Show like the Embedded World are full of vendors vying for attention and wanting to get their name onto your mind, desk, or appearance. This is the giveaway game: what can you hand out that will make people get a good and long-lasting impression of your company?
IEEE Spectrum ran a short interview with Thomas Knoll, the creator of Photoshop, who made a very interesting point about the move to subscription-based software rather than one-time buys plus upgrades. His point is that if you are building based sold using the “upgrade model”, developers have to create features that cause users to upgrade. In his opinion, that means you have to focus on flashy features that demo well and catch people’s attention – but that likely do not actually help users in the end.
I just spend some hours building a new living room PC for the home. I based on common components like a Fractal Design Node 202 chassis and an MSI Z270i motherboard for my Intel Core i7-7700 processor. Trying to figure out how to put it together was a bit interesting though – especially if I had tried to do so without the help of the Internet. The manuals that came with some of the components were just completely useless, essentially boiling down to “please figure out what to do”.
I had the great honor to be on a panel discussing IoT Security at the DAC back in June. The panel was part of the Embedded Techcon event that took place essentially as a little embedded corner inside the DAC – it was held in a couple of conference rooms next to the regular DAC sessions, and attendees were also mostly attending the DAC in general. Not a bad idea for meshing embedded and hardware design. The panel was a great one, and David Kleidermacher from Blackberry gave me a great take-away: unless security is allowed to gate releases of products, it is hard to think you take security seriously.
I just read the EETimes coverage of the recently concluded court case in the US, where Toyota settled for 3 million USD in damages due to experts finding that the software in a 2005 Camry L4 could indeed cause “unintended acceleration”. In the particular case that was concluded, the accident resulting from the issue caused one driver to be injured and one driver to get killed. This feels like it could be the beginning of something really good, or just as well this could go really wrong.
It is quite interesting to see how Qualcomm has emerged as a major player in the “processor market” and is trying to build themselves into a serious consumer brand. I used to think of them as a company doing modems and other chips that made phones talk wirelessly, known to insiders in the business but not anything a user cared about. Today, however, they are working hard on building themselves into a brand to rival Intel and AMD. At the center of this is their own line of ARM-based application processors, the Snapdragon. I can see some thinking quite similar to the old “Intel Inside” classic, and I would not be surprised to see the box or even body of a phone carrying a Snapdragon logo at some point in the future. A part of this branding exercise is the Snapdragon Batteryguru, an application I recently stumbled on in the Google Play store.
Cloud… I tend to dislike hype and I am honestly quite sick of all the talk about cloud computing and “anything as a service”. Still, it is an intriguing area. Last week, I attended Produktledardagen, a very inspiring product management and product leadership seminar, innovation lab, and social event for the profession of product management. A significant part of the discussion was about the Cloud, and how to think about it from a product perspective. Suddenly, with this perspective, it actually got quite interesting. In particular, trying to define to myself just what a cloud service is.
Note: This post was caused by listening to an interesting science podcast while thinking about the theories of startups, and the connection might seem a bit odd. Still, I think there is something to be learnt here. End note.
I recently listened to the episode on Bliss, by the Radiolab podcast. As always, Radiolab manages to take a theme and connect all kinds of things to it. In this case, bliss as in happiness turned into Bliss, the man, and his invention of Symbolics. Symbolics was an attempt to create a rational language based on symbols that would not allow the manipulation of human opinion or feeling like regular languages do. It was an attempt to create an antidote to the manipulations of dictators, tricksters, and populists (Bliss himself had been briefly interned in a pre-war German concentration camp, so he definitely knew what words could do). He designed a symbolic writing scheme that was intended to only communicate ideas clearly and unambiguously and with no room for demagogery and oratory. In the end, nobody wanted to use the language for its original purpose.
Selling and marketing high technology is what I do for a living. My counterpart is the customer or buyer, and I help design, build, explain, an market these products. In this role, I am most usually the expert on the domain, helping potential customers understand what we sell and why it will help them. Both at the high-level value proposition and the details behind it. Some people focus most of the their energy on the high-level value proposition, but I feel that youoften need a bit detail backing that as well.
I recently had the enlightening experience of being on the buying side instead, experiencing the transition from high-level value proposition to low-level details. It struck me as being quite similar to what the customers for our virtual platforms would experience when coming in new to the field.
