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Most of you may have been following this new prototype being developed and deployed by Google. I am talking about project Loon, an idea conceived by Google to help connect the few billion friends around the world who are still deprived of internet benefits. The idea at first may spell like fiction, but this one is for real. Already, some pilot projects are on the way, in New Zealand. Let us watch out for this to spread its wings in the coming months and years!

Anyone remember the old Motorola/Iridium initiative?  It scooped and failed for many a reasons, but the idea that time was to have the entire world voice connected, but project Loon is a bit more than that in intention, technology and economic viability. Besides, Loon is  backed by a highly successful technology driven company. The goal in itself is to have pretty much every corner of the world to stay connected by internet, the holy grail of global networking. Whereas, Iridium needed sophisticated lower orbit satellites, project Loon can get the job done through a set of balloons equipped with wireless communication technologies. The number of balloons may be much larger than the number 66 or 70 satellites, but the latter is a lot less expensive and green than the failed initiative!

So what goes into the making of project Loon?  Logistic wise it needs deployment of enough number of helium powered balloons into the sky, the stratosphere layer of earth atmosphere to be precise. Why stratosphere? Because, the balloons will make use of the wind flow that prevail at stratosphere layers to steer and position it around a certain location locked to ground. The balloons are not quite stationary; they instead will move around, but on the average a certain number of balloons will stay put up in location range to provide a reasonable coverage for any given location. All the balloons are equipped with enough circuitry to perform necessary wireless communication networking jobs. The balloons are all the time connected (wireless that is) to neighboring balloons and some of them will talk to an available ground station terminals through which it will establish connection to the internet backbone and thus to rest of the connected world!

The balloons may have varying shapes and orientation. The shape of the balloon and the wind pattern may come into the equation to steer them and stay around (or move around the earth) at the atmosphere. They may, not only move around the earth, but also can potentially move up and down in the stratosphere layers. Each of these balloons are of approximately 15 meters in diameter which will float at about 20 km altitude from earth surface. For record, this height is more than double the distance where we can spot the farthest cloud or for that matter the highest altitude where airplanes fly!  The task involves gyration, ballon steering and of course quite a lot of wireless mesh networking as well as co-ordination prospects. At the user side, you will have specialized antenna (or antennas, depending on whether MIMO comes in) to talk to one of the balloons above your location and we are all set to go. When fully operational, everything else will be transparent! Pretty much the energy for operation at balloons all will come from solar energy. The other natural resource used is wind. Both are green and free and almost universal!

I am very excited about the prospect of this coming off in full force in the near future. On the beneficiary side, one it will help reaching the far corners of  our planet. More than that this may well serve as an inexpensive way for many billion folks to reap the benefits of internet and staying connected. Of all, the children of a lesser world can as well get to bite  a share of a better world. Imagine a remote village school in Burundi or Bangladesh getting access to better educational tools through internet! Wouldn’t that be a beautiful? Corporations will make money, but when less privileged ones also benefit, that is something to cheer. In the end a model will sustain and everyone can have a share, monetary or otherwise.

Check out more details at the project Loon page. The google+ page has more updates pouring in.

In a lighter vein, what is the main downside of this everywhere connectedness? Here is a potential spoilsport scenario! You will agree with me here:-)

One of my favorite cell phone app till date is the navigation utility Waze. The only downside that I’ve noticed is its hunger for power (It drains the phone battery in no time), but GPS in general hog battery anyway. In a car with some charging unit, it is not a killer drawback, but it is a negative thing anyway. Since this app has such nice user friendliness, coupled with ability to provide almost real time side information (through user assistance and online feeds) such as traffic situations, presence of police etc., makes this such a handy tool on the move. I was almost contemplating that this will be bought over by Google or a Facebook. Now what? It didn’t take too long! Waze is gobbled by Google, for a reported billion odd USD.  I like Google maps too. Now, we have a chance to have all in one! Hopefully, a better one!

It was interesting reading up on this piece of remake; somewhat a historical remake so to speak. That classic Paul Allen and Bill Gates photo shot as young geeks in 1981, now have a complementary remake with a new, yet ‘older’ avatar!

