The Next Generation Blockchain Programming Language
CX is a general purpose, interpreted and compiled programming language, with a very strict type system and a syntax similar to Golang’s. CX provides a new programming paradigm based on the concept of affordances, where the user can ask the programming language at runtime what can be done with a CX object (functions, expressions, packages, etc.), and interactively or automatically choose one of the affordances to be applied. This paradigm has the main objective of providing an additional security layer for decentralized, blockchain-based applications, but can also be used for general purpose programming.
The splinternet (also referred to as cyber-balkanization, cyber-balkanisation, internet balkanization, or internet balkanisation) is a characterization of the Internet as splintering and dividing due to various factors, such as technology, commerce, politics, nationalism, religion, and interests. "Powerful forces are threatening to balkanise it", writes the Economist weekly, and it may soon splinter along geographic and commercial boundaries. Countries such as China have erected what is termed a "Great Firewall", for political reasons, while other nations, such as the US and Australia, discuss plans to create a similar firewall to block child pornography or weapon-making instructions.
Clyde Wayne Crews, a researcher at the Cato Institute, first used the term in 2001 to describe his concept of "parallel Internets that would be run as distinct, private, and autonomous universes." Crews used the term in a positive sense, but more recent writers, like Scott Malcomson, a fellow in New America's International Security program, use the term pejoratively to describe a growing threat to the internet's status as a globe-spanning network of networks.
Describing the splintering of Internet technology, some writers see the problem in terms of new devices using different standards. Users no longer require web browsers to access the Internet, as new hardware tools often come with their own "unique set of standards" for displaying information.
Journalist and author Doc Searls uses the term "splinternet" to describe the "growing distance between the ideals of the Internet and the realities of dysfunctional nationalisms...", which contribute to the various, and sometimes incompatible standards which often make it hard for search engines to use the data. He notes that "it all works because the Web is standardized. Google works because the Web is standardized". However, as new devices incorporate their own ad networks, formats, and technology, many are able to "hide content" from search engines".
Others, including information manager Stephen Lewis, describe the causes primarily in terms of the technology "infrastructure", leading to a "conundrum" whereby the Internet could eventually be carved up into numerous geopolitical entities and borders, much as the physical world is today.
The Atlantic magazine speculates that many of the new "gadgets have a 'hidden agenda' to hold you in their ecosystem". Writer Derek Thomson explains that "in the Splinternet age, ads are more tightly controlled by platform. My old BlackBerry defaulted to Bing search because (network operator) Verizon has a deal with Microsoft. But my new phone that runs Google Android software serves Google ads under apps for programs like Pandora". They rationalize the new standards as possibly a result of companies wishing to increase their revenue through targeted advertising to their own proprietary user base. They add, "This is a new age, where gadgets have a 'hidden agenda' to hold you in their ecosystem of content display and advertising. There are walls going up just as the walls to mobile Internet access are falling down".
Forrester Research vice president and author Josh Bernoff also writes that "the unified Web is turning into a Splinternet", as users of new devices risk leaving one Internet standard. He uses the term "splinternet" to refer to "a web in which content on devices other than PCs, or hidden behind passwords, makes it harder for site developers and marketers to create a unified experience". He points out, for example, that web pages "don't look the same because of the screen size and don't work the same since the iPhone doesn't support Flash". He adds that now, with the explosion of other phone platforms like Google Android, "we'll have yet another incompatible set of devices". However, both Android and iOS are Unix-based platforms, and both offer WebKit-based browsers as standard, as does handset manufacturer Nokia.
Politics and nationalism
A survey conducted in 2007 by a number of large universities, including Harvard, found that Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia filter a wide range of topics, and also block a large amount of content related to those topics. South Korea filters and censors news agencies belonging to North Korea.
It found that numerous countries engaged in "substantial politically motivated filtering", including Burma, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, and Vietnam. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Tunisia, and Yemen engage in substantial social content filtering, and Burma, China, Iran, Pakistan and South Korea have the most encompassing national security filtering, targeting the websites related to border disputes, separatists, and extremists.
Foreign Policy writer, Evgeny Morozov, questions whether "the Internet brings us closer together", and despite its early ideals that it would "increase understanding, foster tolerance, and ultimately promote worldwide peace", the opposite may be happening. There are more attempts to keep foreign nationals off certain Web properties, for example, digital content available to U.K. citizens via the BBC's iPlayer is "increasingly unavailable to Germans". Norwegians can access 50,000 copyrighted books online for free, but one must be in Norway to do so. As a result, many governments are actively blocking Internet access to its own nationals, creating more of what Morozov calls a "Splinternet":
Google, Twitter, Facebook — are U.S. companies that other governments increasingly fear as political agents. Chinese, Cuban, Iranian, and even Turkish politicians are already talking up "information sovereignty" a euphemism for replacing services provided by Western Internet companies with their own more limited but somewhat easier to control products, further splintering the World Wide Web into numerous national Internets. The age of the Splinternet beckons.
