The World According to FRAM

TI’s FRAM MCUs and ADI’s X-fest Demos

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, we take a fast tour of the world, with interesting stops in FRAM, high-speed ADCs, and remote RF transceivers. Don’t know what FRAM is? Fear not. Will Cooper from Texas Instruments tells us all about this amazing not-so-new non-volatile memory technology, which is really cool - even if I don’t quite agree with his basketball loyalties. Then we’re off to analog land with Robin Getz from Analog Devices where we chat about remote RF transceivers, high-speed ADCs, motor control demos, and a whole lot more. Check it out!

 

Cheap Chips

ASICs for the Rest of Us

by Dick Selwood

We all know the story: ASIC starts are falling as the costs of the design tools, the mask sets and the manufacturing process are all going through the roof. Don't even think about starting an ASIC design unless your budget is measured in millions of dollars. The development process is going to require a large team of engineers. The only way you can make money with an ASIC is to sell many hundreds of thousands of devices, and that normally implies consumer markets. But ASICs take months to years of development – a development cycle that can be longer than the product life of a consumer product, which is typically measured only in months.

But over the last few weeks, I have been talking to people who will happily talk about ASICs that cost only tens of thousands of dollars to design and begin to manufacture, and have a return on investment measured in months. How come there is such a huge difference?

 

Assault on Batteries

The Internet of Things is Going to Need a Lot of Juice

by Jim Turley

I had dinner with a real venture capitalist the other evening, and lived to tell about it. I can’t tell you everything we discussed that night (wink, wink), but I can say that we had a good talk about batteries. No, really.

The VC in question is a partner at one of the primo Sand Hill Road firms and, as usual, he was the smartest guy in the room. Or at least, at my table. The conversation ranged from food, to wine, to rusty cars, to a recent acquisition by Apple. He talks very fast, uses his hands a lot, and compulsively checks his phone during lulls in the conversation. I guess if I could make (or lose) millions of dollars on one call, I’d check my messages a lot, too.

 

Driving Innovation

Model-based Design and Physics-based Acceleration

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, we're taking the wheel, putting the pedal to the metal, and riding off into the EE sunset. My first co-pilot in the Fish Fry bucket seat is Noam Levine. Noam navigates us to a special place called Model-based Design. We discuss how this design methodology can help move your next design into the fast lane where you might even bypass a prototyping stage or two. Next up in our fast flying EE road trip is a saunter down Semiconductor Lane with Tom Flynn of Coventor. Tom and I investigate physics-based acceleration and check out how you can get your MEMS motor running in zero-to-sixty.

 

The Price of Ignorance

Let’s Get Rich Selling Overpriced Electronics!

by Jim Turley

Apparently, $48,000 speaker wire is a real thing. You can also find $5,000 boxes for “cleansing” the AC power going into your audio gear. (Be sure to order the $1000 power cord to go with it.) Just the thing to complement the $15,000 granite turntable for your old vinyl records.

Audiophiles must be real idiots. And rich idiots – the best kind.

You can now get “oxygen free” speaker wire with gold-plated contacts, carbon fiber ends, several layers of shielding, and your choice of clockwise or counterclockwise twist (for your left and right speakers, obviously). All for the price of a Porsche.

 

Data-Centric IoT Messaging

A Look at Key DDS Characteristics

by Bryon Moyer

The internet of things (IoT) is all about sensor data and communications. It involves some entity taking the data it receives, making some complex (or even simple) calculations, and then making decisions for the purposes of control or informing someone or something. Of course, there’s more than one way to do this.

The consumer IoT (CIoT) is all about sending the data – probably from your phone or wearable gadget, but, in the future, from various appliances in your home or elsewhere – up to the cloud, which acts as the brain of the system. It’s centralized and hierarchical.

 

Lean Green Energy Harvesting Machine

PMICs and Biofuel Micro Trigeneration

by Amelia Dalton

In the venerable words of Kermit the Frog, "It's not that easy being green", but in this week's Fish Fry we're going to show you that being green may be getting a whole lot easier. We examine a new Micro Trigeneration Prototyping system coming out of the University of Newcastle that aims to cool, heat, and provide electricity to your home using unprocessed plant oils. Tom Sparkman (Spansion) and I also explore Spansion's super green new family of power management integrated circuits for energy harvesting targeted at the IoT market.

 

iWatch, You Speculate Incessantly

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

I held out as long possible before writing anything iWatch related. The irony is that I am iFatigued with everyone iGuessing about an iUnnanounced product, and yet here I am contributing to the noise. ¡iCaramba! The proverbial last straw: I read a piece comparing Microsoft’s unannounced wearable to Apple’s unannounced wearable. OMG.

And AFTER deciding to write this piece—but before I could start—another piece appeared with the declarative headline “Here’s Everything We Know About the iWatch.” And because I cannot make up stuff this good, apparently the things we KNOW include:

 

The Bozo Coefficient

Why Everyone Around You Is An Idiot

by Jim Turley

If you sit and watch a busy street for any length of time, you’ll see a surprising number of bone-headed drivers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians. People walk straight into lampposts because they’re staring down at their phones. Drivers pull U-turns in the middle of traffic, run red lights, or head the wrong way down a one-way street. And bicyclists – especially those ones with Spandex logowear – weave in and out, oblivious to all traffic laws, as well as to basic self-preservation.

When did the world get populated with such bozos?

It has been ever thus. You and I sit at the far right edge of the Gaussian distribution (that’s “bell curve” for the less mathematically minded) for intelligence, right? Those other people? Not so much. It takes a lot of below-average people to average-out the better examples of humanity such as ourselves.

 

FPGA Fiesta!

Lattice's iCE40 Ultra and Xilinx at
X-fest 2014

by Amelia Dalton

Bienvenido a Fish Fry! Welcome to this week’s field programmable Fish Frying festivities. First to join the podcastin' party is Joy Wrigley from Lattice Semiconductor. Joy and I discuss how FPGAs are breaking into the IoT scene and why low power will make all the difference in tomorrow’s mobile designs. Joining the fun next is Barrie Mullins from Xilinx. Barrie and I chat about how Vivado is playing a bigger role in this year's X-fest and why this conference isn't just for FPGA designers.

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