Well, she’s just entered the Mission Small Business contest to earn a small business grant from Chase and Living Social. To see what she’d do with the funds, you can take a look at her site. Please support her with a simple vote. Here’s how:
Go to http://www.missionsmallbusiness.com
Click the “Log In And Support” button
Log in to your Facebook account (enter your email and password). When the window pops up you should see “Mission: Small Business”
Click the “Log In With Facebook”
Find her company: Business name: Aware Gear ; State: California ; City: Torrance .
Be sure to click the VOTE button
If you can pass this on and add a mention to your Facebook page that would be greatly appreciated.
I have several projects starting up in the next few weeks, so the challenge of managing several concurrent projects has been on my mind. Managing multiple projects at once feels a little bit like juggling cats:
Even though it seems more difficult, I don’t think it’s inherently any different from managing a single project. Except, it’s absolutely crucial that each project is managed as efficiently as possible.
Being an engineer at heart, my tendency is to micro-manage things. I hate the idea of not having control and not knowing the status of every task all the time. Part of that is my nature, and part of it was learnt early in my management career.
When I first became a project manager, I was reticent to watch over the work of others. I figured, “I asked him to do this task, so it will get done the way I want it done.” The problem was that people did not always follow through and not always the way that I would have wanted them to. It was at this point that a colleague I trusted gave me this short but valuable insight. “Other people are not like me.”
Pretty obvious, but I think we all tend to assume that others will do things the way we would. Sometimes they do it differently and better, and that’s great. But other times, not so good. There were a few projects that blew up because I was not following up how tasks were getting done and so I learnt my lesson.
That’s when I got religion. Instead of assuming that tasks were getting done, I was all over people to make sure if and how they completed the work. Which made me much more effective as a project manager, but kind of a pain in the ass to work for.
I’m now somewhere in the middle, of course, but that does not mean I’ve just split the difference between absentee manager and micro manager. Instead, I have developed my own philosophy of project management that seems to work for me. Here are the 3 tenets:
Get it right early - The first few weeks of a project are the most critical, for obvious reasons. I try to make sure every person on the team knows his role, what are his reponsibilities, how they will work with others, how we communicate, etc. If I can get this part right, then things usually go smoothly from there. The first few weeks are also the time when the project goals, scope, budget go through the most change. Managing these changes and the associated risks, costs, schedule impacts, and expectations are critical to making sure the project is achievable. This is obviously a lot easier to say than do, so I like to engage everybody on the team to help us accomplish this.
Regular communication - This was one area I did not do well the first time around. I’d have sporadic 1-on-1 meetings or I’d only call people when there was an issues. Now, I make sure I touch bases with everyone on the team, and with the customer, at least once a week. It’s not always very long, but there’s that human relationship that needs to be developed that takes repeated and frequent contact, ideally face-to-face. With global teams this is not practical, so we talk on the phone, something that has been made easy and cheap by Skype. At least there is some human communication over the phone. Email and chat is used to keep in touch with quick things, but it tends to be less personal. I’ve found that if I stay in touch, people will bring me issues sooner and I can deal with them before they threaten to sink the project.
The customer, the customer, the customer - Especially within larger organizations that have been around awhile, there develops unspoken organizational and personal agendas and objectives that run counter to project success. Sure, it’s nice not to have to travel if you have a family (or to get to travel if you are young and single). It’s great to be able to work with the latest new tools or on the most challenging 28nm project or work with your best friend. In the end, however, as tough as it may sound, we’re all out of a job if we don’t take care of the customer. Whenever there is a tough decision to be made, it’s important to make project and customer success the #1 goal. That does not mean that everybody has to cancel his vacations and work 80 hour weeks, but it means that the impacts to the customer need to be considered and mitigated. Or else we’ll have a lot longer vacation than we bargained for.
There’s a lot more to project management than these 3 tenets, some of it nuts-and-bolts (how to develop a schedule, do risk management, etc), and some of it very difficult (how to deliver bad news to the customer). I like to think that these 3 tenets provide some guidelines that make the other stuff easier.