A sad end to what looked like a promising and prodigious mind, complicated by many wizardly , perhaps at times turbulent actions and more so haste reactions from various corners of our society including the law enforcement offices. The news of Aaron Swart’s death at the young age of 26 is disturbing. The man, who at the age of 14 sparked into stardom by creating the now popular tool RSS for information subscription is no more! More than the wizardly invention, his name unfortunately caught into wider limelight perhaps through the MIT/JSTOR documents retrieving case.  He had later championed to several causes on free information access.  The right to free information in the internet era once again had caught the worldwide attention with that drive. It is difficult to keep side of this case, because it is strangled with multiple levels of complications involving the right to information, ethics, social stigma, law of the land, money, business,a wizardly mind and of course the turbulence of human mind!

I read his Uncle’s statement, “He looked at the world, and had a certain logic in his brain, and the world didn’t necessarily fit in with that logic, and that was sometimes difficult.” I couldn’t agree more to these words of Mr Wolf on Swartz. Don’t forget he was an ardent contributor to Wikipedia as well. Rest in peace Aaron!

This year’s Marconi foundation prize is being awarded to our company founder Henry Samueli. With last year’s price awarded to the other connoisseur Irwin Jacob (jointly with another stalwart Jack Wolf), now we have the two stellar communication company founders getting the prestigious award in consecutive years!. Feel proud to be part of the company he founded. Broadcom simply has a lot of vibrancy and part of this must surely be due to the champion founder. You can see the energy when Henry Samueli talk. I could feel a similar charm when Aart De Geus (founder and CEO of my earlier employer Synopsys) talks too.  Congratulations Dr. Samueli, we are proud of you.

While coming back from lunch, the office front desk TV had this breaking news from CNN. It said “Kodak exiting camera business”. Firs thought, I said, Huh!,and  I am sure many would have felt like what I did. Kodak’s case is really a case of getting footed in the analog world, when the world around had the technology transformed in digital way. A sad loss, but then in business there is no emotion!

Here is the BBC clip

I wasn’t surprised at all with this. To be honest, I did expect this to happen, a long long ago, as early as 2006 or so. In 2009, I was seeing the writing on the wall. So, when my colleague sent the note yesterday afternoon, I was pointing him this blog to him!

Now then, Magma is now part of Synopsys. With Extreme-DA too in the kitty, Synopsys is clearly staying ahead in the EDA leadership. The Analog is where Cadence still have the thrust above them.

So, Google is going to have Larry Page as CEO from April 4. Eric Schmidt is going to head the strategic drives.

So, things are going great for the high tech. Hopefully things will stay like this for a while. Intel just reported a strong 4th quarter result. Q4,10 to Q4,11 increase in revenue is 40%. Wow! The forecast is looking good too. Clearly, the tablet market is set to explode. The upbeat was reflective in the market as well. The good thing with big brother companies like Intel is that, they can take the market along. When they produce great results, it generally strengthens the health of the industry as a whole. When they take a hit, the impact is disastrous for the high tech houses and semiconductor industry in particular.

If this is true, then this has to be one of the heaviest buy in the communication industry. Atheros buy may well be a WLAN entry for Qualcomm. Fingers crossed!

Phew! Think of this. SAP in 2005 acquired a services company named TomorrowNow for $10 million. In just about 5 years, the new owner is in line to pay $1.3 billion to Oracle. For what? For all the wrong doing of the acquired company in their teens! There had been several corporate white collar crimes in the past. One distinctly vivid case is the Avant!-Cadence battle, but the new one scales much higher. Clearly, SAP wouldn’t have anticipated the literal realization of “tomorrow now” then, but now, it is a blown up penalty that SAP will have to content with.

So, what is the case against TomorrowNow (which is well part of SAP AG now)? Oracle filed a case against SAP for an illegal stealing/usage of Oracle licensed software. Oracle claims that TomorrowNow illegally copied software code needed to support customers without buying licenses (from Oracle) to access it. TomorrowNow made thousands of duplicates of copyrighted software obtained by illegally accessing electronic materials from Oracle’s customer-support websites, the lawyers said. That is quite a mess TomorrowNow brought into SAP. Well, now no go, but to pay the 1.3billion and work harder for future!

