Plunify interview questions

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Plunify interview questions

Postby ian » Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:05 am

Tomorrow I'll be talking to the guys at Plunify, an online compiler for Altera and Xilinx CPLDs/FPGAs. We worked together to put the CPLD dev-board demos up, Xilinx has not yet given Plunify permission to use the compiler in this fashion, so the tutorial cannot go live for the moment. If you have any questions I'll ask them.

http://www.plunify.com
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:36 am

what do you mean by "xilinx has pulled their licence" ? Looks like I missed a bit there
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby armandas » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:05 pm

arhi wrote:what do you mean by "xilinx has pulled their licence" ? Looks like I missed a bit there


It means that Plunify cannot legaly use Xilinx tools for such a service.

It's hard to say what happened here, and assuming Plunify had a contract with Xilinx, they will (most likely) not be allowed to talk about it because of an NDA. If they did not have an agreement to use Xilinx tools for their service, what the heck were they expecting?
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:16 pm

ah they used XISE on back end. I hoped they developed they own compiler and that xilinx then did "something", but yes, if they used xise as a back end .. as you say "what the hack they expected" :)
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby ian » Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:51 pm

I plan to get that full story tomorrow, as well as if Altera is OK, and if they contact Lattice or any minor players.
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:39 pm

if they used the licenced xise to offer compilation for fpga's and cpld's not covered by free webpack then it is more then understandable xilinix protected themselves :( (not that I understand why don't they give xise 100% for free along with full schematic and firmware for the usb cable) ... I really understood they made they own "compiler" :( instead they just made an web interface for xise :(
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby harnhua » Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:35 pm

Just to add on a bit, yes, we made a free beta implementation of FPGA tools on the cloud to see whether users like yourselves would like it. Developing compilers is not our area of focus.

Currently we're in discussions with the FPGA vendors to license their solutions officially on the cloud. As part of those discussions, we were required to take some features off for the time being, which is unfortunate because users tell us they like a lot of the features. Of course there are areas we can improve on as well.

One thing I'd like to clarify is that this is not meant to be just "a web interface", but also a way to automatically scale up your compilation resources - servers and licenses, so one can run the backend processes like synthesis, map, par, etc. more quickly.

Please let us know what you like or don't like about this service so we can also convey your opinions to the vendors!
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:27 am

Thanks for joining in on a conversation.

like - well, xise ain't free, ain't even cheap ... also if you want to do altera, latice etc etc you need more tools on your computer ... having all accessible trough single interface is a great thing. (especially if the price for the licence is lower then desktop version and if interface for *all* tools is unified)

dislike - cloud - it will always be waaaaaaay slower then my desktop. yes I admit not too many ee's keep their desktop that powerful nor many of them keep this many machines at home/office and ppl like to move to handhelds so web apps are helping a lot (both with speed and battery life), but I personally do my work on my huge desktops and servers I anyhow have to have .. (for e.g. the only reason I'm not using mbed platform at all is that only ide they have is on web, if they had both web and desktop based system it would be more then acceptable platform for rapid development)

as you can see from my comments, I'm not big fan of "moving stuff to web" and am seriously against moving apps that benefited hugely from moving to desktop from old client server system (like audio/video/image processing, 3d modeling, schematic capture, pcb modeling, electronics simulations..) back to client/server (or to use the "new" fancy word - cloud) setup. I don't see a reason to run a compiler on the "cloud" while I have more then 50GHz of cpu's on/under my desk other then the price. If I can get full range of fpga's covered for lower price (or even better for free) I will live with web interface but for the same/similar price, I'd always use desktop version - exclusively (especially if there's native linux version available)

just my 0.02$
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby harnhua » Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:08 am

Great comments - thank you!

It sounds like integration of complementary tools and price are more of the main decision factors in your case. You have an impressive and dedicated setup (I wish I had 50GHz of CPU power under my desk!), so what you say makes sense.

I agree that currently tasks like GUI-intensive ones should not be moved to a client/server model, because of latency, for one thing.

What tools would you like to use in addition to the FPGA tools?
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:23 am

The major question is - who are you targeting.
* High end professionals ? They mostly use same tools for years and don't care about prices; work on big long projects.. I don't think they would remove themselves from the comfort of desktop apps.
* Low end professionals ? They do electronics for bread & butter but and are small companies or work for small companies, they use all available tools and all available technologies changing toolchains from job to job, from board to board; they have no loyalty to a toolchain nor a company; will often change "partner" for a small difference in price. These might be your target.
* High end hobbyists ? Those that do electronics as a hobby but do from time to time a commercial application. They know a lot, work on diverse projects using diverse set of tools but do stuff rarely if they don't see something "special" there. These are a mystery, I know many ppl in this "population" and they are all soooooooo different. Most of them I know still use '90s technology and don't plan to change
* Low end hobbyists ? They have no money or no time or not enough knowledge to spend on this hobby, some of them will move from this position in future, most will not. These are only interested in free stuff that can make them learn something, or a free stuff that they can just "reuse". You have to target this population even if they don't really have anything to offer, as those you pick here you want to "have" when they move from this "non-paying" to a "paying" population.