I bought a camera.
Once upon a time, I was young man in high school where our little computer club got a new PC with a color screen and a floating-point coprocessor. One fun little program I wrote was a simple gravity simulator, where a number of point-size assigned various mass flew around interacting with each other. We used that program and tried to set up initial setting for sizes, speeds, and directions of bodies that would result in some kind of stable system. More often that not, all we managed to create were comets that came in, took a sharp corner around a “star” and disappeared out into the void again. Still, it was great fun. And when I discovered Angry Birds Space it felt like a chance to try that again. Overall, “space” as my son calls it is a great spin on the Angry Birds idea. However, the way it is sold does not make me too happy.
Last week, I had the honor of presenting at and attending the talks of the Lindholmen Software Development Day. The first keynote speaker was Professor Jan Bosch from Chalmers, who did his best to provoke, prod, and shock the audience into action to change how they do software. While I might not agree with everything he said, overall it was very enjoyable and insightful talk.
There is a new post at my Wind River blog, which could seem to be about shoes but which is really about process improvement. In particular, the need for companies to let their employees take a step or two back and look at what they are doing and what they could do better.
It is way too common to be so busy running around being inefficient that there is no time to think about how to become more efficient. Change also requires some discipline to actually keep pushing at habits until they change for the better.
For some reason, in the past few weeks I have talked to more than a few PhD students and researchers about various ideas. It is striking how often fundamentally very smart people have a problem in articulating just why what they are doing is useful, relevant, and potentially commercially interesting. Of course, we all know that this is hard, and all PhD students get some kind of training in presentation and selling their ideas. It is also unfair to expect a fresh graduate student to be able to put on a show like a Simon Peyton-Jones.
However, this did get me thinking some about the articulation of problems.
When I started learning about virtual platforms after joining Virtutech back in 2002, the guiding principle of our team was very much one of “model just enough to make the software happy – and no more”.This view was fairly uncontested at the time, and shared (implicitly or explicitly) by everybody developing virtual platforms from a software perspective. There is a second perspective, though, from the hardware design world. From their viewpoint, a model needs to be complete. Both views have their merits.
The recent news that Microsoft has taken out an ARM architectural license has caused a lot of speculation about just what this might mean. There are several quite well reasoned ideas around the web, and I have one idea of my own: sixty-four bits.
Wow. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland and the resulting ashcloud has had an effect that I would never ever have expected. A near-total closing down of the European airspace is such a drastic thing to happen to nobody seems to have expected. It has certainly not been included in the list of worst-case scenarios to plan for in company and government contingency plans. Where does this leave us? In a very interesting situation indeed. Worst-case, we will have to do without air travel for months.
In the February 2010 issue of the Communications of the ACM there is an article by the team behind the Coverity static analysis tool describing how they went from a research project to a commercial tool. It is quite interesting, and I recognize many of the effects that real customers have on a tool from my own experience at IAR and Virtutech (now part of Wind River).
I just found a fairly interesting podcast that offers a nice example on how do marketing for paper-based magazines using digital ephemeral technology. The ancient warfare magazine has a podcast that accompanies each issue, where a set of history buffs discuss around the theme of the current issue of the magazine.
For the longest time, the IBM Journal of Research and development, and its entire archive, was online at IBM and for free to access. This publication was, I assume, seen as a way to publicize IBM systems and their research efforts. But now, it has unexplicable gone to a for-pay format. It costs 1500 USD/year to access it, which is pretty steep I think. Compare with sources like the Microprocessor Report, or regular IEEE or ACM memberships. I think this is a really dumb move, and I will miss reading their often quite interesting articles. Who will pay to read only about IBM systems and research?;
In a very roundabout way, I recently got to hear about a cool Sun server feature introduced sometime back in 2003 or 2004: the SCC System Configuration Card. This is a smart card that stores the system hostid and Ethernet MACs, along with other info, and which can be transferred from one server to another.
I have an article about ecosystem enablement for new hardware, co-authored with Richard Schnur of Freescale published in the December 2008 issue of EDA Tech Forum. The core concept is that a virtual platform solution makes it possible to get a new chip to market faster with better software support, and even enables virtual design-in of a chip at OEM customers before hardware becomes available. The article builds on our joint experience with the QorIQ P4080 launch in the Summer of 2008, where we had several operating systems and middleware packages in place at the moment the chip was announced. EDA Tech Forum requires registration, but it was still free, and there are many other good articles available.