I remember reading this Spectrum magazine at a friend’s house in Zurich, last month. I am not going to reveal his identity any further ( I fear a backslash:-)), but he has a nice habbit of keeping pretty good collection of magazines in the bathroom. The collection includes National Geographic, The Economist, Scientific American and Le Monde. I am not one of those guys who relish reading at length in those hot seats, but for once, I did scan through the hanging Spectrum magazine.

Anyway, the one I wanted to mention is the Spectrum article on “the Internet speed”. The fastest internet speed is enjoyed by South Korea and not the United States. The average speed itself is 11.7 Mbps. When you desperate for the best browsing, now you know where to head to! The list of countries which top the list is a bit of surprise. In Europe for instance, the fastest pal is Romania, the eastern beautiful land which is not really known as the internet bull dog. Switzerland is 10th, which is not really surprising, because I never found the speed less there. The Euro cup live HD streaming was so peaceful that I never had realized the need of TV.

Ah, back to the country statistics! Don’t worry too much if you feel doomed at the prospect of applying for a Korean visa. There are places in US  which are as good; in fact better! If you go by the fastest internet cities/towns, then Berkeley is the place. Average speed of internet at Berkeley is 18.7 Mbps, which is better than the Korea’s national average:-).

All these are published by Akamai technologies. An interesting thing, reported by them is on the trend in the average speed. It turns out that, the average speed has come down, in the recent years. Korea itself slowed down there.  The Korean downloads were 29 percent slower in 2009 than 2008 and they were further 24 percent slower in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter of 2009.

I can never have enough of Aart De Geus, my former CEO who still very much remain as my role model. Every time, I hear something from him, it is inspirational and mind blowing. No wonder  Daniel Nenni is damn impressed by Aart’s presentation at the EDA CEO’s meet last month (A detailed account is here in Nenni’s blog). Well, the point Aart stress is the need of collaboration and more so at these times, where the social networking has spurred by the internet shaping. It happens everywhere these days, more so in research. Many years ago, it was a norm to have single author publications, but things have changed off late. Now we have authors collobarate across boundaries and continents, sometime even without seeing them personally. I think this is a good trend. Everybody benefits. Aart ofcourse was stressing that semiconductor industry need no less. Gone are the days, when discussing problems were considered unethical. In a free world, one needs to be fearless in asking questions. After all,  talking is good!

As always, Aart has that super skill to put things in an eye catching manner. Daniel phrased it more aptly in his blog, as follows: “Aart also introduced the word systemic (yes I had to look it up) and a mathematical equation correction: Semiconductor design enabled results are not a SUM but a PRODUCT. As in, if anywhere in the semiconductor design and manufacturing equation there is a zero, the results will be a bad wafer, die, chip, or electronic device, which supports GFI’s vision for a new type of collaboration between partners and customers.” Beautifully put and phrased.

If you have ever listened to Aart’s talks, it is a no brainier to guess the kind of super presentation slides he makes. Here is the one from this talk (Again, please read Daniel’s blog for elaborate discussion on this). The analogy is the task of finding a vegetarian restaurant without the service of a vegan mother in-law. The point is that, at the moment it is still long and expensive a route. We need smarter ways to speedup (and cheaper of course).  I leave you to Daniel’s blog for further read. It indeed is a fabulous read.

Come to think of it, it may be possible one day, that we can have a realistic relay channel setup. May be future short and medium range wireless LANs. I am going to make a modest attempt and pen down a bit on a possible model in a few days time. I think it has potential.

Great to find and read an article/report in EEtimes about a company founded by many of my ex colleagues and friends. Saankhya labs seem to be in good shape to make that big impact in the fabless startup  arena. So far, the success of Indian startups have been mainly in the service sector and a few in the IP/networking boxes.  Saankhya is targetting a niche market, thrived by the software defined programmable radios, targetting for the digital TV market.  It is beyond doubt that, a universal demodulator is of tremendous potential in the consumer TV market, yet largely untapped.  With so many different standards running around the world for digital tv transmission itself, it is of heavy interest to have one decoder which does work for all locations. Saankhya also have analog decoder (for the US ATSC schemes) which will be handy during the period of  transition  when  the service providers swtich from analog to digital. Best wishes to Saankhya.

