Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Important Technology Developments of 2008 - Seeking Alpha

Happy New Year, dear readers! This time of year, it's irresistable to look back over the last year, and perhaps venture some forecasts for the coming one. Before I try to put together my own list, here's a list of The 10 Most Important Technology Developments of 2008 that covers technology broadly (not just semiconductors).

Most of the technologies cited are still nascent. While the iPhone is already significant, it's going to be quite a while before we see memristors in our chips. And I'll have to go look up graphine, since I've never heard of that for chip fabrication.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Dating

Thanks to John Blyler for pointing out these Funny Videos about Engineers

Happy Holidays, everyone! We survived 2008 and here's to a prosperous new year.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Choice Careers

Would you advise smart young people to go into Engineering? It's a question our profession often ponders.

Consider the alternatives. Why not use one's attention to detail to become an attorney? Why not use one's mathematical prowess to go into finance? Become a "rocket scientist", a "master of the universe". I hadn't looked seriously at Wall Street careers, but the compensation described in The Reckoning - On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits, Were Real - Series - is truly staggering:

The bonanza redefined success for an entire generation. Graduates of top universities sought their fortunes in banking, rather than in careers like medicine, engineering or teaching. Wall Street worked its rookies hard, but it held out the promise of rich rewards. In college dorms, tales of 30-year-olds pulling down $5 million a year were legion.

Admittedly, now isn't the best moment to go into finance. Wall Street financiers are going to have to lay low for a while, lick their wounds, and make some pay for the Ponzi scheme(s) that will come out. But in the end, won't it come roaring back? From a monetary perspective, won't it always be more lucrative to be close to where money is changing hands, rather than cooped up in an R&D lab designing the next big thing? I'm not saying it's right, but that seems to be the way it is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Last EDA Vendor Standing?

Man, there's some ugly financial results being reported by almost all EDA companies lately. Take a look at Sramana Mitra's financial review.

And poor LogicVision is facing a measly $10M takeover offer, as John Ford covers in Merry Christmas… We want your company

Ms. Mitra surveys the current situation of EDA companies in the provocatively titled EDA: Bring Costello Back?. The title of the post alludes to Cadence's vacancy at the top, of course. For those of you too young to remember, Joe Costello was the charismatic and highly energetic CEO of Cadence from its founding through 1997. It's fun to reminisce about EDA's heyday and colorful characters, but it's probably wishful thinking that he'd want to come back and try to revive Cadence's business.

Meanwhile, John Cooley has a list of 47 candidates for Cadence CEO. What do you think about that list? I get his point, that he strongly believes the new leader should be an EDA veteran. But 47 names? Too unfocused. It's almost like he's name-dropping all the EDA executives he knows.

In my opinion, the best candidate might be a proven CEO or top executive of an EDA start-up, or an autonomous General Manager of an EDA company division. The candidate should be strong technically and have a track record of managing and growing the business. Not "just a Sales guy", or some VP who dropped into the company after it was already up and running. Perhaps a founder of the company, with passion and real leadership. Let's hope they find a great leader, both for the industry and the sake of chip designers everywhere.

Let's hope we don't end up with one company dominating the industry. That would be insufferable, like Ernestine the Operator's (monopoly) Telephone Company

How To Be World Class

Amidst the constant news of the struggling macroeconomy and generally bleak news in EDA and related industries, it'd be a good idea to focus on doing something positive.

How To Be World Class is a brief review of the talked-about book Outliers, which I hope you'll find inspirational.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

‘Golden’ timing signoff

Ruben Molina of Extreme DA has a well-written article, ‘Golden’ timing signoff – does it correlate to Spice?. Certainly, one cannot argue that we treat SPICE simulation results as "golden" (for a given set of PVT conditions). At the same time, device-level SPICE is a lot harder to work with than gate-level tools such as static timing analyzers. Therefore, as he says, designers looking to qualify a tool may take the easy way out and compare the new tool to the de facto standard, even if the accuracy of the standard tool isn't well understood. SPICE should be the arbiter.

I sometimes feel sorry for new tool vendors going against a well-established "gorilla". They design the fastest, most accurate tool that they can, and then find customers complaining that it doesn't match the idiosyncracies of older tools. To add insult to injury, the aspiring tool vendor may have to add in "compatibility mode" features that produce less accurate or less sensible results, just to correlate to the tool the want to displace.

This has happened in EDA for a long time. Remember when Cadence's Verilog-XL was THE simulation standard? Upstarts, including Chronologic with VCS, couldn't just implement the Verilog spec. Customers forced them to mimic every quirk of Verilog-XL. It was the arbiter, much to competitor's frustration.

In the case of timing tools, it behooves tool vendors to offer a qualification flow. For example, to compare to SPICE, the tool should be able to select timing paths, write out accurate & valid SPICE decks, and make it easy to run the simulations by pointing to the SPICE tool and library models. In this way, it lowers the barrier for customers to compare against the "right" standard, instead of the easy one.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Password Arms Race

The overly paranoid Synopsys Solvnet's insane new password rules highlights what I also found to be ridiculous new password requirements for SolvNet.

I get the feeling that companies with customer web sites are viewing "password ridiculousness" as a measure of how valuable their site content is. Come on, it's just a knowledge base! If the user gets the password wrong after three tries, lock them out. Other than that, why make the password like a nuclear launch code?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Remote Software Debug?

Here's a query for all you software professionals out there: Are there tools or techniques that allow programmers to debug a program remotely? That is, can the executable and its data be on one server, and the source code and the engineer driving the debugger be on another server? This could be two servers in the same farm, or, more interestingly, the program could be running at the customer site, while the debugging is driven from the vendor's site.

I'm not a professional software engineer (just another Perl hacker), but this seems that it ought to be possible. I just don't know how to pull it off.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two Strategies You Don't Want in Your Business Plan

  1. We going to take on Intel head-on
  2. Our technology is based on emulation

Novafora to buy once-highflying Transmeta for $256 Million

Transmeta, R.I.P.

