Why Have 1 When 3 Will Do?
With new technologies come new standards. And resonant power transmission technology, which we covered recently, is no different. As a quick review, this is a way to charge phones and other devices without plugging in and without the kind of placement precision required by older inductive approaches such as those used by toothbrushes.
Why might standards matter? All of the spokespeople for the standards work underway – and, as we’ll see shortly, there’s lots of such work in progress – describe a vision of ubiquitous charging stations in malls and airports and coffee shops and anywhere people might want to charge their electronic devices. If we’re going to have all of these chargers charging lots of different devices from lots of different vendors, then we need a standard so that they all work well together.
Bogus Tech Support and a Statistical Rorschach Test
I finally got the call.
My phone rang, and the caller at the other end said, “This is Microsoft Technical Support. We’ve detected—”. I cut him off right there. “No, you’re not. You’re a %&@# scammer and should be in jail,” and hung up on him. (I sometimes miss old telephones where you could slam down the receiver.)
I’d heard about this scam before, where someone claims to be from Microsoft (it’s never Dell or Lenovo or Samsung) offering to help you clean up “infections” they’ve somehow detected on your computer. All you have to do is visit their helpful website and download their remote diagnostic tool… You can guess what mischief transpires from there.
The Mistake of Marketing Market Share
We humans are a competitive bunch. Our competitive instinct inspires us to many of our greatest accomplishments. It’s not enough to simply do a thing. We need to do that thing better than the other guy, or the other team. Engineering is no different. We may pretend that we are simply “problem solvers,” but the truth is - we don’t just want to trap mice, or even trap mice efficiently. We want to design the “better” mousetrap.
After all, that is the primary purpose of modern technology - to WIN!
Of course, before we can have a proper competition, we need a way to keep score. Unfortunately, since most of us are in technology as a business, we inherit from the business world one of the world’s worst scoreboards - the market share meter.
An Anti-Engineering Concept
Synopsys recently announced the results of a flow collaboration with Fujitsu. Modestly buried in the discussion was a mention of 33% improvement in logic per area.
We’ve been at this game for a long time, and you’d think that the low-hanging fruit had long ago been picked. Which would leave us with the occasional 5-10% improvement in this and that after lots of algorithmic tweakage.
And yet here we are, in 2014, with a 33% improvement. Maybe I’m naïve, but that seems significant.
In this week’s Fish Fryin’ electronic engineering podcast we're talking about love - the love of cold storage, the love of analog components, and the love of integrated design environments. First, we get comfy and cozy with cold storage and open computing with Scott MCDonald (Rorke Global Solutions). Next, we revel in our desire for analog components and sensor-based applications with Sean Long of Maxim Integrated Products. Finally we round out today's EE love-a-thon with a look into our continuing infatuation with integrated design environments. Come join us for this week's Fish Fryin' EE love fest!
More Than Superconductors?
Last year, I delved a little into the world of superconductors and their bizarre circuits. In poking about afterwards, I ran across something called an “ultraconductor.” I wondered if this was a brand of superconductor – it wasn’t. So what is this thing?
Turns out, it’s not just one thing. I found two threads to pull, and they were different. One led to an organic approach – which would sound pretty danged interesting – but it is not being actively pursued at the moment. (I’m not sure why; for now it’s an academic question, and I’ll tackle it if we ever come back to it.)
The other thread related to some work done at the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL). One Dr. James Maxwell was leading a project to improve conductance beyond what metal alloys could provide.