Organizations such as the OpenNet Initiative were created because they recognized that "Internet censorship and surveillance are growing global phenomena." Their book on the subject was reportedly "censored by the U.N." with a poster removed by U.N. security officials because it mentioned China's "Great Firewall". In March 2010, Google chose to pull its search engines and other services out of China in protest of their censorship and the hacking of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese activists.
Other countries, besides China, also censor Internet services: Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran's press situation, for example, as "Very serious", the worst ranking on their five-point scale. Iran's Internet censorship policy is labeled "Pervasive" by the OpenNet Initiative's global Internet filtering map, and the worst in the ranking. In March 2010, they added Turkey and Russia to their 'under surveillance' list regarding Internet censorship, and warned other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Thailand, also "under surveillance" status, to avoid getting transferred into the next "Enemies of the Internet" list.
Security and espionage
In May 2013, former United States CIA and NSA employee Edward Snowden provided The Guardian with documents revealing the existence of far-reaching espionage systems installed by the NSA at critical junctions where Internet traffic is aggregated. As various world governments have learned the extent to which their own communications have been compromised, concerns have been raised that these governments will erect sovereign networks so as to isolate their traffic from NSA spying programs.
In October 2013, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff announced plans to create a "walled-off, national Intranet".
Internet access has also been blocked for reasons of religion. In 2007, and again in May 2010, Pakistan reportedly blocked Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Wikipedia, to contain what it described as "blasphemous" and "un-Islamic" material.
The Church of Scientology recommended Internet censorship as a method of defending itself against what it said were a constant campaign of abuse by the group "Anonymous", along with "misinformation" and "misrepresentation" in the media. In September 2009 it asked the Australian Human Rights Commission's Freedom of Religion and Belief to restrict access to web sites it believes incites "religious vilification."
Splintering of the Internet community can occur when members of specific interest groups use the Internet to exclude or avoid views that contradict their own cherished beliefs and theories. Called Cyberbalkanization (or sometimes cyber-balkanization), it refers to the division of the Internet or the world wide web into sub-groups with specific interests (digital tribes), where the sub-group's members almost always use the Internet or the web to communicate or read material that is only of interest to the rest of the sub-group. The term may have first been used in an MIT paper by Marshall Van Alstyne and Erik Brynjolfsson that was published in late 1996. The concept was also discussed in a related article in the journal Science that same year. The term is a hybrid of cyber, relating to the Internet, and Balkanization, a phenomenon that takes its name from the Balkans, a part of Europe that was historically subdivided by languages, religions and cultures.
In his 2001 book Republic.com, Cass Sunstein argued that cyberbalkanization could damage democracy, because it allows different groups to avoid exposure to one another as they gather in increasingly segregated communities, making recognition of other points of view or common ground decreasingly likely. The commentator Aleks Krotoski feels that Jihadist groups often use the Internet in this way.
Despite the concerns of cyberbalkanization, there is mixed evidence that it is actually growing. One Wharton study found that internet filters can create
commonality, not fragmentation. However, this study primarily focused on music recommendation algorithms, and openly states that more research is required surrounding other domains (e.g. news, books, fashion). Another study found that ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms, higher than the segregation of most offline news consumption, and significantly lower than the segregation of face-to-face interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or family members. The study notes that an important caveat, however, is that none of their evidence speaks to the way people translate the content they encounter into beliefs, which may be a larger factor in the problem these types of studies seek to address.
^Hosanagar, Kartik; Fleder, Daniel; Lee, Dokyun; Buja, Andreas (December 2013). "Will the Global Village Fracture into Tribes: Recommender Systems and their Effects on Consumers". Management Science, Forthcoming. SSRN1321962.
^Gentzkow, Matthew; Shapiro, Jesse M. (2010-04-13). "Ideological Segregation Online and Offline". Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN1588920.
Because users do not need to transfer their assets to the exchange, decentralized exchanges reduce the risk of theft from hacking of exchanges. Decentralized exchanges can also prevent price manipulation or faked trading volume through wash trading, and are more anonymous than exchanges which implement know your customer requirements.
There are some signs that decentralized exchanges have been suffering from low trading volumes and market liquidity. The 0x project, a protocol for building decentralized exchanges with interchangeable liquidity attempts to solve this issue.
Due to a lack of KYC process, and no way to revert a transaction, users are at a loss if they are ever hacked for their passwords or private keys.
Degrees of Decentralization
A decentralized exchange can still have centralized components, whereby some control of the exchange is still in the hands of a central authority. A notable example being IDEX blocking New York State users from placing orders on the platform.
