Archive for December, 2008

Are My Kids Are Going To Jail?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I hope nobody at ASCAP is reading this. Because, if they are, they might be sending my kids to jail. First, some background.

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If you don’t know who ASCAP is, they are the the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That sounds all fine and good … after all, I support the Arts. In fact, though, they are the ones who go door-to-door to coffee shops around the country shaking down small business owners to pay royalties on recorded music they play in their stores.  All to protect the artist, so he can get his 7% (the average) and the publisher can get his 93%.

Last Friday, we had our parent-teacher conference with our daughter’s 2nd grade teacher. During the conference, we inquired whatever became of the “music share day” that had been planned earlier this year. You see, my daughter, as well as other children in her class, were looking forward to bringing in their favorite music to share with their fellow students during an art class.

To my surprise, it seems that this idea was way out of line.  You see, evidently, ASCAP had previously stepped up to enforce the rights of its client artists (remember, the ones getting 7% of the licensing fees). They felt that a school was no place for children to learn about music unless they pay the licensing fees. So they sued the school board in order to protect their clients rights and stamp out any unauthorized and illicit learning that might be occurring without a valid license agreement. Bless their souls. And now the school board had adopted a clear guideline regarding copyrighted material … just say no.

Bottom line … no music in the art class.

Now, I don’t deny that the original composer deserves some royalty (again, the 7%), and I’m not advocating copyright infringement. But …  isn’t this a clear example where the music industry would be better off allowing schools to use copyrighted music. Not only is the use of this music in a classroom setting harmless to the industry, what better way to spread the music than allow elementary school students to bring in their favorite music. Look at what’s happened with Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

The EDA industry has long supported university education by providing courseware and tools for classroom instruction.  Sure, they want to support learning, but they also understand that students will be more likely to use the tools they learned in college when they get to industry. It just makes good business sense.

(As a side note, I would like to challenge the EDA industry, especially the big vendors, to extend the university offerings to those designers who have been recently affected by layoffs. Many of these professionals are in need of retraining and the ability to access these course materials and tools will help them find their next jobs. I think it makes good business sense, because these designers will learn the company’s tools and I am sure will be forever grateful for the helping hand. If you are employed by an EDA company and are reading this, please bring this up with your management.)

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That same evening, the YMCA had a Christmas Party where the kids got to perform some Christmas songs. Kiara participated in an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song and Nate was the 12th day of Christmas. As I watched them, my thoughts went back to the copyright issue and I wondered to myself whether the YMCA had secured the public performance rights to these songs. I asked one of the YMCA leaders about it and sure enough, they did. Phew! In fact, she told me that the kids are so “with it” these days, they even know to ask the leaders “is it on the approved list?”

Thankfully, someone was careful to make sure they had done things by the book.  Otherwise, they’d have to bring out the paddy wagon to cart all these kids off to jail.

harry the ASIC guy

Streams or Fences?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

While growing up in the concrete jungle of New York (Brooklyn to be exact), I developed an interest in the natural world that I got to see too little of. I almost never missed a Sunday night episode of Marlon Perkins and Jim Fowler on Wild Kingdom.  And now, of course, there are dozens of regular shows on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, and on and on and on.

If you’ve watched any of these shows then you know that there is a universal truth in nature. Where there is water, there will be life.  Find a stream and you will find water which nourishes plant life which is food for small animals which are food for larger animals. A stream becomes an oasis of life … a little ecosystem that supports itself and flourishes.

Once they find such an oasis, animals won’t leave on their own.   Even if there may be something better far away, it’s not worth the risk of the trip, because they have all they need. But sometimes nature intervenes. Perhaps there is a drought and the water dries up and the plants fade away. Then the animals have no choice but to look for “greener pastures”.

When animals were first domesticated, shepherds understood this principle and concerned themselves primarily with the care of the flock (imagine some pristine image of David). They knew that the sheep would not stray as long as they were provided for. Ranchers understood this as well, but eventually the they started to worry about other ranchers rustling cattle.  So they built fences to keep the cattle rustlers out and to keep their cattle from straying.

In business, companies have a choice … to focus their time and efforts on creating streams that satisfy their customers’ needs or to create fences to keep the customers in and the competition out. In EDA, the industry leaders have done both.

  • More than a decade ago, Synopsys was an innovator by creating SolvIt! (now Solvnet), a 24/7/365 available knowledge database that enables uncountable designers to solve problems on the weekend or in the middle of the night. I have spoken to several Synopsys customers who cite Solvnet as one of the key reasons they stay with Synopsys tools. Solvnet is a stream.
  • Just a few months ago, Cadence launched it’s Online User Community. Extended from it’s existing user forums, this community offers access to Cadence and designer tool expertise and interaction with those driving the direction of future tools. This is also a stream.
  • Over the last several years, Synopsys has resisted customer requests to offer short-term (e.g. monthly or weekly) licenses for peak use, so that customers could match their license usage with peak needs. They feared that such an offering would jeopardize longer term sales and  lower switching costs for customers. This is a fence. (To be fair, Synopsys has recently started offering short-term e-licensing options)
  • Cadence recently kicked dozens of competitors out of its Connections Program. This is a fence.

I’m not such an idealist to think that EDA companies will focus entirely on creating streams and not consider the competition.  That would be foolhardy. But there is a corporate culture, a corporate mission, that is either focused on the customer or focused on the competition.  That’s a key difference.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Cloud Computing and Software-as-a-Service for EDA. Some feel it is inevitable. Others point out all the barriers that exist.  Ultimately, I think it boils down to one simple question:

  • Does the EDA industry as a whole, and do EDA companies individually, see their mission as creating streams or building fences?

If just one company sets as it’s mission to build a cloud computing stream, a SaaS oasis, to nourish the design community, then it’s going to happen. And designers and customers will come.

On the other hand, if the EDA industry focuses on building fences to lock customers into long-term agreements, to discourage interoperability, and to squash standardization efforts, then nothing will change and the industry will dry up and die.

It’s up to you. Go build a stream.

harry the ASIC guy

VMM on Questa & IUS Redux? Anything New Here?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Considering what I’ve been hearing about the status of the Accellera VIP Subcommitee activity regarding OVM / VMM integration, I was rather surprised to see the following synchronized press releases from Mentor and Cadence yesterday:

As I understand, the Accellera VIP Subcommittee has just recently begun tackling the real crux issues regarding integrating the 2 methodologies such as:

  • Casting of disparate types
  • Synchronization of the simulation phases
  • Message reporting

My speculation is that Mentor and Cadence are just now formally announcing the availability of the “fixed up” VMM code that had previously leaked out in a blog post by JL Gray.

Does anyone out there know what’s really in this release? It would be good to hear directly from the vendors on this.

How about OVM on VCS? Has anybody been able to get that working?

harry the ASIC guy