Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Engineering Blunder Compromises Computer Security

It is well known that data stored in RAM is lost when the power is turned off. But unfortunately it was not well known how long it takes the RAM to be completely erased by power loss. A Princeton University study was able to read security keys out of memory from computers even after a reboot. You need to have physical access to a powered computer to attack in this way, but laptops that are locked or in sleep mode are vulnerable if stolen or left unattended.

There was no mention of the implication for embedded systems, but it is obvious that cell phones and PDA security needs to be re-evaluated. The embedded space may be ahead of the curve with security technology like ARM's TrustZone already available.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft's New Portable Game Platform


Microsoft announced support for gaming on its portable music player, Zune, yesterday at GDC 08. You won't be able to start developing games for the device until the next version of Microsoft's game SDK is released in Spring 2008. With XNA Game Studio 3.0, you will be able to develop games targeted to a PC, Xbox 360, and now Zune. There has been speculation about gaming on Zune for some time because of its powerful processor and origins in the Microsoft Xbox team. A few caveats are that Zune will have a reduced API (reminds me of flash-lite), it will be some time before we see actual games released for Zune and according to a Zune team member at Microsoft, 'Zune is a wireless music and video player first and foremost.'

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Toy Touts ARM9

Leapfrog Enterprises is coming out with a new handheld gaming/learning platform called Didj. What is interesting to me is the detailed specifications they have published for the handheld. These are usually kept secret, but I think they are betting no one will come close this year for $89.99 list price.

  • ARM9 at 393MHz with 32MB 131MHz DDR RAM and 256MB NAND Flash
  • USB 2.0 PC connection
  • 320x240 16.7 million color TFT display
  • OpenGL ES 1.1 graphics API for embedded systems
  • Ogg vorbis audio codec (open source royalty-free alternative to mp3)
  • Theora video codec (same idea as Ogg Vorbis)
  • 16 Channel MIDI software synth
  • Multi-layer graphics controller
  • Proprietary Leapfrog OS called Brio

Update: The Didj is using embedded Linux according to embedded software consulting firm Cozybit. The San Francisco company was contracted to port embedded Linux to the Didj and perform system integration.

Interface Connects Real Guitars to Video Games


The popularity of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band should create a lot of demand for systems like Ediface that interface games to musical instruments. Although the MIDI interface can do this, and has been around for years, so far it has not been used in popular games. The best possible solution would be to use an an unmodified instrument like an electric guitar and connect that to the gaming system. Learning to play a real instrument while playing video games would be a great benefit. That is what the Ediface claims to deliver in a small wallet-sized unit. No word on processor or technology being utilized to do the signal processing.

Update: A new PC/MAC game called Guitar Rising is scheduled for release in late 2008 that will use only the computer mic input for an interface to any electric guitar. Not much detail on the web site, but some early prototype demos at game conferences look promising. We will have to see how the mic input compares to a dedicated hardware interface.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Embedded Systems Conference 2008

The 2008 Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley is coming up April 14. Early bird registration ends Feb 18th, but you can get a free pass to the exhibits, keynotes and sponsored sessions until April 9.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Google Code Search

Google has a new search engine for public or open source software, Google /* Code Search */. It has some nice features like regular expressions, programming language filters and license-type filters. I have used cross reference sites for code searches in the past, but those are only available for a few projects. For example, the Linux Cross Reference and the FreeBSD and Linux Kernel Cross-Reference.