Archive for Embedded Computing

How an Irish man in China is redefining the traditional supply chain model

Robert Scoble has an excellent article about Liam Casey “Mr China”, he outlines how Liam is redefining the traditional supply chain and offers food for thought on how the design and supply of new tech will change.

http://scobleizer.com/2008/11/12/disruptive-factories/

Multicore programming models must consider evolutionary algorithms

Embedded.com report on the intensfied efforts by industry to develop a robust but practical multicore programmng model. .
Multicore means multiple processors which mean multiple migraines if you are a developer as you have to try and taken a sequential task and break it out into parrallel jobs. Graphic card companies have been doing this for the past 10 – 15 years and they realise the complexitiies involved. The processing of data streams has been the focus of research for the past 8 – 10 years. The advent of Network processors in the late 90s kick started some of this research as these units had (and still do) multiple processing engines. Processors such as Intel IXP1200 (which was the focus of my PhD research) featured 6 Risc Microengines for header processing. Dedictaed SRAM, SDRAM , Receive and Tranmsit register sets.
In the United States, Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have awarded an estimated $10 million, five-year grant to help fund a new Parallel Computing Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, with 14 faculty members initially involved. As many as 20 universities, including MIT, Stanford and the University of Illinois, competed for funding.
My research into how we could improve performance pointed towards the fact that Multicore on its own will not be the solution. Programming in parrallel is a black art and often trial and error will determine the best solutuion. What I discovered was that if you build a good cycle accurate s/w model of the problem domain and use evolutionary algorithms and local search methods you can explore a vast number of permutations of chip architectiure. This approach can be ,mapped to the programming issue as you can instruct the model to use a variety of functions and routines as appropiate. The process of evolution will then produce a pareto curve of possible solutions. The results from my research highlighted architectural considerations that an engineer at first glance would not normally consider but the performance figures justified the configuration. This approach to multicore programming will only work if parameter driven cycle accurate simiulators of the problem domain are available. I built my own using POOSL and it took me 3 years. Manufactuters siuch as Intel and AMD need to provide these open models to the developer community. Using these models we can then further explore how mulitcore programming models can exploit these architectures. The development of these multicore frameworks should use as mny different techniques as possible., EA and local search are ideal candidates to assist in this exploration and development.
Bonus Link – A copy of the presentation I presented at ANCS 2006 on my work

A beginners guide to programming embedded Processors

Embedded.com have an interesting article that takes the novice through the basic steps in programming an embedded processor. This article will prove useful to students who are facing into an embedded processor project as part of their academic studies
The basics of programming embedded processors

Securing an embedded Linux platform

Hadi Nahari and Jim Ready have written an excellent article which outlines an approach for securing an embedded Linux platform. It came as a surpise to learn that 70% of new semiconductor devices are Linux-enabled; this high growth rate is accompanied by inevitable security risks, hence the requirement for hardware-based trusted and secure computing environments. Their article offers practical guidelines.
Employ a secure flavor of Linux

Writing secure c/c++ for your embedded design

Robert Seacord has an informative article on embedded.com. This article which outlines the Systems Quality Engineering process that should be adopted for writing secure c/c++ code for your embedded design.
How to write secure C/C++ application code for your embedded design:

Google and IBM want Academia to teach Cluster Computing skills

Cluster Computing which allows parallel processing of data is a skill that I had to learn as part of my PhD research. Google and IBM are advocating this practice as both companies exploit this technology. Academia however does not have the substantial resources that are needed to examine this topic in great detail.
A solution being pioneered by Google and IBM is to allow internet access to a new dedicated computer cluster. This will allow students to test their parallel programming course projects.
The two companies have already dedicated several hundred computers to the initiative — a mixture of Google’s gear, IBM BladeCenter and System x servers. They plan to expand this to 1600 processors.
The Beta testing group are the University of Washington, Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, The University of California at Berkeley and the University of Maryland.
The Register – Google and IBM push cluster computing on colleges

The science behind minature hard disk garners a nobel prize

The 2007 Nobel prize for physics was awarded to Albert Fert of France and Peter Grunberg of Germany. Their research was lauded as being both practical and relevant to industry.
Their discovery powers devices such as mp3 players. The phenomenon is called “giant magnetoresistance”, in which weak magnetic changes give rise to big differences in electrical resistance.
The knowledge has allowed industry to develop sensitive reading tools to pull data off hard drives in computers, iPods and other digital devices.
The discovery was initially made in the 1980s and allows large amounts of data to be read and written to hard drives.
BBC News Article

Media Centre Box available from Maplin for 215 Euros

Maplin in Limerick are stocking a shiny black media centre case with 3.3 Ghz processor and PSU. It has an integrated NIC and 4 usb ports as well as 2 PCI slots. The form factor is nice and the build quality seems good. The addition of RAM, Hard Drive, DVD Writer and TV card would mean that you could install Linux and Myth TV and record and watch your favourite programmes.

Fujitsu Siemens predict a decline in demand for PDA/GPS units

The Register report on the fact that Fujitsu Siemens will no longer produce PDA/GPS units as they perceive that smartphones will deliver the same functionality. I don’t agree with this assessment as it seems that the sales of PDA/GPS units are starting to mushroom in Ireland. The most popular unit in Tipperary Institute is the TomTom One followed by the Garmin Nuvi.
If you can produce an attractively priced unit with an intuitive interface such as the TomTom One then you are on to a market winner. What needs to happen next with these units is that their API’s need to be opened up so that communities and interest groups can develop their own add ons and populate easily the back end mapping database.
Fujitsu Siemens to drop PDA, GPS gadgets

Smalltalk the little language that could

I first saw smalltalk in 1994 while working for Irish Permanent it was being used as part of their Os2 Warp platform. It was another 10 years before we met again in 2004. Since then it has formed a core part of my Phd research as POOSL uses it to describe its data constructs (using a freeware version of Cincom Visual Works). It came as a nice surprise to see that Patrick and John Collison are using it to build their auctomatic product.
I like smalltalk and its terse nature. The ability to exploit OO is naturally inherent. I don’t know if I need a language for developing web apps but if I do I know where to look