Update: The Transmeta Deal: Why? summarizes the head-scratching financial aspect of this deal. Although $256 Million may sound like a lot, it turns out that Transmeta had almost that much cash in the bank! Therefore,

Excluding cash, the company is receiving just over $11 million for its entire portfolio of valuable technology that has been developed over ten years at a cost in excess of $400 million ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ICCAD Presents Bloggers

We had a great "Birds of a Feather" meeting after ICCAD last evening. Sean Murphy did a superb job organizing and running the meeting. We had a good turnout of bloggers, wannabee bloggers, journalists, consultants, PR folks. Two of the topics that generated a spirited discussion were

  1. Are individual bloggers and "corporate" bloggers in different categories? Some in the audience felt that corporate bloggers must feel constraints from their corporate sponsor. Most of the corporate bloggers asserted that they were in fact independent, and could write what they wanted.
  2. What's the difference between a journalist and a blogger? This can be debated from many directions. It was even part of a Supreme Court case! From my perspective, they are different. Although journalists can also blog, independent (and part-time) bloggers such as myself find great benefit in dedicated, professional journalism. Many of my posts riff on articles from EETimes or EDN, for example.

    A typical blogger is more like a columnist than a reporter. It's essential to recognize and respect the difference between objective reporting (fair and balanced!) and the offering of opinions.

For the record, here's the "lightning talk" presentation that I gave. I thought I'd share it with my readers, and it's also a chance to try out this slick new Slideshare widget for embedding presentations.

ICCAD Blogging Birds of a Feather
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cad eda)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bloggers Flock to ICCAD

Fellow blogger Sean Murphy has organized an EDA Bloggers' Birds of a Feather meeting at the ICCAD conference in San Jose. The conference is going on right now, and the BOF meeting is Wednesday, November 12, 4-6pm.

Whether you write or read blogs or are just interested in EDA, please come join us! It's free, and in this economy, who can pass that up? I'll be one of about eight speakers giving a short talk before the open discussion. I plan to comment on my blogging experience, give tips on finding & following blogs, and share ideas for how to get involved. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Chris Edwards' blog post The $8m goodbye describes last-minute employment contract sweeteners given the departing Cadence executive team, including the CEO: totalling that lot up, it will cost Cadence in the region of $8m cash to say goodbye to the bulk of its former senior executive team.

Can you say Golden Parachute? I guess as long as any laid-off rank & file workers will be offered similar terms, this is fine. That'll be happening, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Cadence was supposed to announce quarterly financial results this afternoon, but they've found some "revenue recognition" questions resulting in a postponement: Cadence Announces Accounting Review and Postpones Release of Third Quarter 2008 Financial Results and Webcast

More ominously, there is wide speculation about job cuts coming to Cadence. Actually, the only "speculation" seems to be how bad it will be, whether 10-15% or as much as 25%. Scenarios are describe in Analysis: With Fister gone, Cadence layoffs may be next.

I don't know how the mood is outside of Silicon Valley or the US, but there's definitely a pallor over our industry and the economy in general. It seems like most all the EDA companies have had cuts or are planning them, and things aren't much better for their semiconductor-designing customers. At best, some companies are doing very selective hiring.

Good luck to all, and let's hope this rough spot doesn't become a quagmire.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No More Shoe Jokes for EDA

EDA pundits "won't have Mike Fister to kick around any more", as you can see by these changes afoot at Cadence.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

AMD Announces Fabless Plan (finally!)

After months (years?) of speculation, AMD finally announced details of its plan to go fabless. Or is it Asset-Light? Or Asset-Smart? Let's just call it fabless, like everyone else in the industry. Read the details in A.M.D. to Split Into Two Operations - Amidst a battered overall market, AMD shares had a nice pop today:

So AMD is going to get a cash injection from a middle east "sovereign wealth" fund, plus a commitment to further invest in the fabs that they will jointly own. This is a good short-term financial shot in the arm.

We know that AMD can compete with Intel on design. The challenge has always been, how much of a disadvantage do they suffer by not having the most advanced fabs? This will be the long-term challenge, to see how well the JV will be able to compete with Intel's fab muscle as we go below 40nm and use exotic recipes such as "High-K Metal Gate". At least AMD will live to fight another day.

Update: For some skepticism on the added value and future prospects of the plan, see the story and comments under Who Benefits From A.M.D.’s Financial Engineering? - Bits Blog -

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Herb Reiter Tells the History of PrimeTime

In SKMurphy--Herb Reiter Interview on Fostering Static Timing Analysis Adoption, Herb Reiter talks about his career through the formative years of ASIC and EDA businesses. At Synopsys, he was instrumental in helping to define PrimeTime, and in particular in ensuring that PrimeTime was adopted and supported by the very influential ASIC vendors.

Looking back, times were simpler for EDA vendors when there were dominant ASIC vendors to define design methodology. Now, with the proliferation of fabless semiconductor design houses and the COT (customer owned tooling) hand-off model, it's harder to focus on a few key adopters, get their "sign-off certified" blessing, and reap the rewards as their customers flock to the anointed tools.

We know the result of the story--PrimeTime is the de facto standard static timing tool in the industry, and has been for over 10 years. Although in some respects PrimeTime is showing its age and could be vulnerable to competition, it is one of Synopsys' best-designed, most flexible, and robust tools.

On a personal note, I've known Herb Reiter since those MOTIVE and PrimeTime days, and he's a real professional and a gentleman. He really does seek to foster "win-win" relationships between his EDA clients and chip design companies. It's nice to see him getting publicity, and the opportunity to shed light on the development and roll-out of successful EDA products.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top Semiconductor Infrastructure Stocks

Bullish on EDA? Check out Sramana Mitra's list of Top 9 Semiconductor Infrastructure Stocks.

I was surprised to see her put EDA companies at the top of her list, since she's described the EDA business model as "broken". It seems a combination of low share prices and the potential for industry shake-up through merger or LBO has attracted her to these companies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HOT CHIPS Distinguished Panel Video

As an addendum to my report on the HOT CHIPS conference, I'm posting this link to the video highlights of the distinguished panel. [courtesy of IEEE Spectrum]

It was a thrill to see these giants of computer architecture talking informally and good-naturedly about the greatest hits and misses in microprocessor design. There were several references to the nearly perfect inverse relationship between architectural elegance and market success. That's right, they talked about the x86 architecture quite a bit.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today in Semiconductor History

Chris Edwards' blog post the chip industry's quiet celebration salutes the innovations of our forebears and notes the "creative destruction" that's always been part of our industry.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Brother is Watching, and It's Fun

I'm at CDNLive (Cadence Users' Group), and consistent with Cadence adoption of new technology to support users, the conference features new intelligent name badges from nTAG Interactive.

