Well, I haven’t written anything in awhile, and the big news story is the health care debate in Congress, so I’ll use this forum to weigh in with my two cents.

People opposed to health care reform tell scary stories about the prospect of rationing health care. The definition of “rationing” is “restricting the consumption of a relatively scarce commodity”. If health care is a relatively scarce commodity, either it will be rationed or it will be distributed unfairly, with many people not getting any. Kind of like the current situation. If it is not scarce, it won’t be. Given that health care is neither free nor cheap, it stands to reason that it will not be overly abundant, hence, it should be rationed. The only question is by whom and by what criteria. The criterion could be first come, first served, or it could by according to wealth, supply and demand. If we are compassionate, it will be by need. Then the only question is by whom. Would you prefer government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats? Or someone else? Insurance company bureaucrats are incentivized, directly or indirectly, by insurance company profits. How government bureaucrats would be incentivized is uncertain. Who do you mistrust more?

I’m currently doing some training development with Faizul Alam of Catalyte IC Design. The modules I’m working on are Introduction to DFT (Design for Test), Advanced LinkedIn topics, plus a possible resurrection of my Semiconductors for Non-Engineers seminar. I’ll be releasing more information here as things progress. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a difference between following the spirit of the law, and following the letter of the law. There’s a difference between being meticulously thorough, and CYA. There’s a difference between meeting the customer requirement, and meeting the customer specification. Read the rest of this entry »

The process of designing chips starts with the construction of a computer model based on the design specification. The computer model is used to derive both masks and test programs used in the manufacturing process. Some people not intimately familiar with the process are dismayed to learn that the testing process, and indeed the test environment, almost never replicate the way the chip will be used in the final product. Here’s why this is not a problem. Read the rest of this entry »

My blog hits have spiked, and I think I know why, so with apologies I feel a need to venture far afield from the stated purpose of this blog. A few years ago, the San Jose Mercury News was running a “one-liners” section as part their editorial letters. I had been saying since 9/11 that what had brought down the towers was faith (given the motivation of the perpetrators), and it occurred to me to juxtapose that notion with the idea of faith moving mountains. I’m surprised that no one seems to have beaten me to it. The quotation has made its way around the web for some time. Apparently, someone posted it this week to something called “reddit” and my blog hits and Facebook invitations have gone through the roof. It seems that this would be a very opportune moment to comment further.
Read the rest of this entry »

I was watching a science channel series about colonizing other planets. While most shows were about different bodies in our solar system (Venus! Titan!), one was about going to other stars, and they brought up the idea, long discussed in science fiction circles, of generation ships that take multiple human lifetimes to reach their destination. This proposal has always seemed quite naive to me. Read the rest of this entry »

I have posted on my personal website a one hour long video version of the “Technology Basics” series of articles already posted on this blog. I’ve run into some more problems with my laptop, so I’ve been unable to completely review the video. I would welcome feedback.

No, I haven’t given up blogging. I’ve been trying for the past several days to re-create recorded versions of some of my “Technology Basics” lectures, including animated PowerPoint, using a tool called Camtasia, which I’ve used before. I’m a few days into the free 30-day trial, but I’ve had trouble getting the tool to save my work. I can record seemingly trouble-free as long as I want, but if I go too long, the tool simply fails to save with no indication that anything has gone wrong. This is, to say the least, quite frustrating. I’m going to keep trying.

Addendum, June 15, 2009: After doing some hardware and software repair (new hard drive, OS fix), I did get Camtasia to run and record everything I needed, but I was not able to use the picture-in-picture preview feature. Using that feature resulted in the behavior described. The file would not save and PowerPoint crashed after the fact.

In this posting, I will revisit the topic of analogies and explore how to create them. To begin creating an analogy, first reduce the target phenomenon to basic principles. Then find another, more familiar phenomenon with similar basic principles. Read the rest of this entry »

Computer simulations, such as those used in the design of semiconductor integrated circuits, make it possible to design these circuits at a reasonable cost, but like all simulations they have their limitations. One of the most important things to realize about computer simulations it that they cannot predict success; they can only predict failure. A simulation that “passes” actually fails to predict a failure, and the best that can be said is that possible failure modes covered by the simulation have been eliminated. The more detailed the simulation, the more failure modes can be covered, but the longer the simulation takes to run.  If the level of detail is too great for the size of the design, the model won’t fit into the computer memory at all. Read the rest of this entry »