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Beacons Beckon

by Bryon Moyer

I should probably start here by laying out my biases. I’m not a shopper. And when I shop, I like to be left alone until I need (and ask for) help. I think my worst shopping experience was in Shanghai at one of the markets where they hawk all manner of (probably counterfeit) goods. For someone like me (especially if you’re feeling moderately ill, as I was), it was like shopping hell – “Hey DVD!” “Hey watch!” People shouting from all directions, pulling on your sleeve, vying for your affections. (OK, just kidding – vying for your money.)

In these cases, I like to subscribe to the philosophy that some CEOs and other self-styled god-like humans do: Don’t speak to me until I speak to you first. Except that, for me, it’s not because I think I’m all that; it’s because I want to shop in peace.

 

Hackin' in the Hood

How Boom Boxes Are Inspiring a New Age of Engineers

by Amelia Dalton

Do you remember your first EE project? Do you remember the delight in your soul when you first saw that LED light up or that plume of blue smoke rise across the room? In this week's Fish Fry, we harken back to the days when we were all budding engineers trying to make our circuits work for the first time. My guest is John Weiss, Director of Bayview BOOM. John is here to to introduce us to Bayview BOOM - a revolutionary program that brings engineering education to the young people of San Francicso's Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood. Join John and I as we chat about how Bayview BOOM nurtures cognitive growth, physical activity and a love for electronic design in its students - one boom box at a time.

 

Aiming Wireless Power

We Explore PowerByProxi and Cota

by Bryon Moyer

Not long ago, we looked at wireless power. And we looked at some of the standards and conflicts underway as companies and technologies vie for best position. And it looked like a simple two-sided issue, with the eventual winner not yet clear.

Well, turns out there’s even more going on, some of it in places we rarely visit. I’ve run across two more wireless power stories, and they’re different from what we’ve seen and from each other. In an attempt to find a unifying theme as I bring them into the discussion, the common denominator seems to be their ability to “aim” their power at a device that needs charging.

Let’s back up, however, and start with a quick review.

 

An Open Sensor Platform

Sensor Platforms and ARM Propose Framework

by Bryon Moyer

It might just be the end of another lurch.

Technology doesn’t evolve in a smooth, continuous fashion. Someone has an idea for something totally new and makes it happen. And someone else sees that idea and thinks, “OK, that’s pretty cool, but I have a better way to do it.” And someone else looks on, shakes her head at the pitiful, primitive attempts underway and puts forth yet another approach that does its tricks even more efficiently and elegantly.

And so, from that original brainstorm comes a flurry of innovation. Each modification benefits from hindsight, having in hand the results of those that came before. This goes on for a while until some asymptote is approached and the activity level mellows out. And then, sometime hence, yet another new brainstorm occurs, and the process repeats.

 

Only A HeartBleed Away

Security in the Age of IoT

by Amelia Dalton

There’s a break in the wall. It’s tiny but it’s there. The water will seep through at some point, we know this. Will we be ready for the rising tide or will we flounder to find a patch to save the day? Security in our embedded systems is no longer an issue we can ignore and in this week’s Fish Fry, we get down to the heart of the matter with Alan Grau (President - Icon Labs). Alan and I chat about the rise of intrusion detection in RTOS-based systems and we address the challenges of providing security for Smart Home devices. Also this week, I rant about certain people I know not “believing” in IoT and the pains of IP integration.

 

New MIPS CPUs are Virtually Better

M5100 and M5150 Add Tasty Virtualization to the MIPS Recipe

by Jim Turley

If multiple CPUs aren’t enough for you, how about multiple operating systems on one CPU? That’s what virtualization is all about, and MIPS now offers it in its low-end range of embedded microprocessor cores.

The CPU company that’s part of Imagination Technologies recently rolled out two sibling processors for embedded designers who have the budget for SoC development. The new M5100 and M5150 CPU cores add virtualization to the already familiar MIPS 32-bit architecture.

The M in the product name tells you that these are comparatively low-end MIPS processor designs, as opposed to the midrange I-series or the performance-oriented P-series. If you’re still stuck on the previously (short-lived) product names, this would be a microAptiv, not an interAptiv or proAptiv. Got all that?

 

Google's Smartphone Revolution

Inside Project Ara

by Amelia Dalton

A coup d'état is imminent. A mobile revolution. With "Modular!" banners held high and money where their mouths are, Google is marching through the streets determined to overthrow the status quo in smartphone technology. This week’s Fish Fry is all about Google’s Project Ara - why it's cool, why you should care about this modular smartphone technology, and how you can get started designing your OWN modules. My guests are Ara Knaian (NK Labs) and David Rutledge (CTO - Lattice Semiconductor) and we are going to talk about what's inside the Google Ara phone, the important role of FPGAs, and why Ara lent his name to this super cool new project. Also this week, we take a tour of Xilinx’s Vivado IDE and break the biggest news to hit the EE airwaves.

 

Programming QuickLogic’s Sensor Hub

Hardware from a Software Standpoint

by Bryon Moyer

Well, it seems to be sensor hub season. A couple of interesting things are brewing. One, in particular, is of strategic significance, and I’ll be writing that up once I get a chance to dig into some more details.

For today, we’re going to go tactical rather than strategic: we’re going to dig deeper into QuickLogic’s sensor hub solution. And we’re going to get our hands dirty. If you read my earlier piece on sensor hub partitioning, you’ll recall that QuickLogic has a rather intricate implementation that puts much of the sensor hub functionality in FPGA hardware using a combination of low-level software, state machines, and outright hardware. Their claim is that they can achieve the lowest power this way – lower than a more common microcontroller implementation.

 

When Eight Is Enough

Microchip's 8-bit Challenge

by Amelia Dalton

There is a common assumption that innovation cannot be inspired in the world of 8-bit microcontrollers. If that is the case, then why haven’t they disappeared like the telegraph or the 8-track tape? Perhaps it's because we still need them and sometimes they are just what the doctor (or engineer as the case may be) ordered. In this week’s Fish Fry, I check out some cool new 8-bit MCUs from Microchip Technology with Greg Robinson (VP - Microchip Technology) and we dive down into the guts of these new 8-bit masterpieces - from the intelligent analog features to the digital pin placement capabilities. Also this week, we investigate how Israeli start-up StoreDot plans to revolutionize battery technology. (Hint: It includes chemically synthesized bio-organic peptide molecules!)

 

Attack of the Tiny Terrors

Microchip’s Small, Cheap PIC16 MCUs Prove There’s Life in 8-bitters

by Jim Turley

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the lab…

The chip designers at Microchip must have a lot of time on their hands. Either that, or the company keeps several design teams working in parallel. Whatever the process, these guys keep cranking out new microcontrollers faster than we can keep track of them.

Exhibit A is the new batch of 8-bit (sort of) MCUs called the PIC16something-or-other. There’s no point in trying to memorize Microchip’s part numbers because they never make any sense anyway. Like Mercedes-Benz, the company long ago passed the point where the naming system follows any rational progression. But if you’re doing a Google search, you’ll want to look up PIC16F1703 through PIC16F1719, or PIC16LF1703–19. Oh, never mind.

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