"Name badge" is too mild a description for it. Each attendee gets a device the size of a large remote control with a lanyard. Besides having a traditional name tag sticker, the device functions like a dedicated PDA for the conference. It's chock full of features:

  • Display of your personal conference itinerary. You know which session to go to at what time, and the paper abstract and speaker info is displayed on your nTAG screen.
  • Updated conference schedule. Did presenters cancel or were new ones added? nTAG displays the current agenda.
  • Social Networking! This is a fun feature. You hold up your device in front of another attendee's, and the screen displays something that you have in common (same business market, same hobbies or musical interests). And, at the push of a button, you can exchange business card information. After the conference, I'll be sent a report of all the people I met and a pointer to each session I attended.
  • Online survey submission. After each session, we can rate it with a few clicks on the device. No paper required.
  • A "points" system to encourage networking, filling out surveys, and attending the vendor expo. It's natural to see if you can earn more points. In this conference's case, earning enough points can get you a seat at tonight's poker tournament.

Overall, this gadget is pretty popular with attendees. We're all engineers, so we picked it up quickly and are happy to push all the buttons and explore the features.

What's sneaky is that I'm sure all this data is being transferred back to Cadence for some big-time data mining. They'll certainly track which sessions were attended and get the survey results. What else will they look at? Who networked with whom? I just hope they aren't tracking bathroom breaks. If my device lights up where I expect privacy, it's going down!

Friday, September 05, 2008

What's Hot at HOT CHIPS

I attended HOT CHIPS 20 on August 24-26 at Stanford University. HOT CHIPS' emphasis is more on computer server/system architecture than chip implementation. It's a nice small conference.

What follows are highlights of my conference notes. For more information, try to get a hold of the presentation copies, or attend next year's conference!

  • x86 ISA is dominant for general purpose computing. (Interestingly, the x86 ISA was designed in a rush at Intel in a few weeks, to plug a product gap that they had. Not an elegant design intended to last for 30 years!)
  • Multi-core is here today and used everywhere. (see Day of the Multicores) The jury is still out on how efficiently it can be used by software.
  • Low Power design techniques are everywhere.
    • CPU architectures are changing for low power. Less speculative execution because abandoned computations waste power.
    • Clock gating is common at multiple levels
    • Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS) is used in many chips.

Press Coverage

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cadence Reaches Out

Much has been written in recent weeks about Cadence's surprise bid for Mentor Graphics and subsequent abandonment of the deal. It's not the proudest time in the EDA industry. Happening in the meantime, garnering less publicity, are two promising initiatives that Cadence is taking to reach out to customers.
  • CDNLive! Silicon Valley 2008 is the Cadence Users' annual conference in San Jose, a la Synopsys SNUG. It's worth checking out if you're a Cadence user. I haven't gone regularly but plan to attend this year. I hope to see you there.
  • Cadence Community is a newly designed web community with blogs, white papers, etc. It looks much better than their prior site, and I'm hopeful that it will attract a critical mass of knowledgable users. The previous site tended to have too many off-the-wall or newbie questions to have a useful signal/noise ratio.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Investor's View of Top Semiconductor Stocks

Sramana has a concise summary of her take on big semi companies and their prospects at Top 10 Semiconductor Stocks - Sramana Mitra on Strategy.

Agree or not, she has a pretty good handle on technology and business and presents her case clearly. It's a good starting point to form your opinions.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dilbert on Management

It's tempting to comment, but I'll let Dilbert speak for itself. I apologize if the formatting is messed up in the blog. Click on the strip to see it at Dilbert's site.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Merger Musings

"EDA Peggy" Aycinena has written a thought-provoking analysis & commentary (dare I say synopsis?) of Cadence's bid for Mentor Graphics in EDACafe Weekly : The Summer of Our Discontent: War Games in EDA.

She's rather cynical on the motivations of some corporate management. I think there's a good dose of truth here. How many mergers are done to appear to be "doing something", even though there's a good chance it won't ultimately create value.

But inquiring minds want to know, will some CEO be able to buy oodles of Ferragamos with the bonus from the merger?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interview Do's and Dont's

So I'm recruiting for a design methodology engineer and have been screening resumes and doing interviews. This experience leads me to want to share some advice that not everyone seems to know.


  • Send your resume in PDF (Acrobat). I know that .doc (Word) is the de facto standard, but I've seen some really strangely rendered resumes coming across in Word. In PDF, it really is what you see is what you get.
  • Check spelling and grammar carefully. I mean, duh! For a document this important, isn't it worth the extra effort? You should also have another person (preferably an English major :-) proofread it.
  • Keep it concise. As you go describe long-ago experience, you don't need to detail everything you've done. The classic guidance is to fit your resume on one page. I know that's difficult, but once it gets to three pages or more, you're probably including too much.
  • In an interview, pay attention to your "talk/listen ratio". I just made that term up. It's important to make sure you understand the question and get periodic feedback that you're on the right track before launching into a soliliquy about all that you know.
  • Assume the (first) interview will be non-technical. Some companies interview easier than others. But for the case where you really get grilled, you better have done your homework. Better safe than sorry.
  • List project specs or customer names (non-public information) on your resume. I'm pretty sure this is technically in violation of some employment agreement or NDA. I'm surprised at how specific some resumes are, listing the customer name, content and specs of chips they've worked on. You can "sanitize" this information and still convey the complexity of what you've done.
  • Make incredible claims for your contributions. I understand that you want to put your best face forward, and maybe even puff up things a big. But when I read that you "architected, developed, and implemented" a major feature of a tool in eight months, ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

10 Great Tech Books

There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more.

Morrissey, The Smiths

I love books and "top 10" or "must read" lists, so IEEE Spectrum: 10 Great Tech Books is irresistable.

Which are your favorites?
Which ones were missed?

I've only read two of them: The Design of Everyday Things and The Soul Of A New Machine. The latter one in particular I found enthralling and ample motivation for my college computer architecture design project! Nowadays it must seem like a history book, since it concerns designing DEC-compatible minicomputers. But the thrill of design and hunting down and quashing elusive bugs is timeless.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Shine On You Crazy Designers

Denali is famous for throwing the best parties at DAC. I wish I had been there to see these performances. See more at YouTube - DenaliDacParty's Channel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Chip Carl Sagan Would Be Proud Of

Remember the great astronomer Carl Sagan? He had a famous catch phrase describing the enormity of the universe, talking about "billions and billions" of objects.

