Reconfigurable FPMA?

Could Baolab Be the Next Altera or Xilinx for MEMS?

by Bryon Moyer

Today we’re going into the world of imagination. Imagining what if, and then imagining what.

Is the phone ringing? Does your computer keep pinging because yet more… medical assistance is being proffered at cheap prices from overseas? Is your boss watching? These are all distractions that will hinder the process of imagining, so, if you can, let’s place ourselves in a professional setting: a cool, dark place where you can lie back and stretch out and open your mind… close your eyes… forget that I’m there in that chair next to you… ignore the timer on the end table… breathe easily… shuck those cares, like the meeting you’re supposed to be in right now… and just… imagine.


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.


The Great Divide

What’s Missing from our Development Boards?

by Kevin Morris

Microprocessor and microcontroller development boards are powerful resources. They have a processor (of course) surrounded by a useful assortment of gadgets and gizmos for making whatever you build interact with the real world. You’ve got your processor, a power management IC (PMIC), some memory, a display (touch screen if you’re lucky), some audio gear - usually tied to a headphone and microphone jack, maybe an optional HDMI interface, and a 3-axis accelerometer (because…who doesn’t need one of those these days?)

You can connect to the outside world with things like USB, SD card slots, Ethernet ports, SATA connectors, JTAG, UART (You are going to debug, right?). And, you can usually drop in a copy of Linux, Android, or some flavor of embedded WIndows without too much trouble. Or, if you’re on the microcontroller side, you can probably be spinning a motor within minutes of opening the box.


The Declining Penalty of Programmability

Should We Bring Back “System Gates”?

by Kevin Morris

In the early days of FPGAs, marketing was all bluster. In an effort to make their devices seem useful and, more importantly, bigger than the other guys’, device densities were given in terms of spectacularly optimistic “System Gates.” Just about the whole industry was complicit in this facade. Once Xilinx and Altera had gone after each other with the System Gate ruse, the other challengers really had no alternative but to fall in line.

What is a System Gate? (We hear you ask...)

Nobody really knows. Or, at least nobody who remembers is admitting it. The best we could determine at the time, System Gates were determined by taking the competitor’s similar device, looking at the datasheet, multiplying their System Gate total by 1.15, and issuing a press release claiming that their device was 15% larger.


Don’t Rush to Judgment

The Dark Side of Convergence

by Kevin Morris

Mahler’s Symphony #9 is a masterpiece of symphonic literature. Written in 1909-1910, it was Mahler’s last symphony, and it was considered by many to be his greatest achievement. When Mahler died in 1911, he had never heard it performed, as its premiere was in 1912 by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Unlike many symphonies, the final movement of Mahler’s Ninth - “Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend” - does not end with bombastic brass and acoustic fireworks. Instead, it fades slowly into silence - thought by some to be a reference to the composer’s impending death, as he had been diagnosed with a fatal heart disease.

When performed today by the New York Philharmonic - one of the greatest orchestras in the modern world - the live listening experience can be absolutely transcendent. In January 2012, conductor Alan GIlbert was conducting the New York Philharmonic performing Mahler Nine in the legendary Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The performance was masterful. In the final, delicate measures of the 80-minute piece, as the strings wove the final threads of Mahler’s emotional tapestry, an unexpected accompaniment joined in the performance - the iPhone’s familiar “Marimba” ringtone.


Let's Get Flexible

by Amelia Dalton

What do you think of when I say the word "flexibility?" Yoga? Bendy straws, maybe? Perhaps a Slinky™? I’m going to guess you probably didn’t say batteries and field programmable gate arrays! This week Fish Fry is all about flexibility in electronic design - from the most recent Mars Rover software upgrade, to the newest advancements in flexible battery technology. Then, we'll even chat a little bit about timing-driven partitioning of your next FPGA design. In another installment of my Fish Fry executive interview series, I chat with Flexras CEO Hayder Mrbet about what FPGA partitioning is all about, why Flexras claims they can make your multiple-FPGA project a whole bunch easier, and how this France-based FPGA tool company came to be.


The Secret

Hidden Holes in our Engineering Expertise

by Kevin Morris

"…It works the same as assertions in System Verilog," he said. I quickly nodded my head -- maybe too quickly. "Oh, OK, I see," I replied, almost before he had finished his sentence.

I wanted to give him confidence that the message was received so he would move on in the conversation. If I looked puzzled, perplexed or confused - if I showed weakness or hesitation, he might linger in the lounge of this idea. He might hang around here in the vicinity of trouble. He might catch the scent of fear and decide to dally in the neighborhood of the current line of discussion - the one that was dangerously close – tenuously, terrifyingly, torturously close to the secret.


Dealing with Duality

The Secret Lives of Engineers

by Kevin Morris

“What are you thinking about, honey?”

His mind raced for an appropriate answer.

“You look like you’re somewhere far away,” she continued.

He avoided the probing gaze of his wife - her trusting eyes seemingly steering right through his own, turning right, and studying the left hemisphere of his brain looking for answers. He had promised to always be faithful to her - to tell her the truth no matter what - to be honest and open with her for the rest of his life. It was an important and meaningful oath to him. He struggled to think of something to say.

“I... was thinking we should pressure-wash the deck” somehow escaped from his lips. He felt himself flush with shame.

He was lying.

He had actually been thinking that the high-frequency noise problem with his board might be caused by the power plane.


When The Bottom Drops Out

Rising With Moore’s Law Leaves a Hole

by Kevin Morris

It’s always exciting at the cutting edge. Here at EE Journal, we are always having fun learning about and bringing you news about the latest, greatest, biggest, fastest, coolest, most exotic accomplishments of our global engineering community. We love to surf the crest of Moore’s Law and gasp in amazement at the millions-> billions-> trillions-> of gates, LUTs, transistors, hertz, FLOPs, cycles, bytes, pins, users, dollars, and every other amazing metric that this dynamic industry seems to constantly generate.

With the Moore-driven juggernaut plowing exponentially through technologically tumultuous seas, it’s easy to focus on the bow and to forget what’s happening at the stern. There, the back of our boat leaves a gaping displacement hole - with turbulent wakes crashing and swirling in eddies of unintended consequence.


Three Rings of EE Fun

Black Hats, FPGAs, and GPS Spoofs

by Amelia Dalton

Welcome to the Big Top of EE Fun, ladies and gentlemen! We’ve got Black Hat hackers, GPS spoofers, and in the center ring, a serious FPGA heavy hitter. This week I chat with Jeff Waters (Senior VP and General Manager at Altera) about how FPGAs can differentiate your design from the next guy’s ASSP, how FPGAs are making their way into the automotive market, and what make and model Jeff would pick as his dream car.

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