Friday, May 27, 2011

Congress, once again, flips the bird to the Pentagon over plans to cut wasteful spending

Posted by John Keller

I just want to scream.

Our nation is drowning in debt, the dollar is weakening as a result, we watch as the costs of everything -- driven by skyrocketing costs of gasoline and diesel fuel (which are going up because of the weakening dollar) spirals out of control ... yet we have a Congress that insists on flipping the bird at the Pentagon's efforts to keep defense spending under some semblance of control.

The latest case in point: a plan to second-source the engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to General Electric. The Pentagon doesn't want two companies building engines for the F-35. Those in the Pentagon believe Pratt & Whitney can take care of F-35 engine production. Congress, however, has other plans.

Now don't get me wrong, I got nothing against GE, but isn't one engine supplier enough for an expensive jet fighter-bomber that ultimately we're not going to buy many copies of anyway? Just one supplier buying that engine will be expensive enough. It's big, powerful, expensive, and stealthy. But must we tool-up two companies to build the engine, increase the overhead costs of producing it exponentially, and make two companies split the profits? Does that make sense? Must we?


Evidently Congress thinks so, even if the Pentagon doesn't. That's the U.S. Congress, our elected representatives, the guys and gals who are supposed to be looking out for us, the taxpayers. The House voted this past week to allow GE to be a second source for the F-35 engine ... even though the Pentagon doesn't want to because it's too expensive.

Let's think about this a second. the Pentagon ... the PENTAGON ... has never set a stellar example of saving money. I'm thinking hundred-dollar hammers, million-dollar toilet seats, thousand-dollar coffee pots -- you know the stories.

Yet the U.S. House of Representatives has clearly demonstrated itself to be even less concerned with cutting spending than the Pentagon. Is that even possible? 'Scuze me while I catch my breath.

Moreover, this is the House. You know, the one where just a few months ago the Republicans took over as the majority. The REPUBLICANS. You know, the guys (and gals) who campaigned on getting the nation's house under financial control, the party of fiscal restraint, blah, blah, blah.

So let's see, we're still drowning in debt. The Administration doesn't seem to care. The House doesn't seem to care. The only ones that seem to care are those in the Pentagon. The PENTAGON!

God, it's even worse than I thought.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wire news feeds a big hit on Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence Websites

Posted by John Keller

The new wire news sections on the Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence Websites are big hits among readers, as the wire news feeds on our sites have drawn 8.4 percent of our total page views over the past three months, or nearly 36,000 total page views.

We added wire news feeds to our sites over the past several months to increase the depth tempo of news content on our sites, and reader response has been surprisingly strong.

We use Lexis-Nexis as our primary wire news provider, which gives us a wide-breadth of late-breaking news of financial statements, products, new developments, contractors, and many other topics of importance to the aerospace and defense industry.

If you haven't seen our wire news sections, surf on over to the Military & Aerospace Electronics wire feed at, or the Avionics Intelligence wire feed at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NVIDIA acquires Icera, so what's this got to do with military embedded computing?

Posted by John Keller

At first glance, the acquisition this week of cellular communications expert Icera by graphics processing unit (GPU) specialist NVIDIA might seem to have little, if any, influence on the aerospace and defense embedded computing industry. After all, NVIDIA's stated purpose in acquiring Icera is to become a major player in cell phones and mobile computing. What's that got to do with military embedded systems?

Think a second about network-centric warfare and the digital battlefield. It's all about communications-on-the-move, and mobile computing. What the casual user calls getting Mapquest directions and finding the nearest Starbucks, the military calls situational awareness. NVIDIA acquires Icera; see a connection here?

Cell phone and mobile tablet users want to find the movie theater, and know what's playing there, and maybe get dessert afterwards. The military, on the other hand, wants to find the enemy, and know if there is air support nearby. After that, well ... maybe there's time for Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

But you get the idea; the needs of cell phone and mobile tablet computer users are not that much different from what the military needs. Civilians use commercial cell phone networks and smart phones. The military uses secure defense networks and different versions of the software-defined radio (SDR).

NVIDIA is already making a name for itself in military embedded computing with its NVIDIA CUDA graphics processing unit (GPU), which in additional to processing graphics and imagery turns out to be an effective high-performance parallel processor for floating-point-based digital signal processing.

Those who think NVIDIA isn't thinking about the military in this acquisition might not be looking deeply enough.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BittWare Anemone processor could make FPGAs as popular as general-purpose processors in embedded computing

Posted by John Keller.

One of the biggest raps against field-programmable gate arrays for digital signal processing is the complexity of the FPGA. To use these powerful-but-frustrating devices, systems designers must be adept in the arcane VHSIC Hardware Description Language (VHDL), as well as in hand-coding to achieve the most efficient performance. Using FPGAs is like a throwback to the old days of programming ASICs in assembly language to squeeze out the most performance possible.

As a result, many designers shy away from using FPGAs when they can, and opt instead for digital signal processing (DSP) architectures based on general-purpose processors like the 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 and on the new breed of graphics processing units (GPUs) like the NVIDIA CUDA. Using the GPP/GPU architecture for DSP-intensive floating-point processing, proponents argue, is easier and faster to market because the software can be written in high-order languages like C and C++, rather than the difficult VHDL.

Much of the reluctance to use FPGAs in DSP applications may be changing, however, with the introduction today of the FPGA/Anemone architecture from BittWare Inc. in Concord, N.H. Anemone is a floating-point co-processor that is programmable in the standard C computer language, which has the potential to make FPGA-based processors as easy and quick to use as the GPP/GPU architectures are becoming.

BittWare's new Anemone/FPGA architecture, which is based on Altera high-performance FPGAs and the Adapteva Epiphany processor, is designed for floating-point embedded computing applications like radar processing, software-defined radio, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more about the Anemone/FPGA architecture in the future.