Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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New Updates Coming Soon

February 4, 2009

I know it has been a while since I added new posts. There has been a lot going on here lately – new addition to the family, new job and some more smaller things, which keep me relatively busy lately.

Don’t give up on me just yet. I promise to keep the interesting posts coming, although maybe not on a weekly basis as I tried doing before.

Hope you guys understand…

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A Message for the New Year

January 10, 2009

Holiday season is gone, the new year is just starting and I am into preaching mood.

I get many, many emails from people asking me to help them with their designs, interview questions or just give advice. Sometimes, if I am not fast enough in replying, I even get complains and emails urging me to supply the answer “ASAP”. This is all OK and nice, but I would like you the reader to stop for a second and think on how much YOU are contributing to our community?

Not everyone can or likes to write a technical blog, but there are other options one can utilize – one of my favorites is posting on a forum. Even if you are a beginner in the field, post your questions, this is already a big help for many. I personally post from time to time on EDA board. Just go through that forum and have a quick look, some questions are very interesting while others can be extremely stupid (sorry) – who cares! What matters in my eyes, is that the forum is building a database of questions and answers that can help you and others.

I assume that most of my readers are on the passive side of things (just a hunch). I hope this post will make you open an account on one of the forums and start posting.

p.s. please use the comments section to recommend your favorite design related forums or groups.

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Interview Question – BCD Digit, Multiplied by 5

December 21, 2008

A while back, someone sent me the interview question I am about to describe, asking for help. I think it serves a very good example of observing patterns and not rushing into conclusions.
I will immediately post the answer after describing the problem. However, I urge you to try and solve it on your own and see what you came up with. On we go with the question…

Design a circuit with minimum logic that receives a single digit, coded BCD (4 wires) and as an output gives you the result multiplied by 5 – also BCD coded (8 wires).

So, I hope you got a solution ready at hand and you didn’t cheat 😉 .

Let’s first make some order and present the input and required outputs in a table (always a good habit).

Looking for some patterns we can see that we actually don’t need any logic at all to solve this problem!!

You will be amazed how many people get stuck with a certain solution and believe it is the minimal one. Especially when the outcome is one or two single gates. When you tell them it can be done with less, they will easily find the solution. IMHO there is nothing really clever or sophisticated about this problem, but it demonstrates beautifully how it is sometimes hard for us to escape our initial ideas and approaches about a problem.

Coming to think of it, this post was more about psychology and problem solving than digital design – please forgive…

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Closing the Gap Between ASIC and Custom

November 8, 2008

I don’t know why I did not came across this wonderful, wonderful (maybe I should add another “wonderful”…) book before.

First here is a link to the book’s site and an amazon link – and for those who are interested in a short overview, this short summery from DAC should give a hint what it is all about.

The book is mostly about increasing performance of your circuits. It surveys many techniques, problems and ideas (some are not fully supported by major EDA tools). It doesn’t matter really if you use these techniques or not – you will learn a lot about “closing the gap” (at least I did).

This gets my full recommendation and endorsement (if anybody cares about my opinion … 🙂 )

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Why You Don’t See a Lot of Verilog or VHDL on This Site

August 31, 2008

I get a lot of emails from readers from all over the world. Many want me to help them with their latest design or problem. This is OK, after all this is what this site is all about – giving tips, tricks and helping other designers making their steps through the complex world of ASIC digital design.

Many ask me for solutions directly in Verilog or VHDL. Although this would be pretty simple to give, I try to make sure NOT to do so. The reason is that it is my personal belief that thinking of a design in terms of Verilog or VHDL directly is a mistake and leads to poorer designs. I am aware that some readers may differ, but I repeatedly saw this kind of thinking leading to bigger, power hungry and faulty designs.

Moreover, I am in the opinion that for design work it is not necessary to know all the ins and outs of VHDL or Verilog (this is different if you do modeling, especially for a mixed signal project).
Eventually we all have to write code, but if you would look at my code you’d see it is extremely simple. For example, I rarely use any “for” statement and strictly try not using arrays.

Another important point on the subject is for you guys who interview people for a new position in your company. Please don’t ask your candidates to write something in VHDL as an interview question. I see and hear about this mistake over and over again. The candidate should know how to think in hardware terms; It is of far lesser importance if he can generate some sophisticated code.
If he/she knows what he is aiming for in hardware terms he/she will be a much better designer than a Verilog or VHDL wiz who doesn’t know what his code will be synthesized into. This is btw a very typical problem for people who come from CS background and go for design.

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This site is a “T-log”

August 1, 2008

I thought about it for a while and I would humbly like to introduce a new word to the English language – the word is T-log (pronounced tee-log) – a short for Technical blog. I am by the way aware that there are other uses for the acronym TLOG.

So why do I make such a big fuss about using the word “T-log” and why do I consider this site (and some others) a T-log rather than a blog?
Well, the main reason is that surfing the web for technical related blogs, you will find a lot of informative sites which deal with opinions (e.g “behind the scenes” issues, industry news or just giving their opinions on this or that topic), but the pure technical content is not there. This is actually great and this is what makes these blogs interesting to read.
However, this site is not like that. I try to give almost only technical information in the form of digital design techniques and to contribute from my own personal experience (maybe because I am too dry and can’t generate interesting posts as other bloggers do).

The bottom line is that I prefer this site not to be called a blog but rather something else – so I experiment with coining the word tlog – who knows maybe this will catch up and we will soon see a wikipedia entry… just don’t forget where you saw this first…

To wrap things up, let me recommend a cool t-log making its first steps on the web. It is run by a regular reader of this t-log who decided he also has something to say – check him out here: ASIC digital arithmetic.

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Low Power Methodology Manual

May 24, 2008

I recently got an email from Synopsys. It was telling me I can download a personalized copy of a “Low Power Methodology Manual”. Now, to tell you the truth, I sometimes get overly suspicious of those emails (not necessarily from Synopsys) and I didn’t really expect to find real value in the manual – boy, was I wrong, big time!

Here you get a very nice book (as pdf file), which has extremely practical advice. It does not just spend ink on vague concepts – you get excellent explanations with examples. And mind you, this is all for free.

Just rush to their site and download this excellent reference book that should be on the table of each digital designer.

The Synopsys link here.

The hard copy version can be bought here or here.