My apologies for the recent hiatus in my blog posting. It’s been a difficult time personally for me the past few months, dealing with family illnesses. Hopefully, I can get it going again.
With all that I had going on, it was a relief to escape last week for a few days to DAC in San Diego. After several years attending as a blogger (what DAC calls “independent media”), it was exciting to be on the floor representing Xuropa at the Synopsys Cloud Partners Booth. I still got to see several friends like JL Gray, who wrote up what he heard from us, and Peggy Aycinena, who accused me of being a sellout since I was in the Synopsys Cloud booth and had a Synopsys badge lanyard. And of course, what DAC would be complete without Eric Thune of AtopTech telling me that cloud will never work for EDA.
One of the downsides of being in the booth was not being able to attend a lot of the other sessions. I missed The Woz, and the Logan & McLellan show, and Gary Smith, and a lot of the panel discussions. I was, however, able to sneak away for the EDA Cloud Computing Panel discussion, featuring the usual suspects and a few new ones. A highlight was when John Bruggeman of Cadence offered to buy John Chilton of Synopsys a beer at the Denali Party and work out a joint Synopsys/Cadence solution on the cloud. No word yet how that turned out. Another highlight was the audience poll at the end where 1/3 of the audience felt that most of EDA would be on the cloud in 3 years. I don’t know if this is correct or not, but this is the 3rd year we had a cloud panel at DAC, and each year the expectations increase. Richard Goering has a good writeup on the panel.
One booth I did visit and get an interesting demo was Duolog. Duolog is a Xuropa customer (you can try out their tool here), which is why I knew a little about them going in. They have a tool called Socrates Bitwise that does register management for processor based designs. In this tool, you specify all the processor accessible registers, their type (RO, RW, etc), the locations (base and offset), and the tool automatically generates the RTL, verification code (OVM, UVM, etc), register package, C APIs and documentation. If something needs to change, you change it in one place in the tool and all the subsequent files are regernerated correct by construction. With many designs having hundreds or thousands of registers to manage, this is a growing problem to be solved. Duolog has a few competitors as well, but their biggest competition is in-house home-grown scripts.
Of course, there were my 150 closest friends I know from years gone by, too numerous to mention, lest I leave someone out. I’m reminded of Sean Murphy’s perfect description of DAC:
“The emotional ambience atDACis what you get when you pour the excitement of a high school science fair, the sense of the recurringwheel of lifefrom the movie Groundhog Day, and theauld lang syneof a high school re-union, and hit frappe.”
An overall impression I, and many others, had was that the show floor was smaller and there were fewer attendees than in the past. The official preliminary numbers, however indicate that DAC was larger than last year, so I’m not sure whether to believe my eyes or the numbers.
For me personally, it was my annual chance to connect with the entire industry, so I got a lot out of it. At a minimum, it provided me with a lot of good ideas that I can work on for the next year.
Most of the discussion that year was around OVM and VMM and which methodology was going to win out and which was really open and which simulator supported more of the System-Verilog language. Well, all that is put to bed. This year at DVCon, 733 days later, we all sang Kumbaya as we sat around and our hearts were warmed by the UVM campfire.
But, back to that small group that I hosted 761 days ago. Those that attended this conclave had shrugged off all the OVM and VMM hoopla and decided to come hear this strange discussion about Cloud Computing and SaaS for EDA tools. Some, no doubt, thought there was going to be free booze served, and they were certainly disappointed. Those that stayed, however, heard a fiery discussion between individuals who were either visionaries or lunatics. For many, this was the first time they had heard the term cloud computing explained, and their heads spun as they tried to imagine what, if anything would come of it for the EDA industry.
Over the 761 days since, the voices speaking of cloud computing for EDA, once very soft, grew slowly in volume. All the reasons that it would not work were thrown about like arrows, and those objections continue. But slowly, over time, the voices in support of this model have grown to the point where the question no longer was “if” but “when”.