In July 2018, decentralized exchange Bancor was reportedly hacked and suffered a loss of $13.5M USD in assets before freezing funds. In a Tweet, Charlie Lee, the creator of Litecoin spoke out and claimed an exchange cannot be decentralized if it can lose or freeze customer funds.
Operators of decentralized exchanges can face legal consequences from government regulators. One example being the founder of EtherDelta, who in November 2018 settled charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over operating an unregistered securities exchange.
In computer science, a deterministic algorithm is an algorithm which, given a particular input, will always produce the same output, with the underlying machine always passing through the same sequence of states. Deterministic algorithms are by far the most studied and familiar kind of algorithm, as well as one of the most practical, since they can be run on real machines efficiently.
Formally, a deterministic algorithm computes a mathematical function; a function has a unique value for any input in its domain, and the algorithm is a process that produces this particular value as output.
Deterministic algorithms can be defined in terms of a state machine: a state describes what a machine is doing at a particular instant in time. State machines pass in a discrete manner from one state to another. Just after we enter the input, the machine is in its initial state or start state. If the machine is deterministic, this means that from this point onwards, its current state determines what its next state will be; its course through the set of states is predetermined. Note that a machine can be deterministic and still never stop or finish, and therefore fail to deliver a result.
A variety of factors can cause an algorithm to behave in a way which is not deterministic, or non-deterministic:
If it uses external state other than the input, such as user input, a global variable, a hardware timer value, a random value, or stored disk data.
If it operates in a way that is timing-sensitive, for example if it has multiple processors writing to the same data at the same time. In this case, the precise order in which each processor writes its data will affect the result.
If a hardware error causes its state to change in an unexpected way.
Although real programs are rarely purely deterministic, it is easier for humans as well as other programs to reason about programs that are. For this reason, most programming languages and especially functional programming languages make an effort to prevent the above events from happening except under controlled conditions.
It is advantageous, in some cases, for a program to exhibit nondeterministic behavior.
The behavior of a card shuffling program used in a game of blackjack, for example,
should not be predictable by players — even if the source code of the program is
visible. The use of a pseudorandom number generator is often not sufficient to ensure that
players are unable to predict the outcome of a shuffle. A clever gambler might guess precisely the numbers the generator will choose and so determine the entire contents of the deck ahead of time, allowing him to cheat; for example, the Software Security Group at Reliable Software Technologies was able to do this for an implementation of Texas Hold 'em Poker that is distributed by ASF Software, Inc, allowing them to consistently predict the outcome of hands ahead of time. These problems can be avoided, in part, through the use of a cryptographically secure pseudo-random number generator, but it is still necessary
for an unpredictable random seed to be used to initialize the generator. For this
purpose a source of nondeterminism is required, such as that provided by a hardware random number generator.
Note that a negative answer to the P=NP problem would not imply that programs with nondeterministic output are theoretically more powerful than those with deterministic output.
The complexity class NP (complexity) can be defined without any reference to nondeterminism using the verifier-based definition.
the Maybe and Either types include the notion of success in the result.
the fail method of the class Monad, may be used to signal fail as exception.
the Maybe monad and MaybeT monad transformer provide for failed computations (stop the computation sequence and return Nothing)
determinism/non-det with multiple solutions
you may retrieve all possible outcomes of a multiple result computation, by wrapping its result type in a MonadPlus monad. (its method mzero makes an outcome fail and mplus collects the successful results).
Discovery is a key value store currently run by Skycoin, that messaging clients as well as servers use to advertise themselves to other clients. It allows clients to connect to messenger servers. These in turn act as relays between clients so they can exchange data (messages) over TCP/IP and allows a stable way of communication between nodes. (Enables routing)
Faraday shield at a power plant in Heimbach, Germany
Faraday bags are a type of Faraday cage made of flexible metallic fabric. They are typically used to block remote wiping or alteration of wireless devices recovered in criminal investigations, but may also be used by the general public to protect against data theft or to enhance digital privacy.
A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields. A Faraday shield may be formed by a continuous covering of conductive material, or in the case of a Faraday cage, by a mesh of such materials. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
Video of a Faraday cage shielding a man from electricity
A Faraday cage operates because an external electrical field causes the electric charges within the cage's conducting material to be distributed so that they cancel the field's effect in the cage's interior. This phenomenon is used to protect sensitive electronic equipment (for example RF receivers) from external radio frequency interference (RFI) often during testing or alignment of the device. Faraday cages are also used to enclose devices that produce RFI, such as radio transmitters, to prevent their radio waves from interfering with nearby sensitive equipment. They are also used to protect people and equipment against actual electric currents such as lightning strikes and electrostatic discharges, since the enclosing cage conducts current around the outside of the enclosed space and none passes through the interior.