Well, the semiconductor world has our first giga-transitor chip as shown in AnandTech: NVIDIA's 1.4 Billion Transistor GPU: GT200 Arrives as the GeForce GTX 280 & 260. Check out the article's die shot, which compares the GT200 GPU next to an Intel Penryn CPU. What a tour de force! Imagine all the EDA tools that chip must have broken, leaving vendors quaking in their shoes. :-)

In reading up on Carl Sagan,

  • I was reminded of the petty and very amusing feud between Sagan and Apple Computer.
  • I learned that "the indefinite and fictitious number Sagan has arisen in popular culture to indicate a count greater than 4 billion." Thanks to Moore's Law, we'll see the first "Sagan-chip" before you know it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mendence, the Merger

We have to come up with a clever name for the combination of Cadence and Mentor. Chris Edwards coined* Cadentor, which is actually a pretty decent name. Going the other way, Mendence is too close to "menace" or "mendacity", so I suppose the PR types won't buy that. (When AMD bought ATI, the irreverent press dubbed it DAAMIT.)

Cadence's unfriendly bid to acquire Mentor Graphics is red meat for the EDA blogoshpere! (Be sure to click on that link. It's a fascinating one-page summary of dozens of EDA news & opinion sources.)

I've read many thoughtful commentaries on the possibility. Frankly, most of them are unfavorable on the deal. Some of the substantial analyses:

Two of the more curious quips I read:

  • Customers don't want the EDA vendor to provide a complete front to back flow. They want best of breed tools, and for third party companies to link them together. I agree that we need best of breed tools, but not that we need third party companies to hook them together. Are there examples of companies that make a good business of that? That sounds like an ASIC company, and they aren't exactly thriving. There also used to be a company called Reshape that had their own physical design flow on top of commercial tools. But they ended up going out of business.
  • Cadence acquiring Mentor could present a big challenge to Synopsys. Well, I don't know. When two established giants come together, what technological advance does that enable? Not much that I can see. A bigger challenge is when a giant acquires a startup with hot new technology: think Cadence with Get2Chip, or potentially Mentor with Sierra Design Automation. One successful big acquisition was Synopsys acquiring Avant! -- I don't know what went on under the covers, but the products were complementary and continued to be successful after the deal was done.

    Of course, there may be "business synergies" -- cutting common administrative and infrastructure costs, and having a bigger menu for "all you can eat" deals. But it's kind of sad if one of the biggest business events in EDA just comes down to that.

*Update: Gabe Moretti lays claim to coining "Cadentor". I'll let Chris and Gabe hash it out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NEWS FLASH: Cadence Proposes to Acquire Mentor Graphics

And then there were three? This just in: Cadence Proposes to Acquire Mentor Graphics for $16.00 per Share in Cash.

What is Mentor good at? I haven't used their tools recently, but by reputation I think they're strong at

  • DFT (FastScan)
  • LVS/DRC (Calibre)
  • Simulation (former ModelSim)
  • Certain pieces of Place & Route (Sierra)

So, does Cadence need some or all of these pieces because they're not strong? That's certainly the case for DFT: Mentor is a leader and Cadence is an also-ran. Or are they just "buying" Mentor's customer base?

UPDATE: Other blog reactions:

  • Cool Verification. A verification tools perspective.
  • EDA Thoughts. No, honestly -- tell us what you really think of the merger!
  • EDA Cafe. Several news releases, including Cadence's own presentation on the deal.
  • Sramana Mitra on Strategy. She's been calling for a consolidation in EDA, or some kind of shakeup in the business model. Her post has a good selection of links to her previous writings on the EDA business. This post also has the best comments thread on the topic.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One More Thing: Apple to Tackle Parallel Computing

Image:Steve Jobs.jpg Apple in Parallel: Turning the PC World Upside Down? - Technology - New York Times Blog quotes Steve Jobs in a discussion of harnessing multi-core computing:
Apple, he asserted, has made a parallel-programming breakthrough.

It is all about the software, he said. Apple purchased a chip company, PA Semi, in April, but the heart of Snow Leopard will be about a parallel-programming technology that the company has code-named Grand Central.

“PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods,” he said.

Grand Central will be at the heart of Snow Leopard, he said, and the shift in technology direction raises lots of fascinating questions, including what will happen to Apple’s partnership with Intel.

Snow Leopard will also tap the computing power inherent in the graphics processors that are now used in tandem with microprocessors in almost all personal and mobile computers. Mr. Jobs described a new processing standard that Apple is proposing called OpenCL (Open Compute LibraryComputing Language) which is intended to refocus graphics processors on standard computing functions.

“Basically it lets you use graphics processors to do computation,” he said. “It’s way beyond what Nvidia or anyone else has, and it’s really simple.”

Since Intel trails both Nvidia and A.M.D.’s ATI graphics processor division, it may mean that future Apple computers will look very different in terms of hardware.

Will OpenCL be an alternative to NVIDIA's Cuda software interface? Read the comments in the NY Times blog for some good technical analysis and the usual passion that surrounds any Apple pronouncement.

Update: see a thoughtful perspective in Chris Edward's blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tantalizing But Flawed

I would love to know the real scoop on the semiconductor challenges and drama involved in developing a high-end gaming console like Microsoft's Xbox 360. A surprising story originating at DAC, - The truth about last year's Xbox 360 recall dangles some tantalizing clues.

I find the story frustrating and a bit flawed in helping to get to the truth of the matter. The article blames Microsoft's troubles on "bypassing an ASIC vendor to go directly to TSMC". But then it mentions ATI Technologies as a likely ASIC vendor. Huh? ATI, an ASIC vendor?

I would call ATI more of a "contract design house" in this deal. They have considerable graphics IP, and designed the GPU for the Xbox 360. (NVIDIA designed the GPU for the original Xbox.) Perhaps Microsoft decided to take only the design (netlist or GDS2) from ATI, and manage the silicon operations and production ramp themselves. That could be where they went astray. By not contracting with an experienced semiconductor company (like ATI or NVIDIA) to manage all the silicon issues, they exposed themselves to more risk. And maybe that came back to bite them in the form of the product defects exemplified by the "red ring of death" and led to product recalls.

