The Least Interesting Circuit in the World

Jason Sachs October 7, 20185 comments

It does nothing, most of the time.

It cannot compute pi. It won’t oscillate. It doesn’t light up.

Often it makes other circuits stop working.

It is… the least interesting circuit in the world.

What is it?

About 25 years ago, I took a digital computer architecture course, and we were each given use of an ugly briefcase containing a bunch of solderless breadboards and a power supply and switches and LEDs — and a bunch of

Servo Troubleshooting notes

Ed Nutter October 4, 2018

Servo Troubleshooting


Forcing a servo to rotate when off can damage it.

Malfunction:Servo makes a grinding noise or acts erratic

Probable Cause

Corrective Action


Examine gears for broken teeth

Replace gears


Malfunction:Servo Jitters

Probable Cause

Corrective Action


Dirty potentiometer


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XVIII: Primitive Polynomial Generation

Jason Sachs August 6, 20182 comments

Last time we figured out how to reverse-engineer parameters of an unknown CRC computation by providing sample inputs and analyzing the corresponding outputs. One of the things we discovered was that the polynomial \( x^{16} + x^{12} + x^5 + 1 \) used in the 16-bit X.25 CRC is not primitive — which just means that all the nonzero elements in the corresponding quotient ring can’t be generated by powers of \( x \), and therefore the corresponding 16-bit LFSR with taps in bits 0, 5,...

Sensors Expo - Trip Report & My Best Video Yet!

Stephane Boucher August 3, 20183 comments

This was my first time at Sensors Expo and my second time in Silicon Valley and I must say I had a great time.  

Before I share with you what I find to be, by far, my best 'highlights' video yet for a conference/trade show, let me try to entertain you with a few anecdotes from this trip.  If you are not interested by my stories or maybe don't have the extra minutes needed to read them, please feel free to skip to the end of this blog post to watch the...

R1C1R2C2: The Two-Pole Passive RC Filter

Jason Sachs July 28, 20181 comment

I keep running into this circuit every year or two, and need to do the same old calculations, which are kind of tiring. So I figured I’d just write up an article and then I can look it up the next time.

This is a two-pole passive RC filter. Doesn’t work as well as an LC filter or an active filter, but it is cheap. We’re going to find out a couple of things about its transfer function.

First let’s find out the transfer function of this circuit:

Not very...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XVII: Reverse-Engineering the CRC

Jason Sachs July 7, 20181 comment

Last time, we continued a discussion about error detection and correction by covering Reed-Solomon encoding. I was going to move on to another topic, but then there was this post on Reddit asking how to determine unknown CRC parameters:

I am seeking to reverse engineer an 8-bit CRC. I don’t know the generator code that’s used, but can lay my hands on any number of output sequences given an input sequence.

This is something I call the “unknown oracle”...

Making a connection 1

Ed Nutter July 3, 20182 comments

In order for your system to control devices, you must be able to connect it to those devices.

Besides different sizes based on wire size, there are a few different styles of connectors that can be used.  There are also weather-resistant terminals that can be used if needed.


(Parks, 16)

- used for circuits that you don’t want to become easily disconnected

- ground wire attached to a stud


- can be used on relay terminals

(Parks, 18)

- could be...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XVI: Reed-Solomon Error Correction

Jason Sachs June 19, 2018

Last time, we talked about error correction and detection, covering some basics like Hamming distance, CRCs, and Hamming codes. If you are new to this topic, I would strongly suggest going back to read that article before this one.

This time we are going to cover Reed-Solomon codes. (I had meant to cover this topic in Part XV, but the article was getting to be too long, so I’ve split it roughly in half.) These are one of the workhorses of error-correction, and they are used in...

Troubleshooting notes from days past, TTL, Linear

Ed Nutter June 19, 20181 comment

General Troubleshooting

  • Follow safety precautions.
  • Always think “what if”.
    • Analytical procedures
    • Precautions when probing equipment
    • Insulate all but last 1/8” of probe tip
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Don’t start with electronic test equipment, start with analytical thinking.
  • If you get stuck, sleep on it.
  • Many problems have simple solutions.
  • Whenever possible, try to substitute a working unit.
  • Don’t blindly trust test instruments.
  • Coincidences do happen, but are relatively...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XV: Error Detection and Correction

Jason Sachs June 12, 2018

Last time, we talked about Gold codes, a specially-constructed set of pseudorandom bit sequences (PRBS) with low mutual cross-correlation, which are used in many spread-spectrum communications systems, including the Global Positioning System.

This time we are wading into the field of error detection and correction, in particular CRCs and Hamming codes.

Ernie, You Have a Banana in Your Ear

I have had a really really tough time writing this article. I like the...

Boot sequence for an ARM based embedded system -2

DM April 6, 201213 comments

In the last post, we discussed about the startup execution sequence on an ARM based embedded system in broader terms. In this post, we are going to cover the details of a startup code.These details are also available through various ARM resources , however for the sake of completion of our discussion , here is - the flow the startup code for an  ARM based embedded system.

