Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another kind of Oscar race

Each year at this time, I scramble to view as many Oscar contenders as I can before the award ceremony is held (March 7, this year). Nominees will be announced on Feb. 2, so nothing is official as yet, but the industry is still buzzing with speculation. Years ago, I had the privilege of covering digital content creation as a senior technical editor of a monthly trade publication on computer graphics and visual effects technologies, trends, and techniques. Today, I enjoy the benefit of seeing my previous and present roles converge; that is, a majority of today's coolest, eye-catching, and awe-inspiring films (and games, for that matter) incorporate a military, aerospace, and electronics vein.

Heck, I would even wager that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs includes a military aspect.

As I endeavor to take in as many soon-to-be-nominated films as possible, I am impressed by the majority that have a military or aerospace component this year.

Now, I am not implying that the films I mention here will be nominated for an Academy Award. (I have no psychic abilities, plus some of them I could not bring myself to finish watching--namely the Transformers sequel.) Nonetheless, I will admit that I found each of the following to be novel in some way, many with regard to the advanced electronics employed in mil-aero missions and environments. The films include:

Terminator: Salvation (this movie, in particular, included a display from Digital Systems Engineering and server from Crystal Group--something I blogged about earlier this year)
Star Trek
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
Monsters vs. Aliens
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
GI Joe: Rise of Cobra

My favorite, by far, was Avatar. When I was in Seattle a month or so ago, the Seattle Science Fiction Museum was handing out free tickets to see Avatar at the Boeing IMAX Theater but they ran out. Rats! The trip was not wasted, however, as I was treated to a tour of the Future of Flight Museum and Boeing's facility in Everett, Wa. I highly recommend it if you're in the area (I will describe the visit in detail in a coming blog, and you can follow the Future of Flight on Twitter (#futureofflight) for some entertaining and interesting news and insights.

I finally saw Avatar just last night in 3D, and it was phenomenal. One of my geekier friends who attended with me (for his third time) called it "pure bliss." It was two hours and 40 minutes that passed in what seemed the blink of an eye--although I am sure I kept my blinking to a minimum, with eyes wide. It's the 3D CG (computer graphics) I have been waiting for since I was a kid--and I felt a bit like one watching, in awe.

Bravo to the industries that put out such creative films, and also to the mil-aero community that inspires them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Intel i7 microprocessor set to produce a tectonic shift in military embedded computer industry

Posted by John Keller

LAS VEGAS, 7 Jan. 2010. The military embedded computer industry is turning backflips today amidst the excitement surrounding this morning's introduction by microprocessor giant Intel Corp. of its Core i7, i5, and i3 processors at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Several of Intel's powerful new microprocessors are based on the company's 32-nanometer submicron processing technology, yet what has the military computer board industry excited is the floating point processing capability of the i7 device.

Intel and its customers are attracted to floating point capability for new generations of desktop computers that can handle video faster and more efficiently than ever before, but defense and aerospace systems designers and single-board computer makers see floating point and think digital signal processing.

While Intel sees the floating point capability of its Core i7 processor as the gateway to a new generation of complex graphics and fast streaming video, military systems designers see it as the latest and greatest way to implement signal processing for advanced radar, sonar, electronic warfare, and electro-optical applications with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) single-board computers.

Within hours of Intel's introduction today of the Core i7 processor and the other chips in the company's new Core family, embedded computing heavyweights Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va., and Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. of Middleton, Wis., had introduced embedded computers based on the Intel Core i7.

In the grand military embedded computing microprocessor wars that have been entertaining us now for nearly 30 years, it looks like there may be a tectonic shift happening that could swing preferences, which now revolve around the Freescale Semiconductor Power Architecture, back into Intel's camp.

During the past three decades since Intel virtually disappeared from the military embedded scene, the Freescale Power Architecture and its ancestors have dominated military embedded applications, dating from around the time when VME became the most popular databus for mil apps, progressing from the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, to the PowerPC, the PowerPC Altivec, and the Power Architecture.

Intel has not had a strong presence in military embedded systems since the 1980s, when the company abandoned its mil-spec semiconductor processing line in Chandler, Ariz., and concentrated almost exclusively on the desktop market. That's changing now, fast, and in a big way.

While Intel is out of the gate with big market momentum for its Core i7 devices, Freescale has a lot of catching up to do. The company disappointed many military systems integrators when it abandoned the Altivec floating point capability in its latest family of microprocessors in a bid to go after the handheld and cell phone market, rather than the desktop market, which Freescale had given up to Intel.

It remains to bee seen in the coming weeks just how big a deal this shift in the microprocessor industry will be. With the likes of Curtiss Wright, GE, and Extreme Engineering on board, it's bound to be significant for the military embedded industry.


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Friday, January 1, 2010

E-networking revolution highlighted 2009

Posted by John McHale

At Avionics Intelligence and Military & Aerospace Electronics in 2009 we dived right into social networking or as we like to call it e-networking. We have a fan page on Facebook, a group on Linkedin called the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group, and gather our news content on Twitter Avionics Intelligence under #avintel and for Military & Aerospace Electronics at #milaero.
At Avionics Intelligence and Military & Aerospace Electronics in 2009 we dived right into social networking or as we like to call it e-networking. We have a fan page on Facebook, a group on Linkedin called the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group, and gather our news content on Twitter for Avionics Intelligence under #avintel and for Military & Aerospace Electronics at #milaero.

It's been a fun and successful way to push out our online news stories to new readers and start discussions. We've found the most interactive outlet to be on Linkedin, which started out as a professional networking site whereas Facebook was focused on more social or personal networking.

Although, yesterday I read a story in the Wall Street Journal that basically stated Linkedin needs to get more creative to keep-up with Facebook. According to the piece Facebook kicks Linkedin's rear in total members. However some analysts in the story say that lopsided memebrship numbers are misleading as Linkedin is strictly a professional networking service whereas Facebook is geared more toward professional and social communication.

I have also found that many people I talk to in the defense and aerospace industry say that their employers do not let them use Facebook or Twitter, but are more flexible when it comes to Linkedin because of its professional nature.

Twitter is its own animal. I've done quite a bit of tweeting while at trade shows. It provides immediate coverage -- albeit in 140 characters or less. I typically will tweet as I'm leaving a booth or sitting in a press conference or luncheon. Twitter allows me to not only push links to articles on our websites but get out little tidbits of info that would not typically make it into the print magazine or on a web story.

Also, much like with our blogs, Twitter allows us to take a different, sometimes lighter spin on current events than traditional news coverage.

What really seems to impress our audience about Twitter is its instantaneous nature.

For example at the MILCOM show this fall in Boston, I attended the first live demonstration of an OpenVPX system run by engineers at Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., and Hybricon in Ayer, Mass. I tweeted about the demo on my Blackberry while watching it. They were excited because they were videotaping the moment and placing it on youtube -- -- but got quite a kick out of the fact that I was immediately online with their news.

One person in attendance commented that the age of instant reporting is here.

E-networking media has definitely changed the way we do things at Military & Aerospace Electronics. I remember when all we used to have was a magazine. Now we still have the magazine, two websites, four conferences, webcasts, three e-newsletters, dedicated pages on Linkedin,Facebook, and on Twitter at #avintel and #milaero.

So be sure to check us out wherever you find yourself on the web in 2010.

Happy New Year!