I just read Stephen Fry’s latest blog post about smartphones in general and the Apple iPhone in particular. He really loves the iPhone, but the interesting thing to me was the wish list of future improvements to the device. In particular, support for MMS. That was one of the things that made the iPhone unacceptable to me and not really to be considered a serious mobile phone (along with no bluetooth modem).
The Swedish national medical products agency is running a very cleverly marketed campaign right now to inform people about the perils of buying medicine over the Internet. They are running fake advertisement spots on television, mimicking the typical medical adverts found in the US (and the few other countries where such advertising is allowed for prescription medicine), with a trustworthy doctor talking about the benefits of this and that… and slowly going into weird land about how the products might not be want you think and maybe don’t contain the right stuff, etc.Finally, you are pointed to www.crimemedicine.com, a site setup for this campaign. All very clever. In fact, so clever that some people reported the spots to the consumer watchdog as being illegal advertisements… brilliant!
This is a short maybe heretic post on the topic of architecture exploration.
It just struck me the other day that the idea prevalent in chip design that you want to explore the design space of a certain with great detail and precision might be the wrong way to go about things. It is in some sense similar to the ideas of planned economies: you decide a priori what is important, and try to optimize the design to do just that. If you are right, it is brilliant. If you are wrong, it can be very wrong. That is scary to say the least. It seems to assume that you have a pretty good idea of what you need to achieve, and that this is not likely to change for the lifetime of a design.
The colder season is coming fast here in Uppsala, and it is time to bring out gloves and warmer jackets. Even if we have had some nice sunny pretty warm days (up to 15 degrees Celsius!), we are getting into October soon, a month where there is usually some day of freak snow fall.
Another sign that it is getting colder is the reaction of consumer electronics.
As might be evident from this blog, I do have a certain interest in history and the history of computing in particular. One aspect where computing and history collide in a not-so-nice way today is in the archiving of digital data for the long term. I just read an article at Forskning och Framsteg where they discuss some of the issues that use of digital computer systems and digital non-physical documents have on the long-term archival of our intellectual world of today. Basically, digital archives tend to rot in a variety of ways. I think virtual platform technology could play a role in preserving our digital heritage for the future.
This is a short travel tip for the Uppsala-Stockholm area. Yesterday, I used the UL train to get to the Furuvik zoo/amusement park close to Gävle. Compared to the visit we did last year using a car, taking the train was generally a superior experience. And cheap. For 200 SEK, you get two adults + three children, with all rides included. Much cheaper than going there by car and then buying the rides. Not having to spend an hour driving with children is also a clear advantage in my mind, rather you can relax on the train and have fun with the kids. Being tired at the end of the day, I was very happy not to have to drive home.
YouTube – Freescale QorIQ P4080 Hybrid Simulation is a video of a demo of the QorIQ P4080 hybrid simulation. Cool of Freescale to be publishing it like this, I think it is a very smart move!
Updated: Here is the video inline, let’s see if this works.
Only half an hour ago, the embargoes lifted. Freescale announced its new QorIQ series of multicore (and some single- and dual-core) processors. For the top-end of that line, the P4080, Freescale and Virtutech (where I work, remember) have developed a virtual platform solution to help Freescale customers get to working products faster. The virtual platform is available now, and is already running several operating systems including VxWorks, QNX, and a variety of Linuxes. Apart from the fairly large scale of this SoC, the really new part of the virtual platform is the so-called Hybrid solution, where the fast models are combined with detailed models from Freescale themselves. This creates a cycle-level detailed model with validated timing, “from the source” — but without the performance issues of having to run everything at great level of detail. Rather, you use the fast model to steer the simulation of a workload to an interesting spot, and then turn up the level of detail then and there. You can also select which components of the chip are actually detailed and which parts are modeled with the fast functional models, avoiding the incredible slow-down of running and entire virtual platform at a great level of detail.
If you happen to be at the FTF in Orlando, do come by and look at the demos!
I have been involved in this work for the past year, and it is wonderful to finally see it coming out and be able to talk about it.