Monday, November 27, 2006

Ubiquitous DSPs and Exploding CPUs

Yup yup, thought I'd clean out the cobwebs around here...

Anyway, this post was inspired by an article I read on EEPN: it's a switch mode power controller -- with a DSP in it! Here I was, thinking that DSP-based motor controllers were over the top, but this just takes the cake. This is quite interesting, though, for the microprocessor power supply market. I worked at Force Computers, India for a while, and I remember being quite amazed when I found that the P4 Prescott (which was pre-release back then) had a supply current of 68 amperes (yes, that's right, AMPERES!) at 1.3 - 1.5V. The supplies have to be designed very carefully to prevent load transients from taking the voltage too far, since even a few tens of millivolts above the rated maximum will drastically reduce the lifetime of the CPU. With these new DSP-based power supply controllers, designing for specific transient responses should be a lot simpler than the usual black magic associated with the usual analog switch mode controllers.

Lesson to be learned here: there are differences between motherboard makes, and this usually has to do with the power supply design. Signs of a bad PSU include an unstable system and in the long term could end up with your $200 CPU going up in a puff of smoke. The video, despite it's geeky music (damn German techno!) almost caused Intel and AMD fanboys to come to blows, and sparked off (pardon the expression) some obviously fake crap. Me, though, I watched it, and two days later, went out and bought my first AMD mobo and CPU (was a 3000+ Barton, methinks). Quite frankly, fanboyism among people who don't know any better is pretty dumb, but is sometimes a necessary evil: would AMD/Intel have otherwise been able to sell the Athlon64 FX/Pentium 4EE at outrageously bloated prices?

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