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Researchers create bug-blocking chip monitor

Posted on Monday, October 06 2008 @ 11:26:47 CEST by

Researchers at the University of Michigan created a tiny computer chip monitor that can prevent crashes:
For the past two years they've been working on what they call a "semantic guardian." It's a tiny monitor that lives on the microprocessor, checking it to see if the chip is being asked to do something that its designers hadn't predicted in their quality assurance testing.

Companies such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices test their products rigorously, but in the real world, chips are often asked to do new things that could potentially cause a crash. The semantic guardian can identify these untested states and then slow down the processor by kicking it into a safe mode, where many of the chip's performance-enhancing bells and whistles are disabled.

This slows the computer down for a tiny fraction of a second, but it also makes it much less likely to crash, said Valeria Bertacco, an assistant professor with the university's computer science department.
More info at InfoWorld. The current design takes up about 3 percent of the chip's real estate, but the researchers believe that if the technology were to be used by a commercial company it will be able to shrink it to much less than 1 percent. It sounds interesting but most analysts quoted in the article are skeptic about the real-world benefits of this technology.



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