Penny wise and pound foolish, Microsoft?

Monday, June 09, 2008

DAC 2008 Meta-Must-See List

That's right, readers. This is a list about lists!

I search the internet, so you don't have to.
-- From "your friend in the EDA Blogging business". (apologies to Tom Shane)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What "EDA Blogger Birds" Could Squawk About

Next week at the Design Automation Conference, a few leading EDA bloggers are arranging an impromptu "Birds of a Feather" session at DAC. There have been several posts discussing the event. Informal Blogging Event at DAC Gains Interest has a good summary.

Although I'm not sure I'll be going down to Anaheim, I'm very intrigued by the event and would like to attend. What topics would EDA bloggers talk about? Here are some that I would like to discuss with my brethren:

  • Online magazines, vendor communities, "DeepChip", and blogs: what each is good for.
  • What to write about. What not to write about. What I really want to write about, but am afraid to.
  • Frequency and regularity of posting.
  • How to build audience. How to track audience. Support each other through linking and commenting. Use pictures? Polls?
  • How to foster discussions. Pros and cons of comments. Need for an all-EDA bulletin board.
  • Team blogging. (multiple authors contributing to one blog)
  • Beyond blogging: social networks (LinkedIn, Plaxo). The Twitter phenomenon.
  • Can you make any money? Ads: google or sponsored.
  • For readers: how to find and follow blogs.
Incidentally, I've been blogging about EDA and Semiconductors for three years! My first post was about TSMC and low-power design; topics that are if anything, more relevant today.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

EDA Earnings Recap

Quarterly financial results are in for the major EDA vendors. This was Magma's turn to disappoint, causing the share price to drop almost 30%. Mentor Graphics stock has performed the best, closely followed by Synopsys. Links to results are below.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Conformal ECO Designer: Successor to ECO Compiler?

Without too much fanfare, Cadence has introduced a tool to help automate ECO creation: Cadence Encounter Conformal ECO Designer Improves Logic Designers' Productivity. At least I didn't see too much fanfare in the engineering press. However, it was mentioned in Cadence's recent earnings conference call:
... Cadence’s Encounter Conformal ECO Designer, a unique and automated capability to address the extreme pressure customers face to deliver on schedule while still achieving targets for product cost and quality. ECO stands for Engineering Change Order and unfortunately for designers these are all too common.

If you've been in the industry a few years, you'll recall that Synopsys had introduced a tool, ECO Compiler, for the same purpose. It never seemed to gain much traction, and Synopsys eventually abandoned it. I never had the chance to use ECO Compiler and I don't know why it didn't succeed. I heard some mention that it's a hard problem to solve, and that the market may have been limited. It's the type of tool that when you need it, you really need it. But you don't need to buy dozens of licenses.

It will be interesting to see how Conformal ECO Designer does -- whether it's better technology, and whether Cadence is able to make the business equation work.

Friday, May 16, 2008

From the Department of Redundancy Department

Dobbs Code Talk - Redundancy in Programming Languages discusses why sometimes redundancy is a good thing. Like in accounting, or computer programming. (Or HDL programming.)

Key conclusion:

Many programming language designers mistakenly assume that removing redundancy makes programmers more productive. ...

Well-designed redundancy can, however, dramatically improve productivity with its ability to uncover errors early in the development process. ...

The trick, of course, is figuring out which redundancies are good, and which aren't.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Countdown to DAC: Design Automation Conference

If you're involved in the EDA or ASIC industries, you should consider going to 45th DAC Home: Design Automation Conference.

There are early registration discounts available for signing up before May 19, so get moving!

I mostly like DAC for the exhibits and the panels. A lot of the papers go over my head -- often PhDs presenting their thesis research on "new routing algorithms that did x% better on university benchmarks."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Profile-Guided Optimizations for Software Development

Opera - The Fastest Browser on Earth Not being a commercial software developer, I hadn't heard of Profile-Guided Optimizations (from the blog of the Opera Browser Desktop Team), but it sounds clever: run some "real-world benchmarks" through your application, and then recompile the application to optimize for the code path followed most often.

Is this common in software engineering? Do EDA tools do tricks like this for best performance? Let's hope so.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Weirdest EDA Acquisition Ever?

Just read about Synopsys Invests In Prover Technology and I decided to post it without further research, just to react to the article.

From reading the press release, I'm really left scratching my head. Is this for real? It's not April 1, right? I am very curious to see how much synergy exists between "railway signal design automation" and EDA!

Monday, May 05, 2008

A missing link in tech history

For those interested in the history of our industry -- and who of us shouldn't be? -- here's a news item of the pre-electronic (even pre-electrical) origins of computing:

A missing link in tech history - San Jose Mercury News tells the story of the construction of the "Babbage Difference Engine", which was designed but never built by 19th century inventor Charles Babbage. This is truly an engineering marvel. Frankly, I'm amazed that it works! Here's a video showing some details of this mechanical masterpiece in operation. I certainly want to head over to Computer History Museum in Mountain View to check it out.

While we're on the subject of history, here are other good resources to check out:

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Blessed Perl

I just spent three days in great Advanced Perl Programming class taught by the Anderson Software Group. This was the best class I've taken in a long time. One of the most satisfying things to do at work is to develop a well-crafted program (usually in Perl) and see it working smoothly to automate my own or someone else's work. The class exposed me to things I'd always wanted to know about Perl, including Object-Oriented Perl, GUI building, and interfacing to databases, networks and C programs. Great stuff!

We worked from Anderson's class notes, but the reference text for the course is Advanced Perl Programming from O'Reilly. See my other favorite programming books on the CAD Engineer's Bookshelf.

I'm hearing rumblings that Python is a "better Perl", designed from scratch for object-oriented programming. I guess it lacks that Perl syntax that can make a program look like hieroglyphics? This sounds like the next language to learn.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Apple buys a CPU company

Wow, I didn't see this coming: Apple disses Intel's Atom, buys PowerPC designer P.A. Semi. Very interesting. I had been vaguely aware of P.A. Semi, but didn't know where they'd find big demand for their advanced PowerPC CPU. And Apple has become more of a system designer than a chip designer. So I wouldn't have guessed that they'd buy a Semiconductor IP company. Some have twittered, "why not AMD?" For that matter, why not Transmeta, if they're looking for a very low power mobile CPU?