Wireless gigabit alliance (WiGig) has a new(updated) website. For a first up, there is a link How WiGig Works which nicely explain what  WiGig is all about, in a clear layman’s terms. If you ever wondered whether we saw the finale of the wireless rate surge, just re-think. We are still a lot far from drafting even a proposal, but there is surely plenty of light seen in the wireless horizon. As an example, HDTV would require about 3Gbps rate. WiGig is addressing applications such as this which demand rates beyond 3 giga bits per second. The brief tutorial is a compelling read.

The much expected Wolfram alpha has gone for a soft launch since last night. It had some start up glitches, as Wolfram briefed during the live demo, but nothing major fortunately, prevented  me from getting a first feel of it. Erick Schonfeld  has a nice blog with a detailed first hand feel description of this new computing web search engine.  He also did a one to one comparison with Google for a few specific search queries.

My first impression is in much the same line as what I expected after reading Wolfram’s pre-launch blog. This is not a Google competitor for sure, but instead an incredibly complementing brother.  Wolfram alpha is more of a scientific and quantitative information search engine. For instance, if you want to know the Taylor series expansion of  exponential function e^{x}, you can do it easily by entering “Taylor series of Exp[x/2]”. As you would imagine, Google does not give this precise answer, but instead give you a list of documents matching this query, for instance a set of PDF links where this is already calculated. Clearly, Wolfram gives a more accurate and clever presentation of this query result. Wolfram alpha seem to use quite a lot of Mathematica capabilities too, like plot etc. Any mathematical query, will lead to pretty good result, sometimes including plots, histograms, Taylor expansions, approximations, derivatives, continuity etc. It is a nice feature to have for students and engineers.


This is the sort of query it likes the most and not something like “proof of Sanov’s theorem”. Google will incredibly list a set of documents which has the proof one is looking for, since it simply search down the web and display a listof  matching queries, ordered based on pagerank, which is loosely speaking in the order of relevance.

Not all queries are bound to get a result with wolfram alpha, atleast for now. That is expected since it is not yet in launch mode, but on soft launch. In the coming days they are likely to have it running full fledged with all kind od queries supported.

So, the wolfram alpha is definitely going to be useful for very many cases and it surely is going to rock in scientific searches. I initially thought the Google squared which is going to come from Google shortly is addressing the very same segment of search area, but it is clearly different.

I tried “tallest mountain Switzerland” . It gave a very nice cute quantified table. I love this kind of result. It is also state things with less ambiguity. For instance the height is mentioned in meter, but there is a list of unit conversions listed along, which help people to map them into the units of their convenience.

I tried a query “Who is Claude Shannon”. This is what it displayed. Of course, the result you get is a very brief information about him. Same query in Google will lead you to the more detailed Wikipedia entry of Shannon or may be the Mathworld entry of Shannon among the list of hits .  Wolfram alpha gives information more like in capsule form. If you need to know more, you should ask more. Clearly, what search engine to use is thus subject to the query type.  I strongly see Google and Wolfram alpha are complementary. Wolfram alpha gives more or less one reply to a single question. Of course you can renew the query and then get answer to that. In some sense, this is like people asking questions to one another in real physical scenario. Imagine you ask a friend, knowledgeable pal that is: Who is Shannon? He would perhaps start answering in those lines as Wolfram Alpha do. On repeated question he will give more details. On the other hand, Googling is like broadcasting your query to a large pool of friends, each one of them sends what they know or heard about Claude Shannon. It is you,who decides whichamong the many answer(s)/explanation(s) suit your need!

We can afford some amount of spelling errors while entering the query in wolfram alpha. Since it is natural language based, that is a decent feature to have. I deliberately typed the query “distnace from Bangalore to geneva ” instead of “distance from Bangalore to geneva “. It understood the intended query and displayed the result in a nice quantified table. Eve the geographical trace between the two places is shown. Incredible!

