In this week's Fish Fry in-depth executive interview, I sit down with Synapse design CEO Satish Bagalkotkar. Satish and I chat about how today's rocky global economic climate has affected the electronics industry and how he sees the role of design services changing in the future. Also this week, we investigate a new Addicted Products toaster that may change the face of intelligent devices forever.
What It Is Can Be Defined By Who You Are
Q: What is the Internet of things, Mr Salesman?
A: Whatever matches my product range.
Perhaps that is a little jaundiced, but after three days in the circus that is embedded world, fighting though the aisles with nearly 27,000 visitors and on Thursday over 1000 students, one can easily become jaundiced. It is possible to forgive those who are strolling so that they can see everything, almost possible to forgive those who also drag along bags on wheels that are big enough to smuggle out a body, but the ultimate hate is reserved for those dragging such bags and texting at the same time. Since we all know males are not designed to multitask, texting and dragging a bag requires a man to walk so slowly that he is very close to stationary. And these guys are always in the aisle that you need to rush down to get to your next meeting. AAARGH.
The semiconductor industry is ramping up for the wider adoption of 3D ICs, which promise better performance, reduced power, and improved yield. While some aspects of true 3D ICs are still evolving, solutions for testing 3D ICs are ready today. The test strategy for 3D ICs has two goals: improving the pre-packaged test quality and establishing new tests between the stacked dice. We describe a test strategy for 3D ICs based on a plug-and-play architecture that allows die, stack, and partial stack-level tests to use the same test interface, and to retarget die-level tests directly to the selected die within the 3D stack.
The fundamental requirements of a test strategy for 3D ICs are the same as for traditional ICs—portability, flexibility, and thoroughness. Therefore, we use an IEEE 1149.1 (JTAG) compliant TAP as the interface at every die and IEEE P1687 (IJTAG) networks and definition for test access. The test interface at each die is based on an IEEE 1149.1-compliant TAP because this is the most common standard device DFT interface. The same TAP structure is used on all dice, so that when doing wafer test on individual dice, even packaged dice, the test interface is through the same TAP without any modifications.
SNL’s “Weekend Update” Has Nothing on the Software Industry
Programmers, call off your drug pushers.
I know, I know… you think you’re helping. But really, you’re not. You think you’ve got my best interests at heart. You don’t. Your marketing people have convinced you that you’re “providing a service” to your customers. That you’re “ensuring quality.” Here’s where you can stick your quality, fellah.
I’m talking, of course, about automatic forced updates to my software. That’s right, I said “my software.” Not “your software,” and not “the software you created.” Once I lay my money down and get a copy of (excuse me: a license for) the software your company sold me, it’s not yours anymore. And the fundamental rules of property ownership that our society has observed for millennia make me responsible
New Pathways and Ambiguous Terms
Those of you in the sensor world are deeply involved with the low-level nuances and intricacies of your devices. How accurate, how linear, how to connect, how to read data, how to fuse data… – there’s so much to think about if you put your mind to it.
Of course, the people you’re doing this for – users of phones and tablets and medical devices and industrial sensors – couldn’t care less about that stuff. They want to sleep soundly knowing that, by hook or by crook, those sensors are detecting their assigned phenomena accurately, and the system is correctly reading those data and munging them into whatever form is necessary to provide a simple, meaningful result at the application level.
And, in between you and that user lies, among other things, the operating system (OS). And OSes are now wise to the ways of sensors, and they’re laying down some rules of the road.
Why Have 1 When 3 Will Do?
With new technologies come new standards. And resonant power transmission technology, which we covered recently, is no different. As a quick review, this is a way to charge phones and other devices without plugging in and without the kind of placement precision required by older inductive approaches such as those used by toothbrushes.
Why might standards matter? All of the spokespeople for the standards work underway – and, as we’ll see shortly, there’s lots of such work in progress – describe a vision of ubiquitous charging stations in malls and airports and coffee shops and anywhere people might want to charge their electronic devices. If we’re going to have all of these chargers charging lots of different devices from lots of different vendors, then we need a standard so that they all work well together.
Bogus Tech Support and a Statistical Rorschach Test
I finally got the call.
My phone rang, and the caller at the other end said, “This is Microsoft Technical Support. We’ve detected—”. I cut him off right there. “No, you’re not. You’re a %&@# scammer and should be in jail,” and hung up on him. (I sometimes miss old telephones where you could slam down the receiver.)
I’d heard about this scam before, where someone claims to be from Microsoft (it’s never Dell or Lenovo or Samsung) offering to help you clean up “infections” they’ve somehow detected on your computer. All you have to do is visit their helpful website and download their remote diagnostic tool… You can guess what mischief transpires from there.
Reference Kits Abstract the Details
New technology follows an arc. If it’s something really new and different, then it typically starts with an inspiration or an insight into how to do something really hard. The focus of all effort is then on doing whatever hard thing makes the New Technology possible.
Users of the New Technology tend to be early adopters – folks that can take a novel data sheet, figure out what it all means, and design whatever is necessary to integrate the New Thing into a system.
For sensors, you might imagine the original ur-sensors (many, many years ago) as providing only analog data. And the sensor maker is heads-down perfecting how that data is acquired, how accurate it is, and how stable and resilient the sensor is. Everything else – converting the data
How Much Better Does “Better” Have To Be?
Let’s say you’re shopping for a new car. (Congratulations.) You head down to your town’s Auto Row and start browsing all the dealerships. There’s the Ford dealer; next door is the Toyota dealer. Across the street you see the BMW dealer, the Chevy dealer, the Kia/Hyundai dealer, and so on. They all make fine cars, and you spend some time at each place, kicking the tires and slamming the doors.
Then, down at the very end of the street, you notice something different. There, under the overpass, is a man living in a cardboard box, holding up a hand-made sign that says, “Dmitiri’s Cars.” He gestures you over.
New Technologies Raise New Fears
Two news items made the rounds last week. Both involved hacking, and both are (probably) bogus. I think the news says more about us as users of technology than it does about the technology itself.
First, bloggers were wringing their hands over the planned wind-down of Windows XP. After 13 years, it’s time for XP to ride off into the sunset, and so Microsoft warned users that it would stop developing new fixes and new patches for XP. No big deal, right?
Within hours of each other, nearly a dozen different blogs were keening about security risks at bank ATMs. Seems many, if not most, of the automated teller machines installed in the U.S. use Windows XP as their operating system. (You’d never know it, because the user interface is covered by bank-branded replacements.) “ATMs