Congratulations, P.A. Semi! It will be fun to see how this plays out.

Forbes article

Update: color analysis from Chris Edwards.

Stop Me Before I Schwag Again

Just got back from the TSMC Technology Symposium. I'll think about what I can share from that always-valuable event. But what I have on my mind, in the wake of Earth Day, is the schwag that us engineers accumulate, and how we just can't stop it!
  • Another conference, another tote bag. My closet is overflowing! And, another non-recyclable badge lanyard that will have to be thrown out. I wish that conference organizers would "think green" and give out less "junk", and distribute reusable or recyclable merchandise. Of course, I need to look in the mirror as well. Why can't I say "No" to this stuff? I'm making some progress in turning down trinkets, but it requires eternal vigilance.
  • Will engineers do anything for a T-shirt? Although I love them, my home is overflowing with shirts from vendors and from runs and rides that I go on. I've become more discriminating: a vendor's white t-shirt won't make the grade, nor will colored ones with a non-clever design. What I am amazed by is how easily I can give these shirts away to other engineers. I put a vendor's black t-shirt out in the break room with a "Free Shirt!" Post-It note. Within five minutes, it disappeared! I have successfully followed the mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In the words of Fake Steve Jobs, namaste.

Friday, April 18, 2008

DFM heads into the foundry

And we're back to the "Hacking Cough" blog for this analysis of DFM heads into the foundry. The post explains an innovative announcement from TSMC whereby they will offer as a service Blaze DFM's power & variation optimization capability. The innovative part is that instead of a chip design company buying the EDA tool, you pay for it as a service from your foundry (exclusively TSMC at this time).

One thing I'd wonder about is how design teams can accurately convey their timing environment to TSMC (across all modes and corners) such that these optimizations don't break timing. Running sign-off STA is not quite as simple as "just send an SDC file over". :-)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Good Blog, Odd Name: Hacking Cough

I've found a semiconductor blog to recommend, with the curious name of Hacking Cough. It's better than the name implies! One more salvo in the 32nm war is a nice overview of where IBM, Intel, TSMC, and others are headed with their 32nm process technology recipes, and their different approaches to solving scaling and power consumption problems.

Friday, April 11, 2008

NVIDIA Powers Hardware-Accelerated SPICE Simulator

The multi-core future of EDA is just starting to appear. NVIDIA Powers Hardware-Accelerated SPICE Simulator is an exciting announcement of a real EDA application (Fast SPICE) running on massively parallel GPU hardware. Will general purpose GPU (GPGPU) computing become the acceleration platform for EDA?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

SNUG SJ 2008 Report

For my report on this year's SNUG San Jose conference, I'll point out the major themes that cropped up across multiple sessions. If you're a Synopsys customer, you can see all the papers and presentations at the SNUG web site.

Low Power Everywhere

Low Power support is becoming pervasive in design flows. Both in design and verification, tools are supporting techniques such as Clock Gating, Multi-Vt, Power Gating, State Retention, Multi-Voltage, and Dynamic Frequency and Voltage Scaling.

Of course, for an EDA company, this requires a new name to designate these new features. So, Synopsys is calling it their "Eclypse" flow. (Note the funky spelling to give fits to spell checkers everywhere.) I don't think this name matters much to ASIC engineers -- do you care what the "Galaxy" or "Discovery" platforms consist of?

DC Topographical Uber Alles

DC Topographical, which is Design Compiler's inclusion of "virtual layout" during synthesis, is becoming mainstream. The newest edition is DC-Graphical. It adds congestion reporting and optimization, and a GUI to help visualize and debug virtual layout-related issues. It certainly makes more sense than using traditional wireload models, though you could run into correlation issues if the virtual layout floorplan is very different from actual.

Blues Compiler Rocks

The biggest treat of SNUG was the first public west coast performance of Blues Compiler, Synopsys' house band. To be honest, I hung around to hear them play out of curiosity. I figured it would be a bunch of guys who used to play in college and still liked to goof around with their instruments. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise! Featuring CEO Aart on electric guitar, and "Diva" Joanne W on vocals, this band absolutely rocked! They sounded very professional and played a number of sweet electric blues/rock songs. I'd compare their sound to Janis Joplin's, who I am a big fan of. Absolutely recommended to check out if you get a chance. They usually play at Boston SNUG, and I hope they'll be back in San Jose in the future.

A review of the performance would not be complete without a nod to the "Solid Gold" Marcom Dancers, who succeeded in getting a bunch of engineers in a banquet room dancing to the tunes. Quite an accomplishment. I was impressed and hope to get dancing lessons from "Crazy Legs" Shankar H in the future.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Synopsys to Acquire Synplicity

I had missed the news of Synopsys to Acquire Synplicity, Inc. until Aart de Geus mentioned it in his SNUG keynote speech.

Sounds like Synopsys is pretty interested in Synplicity for the "rapid prototyping" capability to check out ASICs before taping them out. The price wasn't too high, either.

I sat with a couple of FPGA designers at SNUG lunch and they spoke highly of Synplicity's FPGA synthesis -- definitely superior to what one can get through the FPGA vendor. With better quality of results from Synplicity, designers may fit their design into a smaller FPGA part, which saves big bucks in production.

Low Power Sessions at SNUG 2008

I was at SNUG, the Synopsys Users' Group, for the past three days. It was an excellent and very practical conference, as always. I will post more of a trip report soon, but one of the big themes was Low Power Design and Verification. Synopsys' low-power point man and blogger, Godwin Maben, even gave a general session (keynote) speech on it.

Godwin has kindly compiled and linked to the list of low-power papers at this year's SNUG, which you can see in his blog post Magic Blue Smoke � Blog Archive � Low Power Sessions at SNUG 2008. Note that you must be a Synopsys customer (SolvNet login) to see the papers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Future is Multi-Threaded

Richard Goering's article Synopsys pledges multicore support for EDA applications covers the current state and future claims for multi-threaded EDA products. Synopsys has made a big announcement about a multicore initiative, and Richard also notes the vendors (mostly startups) who are already offering such products.

I hope that Synopsys isn't just blowing smoke and will deliver multi-threaded applications in 2008. I'm no software engineer, but I thought it would be pretty difficult to retrofit multi-threading in these gargantuan EDA products, some of which have been around for many years.