When I tried “weather in Lausanne”, this is as good as it gets.  Spot on with all possible things you want to know in one screen! It had a list of mountains and their heights mentioned!

In a nutshell, Wolfram alpha give you the best cooked food, given a user recipient as input. Google will give you a list of foods available and then you pick the one tasting suit . It  really then is a question of preference, time, and satisfaction of the end user on what to choose from. As far as I am concerned, it is subjective. I see both of these are invaluable and both will co-exist. Scientists,economists, finance folks, mathematicians, historians are all bound to benefit from this new computing engine.  I am waiting for a full release!

I am eagerly waiting for this new search and compute engine promised by Stephen Wolfram.  They call it wolfram|alpha (If google always went with the beta release, Wolfram is going even early).This, if it work in the promised lines is going to rock the Internet evolution. From the outset, this is not just a search engine. It is kind of an intelligent searcher who can loosely understand the human requirements. 


For long, it was perceived that a search engine driven by natural language processing is the way forward. But it is pretty hard to build such a system since natural language processing is no mean business.  Wolfram’s idea is to create an abstraction and then algorithm of these realizable models. Once we can do a mapping of the requirements  to algorithm that is computable, at least in principle we can build such a system. But that is a whole lot of heavy statements already. How easy it is to build all these methods and models into an algorithmic framework? He is using the New Kind of Science (NKS) armoury to realize that. We have to wait to get the full rainbow, but when he promises we can confidently expect something big. 

Now once the algorithmic mapping (and implementation) is done, then the question of natural interacting between humans and the system comes. Natural language is the way, but according to him we don’t have to worry about doing that as such. Once the knowledge of the individual is made into a computational framework, then that is enough.  I am not an expert in this natural language processing and NKS framework, but for sure this is pretty exciting,both from an algorithmic point of view as well as a practical MontBlanc. As Wolfram himself pointed out Pulling all of this together to create a true computational knowledge engine is a very difficult task. Indeed it is still being considered a difficult problem, both in academia and industry. So there is excitement aplenty in the offing. I am eagerly waiting for this to hit soon.

Considering that, the big wig search engine houses including Google are still struggling to make that dream natural language engines (the many pseudo ones in the market are not quite approved). I remember started their business in those lines, but never seemed to have crossed that elusive mark of acceptance, atleast not to an extend to capture a world wide wow!  If Wolfram has a new way to get this through, that will be a big breakthrough. I cant wait to see that. Wolfram promises that it is going to be very soon. He says it is in May 2009. My guess is that they will release it on May 14,2009.

It was today. I’ve just come back to office, after the dinner party hosted as part of the I&C anniversary celebrations at EPFL. Andrew Viterbi was the guest of honour and largely because of his fame, there was considerable crowd attending the function. Martin Vetterli made a nice colourful, flashy presentation illustrating the history of I&C in EPFL as well as scientific progress in Switzerland. He mentioned the names including Jim Massey, Ungerboek who are undoubtedly pioneers of modern communication theory and practice. He began saying that “…Ungerboek is our friend, and now not quite..I will come to that in a minute…”. And of course he didnt come back and fill the circumstance in which the friendship derailed. But I reckon it was a casual remark, perhaps to indicate that Ungerboek, now with Broadcom is a bitter rival to Qualcomm. Since Qualcomm recently established a scientific partnership with EPFL and Viterbi being a Qualcom founder and associate, he perhaps just jotted that remark. It was a nice, usual interesting presentation by Martin.

He also mentioned a nice story about the current EPFL president Patrick Aebischer. Interestingly Patrick Aebischer after an MD (Medical science) degree was fond of computer science and decided to venture into taking a MS degree in CS . He then decided to test his luck at EPFL and approached the admission committee with a formal application. CS was affiliated to the Math department in those days. EPFL politely rejected his application and in due course that ended Patrick’s quest for an EPFL CS degree. He then moved to the US, as a successful surgeon and took a career path of entirely different trace. Years later, as one would say, due to the uncertain turn of things in the great cycle of life, he became the EPFL president and now ruling not only the CS department, but the whole school.

