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.