Part of the  

Chip Design Magazine


About  |  Contact

Archive for January, 2008

EEG cap turns you into virtual Darth Vader

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Staying the the “Darth Vader” theme, check out the emotiv video from CES. Now this is just plain cool …. and really scary!

Emotiv Darth Vader

Darth Vader as Tomorrow’s Blogger

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Good blog by Debra on the McBru site about the way in which engineers use the Internet for their work: Technologists as Laggards
“A study just out by reveals that only 3-4% of engineers surveyed said they used RSS feeds or podcasts to get information. But they aren’t using traditional trade magazines either. What’s king now? The vendor’s own website; 84% said they used supplier websites for work-related purposes. Blogs were doing a little better than other new media, 13% said they used blogs for work. Webcasts are also up-and-coming; 23% said they had attended a webcast.”

My experience is that Google remain the first Internet tool-of-choice for most chip and board design engineers.

Ah, Google! Our liberator and our master. Consider a recent article in Wired by Nicholas Carr, a.k.a high tech’s Captain Buzzkill: Do You Trust Google? His basic thesis is that “computer are technologies of liberation, but they’re also technologies of control. It’s great that everyone is empowered to write blogs, upload videos to YouTube, and promote themselves on Facebook. But as systems become more centralized — as personal data becomes more exposed and data-mining software grows in sophistication — the interests of control will gain the upper hand. If you’re looking to monitor and manipulate people, you couldn’t design a better machine.”

What does this portend for the future? Will bloggers and other web denizens eventually – knowingly or not – submit their humanity to the machine? Will they give way to the dark side of the force, becoming little more than storm troopers who reinforce with words the dictates of their seemingly benevolent media masters? Perhaps the personage of Darth Vader will be the essence of tomorrow’s blogger? (OK, I’m starting to digress. Really must stop writing blogs so late at night…. — JB

Don’t go it alone – My Advice to new EDA/IC publications

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Several new e-newsletter style publications have rushed in to fill the void created by the departure of CMP (and others) from the field of meaningful EDA/IC coverage. The latest such venture into the fray (or is it “the fraying world”) of EDA/IC coverage is Kevin Morris’s “IC Journal.”

Kevin – a fellow Portlander and editorial colleague – is well known for his witty and insightful blogging-style coverage of the FPGA world in “FPGA Journal.” It would be my guess that the new IC e-newsletter will rely heavily on his FPGA background and experience. This certainly makes sense as over 60% of ASIC designs require some sort of FPGA prototyping for verification.

Kevin’s e-letter joins several other recent editorial/analyst vehicles, including Richard Goering’s SCDsource and Gary Smith EDA. Though competitors of varying degrees, I’m personally glad to see that the EDA/IC world hasn’t lost the significant intellectual property represented by these experts.

But I would offer my colleagues this advice; be careful about going it alone. Collaboration is becoming crucial to success, as readership and the message means continue to change. That is one of the reasons why Chip Design will be partnering with both start-up media firms as well as long established print-online publications to expand our readership and coverage areas. More news soon.

Good luck to all of us in this brave new era of publishing…we’ll need it. — JB

Technological Obsolesce vs the Public Domain

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Secrets of the Sphinx

Did you know that January 1st of every year is considered Public Domain Day, at least in countries that follow the rule of law? On this day the works of authors dead for the past 50 years pass into the public domain. This year our public domain was enriched by such writers, artists, and composers as Nikos Kazantzakis (“Zorba the Greek?), Dorothy L. Sayers (“The Mind of the Maker?), H.P. Lovecraft and many, many others.

Few of these writers that just entered into the public domain were scientists, little lone engineers. Yet significant technology existed back in the late 1930s (author’s death minus 50 years) and before. For example, I remember writing once about the first car-mounted radio telephone invented in the early 20s – “Wirelessly Enabled Cars Come To A Reality Near You.”

Mobile RF Car

Which begs the question: Do technical journal articles abide by the 50 year public domain rule? Such publications have been around since the turn of the early 1900’s. For example, the IEEE was formed from the AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers, formed in 1884), and the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers, formed in 1912).

It’s a bit of a moot point, since actual technical works – aside from books and articles – become obsolete at an ever increasing rate. The question of technological obsolescence is a fascinating one (see comments by Ray Kurzweil – “The Age of the Spiritual Machines,? Alexander Stille – “The Future of the Past,? Matthew Herber and others), but not one that I want to consider in today’s blog.

Instead, I’m merely curious about the timeframe in which various technologies pass into the public domain. Several years ago, I interviewed Raminda Madurawe, who was then the founder, CEO & President of Viciciv Technology: “The Next Wave of FPGAs.” The interview focused on the effect of expiring Xilinx algorithm patents, which had expired 16 years after the patents were secured.

Is 16 years a typical time frame for technology patents to expire? Yet books on technology “expire? – pass into the public domain – after 50 years from the death of the author. In other words, you could write a book on programmable logic that will not “expire for 50 years. But a key algorithm that enable programmable logic expires after a mere 16 years. Doesn’t make sense, does it? I must be missing something. Can anyone clarify? — JB