More Than Meets The Eye

Mentor Battles Icahn, Pinckney's Rising Star and Mouse Neurons

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia digs into the details surrounding the recent battle between investment banker Carl Icahn and Mentor Graphics, explores the unique life story of Internet start-up star Tom Pinckney and looks into a new biomedical research that utilizes mouse neurons and semiconductor tubes. Also this week, she gives viewers a chance to win a brand new nerdy giveaway courtesy of Microchip Technology.

 

Fish and Fowl

CMOS MEMS Attempts to Integrate Two Different Worlds

by Bryon Moyer

Mechanics and electronics have historically lived far apart. To do the former, you go get a mechanical engineering degree, which has very little in common with the electrical engineering degree you need for electronics. The few areas of overlap are usually ones where one side must begrudgingly learn something from the other side for the sake of appearing well rounded. I personally was never happy about going to lab at 8 AM to watch pieces of metal fail.

 

3D ICs

Managing and Optimizing Off-chip Interfaces

by John Park, Mentor Graphics

It wasn’t very long ago that managing off-chip interconnect was a no-brainer. The interconnect path was very straight forward. It started at a pad on the chip, went out through a bond wire then connected to a metal lead, which connected to the PCB. The number of “interfaces” was small; a total of 4 counting the pad on the chip, the bond wire, the metal lead and the PCB, as illustrated in Figure 1.

 

Team Player

Xilinx 13.1 Livens the Party

by Kevin Morris

Witness the recent announcements by a number of EDA companies - Altium, Synopsys, and others - touting team design enhancements in their tools. With their latest ISE release - ISE 13.1 - Xilinx is joining that group with a major set of improvements for multi-engineer FPGA projects.

Team design has been around for a long time, of course. Since the beginning of engineering, engineers have been collaborating on large projects. But FPGAs have still often been one-man shows, where the FPGA part of the large project was primarily the job of one member of the team. Now, however, with the advent of large systems-on-FPGA, more of the design project is taking place inside the FPGA, and less elsewhere. Other engineers are squeezing into the FPGA part of the project, and it’s getting a little crowded in there.

 

What’s Yours Is Mine

MRAPI Lets You Manage Embedded Resources

by Bryon Moyer

Arrrr, Captain, we’re abeam o’ the port now. When do we start the shellin’ and the pillagin’ and the mayhem?

Now, just hold yer fire there, hotpants, we’ve got three ships in this here operation, and I don’t want no one with a fidgety trigger finger jumpin’ the gun, ya hear? And, before ya do, I’ll say it now: don’t ya be criticizin’ me mixed metafers.

 

The Dichotomy Of Power

Less is More, More is Too Much, and Harnessing The World Around Us

by Amelia Dalton

In Fish Fry this week, Amelia tries to unravel the “aloha” of electronic engineering terminology; what we can do to make more power, use less power, and how we can measure exactly how much power our design is using - or is going to use. In this “power” themed episode, she investigates Microsemi’s new solar energy announcement, looks into a cool new way to create wave energy and offers up some ideas on how we can use less energy in our systems. She also checks out a new tool that will help you understand the the power budget of your next design and reflects upon a very old technology being re-born in today’s modern shipping technology.

 

Passing the Prototyping Torch

Tribal Knowledge from Synopsys and Xilinx

by Kevin Morris

You might think FPGA companies wouldn’t care much about people doing FPGA-based prototypes. After all, these aren’t the people that design an FPGA into their product and then buy a bazillion for manufacturing use. They buy a single-digit number of big parts, and they’re set.

You might also think that EDA companies wouldn’t be all fired up to support FPGA-based prototypers either. After all, aside from a few prototyping boards, and maybe some partitioning software, what do they stand to gain by making the prototyper successful?

 

Mini-Meter

Modeling the Power Minutiae of your Chip

by Bryon Moyer

Think of it as scaling down a smart meter.

We used to characterize the power into our homes with one number per month. OK, two: the kWH and the price. One might stay the same month to month, the other goes up.

