Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Longest Quick Reference Ever

This week I wanted to run an EDA tool that I don't run every day. I needed to look up a command line option, and found that, inexplicably, the option wasn't listed by the program's help option.

So, I trudged over to the online documentation and was happy to find the Tool X Quick Reference manual. I figured it'd be a couple of pages long and I'd print it out and keep it next to my computer.

Well I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to find that the "Quick" Reference manual is 86 pages long. Something is seriously wrong with your product or your tech pubs when this happens.

What do you think? Are you surprised that a tool could be so inscrutable? Is it just that the writers don't understand what Quick Reference means? And, can you guess which tool I'm referring to? (I'll post the answer later.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Just how unsexy is EDA?

April Fools in October? I thought I must be reading a joke: in Life without Dataquest, Gabe Moretti reports that research firm Gartner Dataquest has dropped coverage of the EDA industry, and laid off reknowned analyst Gary Smith and his colleagues.

This is disturbing. I don't like changes like this! Dataquest (and Gary) have been covering the EDA industry for many years, providing analysis and prognostications, that, agree with them or not, were a starting point for debating the direction of EDA technology.

Let's hope that Gary and crew resurface to share their wisdom and opinions again. Best wishes to them.

10/25 Update: see the "backstory" and lots of comments from EDA industry personnel in John Cooley's article on Gary Smith's departure.

Over 500 Million Served

The production volumes described in NVIDIA AND TSMC CELEBRATE NEW MILESTONE:500 MILLION PROCESSORS are mind-boggling! What a profitable business model for both TSMC and NVIDIA, and what a contrast to the "old" ASIC model.

At my previous company, the lifetime projected volume of the ASIC we were designing was around 50,000 units. Yet, the ASIC vendor had to provide significant complex IP and especially engineering headcount to shepherd the chip to the prototype stage. Unfortunately, the market changed and that chip never made it to production. Sorry, ASIC vendor!

No wonder that most ASIC vendors are having a very tough life, with rising costs and declining design starts (and especially, fewer designs going to mass production). Contrast this with foundries such as TSMC, which get the customer to do all the IP integration, implementation, and verification, and the foundry can just focus on selling wafers. No wonder this model is eclipsing the ASIC model.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

ICCAD Early Reg. Deadline Today

ICCAD-2006 is coming to San Jose this November 5-9 and the early registration deadline is TODAY, October 18.

Registration reveals a major benefit of IEEE or ACM membership: you get a discount of over $100 registering for the full conference!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wondering about the IEEE

I feel like I should be a member of the IEEE. I am, this year. Throughout my career, it's been an on-again, off-again relationship. Even when my company reimburses me, sometimes I feel that it's not worth it.

What I want it to be

  • Teach me about new developments in my specialty. There are some gems, but it's harder to find from IEEE publications vs. trade publications like EE Times or EDN. Part of it is because I can't find a Society/Publication that aligns well with my specialty (see Gripes, below).
  • Teach me about interesting developments in other specialties. The articles need to start from a basic level, not trying to prove how sophisticated and complex the author can be. I am not finding this from the IEEE. Something like Scientific American or Discovery magazines might be a more accessible resource.
  • Represent my professional interests. The IEEE-USA tries to do this, and I'm a member. But membership is optional, and I wonder how many USA EEs belong or are even familiar with it?

What IEEE should do

  • Give a primer to members on how the IEEE works. I have sort of figured these things, but why doesn't the IEEE come with a "user's manual" to address these dead-on?
    • What is a Region and what's a Chapter?
    • What is the difference between their publications Spectrum, Proceedings, and Transactions?

Other gripes

  • There's no Society for Digital IC (RTL & Gates) engineers! I just can't figure this one out. There are certainly Societies for semiconductor process, circuit design, and packaging. But what Society should a plain-ol' ASIC engineer belong to? Why isn't there a perfect fit for such a common EE discipline?
  • The price/performance of an IEEE membership really seems out of whack. Why does it cost me (or my company) over $140/year, when the main benefit is a magazine subscription or two? Why, I can subscribe to EE Times for free and get far more practical news and technical information! Where is all the IEEE money going? To some huge bureaucracy in New Jersey?

What do you think about the IEEE? Do you belong? Why or why not?