastly increased transistor count.


An Escape from an Escape

Imagination Technologies Tries to Make it Easier to Connect from Anything

by Bryon Moyer

Being out in the wild is supposed to get you away from things modern and technological. And yet… there are ways that new gadgetry might improve your isolated camping experience.

Let’s say, for example, that a critical camping information system would be useful. Perhaps it would link to a variety of on-line video channels dedicated to camping content. And, rather than packing yet another device, perhaps it could be integrated into an existing piece of camping equipment. Like, perhaps, your camp stove. It’s got a lid that flips up to block the wind – why not integrate a screen into it?


The Times They Are A Changin’

Moshe Gavrielov Gets His Zynq On and IBM Rolls Out a Graphene IC

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, Amelia's special guest is Xilinx CEO Moshe Gavrielov who chats with her about their new Zynq embedded processing platform and how he sees this new addition not only changing the course of the Xilinx roadmap going forward but also where he thinks the FPGA industry is headed as a whole. Also this week, Amelia explores the new Graphene IC unveiled by IBM and checks out the Freescale/BMW collaboration that just might make parking our cars just a little bit easier.

And, in keeping with the Xilinx theme, you'll definitely want to get in on the competition for this week's awesome nerdy giveaway - a Spartan-6 LX9 MicroBoard, and as usual you'll need to tune in to find out how to win.


Integrating Hardies and Softies

by Dick Selwood

Winston Churchill once said that the United Kingdom and the United States are two nations divided by a single language. Sometimes it seems like that in an embedded development environment. In the green corner - the hardies. These are people who think in volts and transistors and will spend enormous effort to reduce watts burned by a system. In the red corner – the softies. Their thinking is dominated by efficient code execution time. The difference between the two is nicely encapsulated in the story of a UNIX based system that was burning excessive power: the processor never seemed to go into any form of standby mode. The hardies naturally blamed the softies, who in return disclaimed all responsibility and also pointed out it would be very hard to find a culprit in the vast number of lines of code in the system.


Creating a Virtual Factory

Averna’s Proligent Keeps Tabs and Makes Changes Where Needed

by Bryon Moyer

We in the semiconductor world live in a relatively self-contained environment. Processing is highly specialized, equipment is expensive and not really usable for anything else, and risks are high if something goes wrong.

So we tend to get a little, oh, inbred, with a few companies providing the variety of tools and services in a small-town supply chain.


The Design Automation Conference 2011

Gary Smith, The Return of the Woz, and Other Fun Stuff

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, Amelia dishes the dirt on this year's Design Automation Conference. She attempts to unravel the mysteries posed by Gary Smith in his annual EDA analysis, and re-hashes both the awesome and the uncomfortable moments of this year's Steve Wozinak keynote. Also this week, she gives some details on the history of the Design Automation Conference, why there don't seem to be as many attendees as in years past, and why it's so hard to navigate the show floor. Don't miss out on your chance to win a Lattice ECP3 Versa Development Kit. You'll just have to listen to find out how you can win it.


Electronic Scalpel

Complementary E-Beam Lithography

by Bryon Moyer

Brain surgery is a complicated process. After all, they don’t call it “brain surgery” for nothing. And it’s not a one-man show: it’s a team operation. Someone’s got to… ahem… mellow you out before taking you to the OR. Someone’s got to shave a bald spot. Someone’s got to make sure everything is clean and germ-free. Someone has to give you the final giggly-gas (or whatever will send you into an oblivious slumber). Someone has to provide… access to the brain. And then, finally, when everything else is ready, you bring in what those in show-biz would call the “talent.”


No Escape

A Look at “Black Silicon”

by Bryon Moyer

There’s no such thing as “true black.” I mean, there’s the idea of it, the aspiration, but, so far, we have not been able to create a pure black in the real world. The bizarre realm of carbon nanotubage has gotten us close – very close – but still: it’s only close.

True black means that no light – nary a single photon – reflects off the surface. It’s all captured and absorbed. While this might have interesting artistic and philosophical ramifications, it also has a serious, practical impact. The good news is that, from this pragmatic standpoint, getting closer is still really good: we don’t need to be purists. (Philosophically, well, you’re on your own.)


Refining Innovation

Microchip’s new IDE, DAC Days And An App For Your Soul

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, Amelia checks out some new intriguing iPhone apps including a DAC navigation app from Cadence, a couple new EE apps that might spark your fancy and even an app that will help you find inner peace (or at least that's what they claim). Also, she interviews Microchip Technology’s Development Tools Vice President Derek Carlson about their new IDE MPLABX and tries to figure out how their new software can help jump start your next project.

And remember to stay tuned for the nerdy giveaway this week...Amelia has sweetened the pot this week and she thinks you're going to like it.


Packing Them In

A Look at High-Density PC – er – PWBs and Persecution of Solder

by Bryon Moyer

The world of PC boards – or, as they seem to be more widely called in the official literature, “printed wiring boards” or PWBs – has been a conservative one. For the most part, things are still done today like they were a few decades ago. Sure, dimensions have gone down, and we can do many, many more layers, and we can put passives on the back side, but, except for the bleeding edge, we pretty much do things the old-fashioned way: etch metal off of a board made out of some kind of resinous material, glue several of those together if needed, poke parts through the holes or stick them onto pads, and run the whole thing through a wave-soldering line. Some wires (particularly, white ones) may even be soldered by hand.


Does the Hype Get in the Way of the Message?

by Dick Selwood

I know most of you reading this are engineers and consequently never allow emotion to get in the way of logical decision making. So it would be unlikely that you would not take something seriously, just because the razzmatazz surrounding it was overstated: you wouldn’t react, either positively or negatively to marketing hype, would you? You would just evaluate the product on its technical merits, wouldn’t you?

All too often the marketing and PR teams try desperately to make extravagant claims to hide the essential ho-hum nature of the announcement. I have been there, and, every day, as I read the new product announcement press releases, the people writing them have my sympathy – at least some of the time.


What Lies Beneath

TI's Tiny Sensors, Icahn Wins (this time) and Rambus' Latest Legal Woes

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, Amelia checks out Texas Instruments' itty bitty new digital sensor and investigates how this new technology may help usher in a new era of micro sensors and micro mechanics. Also this week, she looks into the most recent battle between Carl Icahn and the Board of Directors at Mentor Graphics, while she tries to sort through the latest litigation rumblings over at Rambus.

Amelia offers up a brand new nerdy giveaway this week...but you'll just have to tune in to find out how you can win!


The Vision Thing

New Tools at ESC Emphasize Presentation, Visualization

by Jim Turley

“If I could find it, I could fix it!”

So ran the advertising copy for a new logic analyzer, circa 1995. The sentiment is a familiar one. Programmers are generally smart people, and if they know where a bug is, they can usually swat it in short order. The problem is finding the bug in the first place—or even knowing that there is one.

This was a recurring theme at last week’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) event in downtown San Jose. A number of companies with whom I met showed off front-end tools that help hardware and software engineers find problems. It was the finding, not necessarily the fixing, that got most of the attention.

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