Faraday cages cannot block stable or slowly varying magnetic fields, such as the Earth's magnetic field (a compass will still work inside). To a large degree, though, they shield the interior from external electromagnetic radiation if the conductor is thick enough and any holes are significantly smaller than the wavelength of the radiation. For example, certain computer forensic test procedures of electronic systems that require an environment free of electromagnetic interference can be carried out within a screened room. These rooms are spaces that are completely enclosed by one or more layers of a fine metal mesh or perforated sheet metal. The metal layers are grounded to dissipate any electric currents generated from external or internal electromagnetic fields, and thus they block a large amount of the electromagnetic interference. See also electromagnetic shielding. They provide less attenuation of outgoing transmissions than incoming: they can block EMP waves from natural phenomena very effectively, but a tracking device, especially in upper frequencies, may be able to penetrate from within the cage (e.g., some cell phones operate at various radio frequencies so while one cell phone may not work, another one will).
A common misconception is that a Faraday cage provides full blockage or attenuation; this is not true. The reception or transmission of radio waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, to or from an antenna within a Faraday cage is heavily attenuated or blocked by the cage; however, a Faraday cage has varied attenuation depending on wave form, frequency or distance from receiver/transmitter, and receiver/transmitter power. Near-field high-powered frequency transmissions like HF RFID are more likely to penetrate. Solid cages generally attenuate fields over a broader range of frequencies than mesh cages.
In 1836, Michael Faraday observed that the excess charge on a charged conductor resided only on its exterior and had no influence on anything enclosed within it. To demonstrate this fact, he built a room coated with metal foil and allowed high-voltage discharges from an electrostatic generator to strike the outside of the room. He used an electroscope to show that there was no electric charge present on the inside of the room's walls.
Although this cage effect has been attributed to Michael Faraday's famous ice pail experiments performed in 1843, it was Benjamin Franklin in 1755 who observed the effect by lowering an uncharged cork ball suspended on a silk thread through an opening in an electrically charged metal can. In his words, "the cork was not attracted to the inside of the can as it would have been to the outside, and though it touched the bottom, yet when drawn out it was not found to be electrified (charged) by that touch, as it would have been by touching the outside. The fact is singular." Franklin had discovered the behavior of what we now refer to as a Faraday cage or shield (based on Faraday's later experiments which duplicated Franklin's cork and can).
Additionally, in 1754 the Abbe Nollet published an early account of an effect attributable to the cage effect in his Leçons de physique expérimentale.
Animation showing how a Faraday cage (box) works. When an external electrical field (arrows) is applied, the electrons(little balls) in the metal move to the left side of the cage, giving it a negative charge, while the remaining unbalanced charge of the nuclei give the right side a positive charge. These induced charges create an opposing electric field that cancels the external electric field throughout the box.
A continuous Faraday shield is a hollow conductor. Externally or internally applied electromagnetic fields produce forces on the charge carriers (usually electrons) within the conductor; the charges are redistributed accordingly due to electrostatic induction. The redistributed charges greatly reduce the voltage within the surface, to an extent depending on the capacitance, however, full cancellation does not occur.
If a charge is placed inside an ungrounded Faraday cage, the internal face of the cage becomes charged (in the same manner described for an external charge) to prevent the existence of a field inside the body of the cage, however, this charging of the inner face re-distributes the charges in the body of the cage. This charges the outer face of the cage with a charge equal in sign and magnitude to the one placed inside the cage. Since the internal charge and the inner face cancel each other out, the spread of charges on the outer face is not affected by the position of the internal charge inside the cage. So for all intents and purposes, the cage generates the same DC electric field that it would generate if it were simply affected by the charge placed inside. The same is not true for electromagnetic waves.
If the cage is grounded, the excess charges will be neutralized as the ground connection creates an between the outside of the cage and the environment, so there is no voltage between them and therefore also no field. The inner face and the inner charge will remain the same so the field is kept inside.
Skin depth vs. frequency for some materials at room temperature, red vertical line denotes 50 Hz frequency:
Effectiveness of shielding of a static electric field is largely independent of the geometry of the conductive material, however, static magnetic fields can penetrate the shield completely.
In the case of a varying electromagnetic fields, the faster the variations are (i.e., the higher the frequencies), the better the material resists magnetic field penetration. In this case the shielding also depends on the electrical conductivity, the magnetic properties of the conductive materials used in the cages, as well as their thicknesses.
A good idea of the effectiveness of a Faraday shield can be obtained from considerations of skin depth. With skin depth, the current flowing is mostly in the surface, and decays exponentially with depth through the material. Because a Faraday shield has finite thickness, this determines how well the shield works; a thicker shield can attenuate electromagnetic fields better, and to a lower frequency.
Faraday cages are Faraday shields which have holes in them and are therefore more complex to analyze. Whereas continuous shields essentially attenuate all wavelengths shorter than the skin depth, the holes in a cage may permit shorter wavelengths to pass through or set up "evanescent fields" (oscillating fields that do not propagate as EM waves) just beneath the surface. The shorter the wavelength, the better it passes through a mesh of given size. Thus to work well at short wavelengths (i.e., high frequencies), the holes in the cage must be smaller than the wavelength of the incident wave. Faraday cages may therefore be thought of as high pass filters.