Of course it's not simple to categorize ppl, I don't see myself as member of any of these groups. I for e.g. work as a consultant in IT sector and hardware is just what I do to relax - to make something that works that I can "touch" (as most of my life I'm involved in virtual stuff - yes it does makes money but I dare you to explain to my mother "what is that I do and why ppl pay me lot of money" ) => my "day job" requires me to have a lot of hardware at home (testing clusters can't be done on a laptop :D) + I like to play FPS/FRP games when I have time so additionally I have incentive for a very powerful desktop too, add to that that I can afford it => I have serious cpu + gpu power on/under my table (it's not that expensive any more,for e.g. a good gpu like mine nvidia 295 dropped price 50% since it came out and is now fairly accessible, intel and amd are pushing 3GHz for a while now, with 4 average cores that's 12GHz per machine, just a basic cluster setup gets you up to 50GHz in no time, and all that cost less then a good pcb dev tool). Now I can't talk about genpop but I can talk about me - for me to use a tool must satisfy only a single property. To be more fun then it cost. For e.g. in last 20 months I spent over 10000EUR in the reprap project and all I got out of it is loads of fun. I don't ever expect to make money out of reprap, I only expect it to continue to bring me fun, loads and loads of fun... I could of easily ordered a high end printer but .. what would be the fun in that :) ... same with tools, I'll pay if it promises it will be satisfying, fun, gratifying, directly or indirectly... when I say indirectly, for e.g. if I for fun make something with fpga I will need some toolchain to work with that fpga. If your toolchain will get me there faster / cheaper I'll use it. Now I also will decide on any other segment of that project based on same criteria so I will go for xilinx or altera or .. comparing what is the fun factor there too... attm I use free ise webpack and only chips that are supported + that I can manually solder. Going to a chip that requires commercial version of ise attm does not present "enough more fun to cover the fees", also moving to web does not, looking trough same glasses, any benefit as I already have toolchain that's free and on desktop. There's no way you can make it faster on the web. Now in theory, if you can make the "acceptable speed" toolchain on the web that would cover "all fpga/cpld" chips out there then it might increase the fun factor as maybe altera have more "solderable" chips I can use and I don't need to get all the tools - I just use the same interface for all of them ...

On the "other tools" ... donno what to say .. on web - nothing, I don't c a reason to move any of my electronics development from my desktop, but again, I'm not one you want to target :)
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby ian » Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:44 am

They had some really good use cases. One was students in 3rd world w/o dedicated computer or ability to download 4GB install disk. They are really targeting people who need distributed build power quick. It's the last minute, you don't have a cluster, but you need to synthesize a huge design, and they can supply that.

I like it for starters because they can upload, compile, and get the result without messing with the (kinda intimidating) ISE IDE, or downloading a huge disk. I think it could make it easier to get people into our CPLD dev-boards for example, where they are actually quite simple devices, but the learning curve for the tools is really high.
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby arhi » Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:57 am

Yes those are great use cases. Basically low end proff and low end hobby .. they might don't have to have computer at all - any internet enabled device might partially finish the job.. biggest part of my post was "why I am not the right person to answer the question" then anything else...
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby harnhua » Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:30 am

We are focusing on the professionals, and believe that this type of service benefits the hobbyists as well. As Ian mentioned, there are use cases that apply to different groups.

* High end professionals ? They mostly use same tools for years and don't care about prices; work on big long projects.. I don't think they would remove themselves from the comfort of desktop apps.

We have (and are asking for feedback) on a scripting interface that these users can run directly from their desktop apps to make the cloud "transparent".

* Low end professionals ? They do electronics for bread & butter but and are small companies or work for small companies, they use all available tools and all available technologies changing toolchains from job to job, from board to board; they have no loyalty to a toolchain nor a company; will often change "partner" for a small difference in price. These might be your target.

Yes, especially during "crunch time" when there is a need to quickly scale up resources.

* High end hobbyists ? Those that do electronics as a hobby but do from time to time a commercial application. They know a lot, work on diverse projects using diverse set of tools but do stuff rarely if they don't see something "special" there. These are a mystery, I know many ppl in this "population" and they are all soooooooo different. Most of them I know still use '90s technology and don't plan to change

This is a group of very knowledgeable users with diverse requirements. I think the boundaries between "low end professionals" and this group can be blurred. Maybe Plunify is both a convenient and a "heavy-processing helper" for such users.

* Low end hobbyists ? They have no money or no time or not enough knowledge to spend on this hobby, some of them will move from this position in future, most will not. These are only interested in free stuff that can make them learn something, or a free stuff that they can just "reuse". You have to target this population even if they don't really have anything to offer, as those you pick here you want to "have" when they move from this "non-paying" to a "paying" population.

Being a low end hobbyist myself, I am very passionate about helping out in this area if I can. The tutorial that Ian and I worked on is perhaps an example.

if you can make the "acceptable speed" toolchain on the web that would cover "all fpga/cpld" chips out there then it might increase the fun factor as maybe altera have more "solderable" chips I can use and I don't need to get all the tools - I just use the same interface for all of them ...

This gives much food for thought!
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby harnhua » Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:27 pm

Thank you for your comment.
May I ask, what specifically do you like about this project?
We're always trying to learn more about what people like and don't like.

Thanks!
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Re: Plunify interview questions

Postby ian » Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:30 am

I'm afraid that was probably spam.
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