When Eight Is Enough

Microchip's 8-bit Challenge

by Amelia Dalton

There is a common assumption that innovation cannot be inspired in the world of 8-bit microcontrollers. If that is the case, then why haven’t they disappeared like the telegraph or the 8-track tape? Perhaps it's because we still need them and sometimes they are just what the doctor (or engineer as the case may be) ordered. In this week’s Fish Fry, I check out some cool new 8-bit MCUs from Microchip Technology with Greg Robinson (VP - Microchip Technology) and we dive down into the guts of these new 8-bit masterpieces - from the intelligent analog features to the digital pin placement capabilities. Also this week, we investigate how Israeli start-up StoreDot plans to revolutionize battery technology. (Hint: It includes chemically synthesized bio-organic peptide molecules!)

 

Freescale Goes Nuts for ARM

New Kinetis Families and a Major Acquisition Equal 900+ Parts

by Jim Turley

They say change is good, so Freescale must be the best microprocessor company in the whole world.

What hasn’t this company done? It’s change its name, changed its processor architecture(s), changed its financial structure, changed its management (repeatedly), and totally reorganized its product lines, business units, and development structure. In between, I’m sure they’ve changed the office wallpaper and the filter in the break-room coffee maker. I remember sitting down to a meeting with some Freescale marketing types. They glanced across the table at my hand-scribbled org chart of their company and asked politely, “Could we have a copy of that, please?” Seems they were as confused about the company’s structure as I was.

 

Hard Hats in Place

EELive! Part 2: Safety-Critical Systems

by Amelia Dalton

On the heels of Michael Barr’s keynote at EELive this year - "KILLER APPS: Embedded Software's Greatest Hit Jobs," this week's Fish Fry takes a closer look at embedded software for safety-critical systems. At the helm is Jim McElroy - VP at LDRA. Jim and I discuss the challenges of designing safety-critical embedded systems, and Jim explains where LDRA fits into the embedded software ecosystem. He also gives us the low down on why Boston Baked Beans get a bad wrap. (Spoiler: According to Jim, they totally deserve it.) I also give everyone a sneak peek at EE Journal’s brand new “On the Scene" video blog, and I lay out my revolutionary plans to restore the Embedded Systems Conference to its former glory. (Second Spoiler: They absolutely will not use my idea.)

 

New Approaches to Old Problems

A Hot DATE in Dresden

by Dick Selwood

The Dresden conference centre was designed to represent a stark modern contrast to the restored Baroque buildings of the old town of Dresden. For some reason, the architects decided to build a curved building with one floor on a slope, cutting through other, flat, floors. The entrance is up a long flight of stairs, exposed to the wind and rain blowing across the river Elbe. The conference rooms are all provided with wonderful glass walls overlooking the river, which have to be blacked out if you want to be able to see the information projected onto the screen.

However, it is the the main conference venue for Silicon Saxony, a “cluster” of high tech companies ranging from semiconductor manufacturers Global Foundries and Infineon to a wide range of supporting and related businesses: over 300 companies are part of the network. And it is where, in alternate years, the academic community engaged in EDA make their spring pilgrimage to the DATE Conference.

 

Attack of the Tiny Terrors

Microchip’s Small, Cheap PIC16 MCUs Prove There’s Life in 8-bitters

by Jim Turley

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the lab…

The chip designers at Microchip must have a lot of time on their hands. Either that, or the company keeps several design teams working in parallel. Whatever the process, these guys keep cranking out new microcontrollers faster than we can keep track of them.

Exhibit A is the new batch of 8-bit (sort of) MCUs called the PIC16something-or-other. There’s no point in trying to memorize Microchip’s part numbers because they never make any sense anyway. Like Mercedes-Benz, the company long ago passed the point where the naming system follows any rational progression. But if you’re doing a Google search, you’ll want to look up PIC16F1703 through PIC16F1719, or PIC16LF1703–19. Oh, never mind.

 

Security, Safety, and IoT

Tales of the 2014 EELive Conference and Expo

by Amelia Dalton

We stormed the gates. We took no prisoners. Electronic engineering conferences will never be the same. EE Journal scoured this year's EELive Conference and Expo to bring you the the biggest trends, the coolest demonstrations, the best giveaways -- and this is just the beginning. In this week's Fish Fry, my guest is Matt Osminer, Director of Engineering at Cardinal Peak and the presenter of a special presentation at EELive called "Best Management and Technical Practices for Engineering an IoT Product". Michael and I chat about the unique challenges of designing connected products and investigate how (and why) management practices play a big role in designing for IoT. Also this week, I announce my top five highlights of this year's show - including details of Michael Barr's scary Tuesday keynote, some sugary delights at the Fantastical Theatre of Engineering Innovation and more.

 

Exposed by Tools

The Dark Side of Reporting Features

by Bryon Moyer

Do you like to be watched while you work?

Most people don’t. There’s this fine line between making sure that stakeholders know about your progress on a project and having those stakeholders all up in your business all the time. The latter is micromanagement, and no one likes that.

More and more EDA tools are being provisioned with management and reporting features. These make it easier for you as a designer to let your supervisor or project manager know what you’ve accomplished and what remains – and you spend less time writing up those annoying status reports.

 

Ray-Tracing Wizard Requires Imagination

New PowerVR GPU Includes Ray-Tracing Hardware

by Jim Turley

Ray tracing is one of those cool things that computer geeks often play with at some point in their careers. I fiddled with ray-tracing software a number of years ago and decided that (a) it was pretty cool technology, and (b) I was no good at it.

If you’re not into graphics, “ray tracing” is a way of producing computer graphics by mathematically calculating how rays of light would actually bounce around a scene if it were real. That is, instead of a graphic artist drawing the scene on his/her computer, you instead model the scene and let physics take its course. Got a desk over here, a few walls over there, and some sunlight coming through the window? Splendid. Let the ray-tracing software take over and it will tell you how the scene appears.

 

Augmented Reality

A Compelling Mobile Embedded Vision Opportunity

by Tom Wilson, Brian Dipert, Marco Jacobs, Tim Droz

The prior article in this series, "Embedded Vision on Mobile Devices: Opportunities and Challenges," introduced various embedded vision applications that could be implemented on smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile electronics systems (Reference 1). In this and future articles, we'll delve into greater implementation detail on each of the previously discussed applications. Specifically, this article will examine the processing requirements for vision-based tracking in AR (augmented reality), along with the ability of mobile platforms to address these requirements. Future planned articles in the series will explore face recognition, gesture interfaces and other applications.

Computer graphics pioneer Ivan Sutherland established the basic concepts of AR as known today in his seminal 1968 paper “A Head-Mounted Three Dimensional Display” (Reference 2). Sutherland wrote, “The fundamental idea is to present the user with a perspective image which changes as he moves.

 

High Speed Converters, Nanowires, and our Smarter Life

by Amelia Dalton

This week's Fish Fry is a feast of EE awesomeness but don't just take our word for it. Pull up a chair and dig in! First, we'll whet your appetite with some unique research from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science. We check out how a team of researchers from KAIST hope to stem the tide of counterfeit parts, one silver nanowire fingerprint at a time. Next, we toast the winners of Newark element14's Smarter Life Challenge with Dianne Kibbey (element14). Dianne tells us about the winning projects from this years contest and gives us a tasty sneak peek into element14's next design contest. To finish off this week's episode, we serve up some sweet analog-to-digital conversion with high speed converters. The dinner bell is ringin' - it's time for Fish Fry.

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