Faraday cages are routinely used in analytical chemistry to reduce noise while making sensitive measurements.
Faraday cages, more specifically dual paired seam Faraday bags, are often used in digital forensics to prevent remote wiping and alteration of criminal digital evidence.
The U.S. and NATO Tempest standards, and similar standards in other countries, include Faraday cages as part of a broader effort to provide emission security for computers.
Automobile and airplane passenger compartments are essentially Faraday cages, protecting passengers from electric charges, such as lightning
Elevators and other rooms with metallic conducting frames and walls simulate a Faraday cage effect, leading to a loss of signal and "dead zones" for users of cellular phones, radios, and other electronic devices that require external electromagnetic signals. During training, firefighters, and other first responders are cautioned that their two-way radios will probably not work inside elevators and to make allowances for that. Small, physical Faraday cages are used by electronics engineers during equipment testing to simulate such an environment to make sure that the device gracefully handles these conditions.
Properly designed conductive clothing can also form a protective Faraday cage. Some electrical linemen wear Faraday suits, which allow them to work on live, high-voltage power lines without risk of electrocution. The suit prevents electric current from flowing through the body, and has no theoretical voltage limit. Linemen have successfully worked even the highest voltage (Kazakhstan's Ekibastuz–Kokshetau line 1150 kV) lines safely.
Austin Richards, a physicist in California, created a metal Faraday suit in 1997 that protects him from tesla coil discharges. In 1998, he named the character in the suit Doctor MegaVolt and has performed all over the world and at Burning Man nine different years.
The scan room of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine is designed as a Faraday cage. This prevents external RF (radio frequency) signals from being added to data collected from the patient, which would affect the resulting image. Radiographers are trained to identify the characteristic artifacts created on images should the Faraday cage be damaged during a thunderstorm.
A microwave oven utilizes a Faraday cage, which can be partly seen covering the transparent window, to contain the electromagnetic energy within the oven and to shield the exterior from radiation.
Plastic bags that are impregnated with metal are used to enclose electronic toll collection devices whenever tolls should not be charged to those devices, such as during transit or when the user is paying cash.
The shield of a screened cable, such as USB cables or the coaxial cable used for cable television, protects the internal conductors from external electrical noise and prevents the RF signals from leaking out.
The infinitely-scalable and highly customizable parallel peer-chain architecture of the Skycoin platform.
Fiber is the structural layer of Skycoin’s blockchain platform that is custom built to be adaptable to any blockchain application’s needs. Running on an innovative and extremely efficient code, Fiber enables the Skycoin platform to scale into and disrupt veritably every industry with blockchain solutions.
Fiber is as sophisticated as it is elegant, capable of expanding and adapting to the needs of numerous types of distributed applications.
Contemporary field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) have large resources of logic gates and RAM blocks to implement complex digital computations. As FPGA designs employ very fast I/O rates and bidirectional data buses, it becomes a challenge to verify correct timing of valid data within setup time and hold time.
Floor planning enables resource allocation within FPGAs to meet these time constraints. FPGAs can be used to implement any logical function that an ASIC can perform. The ability to update the functionality after shipping, partial re-configuration of a portion of the design and the low non-recurring engineering costs relative to an ASIC design (notwithstanding the generally higher unit cost), offer advantages for many applications.
Some FPGAs have analog features in addition to digital functions. The most common analog feature is a programmable slew rate on each output pin, allowing the engineer to set low rates on lightly loaded pins that would otherwise ring or couple unacceptably, and to set higher rates on heavily loaded pins on high-speed channels that would otherwise run too slowly. Also common are quartz-crystal oscillators, on-chip resistance-capacitance oscillators, and phase-locked loops with embedded voltage-controlled oscillators used for clock generation and management and for high-speed serializer-deserializer (SERDES) transmit clocks and receiver clock recovery. Fairly common are differential comparators on input pins designed to be connected to differential signaling channels. A few "mixed signal FPGAs" have integrated peripheral analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) with analog signal conditioning blocks allowing them to operate as a system-on-a-chip (SoC). Such devices blur the line between an FPGA, which carries digital ones and zeros on its internal programmable interconnect fabric, and field-programmable analog array (FPAA), which carries analog values on its internal programmable interconnect fabric.
The FPGA industry sprouted from programmable read-only memory (PROM) and programmable logic devices (PLDs). PROMs and PLDs both had the option of being programmed in batches in a factory or in the field (field-programmable). However, programmable logic was hard-wired between logic gates.
Altera was founded in 1983 and delivered the industry's first reprogrammable logic device in 1984 – the EP300 – which featured a quartz window in the package that allowed users to shine an ultra-violet lamp on the die to erase the EPROM cells that held the device configuration. In December 2015, Intel acquired Altera.
