Voltage - A Close Look

Ralph Morrison May 23, 201811 comments

My first boss liked to pose the following problem when interviewing a new engineer.  “Imagine two boxes on a table one with a battery the other with a light.  Assume there is no detectable voltage drop in the connecting leads and the leads cannot be broken.  How would you determine which box has the light?  Drilling a hole is not allowed.”

The answer is simple. You need a voltmeter to tell the electric field direction and a small compass to tell the magnetic field...

What is Electronics

Ralph Morrison May 3, 20186 comments

One answer to the question posed by the title might be: "The understanding that allows a designer to interconnect electrical components to perform electrical tasks." These tasks can involve measurement, amplification, moving and storing digital data, dissipating energy, operating motors, etc. Circuit theory uses the sinusoidal relations between components, voltages, current and time to describe how a circuit functions. The parameters we can measure directly are...

Linear Regression with Evenly-Spaced Abscissae

Jason Sachs May 1, 20181 comment

What a boring title. I wish I could come up with something snazzier. One word I learned today is studentization, which is just the normalization of errors in a curve-fitting exercise by the sample standard deviation (e.g. point \( x_i \) is \( 0.3\hat{\sigma} \) from the best-fit linear curve, so \( \frac{x_i - \hat{x}_i}{\hat{\sigma}} = 0.3 \)) — Studentize me! would have been nice, but I couldn’t work it into the topic for today. Oh well.

I needed a little break from...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XIV: Gold Codes

Jason Sachs April 18, 2018

Last time we looked at some techniques using LFSR output for system identification, making use of the peculiar autocorrelation properties of pseudorandom bit sequences (PRBS) derived from an LFSR.

This time we’re going to jump back to the field of communications, to look at an invention called Gold codes and why a single maximum-length PRBS isn’t enough to save the world using spread-spectrum technology. We have to cover two little side discussions before we can get into Gold...

Crowdfunding Articles?

Stephane Boucher April 12, 201828 comments

Many of you have the knowledge and talent to write technical articles that would benefit the EE community.  What is missing for most of you though, and very understandably so, is the time and motivation to do it.   

But what if you could make some money to compensate for your time spent on writing the article(s)?  Would some of you find the motivation and make the time?

I am thinking of implementing a system/mechanism that would allow the EE community to...

How precise is my measurement?

Sam Shearman March 28, 20183 comments

Some might argue that measurement is a blend of skepticism and faith. While time constraints might make you lean toward faith, some healthy engineering skepticism should bring you back to statistics. This article reviews some practical statistics that can help you satisfy one common question posed by skeptical engineers: “How precise is my measurement?” As we’ll see, by understanding how to answer it, you gain a degree of control over your measurement time.

An accurate, precise...

Embedded World 2018 - More Videos!

Stephane Boucher March 27, 20181 comment

After the interview videos last week, this week I am very happy to release two more videos taken at Embedded World 2018 and that I am proud of.  

For both videos, I made extensive use of my two new toys, a Zhiyun Crane Gimbal and a Sony a6300 camera.

The use of a gimbal like the Zhiyun makes a big difference in terms of making the footage look much more stable and cinematographic.

As for the Sony camera, it takes fantastic slow-motion footage and...

Embedded World 2018 - The Interviews

Stephane Boucher March 21, 2018

Once again this year, I had the chance to go to Embedded World in Nuremberg Germany.  And once again this year, I brought my video equipment to try and capture some of the most interesting things at the show.  

Something new this year, I asked Jacob Beningo if he would partner with me in doing interviews with a few vendors.  I would operate the camera while Jacob would ask the right questions to the vendors to make them talk about the key products/features that...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XIII: System Identification

Jason Sachs March 12, 20181 comment

Last time we looked at spread-spectrum techniques using the output bit sequence of an LFSR as a pseudorandom bit sequence (PRBS). The main benefit we explored was increasing signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) relative to other disturbance signals in a communication system.

This time we’re going to use a PRBS from LFSR output to do something completely different: system identification. We’ll show two different methods of active system identification, one using sine waves and the other...

Circuit Board Standoffs

Ed Nutter February 2, 20183 comments

If you are unable to find a circuit board mount in the size you need, there is an alternative.  You could make them from tubing, like steel brake line, with a bolt in the middle.  You could use plastic tubing with a bolt.Using a solid rod is also an option.