There are many reasons why Synopsys should not be offering its tools on the cloud via SaaS:
Customers will never let their precious proprietary data off-site
It will cannibalize longer term license sales
The internet connection is too slow and unreliable
There’s too much data to transfer
The cloud is not secure
It’s more expensive
It just won’t work
But, as it turns out, there are better reasons to do it:
Customers want it
Sure, there are some other reasons. The opportunity to increase revenue by selling higher priced short-term pay-as-you-go licenses. Taking advantage of the parallelism inherent in the cloud. Serving a new customer base that has very peaky needs.
But in the end, Aart did what he does best. He put on his future vision goggles, gazed into the future, saw that the cloud was inevitable, and decided that Synopsys should lead and not follow.
Below is the response I received 2 days after my original email to Verizon. As you can see, no change on my end at this point. I’m not too happy, but what do you think?
Dear H. Gries,
Thank you for choosing Verizon. I have received your email dated 3/14/11 regarding your request to handle your concerns over a DSL technical issue that you were trying to report when an order was placed to remove your DSL and add Fios to your home. My name is Janine, and I will be happy to assist you.
We apologize for the delay in our response and regret any inconvenience to you.
I understand how important it is to be treated with respect and handle your concern efficiently.
We always welcome feedback from our customers and we appreciate your comments. We apologize for any difficulties you have experienced.
We constantly review our processes and procedures to determine where we can improve upon the Verizon customer experience. Customer feedback is vital to our business. Thank you for taking the time to offer your comments.
I am researching your online issue immediately. I have contacted our DSL escalation party to see if she can run your service back in immediately. Once I hear back from her, I will contact you back with her answer.
Although additional follow-up is needed, it has been my goal today to address your concerns related to the problems you have experienced. I hope I have succeeded in meeting that goal. In the meantime, if you have any other questions, please let us know. We look forward to serving you.
Thank you for using Verizon. We appreciate your business.
*****Simplify your life. Cut the clutter and help the environment with paperless billing!*****
This is an actual email I sent to Verizon 2 days ago regarding an “issue” with their broadband service. I will post their reply in later posts. This is an “opportunity” for them to show how they “provide excellent service” to each customer, even little guys like me. If you are in a service business, like I am, there might also be some lessons to learn. Your comments and thoughts are welcome.
On the evening of March 9 at ~10pm, our DSL service stopped working. The following morning at ~8am, we contacted Verizon for technical support. We spoke to Ivan (empl # Z192506), who told us that the DSL service should still be active and offered to send us to DSL support.
However, before forwarding the call, he recommended that we upgrade to FIOS. I told him that I was interested, but that FIOS would take days and that I needed the internet connection up today. He was extremely pushy, several times refusing to forward my call until I agreed to upgrade. I finally told him that I was only interested in fixing my DSL at this time and that I wanted him to forward the call immediately, which he finally did.
When I spoke to DSL support, they told me that the DSL had been deactivated because an order for FIOS had been put in. I told them that I had not put in an order. They could not tell me who had put in the order, but it was scheduled for March 21, 11 days later. I pleaded with them that I had not put in this order and that I wanted the DSL turned back on, but they said they could not do that. Even if they did, they said it would take just as long to turn on DSL as to get FIOS. They suggested I talk to the billing department.
So, I called the billing department and spoke to a gentleman who confirmed that the FIOS had been ordered, but he said he could not see when or who ordered it. I asked several times to try to find out where this order originated, but he would not say. Instead, he kept telling me to “move on from here”, like he was my psychiatrist. I found his demeanor to be extremely rude, non-empathetic, and condescending. When I asked to talk to a supervisor, he claimed he was a supervisor. I asked him why the DSL had been turned off before the installation, and he said that this was a possibility and that Verizon made no guarantees as to how long DSL would stay active before FIOS was connected. I told him that, if true, that would be a horrible way to do business and that Verizon customers would all object, but again he kept making it seem like I was the problem because I would not just accept what was happening and go happily away.
Today (March 14) I called again and spoke to a gentleman named Harry (empl# V119648). Harry was very helpful. He confirmed the order for March 21, and also told me that it was Ivan (empl # Z192506) who had put in the order, DESPITE MY TELLING HIM NOT TO!!! Harry also told me that the order had been entered wrong, leaving the default to disconnect DSL immediately, rather than having it disconnected when FIOS was installed.
