June News

McLaren Vale vines

McLaren Vale vines, 29th May, 14:45 — near the corner of Johnston Road and Bellevue Drive (looking north). This is our winter for readers outside of Oz, vines have since been pruned.

“I have had the cellar door for five years,
been making wine for 45 years and living for
nearly 75 years — with a few hiccups
in between. I am semi retired now,
I only work seven days a week.”

   Graham Stevens, June 2014,
On the Coast newspaper,
Business section, pp 14 — 15,
Graham Stevens' 75th birthday.


Financial Year End

Another year with better than expected results — no retrenchments and we still have free coffee with cookies. The little grey bitch in reception doubled her weight since she joined us, so she's happy.

On the electronics side we did little development, but the embedded software picked up nicely. The hardware designs will continue later in the year.

 

 

 

Plans Ahead

The ARM vendors have been rolling the hampster wheel with numerous introductions and trying to keep up with the next announced core. On the 64-bit side, only Apple really shipped any volume. There was no lack of hype, however, the delivery of the next crop of SoCs does not just include one or more cores, but most include significant networking capability.

Will they dethrone Intel's X86-64? — Time will tell, but we look forward to seeing how the competition will support smaller players with datasheets and reasonable reference boards. So far, we have been “allowed” to pre-order a board that we cannot get a datasheet for, so we are going to sit it out for another six months to see what Cavium and AMD deliver.

Tales from the Woods

Model Railways

Model railway scenery

On the 7th June, various Model Railway clubs exhibited their layouts at Enfield, Port Adelaide. Although there was a little electronics, the more interesting part seems to be creating the scenery. The automated layouts with a large software (SCADA) component did not look like a lot of fun to run.

ARM 64 Updates

Cavium

Cavium made several announcements about their Project Thunder on 3rd June. See Cavium Introduces ThunderXTM: A 2.5 GHz, 48 Core Family of Workload Optimized Processors for Next Generation Data Center and Cloud Applications describing the 48 core 64-bit ARMv8 SoC.

Silicon is expected in early Q4'2014 for general sampling and reference platforms. There are several devices, plenty of Linux collaboration and a chance that they might actually be able to ship this hardware. They have been shipping multi-core MIPS64 communications devices for a while, so the change of an instruction set for the design team essentially required an architectural license from ARM. The devices are fully ARMv8 and SBSA compliant.

The original agreement at ARM and Cavium Extend Relationship With ARMv8 Architecture License, was announced in August, 2012. There were prior ARM 32-bit devices and MIPS64 multi-core from Cavium, so they have obviously had some time to think about this and chat to customers.


Applied Micro

We have been approved to purchase a X-Gene development board. This is all still new and we are up to our eyeballs this month, but we are looking forward to what the next generation of highly integrated hardware will bring. We believe that ARM64 will definitely take a slice out of the X86 pie. We were never impressed with the X86 architecture, but RISC with networking and storage is a game changer. Tired of seeing your router lights flashing when there is no activity on your computers that you were aware of? What about not being able to switch off Apple's face recognition in iPhoto? Cannot work out what half those programs are in Microsoft Windows and Google searches are not that convincing with the offer to “speed up a computer” bubbling to the top over definitive answers from Microsoft? Well, we are too. How about a C/C++ development environment for all your projects, even web documentation without having to learn dozens of packages for hosting? This requires that the server be hosted close to the developers, but we like the idea of gathering up all our dragons close to our chests. Clouds, storms and bad weather ahead — good news for local clouds or being able to migrate seamlessly.

Datasheets

We have been in this industry for almost thirty five years, and have seen how marketing have taken over the product announcements and offered PowerPoint promises, but the silicon is nowhere in sight. Pre-announcements are now almost two years out for ARM64. Intel must be laughing their heads off. What is so secretive about this chip? Try find a decent datasheet from anyone — AMD for Seattle, Cavium for Thunder, Freescale for LayerScape, the 5000 plus page manual from ARM, APM for X-Gene, ST Micro for their 64 bit promises. The list is endless, and this must be one of the poorest architecture introductions in history. You do not have two year horizons without even datasheets, and evaluation boards at almost five times the price of equivalent shipping X86-64 boards. Altera has nothing on the A53 quad-core, and although there is A57 data on ARM's website, we cannot find any for the A53.