If you opt to use some type of rod, there are some things to keep in mind.  Drill rod is very tough, but could be hard to thread smaller bolts.  Mild steel rod isn’t quite as tough, but it easier to thread. ...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - 7-segment displays & Multiplexing

Mike Silva August 14, 2014

Doing the 7 Segment Shuffle

The 7 segment display is ubiquitous in the modern world.  Just about every digital clock, calculator and movie bomb has one.  The treadmills at my gym have 6 or 7, each one displaying 3 or 4 digits.  What makes the 7-seg interesting is that it presents an opportunity to make a trade off between GPIO (output pins) for time.  Every 7-seg display requires 8 outputs (the 7 segments and usually either a decimal point or a...

Digital PLL's -- Part 1

Neil Robertson June 7, 201622 comments
1. Introduction

Figure 1.1 is a block diagram of a digital PLL (DPLL).  The purpose of the DPLL is to lock the phase of a numerically controlled oscillator (NCO) to a reference signal.  The loop includes a phase detector to compute phase error and a loop filter to set loop dynamic performance.  The output of the loop filter controls the frequency and phase of the NCO, driving the phase error to zero.

One application of the DPLL is to recover the timing in a digital...

Arduino robotics #4 - HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor

Lonnie Honeycutt October 20, 20131 comment
Arduino Robotics

Arduino 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.

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

Jason Sachs November 11, 20142 comments

Other articles in this series:

Today’s topic is the singleton. This article is unique (pun intended) in that unlike the others in this series, I tried to figure out a word to use that would be a positive concept to encourage, as an alternative to singletons, but

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Button Matrix & Auto Repeating

Mike Silva November 12, 2013

Too Many Buttons, Not Enough Inputs

Assigning one GPIO input to each button can use up a lot of GPIO pins.  Numeric input requires at least 10 buttons, plus however many additional control or function buttons.  This can quickly get expensive, GPIO pin-wise, and also connector-wise if the keypad is off the uC PCB as it often would be.  A very common response to this expense is to wire buttons (keys, etc) in a matrix.  By connecting our buttons in an...

Android for Embedded Devices - 5 Reasons why Android is used in Embedded Devices

Maharajan Veerabahu November 6, 20173 comments

The embedded purists are going to hate me for this. How can you even think of using Android on an embedded system ? It’s after all a mobile phone operating system/software. 

Sigh !! Yes I did not like Android to begin with, as well - for use on an Embedded System. But sometimes I think the market and needs decide what has to be used and what should not be. This is one such thing. Over the past few years, I have learned to love Android as an embedded operating system....

Round Round Get Around: Why Fixed-Point Right-Shifts Are Just Fine

Jason Sachs November 22, 20163 comments

Today’s topic is rounding in embedded systems, or more specifically, why you don’t need to worry about it in many cases.

One of the issues faced in computer arithmetic is that exact arithmetic requires an ever-increasing bit length to avoid overflow. Adding or subtracting two 16-bit integers produces a 17-bit result; multiplying two 16-bit integers produces a 32-bit result. In fixed-point arithmetic we typically multiply and shift right; for example, if we wanted to multiply some...

Delayed printf for real-time logging

Yossi Kreinin October 25, 20133 comments

You often debug by adding a few printfs and looking at the logs. In some real-time/low-level contexts though, you don't have time for text formatting.

You don't want prints to affect timing too much, because then timing-related bugs you're chasing might disappear. And you certainly don't want the system to stop functioning altogether because prints cause it to miss real-time deadlines.

A common alternative to prints is more "raw" logging - an event buffer, where event is a union keeping...

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

Jason Sachs August 24, 20133 comments

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 and part II until you've got equations coming out of your ears. I promise there will be a lot less grungy math in this post. So let's get most of it out of the way:

Switches QAH and QAL are being turned on and off with pulse-width modulation (PWM), to produce an average voltage DaVdc on...

The habitat of hardware bugs

Yossi Kreinin July 13, 20163 comments

The Moscow apartment which little me called home was also home to many other creatures, from smallish cockroaches to biggish rats. But of course we rarely met them face to face. Evolution has weeded out those animals imprudent enough to crash your dinner. However, when we moved a cupboard one time, we had the pleasure to meet a few hundreds of fabulously evolved cockroaches.

In this sense, logical bugs aren't different from actual insects. You won't find...