The_Spark_Gap

Karl and Corey run The Spark Gap Podcast which is focused on embedded electronics. On Episode 25 they interview me about Capacitors. We covered all the major types of caps, plus some application bits. Check out their show notes for an impressive array of links on the subject.

Also, my favorite episode of theirs so far is episode 18.  The guys talk about different serial protocols like SPI, I2C, CAN, etc.  Really good stuff.

Date: January 28, 2015
Appearance: Capacitor Questions Answered on The Spark Gap Podcast
Outlet: The Spark Gap Podcast
Format: Podcast

iCircuit’s circuit simulation goes from iOS to Desktop

iCircuit with 555 Timer

When it comes to schematic capture and circuit simulation on a mobile device, iCircuit for iOS got it right from the start. iCloud integration, intuitive touch controls, and fast application performance. Now (or Finally?), iCircuit is available for OS X.

iCircuit with 555 Timer

iCircuit is based on the Falstad Circuit Simulator, which sadly, is a Java-based web app. For years I’ve installed the App on my iPhone and iPad almost immediately after turning on iCloud [for Android users, that’s basically the first step of activating an iOS device].

DIY Active Differential Probe Project

Daniel Kramnik Project Blog
2014-09-28
Active Probe Setup (via xellers)

Active Probe Setup (via xellers)

Back when I worked for an Oscilloscope company, we were pretty proud of our differential probes.  Even the “low-bandwidth” probes were still around 1GHz of bandwidth.

Daniel Kramnik built an active differential probe and looks like he is seeing about 400MHz usable bandwidth.  And really, it looks relatively flat.  Not bad for a DIY effort.  I’m impressed.

Pretty amazing to think about the possibility of building your own (active) scope probes.

Read his full writeup.

HPDisk – GPIB Disk Emulator

Gustafsson Anders

Popular on eBay are old test equipment like Spectrum Analyzers, Oscilloscopes, and Multimeters. HPDisk by Gustafsson Anders creates a virtual GPIB interface that stores data to a SD-Card.This is done by emulating a special HP disk drive, that some HP instruments know how to write to when connected. (As Anders points out, this is not emulating a built-in floppy drive.)

Keep reading if you aren’t familiar with GPIB.

What’s GPIB?

Long before USB became the standard I/O interface in the computing world, bench-top instruments used HPIB. This was the “HP Interface Bus” used by Hewlett-Packard in the early days of their test equipment. It enabled instruments to share data and be automated by “desktop computers”.

Eventually HPIB evolved into GPIB and the IEEE-488 standard was created. Until about 2000, most instruments supported a true GPIB/IEEE488 hardware connector. Slowly that evolved into USB-based virtual connectors (like a virtual serial port).

Go back to 1975. The idea of a computer at home was something that only happened in Science Fiction books. When the Altair 8800 was introduced, not only could you have a computer at home–you could build it yourself!

For some “computer” is a bit liberal. Based on the Intel 8080, the “computer” supported some toggle switches and LEDs on the front panel.  As Gates explains in this video, there wasn’t even any kind of interactive terminal.

Check this MAKE article on the history of the Altair 8800.

Is Graphene Unobtanium?

"Graphen" by AlexanderAlUS - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Graphen.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Graphen.jpg

(“Graphen” by AlexanderAlUS – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons ]

Everyday a new application involving the seemingly miraculous material Graphene is announced. For example, being in the capacitor industry, I am asked often if my employer uses it. Before answering the question, I usually have to explain what Graphene is and the challenges in producing it.

The lack of supply and limited (real) commercial applications leads me to think of Graphene as Unobtanium… at least, for the near future.

10 Popular EAGLE Libraries

element14
Jan 15, 2015

Having good libraries in EAGLE is critical to making schematic capture and PCB design fast.  Dave at element14 put together a top 10 library link, which includes the list below.

Remember, if you’re having trouble Add Parts, you might want to look at this tutorial on enabling EAGLE libraries.

  1. element14’s RIoTBoard
  2. element14’s Raspberry Pi Compute Module Development Kit
  3. element14’s BeagleBone Black
  4. Linear Technology
  5. Molex
  6. Vishay
  7. Microchip
  8. Atmel
  9. Arduino
  10. Texas Instruments

10818399_10152509408852219_5757913693783094151_oUnderstanding what X2 or Y1 capacitors actually are and are not is important when designing them into an AC-mains connected power supply.  Recently Electronic Products Magazine ran an article I wrote on the proper role of X and Y safety rated EMI Capacitors.

The X2 capacitor rating means different things to different people–except for UL.  When I wrote this article to discuss some common misconceptions around what X2 Rated Capacitors are, and how they can be properly used.

In case the PDF reader doesn’t load, it’s on Page 20 of the November 2014 issue.

You can see the full article with the EP Reader, by clicking here.

Date: November 1, 2014
Appearance: Role of EMI X1, X2, Y1, Y2 Capacitors Ratings
Outlet: Electronic Products Management
Format: Magazine

The Gecko Zero EFM32 Weather Station Evaluation Board from Silicon Labs is intended to show off the low-energy or energy harvesting capabilities of the EFM32 Zero.  The ARM-based board has physical and cap sensitive buttons along with the LCD.

It comes pre-loaded with a demo program, which is the classic Space Invaders.

If you’re interested in more about the board, I wrote a road test of Gecko EFM32 on element 14. (Spoilers: I wasn’t impressed.  Not a bad board, but rough development environment.)