In 1987, the Naval Surface Warfare Center funded an experiment proposed by Steve Casselman to develop a computer that would implement 600,000 reprogrammable gates. Casselman was successful and a patent related to the system was issued in 1992.
Altera and Xilinx continued unchallenged and quickly grew from 1985 to the mid-1990s, when competitors sprouted up, eroding significant market share. By 1993, Actel (now Microsemi) was serving about 18 percent of the market. By 2013, Altera (31 percent), Actel (10 percent) and Xilinx (36 percent) together represented approximately 77 percent of the FPGA market.
The 1990s were a period of rapid growth for FPGAs, both in circuit sophistication and the volume of production. In the early 1990s, FPGAs were primarily used in telecommunications and networking. By the end of the decade, FPGAs found their way into consumer, automotive, and industrial applications.
In 2012 the coarse-grained architectural approach was taken a step further by combining the logic blocks and interconnects of traditional FPGAs with embedded microprocessors and related peripherals to form a complete "system on a programmable chip". This work mirrors the architecture created by Ron Perlof and Hana Potash of Burroughs Advanced Systems Group in 1982 which combined a reconfigurable CPU architecture on a single chip called the SB24.
A Xilinx Zynq-7000 All Programmable System on a Chip.
An alternate approach to using hard-macro processors is to make use of soft processorIP cores that are implemented within the FPGA logic. Nios II, MicroBlaze and Mico32 are examples of popular softcore processors. Many modern FPGAs are programmed at "run time", which has led to the idea of reconfigurable computing or reconfigurable systems – CPUs that reconfigure themselves to suit the task at hand. Additionally, new, non-FPGA architectures are beginning to emerge. Software-configurable microprocessors such as the Stretch S5000 adopt a hybrid approach by providing an array of processor cores and FPGA-like programmable cores on the same chip.
Historically, FPGAs have been slower, less energy efficient and generally achieved less functionality than their fixed ASIC counterparts. An older study[when?] showed that designs implemented on FPGAs need on average 40 times as much area, draw 12 times as much dynamic power, and run at one third the speed of corresponding ASIC implementations.
More recently, FPGAs such as the Xilinx Virtex-7 or the Altera Stratix 5 have come to rival corresponding ASIC and ASSP ("Application-specific standard part", such as a standalone USB interface chip) solutions by providing significantly reduced power usage, increased speed, lower materials cost, minimal implementation real-estate, and increased possibilities for re-configuration 'on-the-fly'. Where previously[when?] a design may have included 6 to 10 ASICs, the same design can now be achieved using only one FPGA.
Advantages of FPGAs include the ability to re-program when already deployed (i.e. "in the field") to fix bugs, and often include shorter time to market and lower non-recurring engineering costs. Vendors can also take a middle road via FPGA prototyping: developing their prototype hardware on FPGAs, but manufacture their final version as an ASIC so that it can no longer be modified after the design has been committed.
Xilinx claimed that several market and technology dynamics are changing the ASIC/FPGA paradigm as of February 2009:
Revenue losses for slow time-to-market were increasing[why?]
Financial constraints in a poor economy were driving low-cost technologies.[needs update]
These trends make FPGAs a better alternative than ASICs for a larger number of higher-volume applications than they have been historically used for, to which the company attributes the growing number of FPGA design starts (see § History).
The primary differences between complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs) and FPGAs are architectural. A CPLD has a comparatively restrictive structure consisting of one or more programmable sum-of-products logic arrays feeding a relatively small number of clocked registers. As a result, CPLDs are less flexible, but have the advantage of more predictable timing delays and a higher logic-to-interconnect ratio. FPGA architectures, on the other hand, are dominated by interconnect. This makes them far more flexible (in terms of the range of designs that are practical for implementation on them) but also far more complex to design for, or at least requiring more complex electronic design automation (EDA) software.
When a design requires simple instant-on (logic is already configured at power-up) CPLDs are generally preferred. For most other applications FPGAs are generally preferred. Sometimes both CPLDs and FPGAs are used in a single system design. In those designs, CPLDs generally perform glue logic functions, and are responsible for “booting” the FPGA as well as controlling reset and boot sequence of the complete circuit board. Therefore, depending on the application it may be judicious to use both FPGAs and CPLDs in a single design.
FPGAs have both advantages and disadvantages as compared to ASICs or secure microprocessors, concerning hardware security. FPGAs' flexibility makes malicious modifications during fabrication a lower risk. Previously, for many FPGAs, the design bitstream was exposed while the FPGA loads it from external memory (typically on every power-on). All major FPGA vendors now offer a spectrum of security solutions to designers such as bitstream encryption and authentication. For example, Altera and Xilinx offer AES encryption (up to 256-bit) for bitstreams stored in an external flash memory.
