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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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Optimizing Optoisolators, and Other Stories of Making Do With Less

It’s been a few months since I’ve rolled up my sleeves here and dug into some good old circuit design issues. I started out with circuit design articles, and I’ve missed it. Today&r...

posted by Jason Sachs on Dec 14 2014 under Circuit Design | Analog Circuits | Optimization 
Comments (0) |

Book Review: "Turing's Cathedral"

My library had Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson on its new acquisitions shelf, so I read it. I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in the histo...

posted by Jason Sachs on Nov 20 2014 under Miscellaneous 
Comments (1) |

Thermistor signal conditioning: Dos and Don'ts, Tips and Tricks

In an earlier blog entry,  I mentioned this circuit for thermistor signal conditioning: It is worth a little more explanation on thermistor signal conditioning; it's something that's often don...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jun 15 2011
Comments (5) |

How to Estimate Encoder Velocity Without Making Stupid Mistakes: Part I

Here's a common problem: you have a quadrature encoder to measure the angular position of a motor, and you want to know both the position and the velocity. How do you do it? Some people do it poorly -...

posted by Jason Sachs on Dec 27 2012
Comments (21) |

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
Comments (6) |

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part I: Idempotence

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of subtle concepts that contribute to high quality software design. Many of them are well-known, and can be found in books or the Internet. I’m go...

posted by Jason Sachs on Aug 26 2014 under Software Development | System Design 
Comments (4) |

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part II: Immutability

The previous article in this series discussed idempotence. This article will discuss immutability, and some of its variations in the topic of functional programming. There are a whole series of benef...

posted by Jason Sachs on Sep 14 2014 under Software Development | System Design 
Comments (0) |

Byte and Switch (Part 1)

Imagine for a minute you have an electromagnet, and a microcontroller, and you want to use the microcontroller to turn the electromagnet on and off. Sounds pretty typical, right?We ask this question o...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 26 2011
Comments (8) |

How to Build a Fixed-Point PI Controller That Just Works: Part I

This two-part article explains five tips to make a fixed-point PI controller work well. I am not going to talk about loop tuning -- there are hundreds of articles and books about that; any control-sys...

posted by Jason Sachs on Feb 26 2012
Comments (4) |

Analog-to-Digital Confusion: Pitfalls of Driving an ADC

  Imagine the following scenario:You're a successful engineer (sounds nice, doesn't it!) working on a project with three or four circuit boards. More than even you can handle, so you give one of...

posted by Jason Sachs on Nov 19 2011
Comments (2) |

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part IV: Singletons

Earlier articles in this series: Part I: Idempotence Part II: Immutability Part III: Volatility Today’s topic is the singleton. This article is unique (pun intended) in that unlike the o...

posted by Jason Sachs on Nov 11 2014 under Software Development | System Design 
Comments (0) |

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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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 (4) |

How to Build a Fixed-Point PI Controller That Just Works: Part II

In Part I we talked about some of the issues around discrete-time proportional-integral (PI) controllers: various forms and whether to use the canonical form for z-transforms (don't do it!) order ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Mar 24 2012
Comments (2) |

Help, My Serial Data Has Been Framed: How To Handle Packets When All You Have Are Streams

Today we're going to talk about data framing and something called COBS, which will make your life easier the next time you use serial communications on an embedded system -- but first, here's a quiz: ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Dec 11 2011
Comments (7) |

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 
Comments (1) |

Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part IV: DC Link Decoupling and Why Electrolytic Capacitors Are Not Enough

Those of you who read my earlier articles about H-bridges, and followed them closely, have noticed there's some unfinished business. Well, here it is. Just so you know, I've been nervous about writing...

posted by Jason Sachs on Apr 29 2014 under Tutorials | Circuit Design | Power Electronics 
Comments (7) |

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 
Comments (4) |

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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Which MOSFET topology?

A recent electronics.StackExchange question brings up a good topic for discussion. Let's say you have a power supply and a 2-wire load you want to be able to switch on and off from the power supply us...

posted by Jason Sachs on Sep 1 2011
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