It's not every day you get to impress the jaded technology nerds in downtown San Jose ("the Capital of Silicon Valley"). It's doubly hard when ESC – oops, the DesignWest conference – is in town and 90% of the populace is showing off their latest seamless multicore hybrid open-source whatever. And it's rarer still to be blowing them all away on public roads.
A pair of new DRAM interfaces broke cover recently, and both promise to make engineers’ lives tougher – no, wait, easier! Sorry. Easier because the new interfaces make memory faster and more power-efficient (both good things), but tougher because it’ll be harder to decide which one you want. And they’re definitely mutually exclusive.
One interface comes from the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium, a nonprofit group of DRAM makers and DRAM users (that’s a large group) that collectively work on defining how hybrid memory cubes should work. The other comes from Rambus, the decidedly for-profit company that makes its business developing and licensing interface-related IP.
You know, it’s getting really hard to keep all these new ARM chips straight. I mean, who doesn’t make ARM-based microcontrollers these days? Last I looked, ARM had more than 100 licensees – a hundred! – and most of those companies are cranking out chips for you and me. What’s a poor engineer to do?
Rejoice, that’s what. Choice is good, and by golly, the massed ARM armies are providing us with a lot of choice. Engineers and programmers never had it so good. Well, as long as you like the ARM architecture, that is. If you’re not an ARM user, you’re probably feeling a bit left out right about now.
That’s okay. We’re an inclusive group. Come a bit closer. Step into the circle, state your name, and say, “I’m a programmer and I’ve never used ARM before.” We’ll all clap politely, and afterwards, we can sip coffee from Styrofoam cups and chew on half of a doughnut. Welcome to the group, friend.
It's springtime, the groundhog has seen his shadow, Easter is behind us, and a young man’s thoughts turn to… microprocessors.
Every embedded system includes a microprocessor or two, and few things will affect the performance of your system as much as that chip. We all have our favorite CPUs (and a few least-favorite CPUs), but rarely do we find that perfect chip: the one that has absolutely everything we want, just the way we want it. Maybe if we create an imaginary checklist of all the things we’d like to see, one of the microprocessor vendors out there will surprise us come Christmastime.
“Daddy, where do electronic components come from?”
“Well, sweetheart, when a customer and a vendor love each other very much…”
We’ve all had that awkward conversation. When you release the bill of materials for your new project, somebody has to source all those components and get them into your hot little hands. How does all that stuff get to you? A few weeks ago, I got to see where the electronics stork actually lives.
If you’ll pardon the expression, Phoenix is a hotbed of electronics distribution. That’s where the galactic headquarters of Avnet is located, and Avnet is certainly one of the largest electronics distributors on the planet. As an engineer, I never thought much about distributors (“distis,” we called them) because they just seemed so… well… boring. How hard can it be to load up a warehouse with components and then ship them to me?