Friday, May 19, 2006

The Trouble with Perfection

After another few busy weeks at the radar site where I work, I've come to the conclusion that so many others have come to before: perfection is a moving target and not really worth it in the end. Our task is a formidable one, by any standards: take a research radar that's mostly in pieces, put it together for a rather large multi-organization project, and oh yes, do it in two months or so. All this sounds easy enough, except that there's only two engineers and a tech working on it. Tensions ran high, as component shipments got delayed, cables broke, computers refused to boot, FPGAs started dancing to the beat of their own drummer... our normally-pessimistic site manager had a field day on this one!

To top it all, there's always this sense of aiming for "perfection", where things have to look and work "just right." Words that no self-respecting engineer should ever use, this stuff is strictly reserved for upper management and marketing droids. Unfortunately, yours truly (engineer, don't know about the self-respecting bit) started aiming a liiittle too high and hoped to build, test and validate a working radar receiver FPGA with all sorts of fancy features in about... heh... a week! Surprise surprise, after days of simulations and a 45-minute PAR run, I got a bitstream of pure junk. With only a day left, I decided it's best to drop the whizbang features and go back to last year's design, with tweaks. By some good fortune, Neptune was ascending when I did my last PAR run, and I have a working receiver :-) Lesson learned, sometimes aiming for mediocrity has it's benefits, at least it meets deadlines!

Well anyway, now you know why there's not been much by way of posts here. As if you cared...

In other news, Xilinx has finally decided to update their tried-and-tested architecture based on 4-input LUTs, they've released the Virtex-5 series with 6-input LUTs! Man, this is just what I've been waiting for, for someone who eschews synthesizers and likes to place BELs, this is a dream. I only wish Maxwell's laws would make it possible to get these in non-BGA packages so poor schmoes like me can actually solder them :/

After all the excitement, I did manage to squeeze in some telly, and, heh, I watched re-runs of "Mad About You" Fun stuff.

No comments: