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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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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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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) |

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 (20) |

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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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 (4) |

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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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) |

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 (5) |

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
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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) |

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
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 
Comments (1) |

Oscilloscope Dreams

My coworkers and I recently needed a new oscilloscope. I thought I would share some of the features I look for when purchasing one. When I was in college in the early 1990's, our oscilloscopes look...

posted by Jason Sachs on Jan 14 2012
Comments (5) |

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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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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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
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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
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10 Circuit Components You Should Know

Chefs have their miscellaneous ingredients, like condensed milk, cream of tartar, and xanthan gum. As engineers, we too have quite our pick of circuits, and a good circuit designer should know what's ...

posted by Jason Sachs on Nov 27 2011
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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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