Fitting the Tool to the Job

by Dick Selwood

Names are strange, and programming language names can be even stranger. Given the thousands of languages that exist, it is inevitable that there are some strange ones out there. ENGLISH was a good name for what turned out to be a non-runner, and “The Last One” was a click-and-point code-generator, generating BASIC (one of the last of the acronym language names.) I have a weakness for the wacky - Python, for example was named after Monty Python’s Flying Circus – but also like the elegance of naming a language after a pioneer. occam was named after a fourteenth century philosopher, and while we still wait for a language called Grace or Hopper, the homage to Ada, Countess Lovelace, is still pleasing. By coincidence the 2009 Ada Conference UK was on Ada Lovelace Day (March 24th) – a day that celebrates women in technology and aims to encourage more women to enter technological roles. This seemed a good opportunity to look at some of the latest developments in Ada.

 

Incremental Synthesis

by Darren Zacher, Mentor Graphics

Hardware designers are a proud and detail-oriented group that takes great personal pride in the product of its efforts. Many engineers are drawn to hardware design—rather than, say, software work—to give their detail-oriented nature room to thrive. As early as their first freshman lab exercises, budding hardware designers learn that a software bug can easily be fixed by editing a text file and recompiling (though admittedly those who learned during the punch-card era may disagree with this attitude). But a hardware design error can be far more costly to one’s social schedule. A hardware design flaw might mean completely re-doing a wire wrap board instead of enjoying that Friday night trip to the pub. Suffice to say, lessons about the importance of up-front validation are strongly reinforced from the very beginning. Shared experiences like these have spawned a culture of thoroughness and pride in quality among hardware designers.

 

Preaching to the Choir

Proselytizing Programmable Logic

by Kevin Morris

The faithful are easy.

An FPGA company rolls out a new line and the bragging begins: "More LUTs, increased Fmax, Shorter PnR runs, faster MGTs!"

The faithful are impressed: "Yes! Tell us more! Have you increased the LUT width? Added more FF's to your LEs? Diversified your mix of hardened IP blocks? Increased the BRAM ratio? "

(The Faithful talk like that most of the time - all acrimoniously acronymic, feasting in their insider insight, devouring the minutiae with reckless abandon, disdainfully dismissing the unwashed masses.)

The rest of the world, however, is less easily amused: "FGP- what? Can I make a digital camera out of one? Or is this a new name for the LPGA? What's a LUT?"

 

Like Flash, But Different

by Jim Turley

As status symbols go, memory chips are about as low as you can get. Even in the nerdy world of embedded chips and software, memories are low on sex appeal, low on differentiation, and low on most designers’ list of interesting devices. They are, in a word, generic.

So what’s new and exciting in the world of embedded memories? Uh... nothing, really. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile reexamining your assumptions about memory and memory types. There’s a decades-old memory technology that perhaps has been overlooked for too long.

 

The Twitter of Things?

Developments in Embedded WiFi

by Bryon Moyer

The internet has been a massive game-changer for humanity. It started as a way for people to get information, then a quicker way to communicate, then a way to do business. And now… well, perhaps we’ve come full circle back to getting information. But it’s become clear that there is such a thing as too much information. Thanks to ubiquitous access to the many ways of keeping in touch with those people whom you know are interested in your every move, your every thought, your every… synaptic firing, we can all practically live in each other’s brains.

We can now know when you started breakfast, what you had for breakfast, whether you liked it, when you finished, and whether you cleaned the dishes after or just put them in a heap for later. We could, if you wanted, receive a record of every chew. We know when you’re excited, when you’re bored, when the weather is great, when you trimmed that carbuncle, when that ingrown hair started festering, when you learned that… well, it might just get to be a bit more than we need. But as far as you’re concerned, we’re all just dying to hear all this stuff.

 

Building ‘Image Format Conversion’ Designs for Broadcast Systems

by Suhel Dhanani & Girish Malipeddi, Altera Corporation

Image format conversion is commonly implemented within various broadcast infrastructure systems such as servers, switchers, head-end encoders, and specialty studio displays.

At the basic level, the need for image format conversion is driven by the multitude of input image formats that must be converted to high definition (HD) or a different resolution before being stored, encoded, or displayed.

The broadcast infrastructure is a fragmented market with every vendor having slightly different ‘image format conversion’ requirements – be it the number of channels, the output resolution, progressive vs. interlaced image processing, etc. Also different characteristics are important within different sub-segments. While overall delay is very important in switcher applications, latency is a key factor for displays and video-conferencing systems. Server system requirements are more about image quality and have a higher priority than latency.


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