Katherine's Blog

Obsessions: Thin films, writing, small business, and random web flotsam

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January 12, 2002

In the main part of the site, I'm gradually moving articles and indexes for 2001 off to separate directories, updating links as I go. If you find anything broken, please let me know and I'll fix it as soon as I can.

In other site maintenance news, the BlogBack comment system appears to be having problems again. This time, it's undergoing a major rewrite to reduce the load on its servers. I'm sticking with it for now, but am once again contemplating whether to go with a locally-hosted solution. Sigh...
posted 14:48 |

January 11, 2002

From the mailbag:
New Vision Systems has released the latest version of its Argus software. The fully automated advanced process control system watches over the lithography cell, correlating finished device performance with stepper overlay and CD data.

Cymer announced the ELS-7000 KrF laser for optical lithography. The laser delivers 30 W of power at a 4 KHz repeat rate, the company said, with FWHM bandwidth of 0.5 pm or better.

ACM Research announced the first order for its stress-free electropolishing system. It claims the system offers a low-damage alternative to CMP for copper damascene interconnects.
posted 12:04 |

More layoffs and fab closings in the news as the downturn heads into its second year. Motorola announced it would close test, packaging, and fab facilities in Texas and Japan as part of its ongoing shift to a fab light strategy. IDT said it will close a six-inch fab in California, moving production to a more advanced Oregon facility.
posted 10:33 |
IBM spends tons of money on research and development, and it's paid off. The company pulled in 3,411 patents in 2001, and collects more than US$1.7 billion per year in licensing fees. Maybe they should just transform themselves into a research institute?

(Link from the New York Times. Free registration required.)
posted 10:00 |

January 10, 2002

During the glory days of 2000, tantalum capacitors were in such short supply that they became a production-limiting part. Electronics manufacturers don't like it when a $500 piece of equipment is held up by a 10-cent capacitor. Those shortages have accelerated a trend that replaces tantalum with multi-layered ceramic capacitors. Ceramics have always been more reliable and cheaper, and are now able to deliver capacitance values that used to be tantalum's exclusive domain.
posted 09:49 |

January 8, 2002

Semiconductor Business News has some good people working there. They should know better than to blindly quote press releases, but they do it anyway. This time, they repeated Intel's claim that the 0.13-micron process will accelerate Pentium III's to 1.4 GHz. While that's probably true in the most literal sense, it's meaningless from the point of view of real performance of real systems.

Most applications are limited by network performance, disk access, or the bottleneck between the processor and memory. None of which is affected by CPU speed. Nor is a CPU cycle speed comparison meaningful across chip architectures, as both the Motorola PowerPC chip and the AMD K6 processor showed. Of course, Intel isn't going to mention those inconvenient facts in their press release, so it requires actual reporting to dig them out.
posted 16:56 |

Advanced photomask manufacturing is looking more and more like semiconductor manufacturing. Veeco and Photronics announced they would team up to develop advanced tools and processes for mask manufacturing. The agreement includes Photronics' purchase on an ion beam deposition system from Veeco.
posted 16:38 |
I spent some time this morning gathering basic product information from two of the leading lithography suppliers. Company A's page supplied all the information I wanted--exposure wavelength, aperture, resolution, and throughput--for all of their systems in a consistent format. Company B's site was a mess. Some products got a one paragraph description with no technical details. Some products got a link to the detailed specifications. Some products got a link to the product announcement press release, with no technical details.

I know nothing about how these two companies perform in the fab. But I know where I'd look first if I needed information in a hurry. It didn't surprise me in the least to realize that Company A has been gaining market share at Company B's expense for years.

The sad part is that Company B's site was beautifully designed. They spent at least as much on their "look" as Company A did. Then undermined their carefully crafted image by throwing whatever product information was handy onto the page instead of thinking about what information visitors might be looking for.
posted 13:10 |

January 7, 2002

The Keep Trying blog has been hosting a very interesting conversation about journalism, the differences between big media and little media, and how low-cost Internet publishing blurs the distinction between Real Journalists and everyone else. Today's entry summarizes the debate, but it's worth digging backward a little bit and following some of the links.

As I see it, what distinguishes journalism from polemic is a willingness to report even inconvenient facts. If opinion journalism, one of the allegedly unique traits of small Internet media, involves filtering the available facts through the writer's life experience in order to draw conclusions, that's fine. (In fact, that's part of what I'm trying to do here.) If it involves selectively reporting facts in support of a preconceived opinion, then it doesn't really deserve to be called journalism.
posted 15:41 |

My bad. I found a bad link while reviewing the usage logs. OOPS! If you run across something that doesn't work, send me an email or add a comment and I'll fix it as soon as I can. Thanks!
posted 14:01 |
An article at Joel on Software talks about how the most difficult part of writing software is sometimes just getting started, launching the editor and starting to type. That's true for other kinds of writing, too, at least for me. I'll write three or four drafts of the first paragraph or two, throw them all away, and then go for ten pages without stopping.

The article also talks about the importance of small victories, especially for small companies like his, and like this one. Make the product a little bit better every day, and be comfortable with the idea that you aren't going to rule the world overnight. It's good advice.
posted 09:09 |

10 pages, and my main character finally found out why everyone hates his father, and therefore him. He's decided to stay incognito for as long as he can. Safer that way.

On the non-fiction side, made major progress on describing the vagaries of the exposure system market. All in all, a most excellent day.
posted 00:28 |

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