In the meantime, my wife and I have been using our iPhone Mobile Hotspots (from Verizon) to access the internet for our home computers. I don’t know if we are going to go over our 2G limit on our phone’s mobile hotspot data plans, but we really have no choice.
Here is what I am asking for:
1) Immediate restoration of our DSL service for the period between now and next Monday March 21 when FIOS is going to be installed. However, I still want the FIOS installation at this point to go forward on Monday.
2) Waiver of ALL installation charges for FIOS service, since we did not order it.
3) Credit for DSL service for the time between March 9 and the day we have FIOS installed.
4) Credit for any overage charges we incur on our cell phones in the interim period before FIOS is installed.
5) Written (on paper) apology for being given misleading information, for being signed up for FIOS without our permission, and for being treated with such lack of respect by Verizon.
My other recourse is to consider this transaction as fraud, and report it as such.
Engineers tend to view the world in binary. There’s the good guys and the bad guys. There’s the right way and the wrong way. There are rich folks and poor folks. Democrats and Republicans. You’re with us or against us.
And there are winners and losers.
This week, working the Agnisys booth at DVCon, I got to see all these types and all the shades in between. I got to see the good guys (me, of course, and anyone who was with me) and the bad guys (the competition). I saw people doing things the right way (telling the truth, or close to the truth) and the wrong way (pure fabrications). I saw rich folks (CEOs in expensive suits and shoes) and poor folks (the guys at the hotel tearing down after the show). Most of the people from Silicon Valley were Democrats, I suppose, and many of the others were Republicans. And, of course, for the Big 3 EDA vendors, it was all about who was with them (on the EDA360 passport) or against them (everyone else).
But, when you look a little closer, you see a lot of shades in between. Personally, I knew people at almost every booth with whom I had worked before. They’re not good or bad, right or wrong, rich or poor, democrats or republicans, or with me or against me. They’re just old friends working in an industry they love on technology they are psyched about.
I actually had some foreshadowing of this as I was flying up to the conference. As I was passing through the metal detectors at LAX, I had noticed some tall gentlemen dressed in green warmup suits. Realizing it was a basketba,ll team, I curiously glanced at their logo and saw the name “Generals”. Later, I was able to get a full view of the name “Washington Generals”.
If you are not familiar, the Washington Generals are the basketball team that travels with the Harlem Globetrotters. They are perennial losers. The spoil and object of countless Globetrotter jokes. According to Wikipedia, the Generals lost over 13,000 games to the Globetrotters between 1953 and 1995, and won only 6 times. That’s a winning percentage of 0.0005! If anyone deserves the title of “Losers”, it’s the Washington Generals.
As I sat waiting for my flight, I noticed some other apparent basketball players dressed in red with white and blue trim. Could it be? Yes, they were the Globetrotters, winners of those same 13,000 games that the Generals had lost. If anyone deserves the ttle of “Winners”, it’s the Harlem Globetrotters.
What surprised me at the time was that these eternal rivals, Winners and Losers, were traveling together, joking and laughing like best friends. Although I know that they obviously travel together and they know eachother, for some reason I had expected them to be separated. The good guys and the bad guys. The Winners and the Losers.
Just as the Generals and Globetrotters are rivals on the court but friends off the court, these EDA veterans were rivals at the booths at DVCon but friends in the bar afterwards. The EDA industry is kind of like a professional sports league. Sure, the teams compete with eachother. But players move between teams all the time and most of the players are friends off the field. In the end, what’s most important is that the league grows and is successful.
I met Anupam Bakshia last year as one of the winner’s of the Xuropa Do More With Less Contest. We’ve kept in touch since then, so when he mentioned that he was going to be a first time exhibitor at DVCon, I was thrilled. Bootstrapping a company is difficult, and attending a conference is a big commitment of time and resources. Anupam asked for Xuropa’s help, so if you go to DVCon this week you will see me in the Agnisys booth. Please stop by and say hello to me and, more importantly, to Anupam.
I also thought it would be interesting to understand how and why Anupam started Agnisys. He was gracious enough to take some time to answer my questions.
Harry: Tell me a little bit about your background?