We really need multi-threaded applications. Most servers have multiple CPUs with multiple cores each, yet are limited by memory as to how many EDA processes can run at a time. Often, you can only run one job because you need all the memory on the server to synthesize or place & route that design. Multi-threading should deliver greatly accelerated performance as those other idle cores contribute to the job at hand.

Some of the terminology gets confusing. In this article, "multi-threaded" and "multicore" are seemingly interchangeable. And then there is "distributed processing". I think of multicore as describing the hardware (CPU), and multi-threaded as describing the software architecture that includes shared memory access. And "distributed" means running on different physical servers, with separate memory models. Do I got that right?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SNUG San Jose is Coming

The 2008 edition of SNUG (Synopsys Users Group) San Jose is coming March 31 - April 2, and registration is now open.

This is one of the most useful conferences if you use any Synopsys tools. The papers are very practical, and you can meet engineers who are doing real hands-on ASIC design. The Synopsys tutorial and product updates are very professionally done, and presented by their "star" CAEs who really know the products. The panels can be good, though they're usually not as spicy as the inter-company debates at DAC or the dog fights that John Cooley sets up.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Aart de Geus Profiled in IEEE "The Institute"

The IEEE's monthly newspaper, The Institute, features Synopsys CEO Aart de Geus for its monthly "member profile". The article recognizes both his business accomplishments in founding Synopsys, and his significant community support, especially in the area of education. See Aart de Geus: At the Heart of High-Tech.

It's an Analog World, After All

Until new markets like DFM and ESL take off, the big EDA vendors are going after Cadence's Virtuoso franchise for Analog/Mixed Signal design. This has been a safe haven and cash cow for Cadence.

While I've caught mentions of Synopsys working on an analog design product, Magma has been the most forthcoming so far. Last week at MUSIC (Magma Users' Group meeting in San Jose), they announced

Titan  is at first glance a "me too" product, though attractive if it offers better integration, performance, and pricing. Sabio has a lot of grand claims from Magma -- if they deliver, this technology could be very valuable to customers.

Friday, February 29, 2008

HD-DVD is Dead. How about Dueling EDA Standards?

As anyone following consumer electronics knows, the nascent high-definitition DVD market was held back by dueling standards: HD-DVD, backed by Toshiba/Microsoft, and BlueRay, backed by Sony and many movie studies. Microsoft XBox 360 had an HD-DVD option, and Sony PlayStation 3 had built-in BlueRay capability.

This unfortunate situation harkens back to the old "Beta vs. VHS" VCR format fiasco. Sony lost that battle, but in the case of BlueRay, they've come out on top. Nearly all studios and retailers have announced support for BlueRay instead of HD-DVD, and it looks like the industry will finally be able to focus on who can produce the best products at the best prices.

What does this have to do with EDA? Unfortunately, our industry is also plagued by dueling standards, and by companies jealously protecting de facto standards. In the beginning, there was Verilog, which Cadence refused to open up, spawning many man-years of duplicated work in VHDL. It happened again with Synopsys' .lib format. When Synopsys refused to open that up that standard, the industry spent a bunch of time on a competing OLA/ALF standard. Finally, Synopsys opened up "Liberty" and we can focus on who has the best tools, with library access for all.

In the present day, we still haven't learned! I hope for a quick and orderly consolidation of

  • Advanced timing modeling: CCS (Synopsys) vs. ECSM (Cadence)
  • Low Power Constraints: UPF (Synopsys) vs. CPF (Cadence)
  • Though I'm not a Verification guy, it sounds like the same thing is happening with VMM (Synopsys) vs. OVM (Cadence/Mentor)

Come on, big vendors! For the sake of the your customers and to have a dynamic, innovative industry, tear down those walls!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Synopsys Doesn't See a Slowdown, Either

Similar to Magma's earnings report for this quarter, Synopsys doesn't report seeing a slowdown in their business. This has been much on analysts' minds, and the subject of pointed questions in conference calls since Cadence's disappointing report. Aart de Geus, Synopsys CEO, said "we project that EDA will grow and we will gain market share in 2008, all under our very stable business model." For more, see the earnings announcement and conference call transcript below.

Friday, February 15, 2008

That's Innovation!

EDN's 18th Annual Innovation Awards Finalists - EDN lists the nominees for the 18th Annual EDN Innovation Awards. It's a quick way to see "what's hot" in a diverse number of fields, which happens to include EDA (in two categories).

What do you think about the finalists? Are the most innovative products that you would pick on the list?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is PDF's Solution?

I don't want this blog to become "watching the EDA train wreck", but what is happening to the industry recently? Sramana Mitra's blog alerted me to PDF Solutions in her post PDF Offers Value, Finds Scaling Difficult - Sramana Mitra on Strategy.

The stock has dropped to an all-time low:

Sramana is suggesting that PDF has real value add and that the company should be an attractive acquisition candidate to a major EDA vendor. I do agree, DFY/DFM products that really work have a tangible benefit on chip companies' bottom lines. It's easier to appreciate and quantify DFM than that other great hope of EDA, "ESL".

One drawback is if the customer base is just foundries (like TSMC) and IP providers (like ARM Holdings), then the number of customers is not very large. Many fabless semiconductor companies won't need a big investement in DFM, at least not until such tools move up into the design implementation process.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Profile of ATopTech, P&R Upstart

ATopTech is an EDA startup with a goofy name but a hot P&R product, according to rumors on John Cooley's DeepChip site. Does the Industry Need Another P&R System? is an interview with Eric Thune, the VP of Sales & Marketing at ATopTech. He describes a lot of technical features of the tool, and makes specific claims of where they are better than the competition.

The technology just sounds mind-boggling. I'm sure there are other EDA systems with such impressive algorithms, but to see all the capabilities enumerated and to try to imagine how to do it all -- why it makes my head spin as "just another Perl hacker". A couple of quotes that impressed me: "If you look at many of the members of our team, you see that this is their third commercial place and route system that they have built. They know all about the challenges and the mistakes that have been made." and "The feedback from our customers is that our R&D has done a phenomenal job on customer request. They turn those around quickly. With some of the big guys, they do not see a release for six months. Our customers are asking for things and seeing them in days or weeks."