Viterbi talked about the Digital Communication history. He started giving a perspective of this field starting from the days of Maxwell, Rao, Cramer, Wiener and Nyquist. Then he discussed the impact of Shannon’s work. He said the three driving force which made this digital mobile revolution are

1) Shannon’s framework (1948)

2) Satellite (Sparked by the Sputnik success in 1957)

3) Moores’s law, which is more of a socio economic law, which dramatically kept driving the industry so successfully.

The talk as such wasn’t too attention gathering, but he made a rather comprehensive presentation discussing the impact of  digital communication evolution spurred since Shannon’s days (and even early) knitting a dramatic success story of digital wireless world with millions of cell phones and similar devices, which showcased literally the realization of theoretical promise Shannon made in 1948. He himself has his name etched in part of that success story, at least in the form of Viterbi algorithm, which is (one of the instance of it) an algorithm used to detect sequences when perturbed by a medium.

Quite a lot of fun activities were organized by the committee. It was quite fun. Since many programs (especially the fun part) were in french, the appeal was considerably deaf to non-french speakers. But then the rationale given was that, the alumni in good percentage are french! I found it funfilled , mainly to see these successful people like Viterbi sharing their views in real. After all we can learn from history. Not many people can claim to have done so well in everything he touched. In the case of Viterbi, he is an academician, researcher, successful entrepreneur and now a venture capitalist, all scaled to the possible limits. Incredible role model, whichever way we look.

…and it is Oracle! Quite a surprise! Thats the least I felt, when the news broke out stating that Oracle is buying Sun Microsystems. The once great and proud maker of some of the best servers and computing power houses is now leading to the hands of a software giant, largely focused on database solutions. There is no natural connection to the obvious eye But who knows? Oracle may be eying something big! I cant see a justification of spending 7.4Billion $ to get hold of Java and MySQL alone. These are the big software solutions from Sun, apart from Solaris.  Anyway both these are open source software too. Afterall Sun is known for its champion make of servers right? Is it that Oracle feared an imminent acquisition by some other competitor, which might have distracted their lead? For a good amount of time the speculation was on whether IBM would still buy Sun. Then it was the Cisco, and the HP taking rounds as potential buyers. None of these materialized, but Oracle, the one choice with maximum entropy!

Would it be that, Oracle saw something big with Solaris? Are they eying on a solid operating system market? In any case, a decision to buy a company for 7.4Billion cant be for fun. Surely there got to be a plan, at least in theory!As someone opined in some article recently about possible consolidation of SAP and a possible buy over by one of he bigger fishes like IBM or HP. Now, that would take some shape too. Nothing can be ruled out at the moment. This is the sort of indication floating around.

It was almost unthinkable that a single company would rule the EDA world. At least this is what I strongly perceived, a few years ago. Now, put the present dishes on the table and I see that, Synopsys is giving nightmares to all other EDA shops. While working with Synopsys, we always saw Cadence as the rival company to get floored on. All of that, was in the wish list and not many of us thought we could do that, ever so easily. Cadence was the obvious leader of EDA for many years and Synopsys strongly stood at the second position. Then there were the Mentors and the Magmas, at a fair distance down. Magma was the emerging company with a strong future predicted by many pundits within and outside the EDA world. It was imminent that Magma one day would give a stronger competition to both the big brothers Synopsys and Cadence. They may still be a force to reckon, but sadly they tried to act over smart and it all triggered a downfall. I am not sure whether their, rather peculiar sue attempt on Synopsys was wholly responsible for their slide. Definitely that may have had a role. 

Now it appears that, the discounts offered by the EDA big fellows are giving more aches to smaller players. It is well known that the EDA tools are phenomenally expensive and the marketing always revolved around giving deals for bulk purchase of tools. What is more colourful is that the buyers offer to make the deal public in exchange of more discounts. The concept of primary EDA vendor was not that prevalent a few years ago. However, the trend these days is to grab that extra mileage by roping with leading semiconductor houses. It is a big win for both the buyer and seller. Synopsys for sure  is going to enjoy this. First they are among the very few making profit even in these difficult economy. They are perhaps the only one from EDA. Considering that the EDA market itself is only about 4 or 5Billion dollar market, the impact of a near 1.5billion dollar Synopsys doing too well is going to give more headache to other little fellows, in the coming days.

