Convenience Trumps Quality, Every Time

by Jim Turley

It’s not the features, stupid.

We all want to make better products. Hell, most of us would be happy just shipping the product at all, never mind making it better. A friend working at Philips Electronics likes to tweak the company’s cheery tagline, “Let’s Make Things Better,” with the simpler and more trenchant, “Let’s Make Things.” Sometimes the great is the enemy of the good. In other words, let’s just get this thing out the door and worry about improving it later.

 

Putting the User First?

by Dick Selwood

A mathematics professor was in full flow in a post-grad seminar. The board was covered in formulas, and, as he finished writing an equation, he said, “And from this, gentlemen,” (it is a very old story). “And from this, gentlemen, it is obvious…” and his voice died away. He stood there for a few seconds and then he sat down for a few minutes. He left the room and returned after fifteen minutes. Picking up the chalk he resumed, “And from this, gentlemen, it is obvious that…” and wrote another equation on the board and continued the seminar.

 

A New Cut at DRC

Polyteda Resets Run-Times

by Bryon Moyer

DRC sometimes feels like one of those sleepy, familiar technologies that’s been around forever and isn’t going to surprise you. Well, I don’t know if something’s in the water, but over the last few weeks there’s been a flurry of DRC-related activity. While some of the news involves well-known names in the biz (the best-known name being Mentor, with their overwhelmingly dominant Calibre tool), a newcomer is trying to redefine the space a bit.

 

Old Is The new New

A Hardware Design Language for All, Apps for Your O-Scopes and Chip-Scale Wireless Networks

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia investigates the re-birth of an old system language coming back into style, delves into the world of cloud-based applications for oscilloscope users and checks out a cool new way to connect the pieces on your board using a nano-wireless router. Also this week, she reveals super cool nerdy giveaway and offers up a surprise award to next week’s winner.

 

Architectural Power Intent

by Bryon Moyer

Intent matters. Not as much as results, but it does matter. And it should drive results. These days, higher levels of design abstraction make it easier to express design intent rather than simply keeping it in your head (or in a document if you’re diligent) and implementing the intent directly. Behavior is an obvious example of logic intent, but that’s old news. Power is much more in vogue these days.

 

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.

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