Normally I don't like the extra-long interviews posted on EDA Cafe, but this interview is worthwhile if you're interested in "what's hot" in IC implementation.

Sramana Crunches EDA

I blogged an alert about Cadence's troubled guidance in CDNS, Like a Rock, and now, respected business blogger and journalist Sramana Mitra has weighed in with an in-depth analysis at Cadence Crashes. Now What?.

As I've commented to her before, I like her "big picture" financial perspective on the EDA industry, but as an engineer, I feel she gives too little weight to the strength of each company's technology. She argues that the big guys will win in the long run because of their ability to deal.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

EDA Slowdown? What Slowdown?

Coming one week after Cadence announced a weak outlook and the stock cratered, we have Rajeev Madhavan, Magma founder and CEO, telling investors
[Regarding] the economy and its impact on our industry and our customers: We do not believe the economy is having a significant impact on our business. Our customers continue to invest in Magma tools because they provide the most productivity. Magma grows by taking market share and does not rely on overall EDA industry growth. We continue to provide new products that expand our total available market and as long as these products increase customer productivity, Magma will continue to take market share.

-- Magma F3Q08 (Qtr End 12/31/07) Earnings Call Transcript - Seeking Alpha

Ouch, talk about kicking your competitors when they're down! As you can see by this chart, LAVA has outperformed its major competitors and the general market over the last year, though in today's market, that means they've only produced a 3.6% gain.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Prestigious Turing Award presented for Model Checking

Dr. Dobb's Journal: 2007 Turing Award Winners Announced gives details on the recipient of the annual Turing Award, one of the most prestigious awards in Computer Science. It's nice to see an EDA field being so recognized-- I've always admired the complexity of EDA problems and the intellectual power harnessed to solve them.

My impression is that Model Checking is still a nascent field of EDA, yet these guys invented it way back in the early 1980s! Talk about a long gestation period.

Has their work directly gone into any current-day EDA tools? Is there a rightful heir to this seminal innovation?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

ULTRA Low-Voltage Design Reported

Energy-efficient Microchip Could Result In Cell Phones Staying Charged 10 Times As Long, Self-charging Electronics describes a design done by MIT and TI researchers showing operation at 0.3 volts. It includes several interesting features, such as
  • On-chip DC converter to reduce voltage
  • Designed to minimize manufacturing variation
  • 0.3 volt operation at Idle mode, which implies Dynamic Voltage Scaling (DVS).
  • Memory uses an eight-transistor bit cell, which improves retention at low voltage.
Lowering voltage is actually the standard for lowering system power," said Dean McCarron [President of Mercury Research]. "The challenge is that when voltage gets to a certain level, generally around 0.8 to 0.9 volts, making the chip work becomes more difficult. You know, 0.9 was thought to be the floor, and these guys have broken through the floor.

The researchers are describing their work in a paper presented at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. See also this Computerworld article.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

CDNS, Like a Rock

The Market has really hammered some tech stocks (SPWR and VMW come to mind) this year, and today is Cadence's turn. Shares are down 32% today, after last evening's earnings announcement.

It's the "usual" story of decent historical financial results (Earnings meeting expectations, Sales a bit short), but the dreaded "weak guidance" for the future.

I'll be looking for the conference call transcript to see if the poor outlook is blamed on a weak overall economy or semiconductor industry, or if it seems to be particular to Cadence or certain product lines.

Update: Management's Earnings Conference Call Remarks are here. There's no specific information about company or product weakness. Rather, it says

As a result of our discussions with customers in Q4, and our assessment of an increasingly aggressive pricing environment that we have not seen during the past few years, we believe it is prudent to plan our 2008 business conservatively.
The current environment is more uncertain and the value discussions are longer and are harder than in the past several years. However, our strategy is intact, our technology has never been stronger, and we are dedicated to preserve the value of the solutions we are providing to customers.

Sounds like it's those darn stingy customers causing the problem. :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

All-time Most Influential Technologists

Intel ... assembled a panel of experts including academics, journalists and independent third parties to vote on technology's 45 most influential people: - Headline :: Intel lists its 45 most influential technologists : Page - 1/1

This is really an esteemed list. Tim Berners-Lee deserves a Nobel prize for the impact that the Web has had, and will have, on the world. I wouldn't put the founders of Google so high, though. Isn't Google just the search engine du jour? If this list was made a few years ago, would the founders of Yahoo or even (shudder) Netscape or AOL have been listed?

Who else doesn't belong? Who else is missing?

Check out the comments below the article for Wikipedia links to biographies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Best Technology Business Blogs

Recommended Blogroll: Good Technology Business Blogs - Sramana Mitra on Strategy

This is Sramana's list of favorite blogs in this field with her descriptions. Worth a look, especially given that she is a published Forbes magazine author!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Technology Winners and Losers

No, I am not talking about tech stocks! Please, let's not talk stocks so far in 2008. :-(

Instead, I refer you to IEEE Spectrum magazine's list of "winning" and "losing" technologies.

For chip geeks, a particularly good one is The Ultimate Dielectric Is...Nothing, highlighting IBM's research to create a vaccuum between chip interconnect. Not only is the technology very cool, but I'm really impressed by the writing in this article. The author is able to explain things like photolithography and crosstalk in layman's terms. Take a look; it's a nice piece of work.

I am so impressed by the cutting edge semiconductor R&D done at IBM and Intel. They are constantly pushing the envelope and competing very ably with giant foundries like TSMC. It's surprising that these tech heavyweights don't do more COT (foundry) business. I wonder if it's a lack of ability to set up the business and customer service, or a lack of desire, i.e., that they have more profitable things to do with their fabs.

Monday, January 07, 2008

An Industry Giant Departs

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is happening this week, with lots of big announcements for all us tech developers and consumers.

On the personal side, this is the last CES where Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and CEO, gave the Keynote address. Here's a video about his last working day at Microsoft. Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip
Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Semiconductor Co. Gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Shoot To Kill - is the cover story on Forbes magaznie's Company of the Year. The honor goes to the graphics chip leader NVIDIA (aka Graphzilla).

The article itself is good. It does a nice job of explaining GPUs and CPUs in laymen's terms. There were only a couple spots where I thought "what on earth are they talking about?" And, their highlights of the company's history and CEO are well done.

Check it out. It's nice to see one of our companies lauded in the mainstream media!