editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Building Better Wizards

Wizards are becoming more and more prevalent. Lest you’re concerned that Dumbledore’s relatives are coming to exact revenge, fear not: we speak here of wizards in the GUI (as opposed to gooey) sense. Yes, there are bastions of holdouts that cling to command line interfaces as a measure of their hacker bona fides, but there are solid reasons to like a well-designed wizard.

And “well-designed” is the operative phrase here. You may think of a wizard as no more than a way to simplify processes that could just as effectively be done using the command line if only you were boss enough to remember all the arcane intentionally-obscure commands required to get stuff done. And in some cases, such automation is the goal. But the potential goes beyond that: it’s an opportunity for a world-view transformation.

This is a favorite old topic of mine, but it was refreshed for me while watching a Movea SmartFusion Studio demo: when assembling a sensor fusion algorithm, a wide variety of filters are made available. And I thought, “How do you know which filter to pick??”

Now, you could easily argue that, if you don’t know your filters, then you have no business getting involved in sensor fusion. Perhaps. But really, a designer is interested in a behavior, not necessarily in knowing the details of how that behavior is implemented in some specific algorithm or circuit.

This became really clear to me several years ago on a consulting project where I was designing and prototyping a wizard for a piece of communication IP. The IP was very flexible, so there were lots of options that the user, who would be a system designer, could tweak. The obvious first approach to the wizard was simply to provide option fields for the user to fill in.

Being a communication protocol, it had FIFOs for elasticity; the user could dial up how big those FIFOs were to be. So I put a text field there for the size of the FIFO. But I asked the designers of the IP, “How should the user figure out how big the FIFO should be?” My first thought was that this information would be useful in the user manual. (Stop laughing… I’m sure someone reads those…)

They answered that the user would decide how many packets they wanted to buffer; that and the selectable packet size would determine the FIFO size. Simple enough.

But then I thought, “Wait, why are we making the user of this wizard do some paper-and-pencil calculations before going back to the computer? What if, instead of asking for the FIFO size, we asked for the number of packets?” The wizard already had the packet size somewhere else, so it then had all the information needed to calculate the FIFO size. No paper or pencil required.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Jul 3, 2020
[From the last episode: We looked at CNNs for vision as well as other neural networks for other applications.] We'€™re going to take a quick detour into math today. For those of you that have done advanced math, this may be a review, or it might even seem to be talking down...
Jul 2, 2020
Using the bitwise operators in general, and employing them to perform masking operations in particular, can be extremely efficacious....
Jul 2, 2020
In June, we continued to upgrade several key pieces of content across the website, including more interactive product explorers on several pages and a homepage refresh. We also made a significant update to our product pages which allows logged-in users to see customer-specifi...

Featured Video

Product Update: DesignWare® TCAM IP -- Synopsys

Sponsored by Synopsys

Join Rahul Thukral in this discussion on TCAMs, including performance and power considerations. Synopsys TCAMs are used in networking and automotive applications as they are low-risk, production-proven, and meet automotive requirements.

Click here for more information about DesignWare Foundation IP: Embedded Memories, Logic Libraries & GPIO

Featured Paper

Cryptography: How It Helps in Our Digital World

Sponsored by Maxim Integrated

Gain a basic understanding of how cryptography works and how cryptography can help you protect your designs from security threats.

Click here to download the whitepaper

Featured Chalk Talk

TensorFlow to RTL with High-Level Synthesis

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

Bridging the gap from the AI and data science world to the RTL and hardware design world can be challenging. High-level synthesis (HLS) can provide a mechanism to get from AI frameworks like TensorFlow into synthesizable RTL, enabling the development of high-performance inference architectures. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Dave Apte of Cadence Design Systems about doing AI design with HLS.

More information