I Brick Your Chip

Driver Update Disables Counterfeit Chips

by Jim Turley

It sounds like something out of a spy thriller. A piece of security software, masquerading as a routine driver update, sniffs out enemy chips and terminates them with extreme prejudice. There is no fix; the chip, and everything it’s connected to, is bricked.

Sneaky, huh? And not really all that hard to implement. With nearly everything connected “to the cloud,” it’s easy to insert new software remotely. And we’re all accustomed to downloading and installing new drivers every few weeks, so there’s nothing suspicious that would tip anyone off.

Except…

The case this week involves FTDI, a company that makes popular and inexpensive USB-interface chips. You’ve probably got one inside some device nearby, or you’ve used FTDI chips in your own designs.

 

First Responder Robots and Virtual Prototypes

Carbon’s New Virtual Prototype Portal and UDG’s New Smart Robot

by Amelia Dalton

What’s the difference between a human and a pile of rocks? A robot algorithm (of course)! In this week’s episode of Fish Fry, we check out a new robot being developed at the University of Guadalajara that utilizes a pattern recognition algorithm to determine the silhouette of a human body. Also this week, we talk about the trials and tribulations of SoC design with Bill Neifert of Carbon Design Systems. Bill and I discuss Carbon's focus on the automatic creation of RTL-accurate models for integration into SoC designs and how you can make your IP configuration options a whole bunch easier.

 

Grabbing Keys Out of Thin Air

Rambus’s AES Crypto IP Resists DPA Attacks

by Jim Turley

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

You have got to be kidding me. I mean, I’m an engineer. I know how stuff works. And you’re telling me you can somehow snag my computer’s encryption keys out of thin air? No way. No. @%$#-ing. Way.

Way.

I’ve seen it happen. I didn’t believe it at first, but there’s nothing quite like a live demonstration to make you a convert. It’s time to stock up on tinfoil hats. Here’s the background: Practically every computer, cell phone, tablet, cable TV decoder, satellite box, smartcard, modern passport, or other gizmo uses encryption in some way.

 

Hello Rubber, Meet Road

Valencell’s Biometric Testing Takes IoT Out for a Spin

by Amelia Dalton

This here twin-turbo EEJournal.com podcastin’ hot rod is headed to the IoT finish line - one biometric at a time. In this week’s Fish Fry, we investigate biometric data sensors and how one company is making sure that our fitness is actually what we think it is. My guest is Valencell President Steven LeBoeuf. Steven and I are going to chat about the future of the wearable market, precision biometrics, Valencell’s new state-of-the-art sports testing lab, and a little bit about professional cartooning. Get your wearable motor runnin' folks!

 

Return News Roundup

Power, Sensors, Clock Trees, Multicore and Compression Algorithms

by Dick Selwood

September, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is often seen as the real start of the year. Companies are returning from their summer holidays and revving up with new promotional activities and, particularly in even numbered years in Europe, starting to work towards the huge techno-fest that is electronica in Munich in November. Now this may be a very interesting observation, but why is this relevant? Well, in the last few weeks, I have been exposed to a raft of interesting things, many of which would be worth a whole article in their own right, but, given the limitations of space and time, I have decided to bundle together several different stories from across a wide spectrum of electronics.

Power supplies

Much of what is written in the electronics media concentrates on digital chips and their design and manufacture. We are probably as guilty as most in focusing on these areas, but, after designs have been implemented in these ever-more-challenging process nodes, the chips have to go onto a board, and then they require power.

 

Do-It-Yourself Linux Machine

Synopsys ARC HS38 Processor Has An Embarrassment of Options

by Jim Turley

It’s a good month for microprocessor aficionados, what with the new Cortus twins, the MIPS I6400, AMD’s Hierofalcon, and now Synopsys’s ARC HS38. There’s still some differentiation to be had in this market.

Followers of Synopsys know that the EDA company acquired ARC, the CPU-design firm, several years ago and folded the CPU IP into its DesignWare library system. Indeed, the processor cores are branded as DesignWare, reflecting the reality that ARC processors are more like a design tool than a traditional CPU core. That’s because ARC processors are user-defined. You can add and subtract registers, create your own instructions, invent new condition codes, bolt on in-house coprocessors, and more. Every ARC processor has the capability to be unique and oh-so-finely tuned to its intended application, a feature that many developers really like. It must be working: ARC cores have appeared in 1.5 billion chips just in this year alone.

 

New Chips are HIPP

A Modest Proposal for a New Name

by Kevin Morris

It’s time to speak up for the silent, to give a voice to the voiceless, to defend the downtrodden. Today is the day for action - for the engineering community to unite and right a wrong. We need to come to the aid of a technology in need, to give a name to the nameless. History is watching and will judge us by how we handle this epic dilemma.

I was giving a talk at an FPGA-related technology event recently, and the discussions in the room turned to the new category of devices that combine conventional processors with FPGA fabric on the same chip (or in the same package). These devices, like Xilinx Zynq, Altera SoC FPGAs, and others truly represent a new category of chips. While putting an FPGA next to a conventional processor is nothing new, there are major advantages to combining them into a single device that brings compelling new capabilities to the table.

 

Shootout at the MEMS Corral

MEMS Executive Congress 2014 Preview

by Amelia Dalton

This week's Fish Fry celebrates the wild west of electronics - MEMS and sensor-based technology. Ridin' shotgun with me is none other than Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group. Karen gives us a special sneak peek into the upcoming 10th annual MEMS Executive Congress. I do hope you have your spurs locked on tight, your saddle equipped with the newest context-aware sensors, and your o-scope spit cleaned and polished. We're riding straight into the MEMS corral. This may get messy...

 

Is It Time for Post-ARM Already?

New APS23 and APS25 Processors Designed for “Third Wave” of Computing Devices

by Jim Turley

If you could sell 700 million units of the product you’re designing right now, would that be a success?

Seven hundred million is a big number. That’s about the total number of cars sold by all the automakers in the world combined over the past ten years. Or more than double the number of copies of Windows 8, or the number of hamburgers McDonald’s flips out in four months. As I said, a big number.

You’d think that any company responsible for such impressive product movement would be well known, right? Especially if it’s a microprocessor company? We must be talking about Intel or ARM or Freescale or Renesas?

Keep guessing.

The responsible party is a 28-person group in Montpellier, France, overlooking the blue Mediterranean. They make a 32-bit CPU for low-power devices. It’s synthesizable. It’s licensed as IP. It’s used in a lot of mobile and handheld devices.

 

Skynet Calling

Liquid Metal, Communication Protocols, and Embedded MCUs

by Amelia Dalton

We all know it's coming. It's only a matter of time. Skynet is close at hand. This week's Fish Fry takes a look at a new study released by the University of North Carolina that has made reconfigurable metal a reality. But, before we can build Skynet (or build the counter-revolutionary forces led by the one and only John Connor) we must be able to connect the IoT communication dots. Today's episode also examines two of the many building blocks needed to get this sci-fi plot line from fantasy to fact. We chat with John Beal and Artem Aginskiy about a new RF-enhanced embedded microcontroller family from Texas Instruments (SimpleLink) and TI's C5000 fixed-point DSP products.

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