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


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...


Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 9. Closing the low-latency loop

Steve Maslen July 9, 2018

It's time to put together the DSP and feedback control sciences, the evaluation electronics, the Intel Cyclone floating-point FPGA algorithms and the built-in control loop test-bed and evaluate some example designs. We will be counting the nanoseconds and looking for textbook performance in the creation of emulated hardware circuits. Along the way, there is a printed circuit board (PCB) issue to solve using DSP.    

Fig 1. The evaluation platform

Additional design...


Who else is going to Sensors Expo in San Jose? Looking for roommate(s)!

Stephane Boucher May 29, 20186 comments

This will be my first time attending this show and I must say that I am excited. I am bringing with me my cameras and other video equipment with the intention to capture as much footage as possible and produce a (hopefully) fun to watch 'highlights' video. I will also try to film as many demos as possible and share them with you.

I enjoy going to shows like this one as it gives me the opportunity to get out of my home-office (from where I manage and run the *Related sites) and actually...


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
Introduction

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...


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...


Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 8. Control Loop Test-bed

Steve Maslen March 21, 2018

This part in the series will consider the signals, measurements, analyses and configurations for testing high-speed low-latency feedback loops and their controllers. Along with basic test signals, a versatile IFFT signal generation scheme will be discussed and implemented. A simple controller under test will be constructed to demonstrate the analysis principles in preparation for the design and evaluation of specific controllers and closed-loop applications.

Additional design...

Two Capacitors Are Better Than One

Jason Sachs February 15, 20155 comments

I was looking for a good reference for some ADC-driving circuits, and ran across this diagram in Walt Jung’s Op-Amp Applications Handbook:

And I smiled to myself, because I immediately remembered a circuit I hadn’t used for years. Years! But it’s something you should file away in your bag of tricks.

Take a look at the RC-RC circuit formed by R1, R2, C1, and C2. It’s basically a stacked RC low-pass filter. The question is, why are there two capacitors?

I...


Byte and Switch (Part 2)

Jason Sachs May 7, 20118 comments

In part 1 we talked about the use of a MOSFET for a power switch. Here's a different circuit that also uses a MOSFET, this time as a switch for signals:

We have a thermistor Rth that is located somewhere in an assembly, that connects to a circuit board. This acts as a variable resistor that changes with temperature. If we use it in a voltage divider, the midpoint of the voltage divider has a voltage that depends on temperature. Resistors R3 and R4 form our reference resistance; when...


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...


Another 10 Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs October 30, 20131 comment

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 my previous posts and were looking forward to more, this article's for you!

1. Bus switches

I can't believe I haven't mentioned bus switches before. What is a bus switch?

There are lots of different options for switches:

  • mechanical switch / relay: All purpose, two...

Oscilloscope Dreams

Jason Sachs January 14, 20125 comments

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 looked like this:

Now the cathode ray tubes have almost all been replaced by digital storage scopes with color LCD screens, and they look like these:

Oscilloscopes are basically just fancy expensive boxes for graphing voltage vs. time. They span a wide range of features and prices:...


Digital PLL's -- Part 1

Neil Robertson June 7, 201618 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...


Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part I: Ripple Current in Inductive Loads

Jason Sachs July 8, 2013

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 good to draw by hand every once in a while!) There are four power switches: QAH and QAL connecting node A to the DC link, and QBH and QBL connecting node B to the DC link. The load is connected between nodes A and B, and here is represented by an inductive load in series with something else. We...


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


10 More (Obscure) Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs February 5, 20121 comment

The interest in my previous article on obscure but useful electronics parts, "10 Circuit Components You Should Know" was encouraging enough that I thought I would write a followup. So here are another 10:

1. "Ideal Diode" controllers

Load-sharing circuits use diodes tied together at their cathode terminal to take the most positive voltage among the sources and connect it to a load. Works great: you have a DC/DC power supply, a battery, and a solar cell, and it will use whichever output is...