Anupam: I started my career at Gateway Design Automation (the company that created Verilog), which was later acquired by Cadence Design System where I was responsible for creating Verilog simulation libraries for various foundries. From the very beginning, I despised manual, error prone, laborious work and was often the first in the company to create new Perl based utilities to automate as much as possible. I then joined PictureTel and later Avid where I continued my pursuit of Automation-Nirvana – a design and verification process where no time is wasted, where there is a single source, no duplication ….
Harry: Was there a problem that you encountered that led you to create the products you developed at Agnisys?
Anupam: Yes, my experience at high tech companies helped me understand the typical design and verification challenges the development team face. Both at AVID and PictureTel I was lucky to have bosses that allowed me a free reign to spend a lot of time working with engineers to create useful utilities. It was very gratifying to see happy people using the tools that I created.
Harry: Why and how did you go from working in CAE/Verification groups to starting your own company?
Anupam: These companies were great, but there was a limit to how much time and resources I could spend on tangential activities like creating tools and scripts for process improvement. So I launched this company to work on such process improvement utilities full time and with a dedicated team of people.
Harry: Last year, Agnisys was one of the winners of the Xuropa Do More With Less Contest. Tell us how Agnisys as a company is doing more with less and how your tools help your customers do more with less.
Anupam: We fundamentally believe in doing more with less. We enable our customers to do the same.
Harry: So, IDesignSpec was your company’s first product. Tell me more about what it does?
Anupam: IDesignSpec(IDS) was our first product and it won an award the same year it was launched. It can basically take a register specification and create all the downstream code and documentation from it. Over the years we have added more and more capability and now it is kind of universal register transformation tool. So it can create almost anything from any form of input data.
Harry: Has the importance of this type of tool increased with release of UVM?
Anupam: Yes absolutely! UVM now has a register package however, it doesn’t come with a register generator. IDS fills the void, because it can take your IP-XACT, SystemRDL, Word, Excel, OpenOffice register documentation and create UVM code from it.
Anupam: While IDesignSpec solves a niche problem of managing register data, IVerifySpec solves a broader problem of verification. It enables users to create vendor-neutral plans for verification, monitor their execution and manage gobs and gobs of data associated with modern day verification of large ASICs and FPGAs.
IAssertSpec is a new tool that we have developed, it is basically a “decoder ring” for SVA!
Harry: In closing, do you have anything special planned for DVCon this year?
Over the holiday break, I came across an interview of Altium CIO Alan Perkins that caught my eye. Sramana Mitra has been focusing on interesting cloud-based businesses and this interview focused on how this EDA company was planning to move into the cloud. I wasn’t able to talk to Alan Perkins directly, but I was able to find out more through their folks in the US (the company is based in Australia). It was interesting enough to warrant a post.
I knew very little about Altium before seeing this interview and maybe you don’t either, so here is a little background. Based in Australia, Altium is a small (~$50M) EDA company focused primarily in the design of printed circuit boards with FPGAs and embedded software. They formed from a company called Protel about 10 years ago and most recently gained attention when they acquired Morfik, a company that offers an IDE for developing web apps (more on that later). According to some data I saw and from what they told me, they added 1700 new customers (companies, not seats) in 2010 just in the US! So, they may be they best kept secret in a long while. (Ironically, the next day at work after I spoke to Altium, I spoke to someone at another company that was using Altium to design a PC board for us).
According to Altium, their big differentiator is that they have a database-centric offering as compared to tool-flow centric offerings like Cadence OrCAD and Allegro and Mentor’s Board Station and Expedition and related tools. I’m not an EDA developer, so I won’t pretend to understand the nuances of one versus the other. However, when I think of a “database-centric”, I think of “frameworks”. I know it’s been almost 20 years since those days, and things have changed, so maybe database-centric makes a lot of sense now. OpenAccess is certainly a good thing for the industry, but that is because it’s an “open standard” while Altium’s database is not. Anyway, enough on this matter because, as I said, I’m not an EDA developer and don’t want to get in too deep here.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Is IP a 4-Letter Word?”. The main thrust of that post was that IP quality is rather poor in general and there needs to be some sort of centralized authority to grade IP quality and to certify its use. So, when Altium told me they plan to enable a marketplace for design IP by creating ”design vaults” in the cloud, my first question was “who is going to make sure this IP is any good”? Is this going to be the iPhone app model, where Apple vets and approves every app? Or is it going to be the Android model, caveat emptor.