With its Stratix 10 FPGAs and SoCs, Altera introduced a Secure Device Manager and physically uncloneable functions to provide high levels of protection against physical attacks.
In 2012 researchers Sergei Skorobogatov and Christopher Woods demonstrated that FPGAs can be vulnerable to hostile intent. They discovered a critical backdoorvulnerability had been manufactured in silicon as part of the Actel/Microsemi ProAsic 3 making it vulnerable on many levels such as reprogramming crypto and access keys, accessing unencrypted bitstream, modifying low-level silicon features, and extracting configuration data.
An FPGA can be used to solve any problem which is computable. This is trivially proven by the fact that FPGAs can be used to implement a soft microprocessor, such as the Xilinx MicroBlaze or Altera Nios II. Their advantage lies in that they are significantly faster for some applications because of their parallel nature and optimality in terms of the number of gates used for certain processes.
Another trend in the use of FPGAs is hardware acceleration, where one can use the FPGA to accelerate certain parts of an algorithm and share part of the computation between the FPGA and a generic processor. The search engine Bing is noted for adopting FPGA acceleration for its search algorithm in 2014. As of 2018, FPGAs are seeing increased use as AI accelerators including Microsoft's so-termed "Project Catapult" and for accelerating artificial neural networks for machine learning applications.
Traditionally,[when?] FPGAs have been reserved for specific vertical applications where the volume of production is small. For these low-volume applications, the premium that companies pay in hardware cost per unit for a programmable chip is more affordable than the development resources spent on creating an ASIC. As of 2017, new cost and performance dynamics have broadened the range of viable applications.
The most common FPGA architecture consists of an array of logic blocks,[note 1]I/O pads, and routing channels. Generally, all the routing channels have the same width (number of wires). Multiple I/O pads may fit into the height of one row or the width of one column in the array.
An application circuit must be mapped into an FPGA with adequate resources. While the number of CLBs/LABs and I/Os required is easily determined from the design, the number of routing tracks needed may vary considerably even among designs with the same amount of logic.[note 2]
For example, a crossbar switch requires much more routing than a systolic array with the same gate count. Since unused routing tracks increase the cost (and decrease the performance) of the part without providing any benefit, FPGA manufacturers try to provide just enough tracks so that most designs that will fit in terms of lookup tables (LUTs) and I/Os can be routed.[note 2] This is determined by estimates such as those derived from Rent's rule or by experiments with existing designs. As of 2018, network-on-chip architectures for routing and interconnection are being developed.
In general, a logic block consists of a few logical cells (called ALM, LE, slice etc.). A typical cell consists of a 4-input LUT[timeframe?], a full adder (FA) and a D-type flip-flop, as shown above. The LUTs are in this figure split into two 3-input LUTs. In normal mode those are combined into a 4-input LUT through the left multiplexer (mux). In arithmetic mode, their outputs are fed to the adder. The selection of mode is programmed into the middle MUX. The output can be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the programming of the mux to the right, in the figure example. In practice, entire or parts of the adder are stored as functions into the LUTs in order to save space.
Modern FPGA families expand upon the above capabilities to include higher level functionality fixed in silicon. Having these common functions embedded in the circuit reduces the area required and gives those functions increased speed compared to building them from logical primitives. Examples of these include multipliers, generic DSP blocks, embedded processors, high speed I/O logic and embedded memories.
Higher-end FPGAs can contain high speed multi-gigabit transceivers and hard IP cores such as processor cores, Ethernetmedium access control units, PCI/PCI Express controllers, and external memory controllers. These cores exist alongside the programmable fabric, but they are built out of transistors instead of LUTs so they have ASIC-level performance and power consumption without consuming a significant amount of fabric resources, leaving more of the fabric free for the application-specific logic. The multi-gigabit transceivers also contain high performance analog input and output circuitry along with high-speed serializers and deserializers, components which cannot be built out of LUTs. Higher-level PHY[definition needed] layer functionality such as line coding may or may not be implemented alongside the serializers and deserializers in hard logic, depending on the FPGA.
Most of the circuitry built inside of an FPGA is synchronous circuitry that requires a clock signal. FPGAs contain dedicated global and regional routing networks for clock and reset so they can be delivered with minimal skew. Also, FPGAs generally contain analog phase-locked loop and/or delay-locked loop components to synthesize new clock frequencies as well as attenuate jitter. Complex designs can use multiple clocks with different frequency and phase relationships, each forming separate clock domains. These clock signals can be generated locally by an oscillator or they can be recovered from a high speed serial data stream. Care must be taken when building clock domain crossing circuitry to avoid metastability. FPGAs generally contain block RAMs that are capable of working as dual port RAMs with different clocks, aiding in the construction of building FIFOs and dual port buffers that connect differing clock domains.
