Embedded Design Makes The World Go Round
In this week’s Fish Fry - we’re talking tools, we’re talking airplanes, and we’re talking watches. First, I’m chatting with Jim McElroy (Vice President of Marketing - LDRA) about where LDRA fits in the embedded tool landscape, what their compliance management system is all about, and how this compliance management system may help you get your next Mil/Aero design off the ground. Also this week, I’m checking out how Aldec’s new Spec-TRACER tool suite can help you navigate the twists and turns of your next DO-254 design and why you should check out a new Kickstarter campaign that is attempting to launch a brand new smart watch called The Agent.
Not As Easy As You Think
It’s simply getting from here to there. How hard can that be?
In fact, if it’s indoors, then things aren’t that far away, so that should be even easier, right?
Wrong. Indoor navigation is a bugaboo that’s got all kinds of folks scrambling to figure out how to get you to where you need to be.
As we’ve seen before, navigation outside uses a mix of technologies, but satellite systems figure prominently in the solution. Other technologies simply fill the gaps when the satellite signal is weak or blanks out for short periods of time. During such blackouts, IMUs and map-matching can do a reasonable job of keeping you going, and when the signal comes back again, we can zero out any accumulated errors and we’re back on track.
Fish Fry is treading on scary ground this week. Guard your children, hold your RTL close and your soldering gun even closer. We're talking ASIC design costs. I know many of you are cowering in fear at the slight mention of custom chip NRE costs, but my guest is Reid Wender (Triad Semiconductor) and we're chatting about how you can relinquish your mixed-signal ASIC design cost fears once and for all. Think of it as an NRE exorcism, sorta.
Technology is Giving Us Images in 3D and 4D
It’s been made into a big deal, and you can thank Avatar. Once a goofy movie gimmick that required glasses you wouldn’t get caught wearing anywhere else, 3D suddenly became cool. And, for a while, the best way to turn anything ordinary into something cool was clear: make it 3D.
Well, we’ve gotten a bit older and wiser (OK, older, anyway) and we’ve had time to catch our breaths and internalize the results of endless movies in 3D, TVs in 3D, printers in 3D. (OK, that’s more than a gimmick…) But it’s easier now to take a good, long, nuanced look at 3D and its potential for things other than box office smashing.
Contests, Warp Drives, and Self Destructing Electronics
Fish Fry. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Fish Fry. Boldly going where no electrical engineering podcast has gone before. This week we’re voyaging to the land of vanishing electronics and design challenges at warp speed. My guest is Adrian Fernandez (Texas Instruments) and we’re chatting about the MCU BoosterPack Design Challenge, how you can enter, what you need to do to win, and what groovy prizes they are giving away. Also this week, I check out DARPA’s Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) Program, how this agency plans to make disappearing electronics, and how Hollywood’s version of warp speed is all wrong.
It is now nine years since Opportunity bounced onto the surface of Mars, with a projected mission life of 90 Mars days. (A Mars day, or Sol in NASA jargon, is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.) Already on Mars was Spirit, Opportunity’s twin sister. (The Mars Exploration Rovers - MER - team seems to refer to their Rovers as “she” rather as sailors do their ships.)
It may be incorrect to call January 24th “Opportunity’s Birthday.” I regard it as such, as this was the day that its computer switched from controlling the descent and landing activities to controlling the exploration activities, but the story really started a lot earlier.
Alta Devices Changes the Rules
Batteries are the bane of portable device design.
Just about every portable or mobile device or system that does anything interesting - that is, anything that would require a “real” chip like a processor or FPGA, or anything that does meaningful real-world interaction like drive a display or spin a motor - needs a significant amount of power. When you can’t plug into the wall or the grid, your options are pretty narrow. The essence of your design becomes a tradeoff between the capability and longevity of your device and battery size, weight, and cost.
We’ve all briefly considered solar, of course. The romantic idea of a perpetually powered system gleaning what it needs from nothing more than the ambient light is a powerful aphrodisiac. We want to go on a date with solar. We buy flowers. We show up at solar’s door in our spiffiest engineering outfit.
The Lighter Side of EE in 2012
Here at EE Journal, we have always believed that engineering is fun. As engineers ourselves, we know that there is a special kind of reward in solving problems and creating new and interesting things with technology. We have always believed that one of the things that really differentiate EE Journal from other trade publications is our sense of humor and fun. We don’t think engineering has to be a humdrum drone of microwatts and gigabits, and we know you don’t either.
CRI Behind the Scenes
When we are worried about our security at home, we usually call a locksmith - a security expert that can analyze our defenses, weigh them against threats (both known and imagined), and help us implement security measures that will meet our goals. This is a difficult job for people to do on their own. Paranoia creeps in, as does complacency. We have a difficult time doing a realistic assessment of our own vulnerabilities and of the capabilities and determination of our adversaries. It helps to bring in a professional.
For example, we may want to wear a foil hat to protect us against prying brain scans deployed from silent black helicopters. This cranial faraday cage is our security blanket. A professional, however, may have additional insight. He may understand that “they” aren’t willing to pay thousands of dollars per hour in helicopter deployment - just to snatch the secret recipe for blueberry crumbcake out of our heads as we’re preparing our morning breakfast. He may also understand the limitations and practical considerations of current mind-reading rays. He might advise us that our security anxiety would be better focused by not having the password for all of our online accounts set as “password.”
From Space Travel to RTL Analysis and Back Again
In this week’s Fish Fry we look into Excalibur Almaz’s plans to launch people into space. We investigate how they plan to get their space tourism business off the ground, what kind of space technology they are going to employ, and what their motivations may be for launching this high-flying company. In the second half of the broadcast, I ask Shakeel Jeeawoody (Blue Pearl Software) what Blue Pearl is all about, how they are working with Synopsys within the Symplify Pro platform, and what was happening at their recent Design Automation Conference panel.