Rambus’s AES Crypto IP Resists DPA Attacks
“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.
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.
Synopsys ARC HS38 Processor Has An Embarrassment of Options
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.
Decoding Some of the Bizarreness That Is Photonics
It’s coming to a piece of silicon near you.
You may not create it; you may remain microns away from it. But there’s a good chance that, someday, it will be on your chip. And you might want to know something about it, because it will be your neighbor.
Exactly who is moving into your ‘hood? Just a few bizarre-looking circuits. Ones that look nothing like the circuits you’re used to. At all.
That’s because they don’t conduct electricity; they conduct light. We’re talking silicon photonics* here. And there’s been talk about it for a while, but, I don’t know, it feels to me like we’re starting to near the time when this becomes a reality for commercial chips. Call it a hunch.
My senses were first jarred when I saw some of the components used in a photonic circuit. They. Made. No. Sense. Whatsoever. So I’ve been doing some poking around, trying to figure stuff out based on the rather extensive amount of research on the web.
“Holey Graphene” Stores More Energy in Less Space
There’s this meeting of technologies subtly underway. On one side we have batteries, which store more energy. On the other, we have supercaps, which deliver higher power. As we’ve mentioned in the past, technology seems to be evolving to bring the two together, blurring the distinction. The best combination is one of high energy storage and high power, and, while we’re not necessarily there yet, a team at UCLA has published some results for a supercapacitor with storage properties approaching that of a lead-acid battery.
First, though, a couple of figures of merit. Absolute energy capacity and power are important, but they can be applied only to a given supercap or battery. A bigger unit will store more energy, for example. There are two measures for evaluating the storage capacity normalized for either weight or size, generically known as the specific capacitance, and they’re properties of the energy-storing material.
Hierofalcon Processor Does Pretty Much What It’s Supposed To
I really wanted to like this chip. But then I talked to the manufacturer.
Let me explain. Your humble servants here at Electronic Engineering Journal talk to a lot of people at a lot of different companies. That’s what we do. The vendors tell us about their whizzy new chip, or new software, or new business venture, or whatever. We listen politely at first, knowing that the vendor will – quite rightly – present the product in its best possible light. That’s their job.
Now, if we were working for some other publications or online journals I could name, we’d just print whatever the vendor told us. “New chip promises to revolutionize Internet of Things!” or “Software update is a game-changer!” or “Company reveals new product and you’ll never guess what happens next!” We’ve all seen those types of breathless (and brainless) headlines. But here at EEJ we like to do a little better. That’s our job.
What Does the Future Hold for the Semiconductor Industry?
When I looked at the forecasts from London-based analysis company Future Horizons this time last year (Malcolmy: Entrails, Crystal Balls and Spreadsheets), I saw that they predicted that, while short-term (through 2014) sales volumes were set to increase, the long-term future of the industry was looking a little less than rosy. A year on, the picture Malcolm Penn, the MD of Future Horizons, is painting is much the same, with the pessimism for the long term even more marked.
First - the good news: Penn has revised upwards his forecast for the number of ICs shipping. His downside forecast shows growth of 9.8% and his upside predicts growth of 11.2%. For 2015 he is going for 15% growth, perhaps more.
Foundation Aims to Prevent MIPS Fragmentation
If a microprocessor is nothing but a machine that executes software, then it’s probably important to make sure that all of the machines are compatible with all of the software. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.
Some CPU families have a long and storied history of binary compatibility. Intel’s x86 architecture comes to mind, because of its slavish devotion to binary compatibility dating back to the 1970s. Love it or hate it, at least you know that every x86 processor ever made will run any x86 program ever written. It’s a huge burden to bear, lugging all of that ‘70s-era baggage around, but it’s also one of the architecture’s greatest strengths.
A Tribology Triumph
The world has seen a ton of MEMS devices built in the last few years. Of course, MEMS technology has been around for decades, but it’s really been the ability to fabricate cheaply, coupled with high-volume applications, that has driven the more recent surge.
While MEMS devices have historically been built out of many different substances, the “fabricate cheaply” thing comes partly from the ability to use silicon – either etching the pieces out of the wafer (bulk micro-machining) or depositing films onto silicon and etching those (surface micro-machining).
I never noticed this, but it turns out that, as nice as silicon can be, there are certain kinds of mechanical interactions you don’t really see. You see bending, expansion/shrinkage, movement in proximity (like interdigitated fingers), and vibration, for instance, but we never get to see any hot silicon-on-silicon action. You know, where one part literally slides across another or rotates in contact with a surface or rubs in some other way. Largely because, well, it would be too hot. Among other problems.
Designing Code, Breaking Code, and the Verification in Between
Like the venerable Kenny Rogers once said, “You have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…” In the verification game, much is the same. You have to know how to make the code, and you have to know how to break it. In this week’s Fish Fry, David Hsu (Synopsys) joins us to discuss the challenges of static verification and formal verification, how to “shift left”, and how to make code just to break it. Also this week, we investigate how hierarchical timing analysis may solve your sign-off timing troubles once and and for all.
Tilera’s Acquisition Means One Less CPU Company
Once there was a time when every company had its own unique CPU architecture. Then there was a time when pretty much everyone used the same CPU architecture. Guess which era we’re living in now.
Actually, we’ve experienced both of those extremes multiple times. We have a makings of an industry cycle here. Really early computer companies (Burroughs, National Cash Register, Amdahl, International Business Machines, Data General, Digital Equipment Corporation, etc.) each invented and supported its own proprietary computer architecture. Each processor was implemented in discrete logic and occupied an entire printed-circuit board. Probably several boards, in fact. Software had no commonality at all. IBM machines couldn’t run any DEC software, which didn’t understand NCR code, which was incompatible with DG equipment, and so on.