To shrink the size and power consumption of FPGAs, vendors such as Tabula and Xilinx have introduced 3D or stacked architectures. Following the introduction of its 28 nm 7-series FPGAs, Xilinx said that several of the highest-density parts in those FPGA product lines will be constructed using multiple dies in one package, employing technology developed for 3D construction and stacked-die assemblies.
Xilinx's approach stacks several (three or four) active FPGA dies side-by-side on a silicon interposer – a single piece of silicon that carries passive interconnect. The multi-die construction also allows different parts of the FPGA to be created with different process technologies, as the process requirements are different between the FPGA fabric itself and the very high speed 28 Gbit/s serial transceivers. An FPGA built in this way is called a heterogeneous FPGA.
Altera's heterogeneous approach involves using a single monolithic FPGA die and connecting other die/technologies to the FPGA using Intel's embedded multi-die interconnect bridge (EMIB) technology.
To define the behavior of the FPGA, the user provides a design in a hardware description language (HDL) or as a schematic design. The HDL form is more suited to work with large structures because it's possible to specify high-level functional behavior rather than drawing every piece by hand. However, schematic entry can allow for easier visualization of a design and its component modules.
Using an electronic design automation tool, a technology-mapped netlist is generated. The netlist can then be fit to the actual FPGA architecture using a process called place-and-route, usually performed by the FPGA company's proprietary place-and-route software. The user will validate the map, place and route results via timing analysis, simulation, and other verification and validation methodologies. Once the design and validation process is complete, the binary file generated, typically using the FPGA vendor's proprietary software, is used to (re-)configure the FPGA. This file is transferred to the FPGA/CPLD via a serial interface (JTAG) or to an external memory device like an EEPROM.
To simplify the design of complex systems in FPGAs, there exist libraries of predefined complex functions and circuits that have been tested and optimized to speed up the design process. These predefined circuits are commonly called intellectual property (IP) cores, and are available from FPGA vendors and third-party IP suppliers. They are rarely free, and typically released under proprietary licenses. Other predefined circuits are available from developer communities such as OpenCores (typically released under free and open source licenses such as the GPL, BSD or similar license), and other sources. Such designs are known as "open-source hardware."
In a typical design flow, an FPGA application developer will simulate the design at multiple stages throughout the design process. Initially the RTL description in VHDL or Verilog is simulated by creating test benches to simulate the system and observe results. Then, after the synthesis engine has mapped the design to a netlist, the netlist is translated to a gate-level description where simulation is repeated to confirm the synthesis proceeded without errors. Finally the design is laid out in the FPGA at which point propagation delays can be added and the simulation run again with these values back-annotated onto the netlist.
More recently, OpenCL (Open Computing Language) is being used by programmers to take advantage of the performance and power efficiencies that FPGAs provide. OpenCL allows programmers to develop code in the C programming language and target FPGA functions as OpenCL kernels using OpenCL constructs. For further information, see high-level synthesis and C to HDL.
Basic process technology types
SRAM – based on static memory technology. In-system programmable and re-programmable. Requires external boot devices. CMOS. Currently in use.[when?] Notably, flash memory or EEPROM devices may often load contents into internal SRAM that controls routing and logic.
PROM – Programmable Read-Only Memory technology. One-time programmable because of plastic packaging. Obsolete.
EPROM – Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory technology. One-time programmable but with window, can be erased with ultraviolet (UV) light. CMOS. Obsolete.
EEPROM – Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory technology. Can be erased, even in plastic packages. Some but not all EEPROM devices can be in-system programmed. CMOS.
Flash – Flash-erase EPROM technology. Can be erased, even in plastic packages. Some but not all flash devices can be in-system programmed. Usually, a flash cell is smaller than an equivalent EEPROM cell and is therefore less expensive to manufacture. CMOS.
In 2016, long-time industry rivals Xilinx and Altera (now an Intel subsidiary) were the FPGA market leaders. At that time, they controlled nearly 90 percent of the market.
QuickLogic, which manufactures Ultra Low Power Sensor Hubs, extremely low powered, low density SRAM-based FPGAs, with display bridges MIPI & RGB inputs, MIPI, RGB and LVDS outputs
Achronix, manufacturing SRAM based FPGAS with 1.5 GHz fabric speed
In March 2010, Tabula announced their FPGA technology that uses time-multiplexed logic and interconnect that claims potential cost savings for high-density applications. On March 24, 2015, Tabula officially shut down.
On June 1, 2015, Intel announced it would acquire Altera for approximately $16.7 billion and completed the acquisition on December 30, 2015.
^Skorobogatov, Sergei; Woods, Christopher (2012). Breakthrough Silicon Scanning Discovers Backdoor in Military Chip. Digital Object Identifier: 10.1007/978-3-642-33027-8_2. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 7428. pp. 23–40. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-33027-8_2. ISBN 978-3-642-33026-1.