Black Helicopters

The Career-Limiting Blame Trap

by Kevin Morris

John had been working for almost six weeks on a single part of the design persistence code. He had made no discernable progress. His original estimate for the project had been “2-3 days.” As John’s manager, and as the engineering manager responsible for the timely delivery of our project, I needed to do something. I stopped by John’s office for a visit.

“They want us to use an OODB,” John stated flatly. “It won’t work.”

I was confused. I knew the project inside and out. Our team, ten software engineers including John, had worked out the plans together, in our own conference room, on our own white board. There had been no mention of an OODB at any point in that process. The planning documents - sketchy as they were - that we had jointly developed during those meetings - made no reference to any specific implementation details.

 

Analog Breakthrough?

Pulsic Automates Analog Layout

by Bryon Moyer

You are now entering the “It can’t be done” zone. But, at least for the moment, I’ll ask that you relax that axiom, even if only slightly, to something less absolute, like “We’re pretty sure it can’t be done.”

That’s because we are approaching the Holy of Holies, Mystery of Mysteries, Most Unapproachable of That Which is Unapproachable: analog design automation.

Before we dive in, let’s set up the contrasts first by revisiting the highly automated world of digital design. Heck, digital designers practically don’t need to know what a transistor looks like. They can specify their logic in text format, send that into a toolchain, and voilà: a completed layout.

 

chipKITs™ and JPEGs

IP in Space and Open Source Board Buildin’

by Amelia Dalton

It's time to break out the sparklers, an arc welder or two, and your best space suit - Fish Fry is here to celebrate! We're ringing in Fish Fry's 100th podcast episode with an ode to two of our favorite subjects: open source embedded system development and photos from from the Mars Rover. First up, Marc McComb (Microchip) introduces us to the chipKIT™ Platform. Marc and I jump feet first into the chipKIT™ platform ecosystem and check out what this open source platform is all about. Also this week, Fish Fry welcomes Nikos Zervas, of COO CAST, Inc. Nikos brings us some interesting details about how CAST IP found itself in the Mars Rover and (with the help of CAST's JPEG Encoder IP) why our view of the Red Planet will never be the same.

We're giving away five PIXI kits (courtesy of Maxim Integrated Products) but you'll have to listen to the podcast to find out how to enter to win!

 

IoT Needs Better B&Bs

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

While top-flight bed & breakfasts would no doubt do a world of good for many IoT developers, the “B&B” in the title refers to BANDWIDTH and BATTERIES. Given all the ink spilled on IoT, these are two topics that do not receive the attention they deserve. The third important yet underserved topic is IoT security, and that will get a separate article of its own.

IoT bandwidth falls into the growing category of “challenges that need to be solved, and the sooner the better.” Many IoT devices rely on Bluetooth (BT), which will work until it doesn’t and that point is rapidly approaching. BT was invented and has evolved as a reasonable solution for a personal area network (PAN). The prime use model is your mobile phone and earpiece, heart-rate monitor, fitness band, cycling cadence-speed sensor, smartwatch, and the like.

 

Crossbar RRAM Tweaks Nonvolatile Memory

Unique Resistive Technology Set to Challenge NAND Flash

by Jim Turley

I gotta say, memory chips are boring.

And that’s coming from a guy who lives and works in the chip business. Sure, I can get all excited about microprocessor chips. I can generally keep my eyes open through a discussion of interface chips. I’ve even been known to nod occasionally when the topic turns to cryptography chips. But memory? Give me some toothpicks for my eyelids.

But out in the real world of non-technical humanoids, “memory chip” is about the only semiconductor-related phrase that average people know. They pick it up from TV, movies, and science-fiction shows, I assume, and are given to understand that “memory banks” are something the bad guys hack. Those old enough to remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey recall that HAL’s memory was stored in something that looked like clear-glass audio cassette cases. Sigh.

 

Combatting Complexity

From Intelligent Design to Evolution in Engineering

by Kevin Morris

I once had a colleague who defined a “system” as “the thing one level of complexity higher than you can understand.”

I always thought there was a bit of profound insight in that definition.

We humans have a finite capacity for understanding, and that capacity does not benefit from the bounty of Moore’s Law. Our brains don’t magically think twice as fast every two years, or have the capacity to consider exponentially more factors each decade. Our limited brains also don’t compensate well for the layer upon layer of encapsulated engineering accomplishments of our predecessors. Even comparatively simple examples of modern technology can be deceptively complex - perhaps more complex than a single human brain can fully comprehend.


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