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Jason Sachs's Embedded Systems Blog

Jason Sachs
Jason has 17 years of experience in signal conditioning (both analog + digital) in motion control + medical applications. He likes making things spin.

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April is Oscilloscope Month: In Which We Discover Agilent Offers Us a Happy Deal and a Sad Name

Last month I wrote that March is Oscilloscope Month, because Agilent had a deal on the MSOX2000 and MSOX3000 series scopes offering higher bandwidth at lower prices. I got an MSOX3034 oscilloscope and...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 19 2014 under Test Equipment 
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How to Analyze a Differential Amplifier

There are a handful of things that you just have to know if you do any decent amount of electronic circuit design work. One of them is a voltage divider. Another is the behavior of an RC filter. I'm...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 13 2014 under Circuit Design | Analog Circuits 
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Garden Rakes Revisited: The Hall of Shame

A little while ago, I wrote about what I call the "garden rakes" syndrome in software, where there are little bugs or pitfalls lying around like sloppy garden rakes that no one has put away, and when ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 12 2014 under Miscellaneous 
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March is Oscilloscope Month — and at Tim Scale!

I got my oscilloscope today. Maybe that was a bit of an understatement; I'll have to resort to gratuitous typography: I GOT MY OSCILLOSCOPE TODAY!!!! Those of you who are reading this blog may re...

posted by Jason Sachs on Mar 6 2014 under Test Equipment | Measurement 
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Bad Hash Functions and Other Stories: Trapped in a Cage of Irresponsibility and Garden Rakes

I was recently using the publish() function in MATLAB to develop some documentation, and I ran into a problem caused by a bad hash function. In a resource-limited embedded system, you aren't likely t...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jan 28 2014 under Software Development | Applied Math 
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Efficiency Through the Looking-Glass

If you've ever designed or purchased a power supply, chances are you have had to work with efficiency calculations. I can remember in my beginning electronic circuits course in college, in the last le...

posted by Jason Sachs on Dec 8 2013 under Power Electronics | System Design 
Comments (4) |

Understanding and Preventing Overflow (I Had Too Much to Add Last Night)

Happy Thanksgiving! Maybe the memory of eating too much turkey is fresh in your mind. If so, this would be a good time to talk about overflow. In the world of floating-point arithmetic, overflow is p...

posted by Jason Sachs on Dec 4 2013 under Software Development | Tutorials 
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How to Estimate Encoder Velocity Without Making Stupid Mistakes: Part II (Tracking Loops and PLLs)

Yeeehah! Finally we're ready to tackle some more clever ways to figure out the velocity of a position encoder. In part I, we looked at the basics of velocity estimation. Then in my last article, I tal...

posted by Jason Sachs on Nov 17 2013 under Applied Math | Signal Processing 
Comments (2) |

Another 10 Circuit Components You Should Know

It's that time again to review all the oddball goodies available in electronic components. These are things you should have in your bag of tricks when you need to design a circuit board. If you read m...

posted by Jason Sachs on Oct 30 2013 under Circuit Design 
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Short Takes (EE Shanty): What shall we do with a zero-ohm resistor?

In circuit board design you often need flexibility. It can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to respin a circuit board, so I need flexibility for two main reasons: sometimes it's important to b...

posted by Jason Sachs on Oct 19 2013 under Circuit Design 
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Fluxions for Fun and Profit: Euler, Trapezoidal, Verlet, or Runge-Kutta?

Today we're going to take another diversion from embedded systems, and into the world of differential equations, modeling, and computer simulation. DON'T PANIC! First of all, just pretend I didn't b...

posted by Jason Sachs on Sep 30 2013 under Applied Math 
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Signal Processing Contest in Python (PREVIEW): The Worst Encoder in the World

When I posted an article on estimating velocity from a position encoder, I got a number of responses. A few of them were of the form "Well, it's an interesting article, but at slow speeds why can't yo...

posted by Jason Sachs on Sep 7 2013 under Signal Processing 
Comments (3) |

Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part III: Practical Issues of Inductor and Capacitor Ripple Current

We've been analyzing the ripple current in an H-bridge, both in an inductive load and the DC link capacitor. Here's a really quick recap; if you want to get into more details, go back and read part I ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Aug 24 2013 under Power Electronics | Signal Processing 
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Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part II: Ripple Current in the DC Link Capacitor

In my last post, I talked about ripple current in inductive loads. One of the assumptions we made was that the DC link was, in fact, a DC voltage source. In reality that's an approximation; no DC v...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jul 28 2013 under Power Electronics | Signal Processing 
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Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part I: Ripple Current in Inductive Loads

So you think you know about H-bridges? They're something I mentioned in my last post about signal processing with Python. Here we have a typical H-bridge with an inductive load. (Mmmmm ahhh! It's g...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jul 7 2013 under Power Electronics | Signal Processing 
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Adventures in Signal Processing with Python (MATLAB? We don’t need no stinkin' MATLAB!)

OK, now back to some down-to-earth topics after that last philosophical diversion. This post will be a short tour of PyLab, and a springboard for a number of other topics — including that long-a...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jun 23 2013
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Implementation Complexity, Part II: Catastrophe, Dear Liza, and the M Word

In my last post, I talked about the Tower of Babel as a warning against implementation complexity, and I mentioned a number of issues that can occur at the time of design or construction of a project....

posted by Jason Sachs on Jun 16 2013
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Implementation Complexity, Part I: The Tower of Babel, Gremlins, and The Mythical Man-Month

I thought I'd post a follow-up, in a sense, to an older post about complexity in consumer electronics I wrote a year and a half ago. That was kind of a rant against overly complex user interfaces. I ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jun 9 2013
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Isolated Sigma-Delta Modulators, Rah Rah Rah!

I recently faced a little "asterisk" problem, which looks like it can be solved with some interesting ICs.  I needed to plan out some test instrumentation to capture voltage and current informat...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 25 2013
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Oscilloscope review: Hameg HMO2024

Last year I wrote about some of the key characteristics of oscilloscopes that are important to me for working with embedded microcontrollers. In that blog entry I rated the Agilent MSOX3024A...

posted by Jason Sachs on Mar 28 2013
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