Cadence is literally having a plate of their own problems and now with the whole semiconductor market trying to minimize their R&D spending, it is double advantage for Synopsys; That too with newer friends adding to their primary EDA friends list. Magma is becoming more or less a prospective buying target than a rival. A few years ago, Synopsys had worries about a growing Magma. Now I wouldnt rule out a potential buy over by Synopsys itself, may be Cadence or Mentor Graphics! 

Some people say that Synopsys is going to be the next Microsoft in EDA. Aart perhaps rightly said they want to be the Apple of EDA. I would prefer Aarts view here. Not just because Synopsys was my breadwinner for a while and not because I attended the same grad school as De geus, nor because of the well known fact that yours truly is an ardent fan of Aart de Geus. But because Synopsys is  well managed by a great management team with great work ethics. When the ratable (subscription) revenue/ licensing model was announced there were lot of eyebrows, but it was a long term vision and Synopsys is really reaping the fruits now. 

Having said all these, like many of you, I am too worried by this single monopoly trend in EDA. We need smaller players in every market and we need more innovation. From Synopsys standpoint having less competition would yield relaxed days ahead, but for the market we need better products and superior innovation. We need Cadence to revive and at the same time companies to emerge to take position for the next Magma. At this stage, I am worried about Magma. Is Magma to follow the Avant! route to get merged with Synopsys?

Aart has aptly mentioned that “I understand that the entire world is under economic pressure,” he said. “When that happens, some will do better than others”. One thing for sure. Among all the EDA executives, Synopsys folks must be getting better sleep these days.

Today, there appeared an interestng (and perhaps general) question posted on the Linkedin Analog RFmixed signal group. The question was this “Regarding multi-mode multiband RF transmitters for handsets (CMOS), what do you think are the hot issues (besides PA)?” I have given a short overview of the challenges that I could see when a multi mode phone is to be designed on CMOS: The phone has to support a wide range of frequency bands as well as multiple standards/technologies/modulation/air interface. Here is what I wrote.  I am not sure whether the discussion is accessible to public. Hence I repost here. 

Integrating the RF transmitter and receiver circuits is a challenging thing since we have to support multiple bands (within a single mode. Say GSM/EDGE should support GSM900 to 1900 bands) as well as support for multiple phone modes. For instance a natural multi mode multi band phone supporting GSM/GPRS/EDGE/WCDMA/LTE will have to consider a wide frequency ranges from 850MHz to over 2GHz. If we were to consider incorporating GPS and WLAN, add that extra consideration. Not just the transceiver circuitry, but also other components such as oscillators, filters, passive components, frequency synthesizers and power amplifiers. Another thing is that, for multi mode, the sensitivity requirements are much more stringent than a single mode, multi band design. 

Since CMOS offers low cost, better performance and better scaling, to me that is the way forward. The natural choice of transceiver in CMOS would be the direct conversion/Zero IF, since it eliminates the costly SAW filters, and also reduce the number of on chip oscillators and mixers. Now, there would be several key design issues to be considered now with direct conversion architecture. Most notable ones are the well known ghost “DC offset” and the 1/f noise. Designers will have the task cut out to get a cleaner front end and as well as near ideal oscillators. 

Now I see another problem with multi mode, depending on what level of flexibility we prefer on this integration. Do we need the phone to operate in multiple modes simultaneously? Say a voice call on GSM and at the same time a multimedia streaming on LTE. In such a case, the question of sharing components are completely ruled out. If not, say some components such as synthesizers and mixers (if in the same band for multiple modes) can be shared. Clearly, simultaneous mode operation will ask for increased silicon die size as well as cost. Challenges may be there for circuit isolation for different modes as well. 

In all, depending on the level of sophistication (and of course all these things will have to be scaled economically too) the design,partitioning, architecture challenges are aplenty. Now the choice between a single chip (containing both analog baseband and digital baseband) versus two chips (analog and digital partitioned) will get a little more trickier with multiple modes. With multiple antennas (MIMO), add another dimension to this whole thing:-(.