We're a small player, but cannot see how the larger players will be sucked into the present hype for much longer unless the eco-system gets reasonable priced silicon. The eco-system in open-source is made up of small players, as none of the large players has managed to get their act together.

By month end, we had a price from APM via Avnet, but still no datasheet. Delivery was quoted as six weeks, so we might as well wait to see what the other chips look like if we ever get our hands on datasheets.


Bankers

In Are Europe's banks being prosecuted — or persecuted?, 30th June, PNP Paribas was fined $9bn. The report also said “A Financial Times study in March of 200 fines and restitutions since 2007, showed that of a total of $99.5bn in penalties, only $15.5bn came from foreign banks.” There were several large fines since then.

In Australia, Commonwealth Bank has some nasty publicity for dishonest advisors. Will they ever learn? Even more interesting — will those who suffered ever be repaid?

See how “The Commonwealth Bank repeatedly ignored evidence of an alleged $100 million fraud that implicated its own staff, and instead, seized the homes of victims in a bid to recoup its losses.” in CBA ignored evidence of $100m fraud, dated 21st June in the Sydney Morning Herald. It does not paint a pretty picture. And we whinged in April when we were only robbed of under $30 from another Australian bank!


Intel looses appeal

Intel lost their appeal against the fine of €1,06 — EU Court Upholds Record $1.43 Billion Fine Against Intel. The fine dates back to 2009, which shows how long these appeal and delay tactics can take. Intel still said that evidence was ignored. It should be noted that the participants in the “Intel against AMD PC rebates” included Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo. They were not fined, but were indeed participants in harming AMD.

Other High Tech

India satellite launches

India launches five foreign satellites, dated 30th June. In the same article, India has launched 67 satellites so far (including 40 foreign ones). Despite the intellectual capability, there is no sign of a semiconductor industry in India, yet many of the talented Indians as senior staff at Cavium, Texas Instruments, APM and others are highly successful in other countries. Perhaps the fabless model is so successful that it does not pay to have your own plant?

F-35 or Sukhoi?

The Ukraine military and pro-Russian supporters are using some serious weaponry to shoot down airplanes, helicopters and damage buildings. The YouTube videos of the Sukhoi planes and missiles makes it hard to believe that we have 72 F-35 planes on order. The distances from any of the missile capable countries is more than the return trip for a F-35, plus why try to sell off Quantas when you could probably purchase a decent Airbus or Boeing for the same price as a few fighter planes? Imagine what kind of manufacturing capability a fraction of this “investment” could buy.

As long as they are able to protect the vineyards of McLaren Vale from any hostile aircraft carriers or foreign purchasers, we are delighted, but perhaps the price was a little high at AUS $12,4 billion, as reported in Australian Buy Comes at Key Time for F-35 Program, in Defense News, 28th April, 2014.


Lost treasures

Unlike Syria, there are no monuments in Australia over a few thousand years old, but the ancient Phoenician buildings destroyed by the recent squabbles is absolutely heart breaking. For a while I thought the Empire and France were guilty of stealing many of the ancient civilization artifacts to place in the British Museum and Louvre, but after the dust settles in Syria, perhaps the only traces of their past might be safe in the British Museum and Louvre.

Phoenician amulets

 

Photo on left — Phoenician seals and amulets, 11th—7th century BC from Amrith, (part of Syria), in the British Museum. I took the photos in July 2005. The Phoenician building splendour using glass tiles exceeds modern efforts of government buildings that look like a six year old's drawing of a square box for a house. The Louvre in Paris had plenty of Phoenician wall tiles and complete walls, however, without accurate references, the pictures have not been posted. Anyway, even if you do believe me, the Louvre is worth a visit, as your chances of visiting Aleppo with a camera and keeping your head on your shoulders are poor.

In any case, it is possibly a good time to be an engineer again — civil engineer to build targets, mechanical engineer to make planes and missiles, and electronics engineer to add the expensive zero weight component (embedded software). What a waste of effort from so many to benefit so few!