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Speedier Bug Catching

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illustration of bug on chip

Credit: Technology Review

Engineers have developed new transistors that can locate hardware bugs in a fraction of the time it takes to perform normal debugging. Instruction footprint recording and analysis (IFRA) enables engineers to find evidence of bugs while they happen, eliminating much of the time needed to perform electrical simulation during the post-silicon debugging phase of testing.

The approach relies on building recording devices, or buffers, into about 1 percent of the transistors on a chip, to collect the right amount of information about chip activity at the right time. The circular buffers are designed to briefly hold information on instructions that stream through a chip, but when a failure or impending failure is detected, recording stops, buggy instructions are saved, and the data is transferred to a computer. The team has developed software to decode the labels and detail the instructions and location on the chip that led to the failure.

Working with Intel, a test of IFRA on its Core i7 chips found the technique can locate 96 percent of bugs and pinpoint 80 percent with their exact time and location.

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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