To Altium’s credit, they have similar concerns, which is why they are planning to move slowly. With their introduction of Altium Designer 10, Altium will first provide it’s own vetted IP in the cloud. In the past, this IP was distributed to the tool users on their site, but having it in the cloud will make it easier to distribute (pull, insted of push) and also allow for asynchronous release and updates. The tools will automatically detect if you are using an IP that has been revved, and ask you if you want to download the new version.
Once they have this model understood, Altium then plans to open the model up to 3rd party IP which can be offered for free, or licensed, or maybe even traded for credits (like Linden dollars in Second Life). It’s an interesting idea which requires some pretty significant shifts in personal and corporate cultures. I think that sharing of small “jelly bean” type IP is acheivable because none of it is very differentiated. But once you get to IP that required some significant time to design, why share it unless IP is your primary business. The semiconductor industry is still fiercely competitive and I think that will be a significant barrier. Not to mention that it takes something like 4x-5x as much effort to create an IP that is easily reusable as compared to creating it just to be used once.
Being a tool for the design of FPGAs is an advantage for Altium, since the cost of repairing an FPGA bug is so much less than an SoC or ASIC. For FPGAs, the rewards may be greater than the risks, especially for companies that are doing ASICs for the first time. And this is the market that Altium is aiming for … the thousands of sompanies that will have to design their products to work on the internet-of-things. Companies that design toasters that have never had any digital electronics and now have to throw something together. They will be the ones that will want to reuse these designs because they don’t have the ability to design them in-house.
Which brings us to Morfik, that company that Altium acquired that does IDEs for web apps. It’s those same companies that are designing internet enabled toasters that will also need to design a web app for their customers to access the toaster. So if Altium sells the web app and the IP that let’s the toaster talk to the web app, then Altium provides a significant value to the toaster company. That’s the plan.
Still, the cloud aspect is what interests me the most. Even if designers are reluctant to enter this market, the idea of having this type of central repository is best enabled by the cloud. The cloud can enable collaboration and sharing much better than any hosted environment. And it can scale as large and as quickly as needed. It allows a safe sort of DMZ where IP can be evaluated by a customer while still protecting the IP from theft.
This is not by any means a new idea either. OpenCores has been around for more than a decade offering a repository for designers to share and access free IP. I spoke with them a few years ago and at the time the site was used mainly by universities and smaller companies, but their OpenRISC processor has seen some good usage, so it’s a model that can work.
I’m anxious to see what happens over time with this concept. Eventually, I think this sort of sharing will have to happen and it will be interesting to see how this evolves.
As we enter a new year, it is comforting to know that we all are just a little bit dumber than we were last year.
According to an article in Discover Magazine, human brains have shrunk approximately 10% since Cro-Magnon man walked the earth 20,000 years ago. Although there is no certain relationship between brain size and intelligence, this still seems to be rather alarming and goes against what we all grew up believing. After all, don’t all those aliens have small bodies and big heads?
There are, of course, theories to explain this shrinkage.
One theory is that our brains have become more efficient and hence can do the same or better job with less mass. That’s the theory I’d like to believe.
Another thoery, described quite well in this clip from the movie Idiocracy, is that intelligence is no longer an asset for survival and procreation, and may even be a liability. That’s the theory I fear is true whenever I channel surf.
An interesting observation made by one anthropologist is that a smaller brain seems to be a way of naturally selecting against aggression and for tolerance and collaboration. Whereas early man had to be self-reliant and independent and aggreesive against his fellow man to survive, modern man benefits from the community which requires him to be tolerant and to collaborate.
By that reasoning, social media and social networking, which require a large amount of collaboration, are just the next stage in the evolution of the species.
So, as we start 2011, I’d like to propose a toast to us small-minded folks in social media. Smaller is better