Use DPLL to Lock Digital Oscillator to 1PPS Signal

Michael Morris July 24, 20162 comments
Introduction

There are occasions where it is desirable to lock a digital oscillator to an external time reference such as the 1PPS (One Pulse Per Second) signal output from a GPS receiver. One approach would be to synchronize a fixed frequency oscillator on the leading edge of the 1PPS signal. In many cases, this will result in adequate performance. However, in situations where simple synchronization does not provide adequate performance, digital phase-lock techniques can be applied to a...


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...


Finally got a drone!

Stephane Boucher August 28, 20172 comments

As a reader of my blog, you already know that I have been making videos lately and thoroughly enjoying the process.  When I was in Germany early this summer (and went 280 km/h in a porsche!) to produce SEGGER's 25th anniversary video, the company bought a drone so we could get an aerial shot of the party (at about the 1:35 mark in this video).  Since then, I have been obsessing on buying a drone for myself and finally made the move a few weeks ago - I acquired a used DJI...


SEGGER's 25th Anniversary Video

Stephane Boucher July 18, 20172 comments

Chances are you will find this video more interesting to watch if you take five minutes to first read the story of the week I spent at SEGGER's headquarters at the end of June.  

The video is only a little more than 2 minutes long.  If you decide to watch it, make sure to go full screen and I would really love to read your thoughts about it in the comments down bellow.  Do you think a video like this succeeds in making the viewer want to learn more about the company?...


Went 280km/h (174mph) in a Porsche Panamera in Germany!

Stephane Boucher July 10, 201712 comments

Those of you who've been following my blog lately already know that I am going through some sort of mid-life crisis that involves going out there to meet people and make videos.  It all started with Embedded World early this year, then continued at ESC Boston a couple of months ago and the latest chapter just concluded as I returned from Germany after spending a week at SEGGER's headquarters to produce a video to highlight their 25th anniversary.  


Going back to Germany!

Stephane Boucher June 13, 20176 comments

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote that the decision to go to ESC Boston ended up being a great one for many different reasons.  I came back from the conference energized and really happy that I went.  

These feelings were amplified a few days after my return when I received an email from Rolf Segger, the founder of SEGGER Microcontroller (check out their very new website), asking if I would be interested in visiting their headquarters...


ESC Boston's Videos are Now Up

Stephane Boucher June 5, 2017

In my last blog, I told you about my experience at ESC Boston and the few videos that I was planning to produce and publish.  Here they are, please have a look and any feedback (positive or negative) is appreciated. 

Short Highlight

This is a very short (one minute) montage of some of the footage that I shot at the show & conference.  In future shows, I absolutely need to insert clips here and there of engineers saying a few words about the conference (why they...


Back from ESC Boston

Stephane Boucher May 6, 20172 comments

NOT going to ESC Boston would have allowed me to stay home, in my comfort zone.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from driving in the absolutely horrible & stressful Boston traffic1.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from having to go through a full search & questioning session at the Canada Customs on my return2.

2017/06/06 update: Videos are now up!

So two days...


Launch of Youtube Channel: My First Videos - Embedded World 2017

Stephane Boucher April 5, 201721 comments

I went to Embedded World 2017 in Nuremberg with an ambitious plan; I would make video highlights of several exhibits (booths) to be presented to the *Related sites audience.  I would try to make the vendors focus their pitch on the essential in order to produce a one to three minutes video per booth.

So far my experience with making videos was limited to family videos, so I knew I had lots of reading to do and lots of Youtube videos and tutorials to watch.  Trade shows are...


New Comments System (please help me test it)

Stephane Boucher October 4, 201618 comments

I thought it would take me a day or two to implement, it took almost two weeks...

But here it is, the new comments systems for blogs, heavily inspired by the forum system I developed earlier this year.  

Which means that:

  • You can easily add images, either by drag and drop or through the 'Insert Image' button
  • You can add MathML, TeX and ASCIImath equations and they will be rendered with Mathjax
  • You can add code snippets and they will be highlighted with highlights.js
  • You can edit...