In this Rockwell Automation video you’ll learn all about their latest Encabulator technology. The presenter goes through each piece of the system expertly describing both its name and its function. Now, since this video is from 2008, it is a little bit older.  And in today’s technological terms, may be difficult to understand.

(BTW, this is what you probably sound like when you try to explain your projects to your friends.)

PCB Checklist – What to check before you submit

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Recently I’ve been expanding my retro game collection to include game cartridges imported from Japan. The problem is that I don’t have Japanese game systems (yet). So I’m creating an open source adapter to convert Famicom carts to the NES. Before I submit the PCB to OSH Park, I’m going to run through this PCB Checklist to make sure I don’t forget something silly.

This PCB checklist is something I’ve built over my years of creating boards. If you’ve got tips from your own list, don’t forget to leave a comment letting us know.

PCB Production Checklist

The concepts on this list will apply to almost any PCB software. The tips I give relate to EAGLE, since that is what I use most often. Feel free to comment to add tips for other design software like or KiCad.

Keep reading to see the list.

Never trust an autorouter

I am not a fan of relying on the Autorouter in EAGLE — or any PCB CAD software for that matter. When laying out a board, I’ll use the autorouter to get an idea if the part placement is going to work or not. In this case, I was reminded how much autorouters suck! Even after running for while, the autorouter could only route up 50% of the nets (signals).

Never Trust The Autorouter

As Chris Gammell‘s T-Shirt Says, Never Trust The Autorouter.

It only took me about 20 minutes to start over and finish the manual layout. I still want to clean it up a little, but over all, I beat the Autorouter.

What is the board anyway?

In January I visited Tokyo on my annual work trip. While there, I ran over to Akihabara to check out a used media store called Traders. The multi-level store (like all those in Tokyo) sold used video games and movies. Each floor featured different platforms. My favorite was the 2nd floor which was all retro 8, 16, and 32 bit systems. Piles of Famicoms (NES), Super Famicoms (SNES), Mega Drives (Genesis), and other systems were all around. In the middle of the floor were racks of cartridges.

While there I picked up a couple of Rockman (Mega Man) carts, Super Mario brothers, and even Adventure island.

A US-based NES can play Famicom games since the basic hardware is the same. However, the pin outs are slightly different. Also, US-based NES systems look for a lock-out ship (CIC) that Famicoms don’t have. Fortunately I ran across a project that uses the ATtiny (AVRCICZZ) to emulate the lockout chip. So armed with that and some pinouts, I’ve created an adapter.

Keep subscribed, after a few more touches, I’ll post the EAGLE files as an Open Source Hardware (OSH) project.

Check out a SDR based on the Teensy

Open Emitter

Teensy SDR Panel from Open Emitter

Teensy Panel from Open Emitter

Several months ago I used my first software defined radio (SDR). This was a USB Dongle that did the digitizing and used Gqrx and GNU Radio for the actual decoding. Playing with an SDR is really fun. At the time I thought about using my Pi as the decoder, but found some performance issues. Imagine my surprise when I saw this project.

On rheslip’s Open Emitter blog, he has a project which turns a Teensy into a SDR. His latest update includes an enclosure for the project, making it a nice all-in one package.

At only 87mA it is slightly more power efficient than my PC-based or Pi-based setup. (more…)

AddOhms Electronics Tutorials DVD Now Available

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When I was in elementary school, I remember Ms. Coker telling us we needed to memorize our multiplication tables because we wouldn’t always have a calculator.  Years later in college I was told, “learn to use the library, it’s not like you can carry the internet in your pocket.”

Seems strange that I always carry 3 devices on me that do both.

Today a generation of people are growing up with the mass of all human knowledge available to them from birth. No formal education is necessary. And the only need is a modern device with WiFi.

However. Not all accessible information is equal. Which is why I created the AddOhms Electronics Tutorial Video series. Instead of teaching Electrical Engineering as an engineer to other engineers, I’ve created a series that uses simple language to explain electronics to anyone.  And now the growing YouTube series, is available for sale on DVD!

Keep reading to learn more about Volume 1 of the AddOhms DVD.

(P.S.  The first batch on Tindie were hand made and include a special thank you…)

ECN’s 14 Best Engineering Shows on Netflix


Your Netflix might have some hidden gems buried inside of the growing list of streaming TV shows. It is probably well-known that Mythbusters is available on Netflix, but did you know about these 13 other shows? Not only does this list contain shows like Modern Marvels, there are also a couple of stream-able movies like the  Andromeda Strain. Which, for me, was the first non-Star Trek or Star Wars Sci-Fi I remember watching.  Which is interesting, because it is directed by Robert Wise, the director of the first Star Trek movie.

Anyway, the ECN Engineering Show list is pretty good and should have at least a few shows to add to your Netflix queue.

Question: Check it out and let me know what other engineering/technology shows you like available on streaming media. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you like this list, you might also like this post on the 5 Engineering Podcasts worth subscribing to.

The most well-known Olympic-Class ship is the famous Titanic. While known for his maiden voyage’s epic fail, the Olympic-class ships were amazing feats of engineering. Bill Hammock breaks down the engineering and construction of the RMS Olympic, the first of the class.

Hammock is one of the Author’s of Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, which I already reviewed here. He gives his usual excellent treatment on a subject. I included his Podcast/Video series on my 5 Electrical Engineering Podcasts you should subscribe.

I’m always amazed to learn more about these grand ships and his video doesn’t disappoint. The information comes from his university’s library, which now houses the 1909 to 1911 edition of the London-based journal, The Engineer.

5 (Electrical) Engineering Podcasts You Should Subscribe

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Podcasts are an amazing way to extend your knowledge in any subject. This (generally) free content is updated often, comes in a variety of formats, and covers nearly every subject.

Your definition of Podcast might vary from mine. So for this list it means: content regularly produced with the intention of informing on a particular subject which is available either as audio, video, and ideally a RSS feed.

Keep reading to see the different electrical engineering podcasts I listen to.

Review of NI’s VirtualBench, All-In-One Instrument


The first time I saw the VirtualBench from NI, I was amazed by its shear size—or lack of size.  At the time, the unit I had access to an uncalibrated pre-release unit at the Austin TechShop.  So I didn’t think it was fair to do a full review.  Fast forward to today.  Now that I’ve spent a week working with the VirtualBench I have some comments and thoughts.  What follows is a review of this “All-In-One Instrument” that runs $1999 USD.

After understanding what the VirtualBench is, you’ll probably ask yourself:  is it worth $2000? That’s a great question. Keep reading to find out what I think and why.