 Step 1: The reset

On startup, the processor will jump to fixed location ,(most ARM cores support two vector...

Arduino robotics #1 - motor control

Lonnie Honeycutt October 13, 20133 comments
Arduino Robotics

Beginner robotics is a series of article chronicling my first autonomous robot build, Clusterbot.  This build is meant to be affordable, relatively easy and instructive.  The total cost of the build is around $50.  

1. Arduino robotics - motor control2. Arduino robotics - chassis, locomotion and power3. Arduino robotics - wiring, coding and a test run4. 

Data Hiding in C

Stephen Friederichs April 20, 201317 comments

Strictly speaking, C is not an object-oriented language. Although it provides some features that fit into the object-oriented paradigm it has never had the full object-oriented focus that its successor C++ offers. C++ introduced some very useful concepts and abilities that I miss when I’m developing in ANSI C. One such concept is protected member variables and functions.

When you declare a class in C++ you can also declare member variables and functions as part of that class. Often, these...

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

Jason Sachs February 26, 20127 comments

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-systems course will go over loop tuning enough to help you understand the fundamentals. There will always be some differences for each system you have to control, but the goals are the same: drive the average error to zero, keep the system stable, and maximize performance (keep overshoot and delay...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 1: Russian Peasant Multiplication

Jason Sachs March 21, 20156 comments

This blog needs some short posts to balance out the long ones, so I thought I’d cover some of the algorithms I’ve used over the years. Like the Euclidean algorithm and Extended Euclidean algorithm and Newton’s method — except those you should know already, and if not, you should be locked in a room until you do. Someday one of them may save your life. Well, you never know.

Other articles in this series:

  • Part 1:

Endianness and Serial Communication

Stephen Friederichs May 20, 20131 comment

Endianness is a consideration that is easily overlooked in the design of embedded systems. I myself am amply guilty of this oversight. It’s something you don’t ever have to worry about if you’re only working with a single processor or two processors that have the same endianness.  You can even avoid it if you have two processors that have different endianness but never transmit data between themselves that consists of more than one byte.  It’s easy to lull...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Buttons and Bouncing

Mike Silva October 26, 20133 comments

What Is A Button?

To your hardware, that is.  As discussed in Introduction to Microcontrollers - More On GPIO, a button (or key, or switch, or any form of mechanical contact) is generally hooked up to a microcontroller so as to generate a certain logic level when pushed or closed or "active," and the opposite logic level when unpushed or open or "inactive."  The active logic level can be either '0' or '1', but for reasons both historical and electrical, an...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - More On GPIO

Mike Silva September 13, 20134 comments

Now that we have our LED Blinky program nailed down, it's time to look more closely at outputs, add button/switch inputs, and work with reading inputs and driving outputs based on those inputs.

It's ON - No, It's OFF - No, It's ON...

I have to confess, I cheated.  Well, let's say I glossed over something very important.  In our LED Blinky program, we never cared about whether an output '1' or an output '0' turned on the LED.  Since we were just...

Unit Tests for Embedded Code

Stephen Friederichs March 5, 201411 comments

I originate from an electrical engineering background and my first industry experience was in a large, staid defense contractor. Both of these experiences contributed to a significant lack of knowledge with regards to software development best practices. Electrical engineers often have a backwards view of software in general; large defense contractors have similar views of software and couple it with a general disdain for any sort of automation or ‘immature’ practices.  While there...

Embedded Toolbox: Programmer's Calculator

Miro Samek June 27, 20178 comments

Like any craftsman, I have accumulated quite a few tools during my embedded software development career. Some of them proved to me more useful than others. And these generally useful tools ended up in my Embedded Toolbox. In this blog, I'd like to share some of my tools with you. Today, I'd like to start with my cross-platform Programmer's Calculator called QCalc.

I'm sure that you already have your favorite calculator online or on your smartphone. But can your calculator accept...

New Discussion Group for Users of TI ARM based MCUs

Stephane Boucher June 14, 2010

If you are a user of an ARM based TI Microcontroller, please feel free to join the new "TI ARM processors MCUs" discussion group by sending a blank email to: This discussion group will be moderated, so you don't have to worry about receiving more spam than you probably already get. It usually takes a few weeks for a group to gain momentum, so don't worry if the activity level is low for a little while, but make sure to join so you don't miss the good...

New TI MCU Resource Center

Stephane Boucher April 1, 2010

I am happy to announce the publication of the new "TI MCU Resource Center" on, where TI will regularly add videos and articles to keep you informed on their latest and greatest MCU related products.

To access the new section, you'll find a link in the main menu of the site at the top of the page.

Blogs Section Now Online!

Stephane Boucher September 18, 2007

I am happy to announce that the blog section is now online.

Last week, I sent an email to all the members of to ask for embedded systems experts who would be interested in blogging on the site. The response was very positive and I have selected 10 highly qualified individuals who will soon be writing here about all sorts of embedded systems related subjects. I am currently in the process of receiving their info (bio, photo, username, etc) and creating their bloggers'...