Electronic Design

Give Customers What They Want By Building On The Past

You may have the greatest idea since sliced bread, but if the customer wants omelets, then it's time to break some eggs. That's when someone comes up with the idea for egg sandwiches.

Take M-Systems' new SmartCap subsidiary. The company took a great idea like its DiskOnKey and turned it into an MP3 player. It seems that DiskOnKey users wanted to do more than just move data from one PC to another.

The SmartCaps MP3 player costs $129.99 with a 128-Mbyte DiskOnKey (see the figure). But it will work with a DiskOnKey of any capacity, including M-Systems' 1-Gbyte monster. The DiskOnKey's 7-Mbyte/s transfer rate makes updates quick and easy. No special software or cable is needed. One size fits all, from Windows to Mac to Linux.

The MP3 player is just a starting point for SmartCap, so expect more DiskOnKey-enabled devices in the future, from data acquisition to game consoles. Eventually, I expect the ExpressCard standard to lead the way in this type of enhancement product because of its compact form factor. For now, though, the DiskOnKey form factor has the edge.

Listening to the customer is key, and Triscend heard loud and clear with its new A7V line of reconfigurable MCUs based on the 32-bit ARM7TDMI. The original A7S required developers to set up most peripherals using the SRAM-based Configurable System Logic (CSL) matrix. The A7V has a 512-cell CSL matrix, but it adds features like dual 16C550-style UARTs, an SDRAM interface, and direct memory access.

Versions are available with a host of standard peripherals, including an eight-channel, 10-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC), one or two 10/100 Ethernet media access controllers, a CAN 2.0B controller, a USB 1.1 device controller, and a pair of I2C-compatible Two-Wire Serial Interface (TWSI) controllers.

Implementing these peripherals in hardware-wired logic instead of the CSL results in better silicon and power utilization. The flexibility of the CSL and the standard peripherals make the A7V a great device for demanding applications like voice-over-Internet-protocol phones. Triscend's FastChip 3.0 development system also was announced with the A7V's release.

Mentor Graphics' Accelerated Technology group has been keeping its ear to the ground. The noise from developers about security was getting louder, so Mentor came up with the Nucleus Cipher Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) plug-in to the Nucleus Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). AES is becoming widely adopted as the encryption methodology of choice. Nucleus Cipher AES pricing starts at $2995.

Finally, check out the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium's (EEMBC) latest suite of Networking Benchmarks Address Network Routers, Switches, and Gateways. The new tests replace the 1998 versions and add highly requested benchmarks for quality-of-service (QoS), IP packet check, IP reassembly, and Network Address Translation (NAT).


Triscend Corp.

Mentor Graphics Corp.

Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium

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