For reasons of power optimization – managing and reducing the amount of power we take off the grid – we are moving into the smart meter world. (Well, except for a few areas around here where they’ve instituted moratoria due to the purported falling of the sky.) Now we can characterize – even model – our power usage with much finer granularity and precision.

 

Portion Control: Prototypes, Processors and Printed Food

Fish Fry - March 4, 2011

by Amelia Dalton

In Fish Fry this week, Amelia dives into the wild world of FPGA prototyping and offers up an elixir that might just solve all of our prototyping problems. She also investigates a new trend that brings processors and FPGA fabric together in off-the-shelf embedded systems and a new invention that could bring the Star Trek food replicator to life. Also this week, she announces the winner of last week's nerdy giveaway and offers up a new one to chew on.

 

Multicore Plus Optimized Packet Processing Software

A Solution to the Growing Demand for New Network Capacity

by Paul Stevens (Advantech) and Charlie Ashton (6Wind)

We used to talk about POTS, or the Plain Old Telephone Service, whose only service was basic dial tone, whether the original analog or newer digital variety. A lot has changed since then, and the fixed telephony infrastructure bears no resemblance to the POTS of yesteryear. The last few years have seen similar changes in the wireless infrastructure, and, with plenty more on the horizon, we now look back fondly on what some are now calling the POCS (Plain Old Cellular Service). Making a simple phone call, ‘sans wires,’ no matter where we are, is now an intrinsic part of everyday life. The myriad wireless technologies are no longer just a voice medium, and, since the advent of usable data capabilities, the demand and associated growth of the wireless data infrastructure has been unprecedented, with no end in sight.

 

Another Excuse Gone

Synopsys Says You Don't Have to Wait for Software

by Bryon Moyer

Nobody wants to wait these days.

Unless it’s a surprise moment in a thrilling movie, we want it now.

Didn’t you get my tweet? You haven’t re-tweeted yet? What? You’re busy on your design project and can’t be interrupted? Dude! That’s so 20th century! Look at meeee!

Um, hello… I’m your customer; I pay your salary, OK? So? Did you see my email? No? Why? Sleeping? No excuse, even if it is 2 AM in your time zone. There is no forgiveness for not immediately attending to my needs. Now.

 

The Science of Audio: Codecs, Robot Composers and The Best Turntable Ever

Fish Fry - February 25, 2011

by Amelia Dalton

In Fish Fry this week, Amelia researches the grooves of the most expensive (and awesome) turntable ever built, examines the reality of audio IP in today’s consumer-driven market and checks out some groundbreaking tunes created by a robot. Also this week, she offers up yet another fantastic nerdy giveaway.

 

Sound Systems

A look at the world of audio IP

by Bryon Moyer

Humans have always communicated by sound. It’s so basic that we take it for granted, whether in our telephones or our stereo systems. By contrast, we fawn and ooh and ah over video. High def this, low power that. Let’s see if we can get a bazillion pixels on a 1-cm x 1-cm screen. OK, no one can see that small, but hey, we can say we did it!

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that all that’s happening in audio is finding new ways to compress files in a lossy manner so that you can fit a bazillion tinny-sounding songs on a media player (instead of just a paltry billion).

 

Getting More Grounded

Cadence PDN Tool Tames Tricky Power Networks

by Kevin Morris

When doing a digital design, the power network is the last thing you want to worry about. It can’t be that difficult, right? You got your power and your ground and some big ‘ol FR4 acreage with nothing but copper as far as the eye can see...

Well, nothing but copper and a few vias, actually. Oh, and this part here where it gets narrow - and this part over here where there seems to be some nasty resonant frequency that drops the output... Wow, our circuit totally doesn’t work. What’s the deal?

 

An Android With Real Power

by Jim Turley

“Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”

Cue the synthesized theme music and wave your arms. It’s another episode of Android Development Hour!

This week we follow the exciting exploits of Captain Power and his legion of silicon-based life forms. Behind the scenes, Captain Power has formed an alliance with the Android, the all-powerful operating system launched from planet Googleplex. The Android is barely two years old, but already it’s dominating vast segments of the galaxy. Mobile handsets are especially vulnerable, a sector expanding so fast it’s turning blue.

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