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Efficient Hardware Repair RRS feed

  • Question

  • University of Illinois-Champagne computer science professor Josep Torrellas is developing a system dubbed Phoenix designed to fix defective computer chips using downloadable patches. Phoenix is based on field programmable gate array technology that sits on the chip and can identify defects and provide solutions. Torrellas' system works like an antivirus program, and if it finds a defect the manufacturer could instantly transmit the necessary patch to all affected machines. Included in the patch is a defect signature that identifies the cause of the problem. After being installed, the patch reprograms Phoenix to look for the defect signature and prevent a crash. Phoenix technology could allow manufacturers to produce chips faster, knowing that any problems could be fixed with patches. Although Torrellas is not the first to design a hardware patch system, he claims that his is the most efficient and can address more problems than other systems. The system is not able to remedy all hardware problems, but it can address those bugs that would result in a crash. Torrellas' team conducted a study of past problems with major manufacturer's chips and decide upon the problem areas that Phoenix would focus on, such as memory subsystems. Despite its ability to detect and fix bugs, vendors may find the technology too time consuming and costly to implement. However, Torrellas believes that Phoenix will prove its worth, since "there is more scope for miscommunication" as "bigger teams are designing the processors."

     

    Thursday, April 12, 2007 6:58 AM