The latest talk/demo at TED opened up a fresh life to the possibility of a sixth sense.  The MIT Media labs now have unveiled a prototype of the sixth sense setup. The whole thing is  reasonably economical already and all indications are that this is going to rock some day. Incredible idea which went all the way to realization. Kudos to Pranav Mistry, Pattie Meas and their team.  One thing I am really hoping out of it is that, this paving way to assist disabled people. For instance a blind, deaf or dumb person finding avenues to get a sixth sense aid would be really helpful.

Video Link

Phew! After the heck of debates and discussions (over years) on the standard evolution of the IEEE 802.11n for multiple antennas (MIMO), now it appears that we are all in for a single stream (single antenna) chip. It sounds more like an 11g upgrade, or perhaps a conservative lead from there on? If Atheros believe this is is the way to go I have my belief that Broadcom and Marvell have it in the delivery line too.  Here is that interesting new story at EEtimes.

Here is a list of some of my favourite Indian commercial ads.  Thanks to youtube, I get to see them again! The adhisive brand “Fevicol”has produced some inredible and funny ads.  Most of their ads stuck on to the viewers mind.  Among the other funny ads, I liked camlin erasurs and marker ones.  I better dont say too much here. As they say, the fun in an ad is best viewed and chilled out! Have a look and enjoy the fun and appreciate the creativity of these fabulous ad makers.

The old Ericsson mobile phone ad (I guess 1996). The concept of a  “small” phone back in 1996 perhaps is too outdated for today.  All boils down to Moore’s law!

Rimii Sen and Aamir Khan did a nice job here in this Bengali accented conversation.  The coke ad is one of the better ads from the cool drink folks.

Fevicol: Simply superb ad from the popular adhesive brand.’s famous Hari Sadoo funny ad:

How about this one. To be this is too good an ad from Camlin.

The Peugeot ad used to appear in Channel 4 in UK. It was an incredible ad. I am glad that this is there for viewing in youtube. Superb one.  

I have been searching for this ad for a long time. One of the best (in terms of creativity) ad I have ever seen. They used to show this ad in England. To me simply amazing ad this is. If not mistaken the ad was created by the Italian agency Euro RSCG Italia based in Milan and by a Dutch director.  Superb ad.

I don’t get to watch Indian television daily, but I still keep an eye on them once in a while by visiting their websites. The two sites I visit so are CNN-IBN and NDTV. These are sort of the two large English visual media in India. For the last one month or so, one issue (other than perhaps the left Congress party fiasco over the proposed nuclear deal with the united states) widely flashed is a murder of a young teenage girl Arushi in Noida, a suburb of Delhi. The unfortunate girl apparently had to pay an innocent life to the cruel world of cunning and sheer callousness. The callousness of the cruel people leave the society to a state of shock and uneasiness. A sense of fear is invited all around. But my point is none of these.
I am appalled by the way the Indian media went about sensationalizing this news. I can understand the many soap Indian yellow news channels (most of the Hindi news channels are just that) going this way. The two celebrated Indian news channels NDTV and CNN-IBN are just no better. Day in and out their journalists competed to present a set of tabloid style news with the quest to attract the greedy readers and audience. I say this with utter disappointment. Here is a girl, the only child to their parents and she is lost. There is investigation on going. It is a basic courtesy not to write stories about the victim’s family without having enough substance to what they talk about. News readers and media can talk senselessly on any topic and feel happy for it. Their flash news are spread across the country like tabloids. There must be some integrity and social responsibility before they venture into such silly acts. I dont have a problem when they expose any irregularities in the investigation or any cover up. But they should not air their verdict as if they are the supreme, even before doing a proper evidence collection. After saying nonstop incorrect stories about the family, now they can simply accuse the police and CBI for all what happened. Look at the family. They lost her daughter, they are portrayed as villain to the public, they lost their social reputation and health. Man this is agonizing. Police and CBI can be questioned, later on for all wrong doing. They can still be brought to justice, for any harm they created, but who can question or challenge the media? They offer all kind of accusations, but they are the one who enjoy the freedom to tarnish anyone of their choice. This is not a good going for the channels which claim to have reputed journalists. Pity!


April 2017
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