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!)

 

Freescale Goes Nuts for ARM

New Kinetis Families and a Major Acquisition Equal 900+ Parts

by Jim Turley

They say change is good, so Freescale must be the best microprocessor company in the whole world.

What hasn’t this company done? It’s change its name, changed its processor architecture(s), changed its financial structure, changed its management (repeatedly), and totally reorganized its product lines, business units, and development structure. In between, I’m sure they’ve changed the office wallpaper and the filter in the break-room coffee maker. I remember sitting down to a meeting with some Freescale marketing types. They glanced across the table at my hand-scribbled org chart of their company and asked politely, “Could we have a copy of that, please?” Seems they were as confused about the company’s structure as I was.

 

Hard Hats in Place

EELive! Part 2: Safety-Critical Systems

by Amelia Dalton

On the heels of Michael Barr’s keynote at EELive this year - "KILLER APPS: Embedded Software's Greatest Hit Jobs," this week's Fish Fry takes a closer look at embedded software for safety-critical systems. At the helm is Jim McElroy - VP at LDRA. Jim and I discuss the challenges of designing safety-critical embedded systems, and Jim explains where LDRA fits into the embedded software ecosystem. He also gives us the low down on why Boston Baked Beans get a bad wrap. (Spoiler: According to Jim, they totally deserve it.) I also give everyone a sneak peek at EE Journal’s brand new “On the Scene" video blog, and I lay out my revolutionary plans to restore the Embedded Systems Conference to its former glory. (Second Spoiler: They absolutely will not use my idea.)

 

Officer, My Computer Crashed

Self-driving Cars Might Be Better Than What We Have Now

by Jim Turley

When you're driving at 182 MPH, don't slam on the brakes and expect to survive.

That thought flitted briefly through my mind as I watched the concrete wall surrounding Daytona International Speedway approach my car window at, well, 182 MPH.

This is the sort of thing that happens to me in the winter months, when the racetracks are too wet, the tires are too cold, and the carburetor is too finicky. I wasn’t really racing at the real Daytona. Oh, no. A strong sense of self-preservation runs in my family. That’s why we’re still here. Rather, I was joystick-ing my way around a PlayStation version of the big Florida racetrack, but that was now coming to an abrupt halt.

 

For the Love of Analog Components, Cold Storage and IDEs

by Amelia Dalton

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!

 

XP ATM IoT FUD

New Technologies Raise New Fears

by Jim Turley

Two news items made the rounds last week. Both involved hacking, and both are (probably) bogus. I think the news says more about us as users of technology than it does about the technology itself.

First, bloggers were wringing their hands over the planned wind-down of Windows XP. After 13 years, it’s time for XP to ride off into the sunset, and so Microsoft warned users that it would stop developing new fixes and new patches for XP. No big deal, right?

Within hours of each other, nearly a dozen different blogs were keening about security risks at bank ATMs. Seems many, if not most, of the automated teller machines installed in the U.S. use Windows XP as their operating system. (You’d never know it, because the user interface is covered by bank-branded replacements.) “ATMs

 

Industrial Internet of Things for IdIoTs

New Echelon Chip Eases Networking in Harsh Environments

by Jim Turley

Tired of hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT)? Good, because you’re about to get doused with a big stream of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) goodness.

Echelon has been making industrial-grade networking chips for 25 years; longer than some engineers have been alive. The company’s LONworks chips pretty much defined device networking for a generation of developers, and LONworks chips appear in more than 100 million devices, including traffic lights, railroad boxcars, and innumerable HVAC units, according to Echelon. But as useful and reliable as LONworks is, the technology is so… Eighties.

Catapulting itself into the 21st Century while also maintaining its traditional values (and traditional customers) was no small feat. The company took its time and came up with something called IzoT.

 

Europe Takes on the World

by Dick Selwood

Two (relatively) recent announcements from Brussels have made it clear that the European Union is serious about pushing back into the electronics business. One, which initially looks like a bureaucratic reshuffle with added jargon, is that three programs, ARTEMIS, ENIAC and EPoSS are being merged into a Joint Undertaking / Public Private Partnership to be called ECSEL. I will translate this in a moment. The other announcement was an aspirational target - that Europe should double chip manufacture to reach 20% of the world output, and more than domestic US output, by 2020.

Both these initiatives are being driven by the Euro Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, who has said, “I’m not a politician… I’m Dutch – I tell it bluntly.”

 

Rockin’ It Industrial Style

Fans of Heavy Metal Will Like TI’s New Delfino MCU

by Jim Turley

Are you into heavy metal? Do power generation, motor control, PLCs, robotics, and automation rock your socks off? Does spinning metallica make you want to raise your fist and yell? Then grab your lighters, motörheads. Stuff’s about to get real.

The number of this beast is F2837xD (it probably means something if you say it backwards), and it comes out of Texas. Dallas, to be exact, and more specifically, TI. Within the walls of TI’s black metal warehouse it’s called Delfino because, well, F2837xD is too hard to pronounce when you’re sober.

 

Imaging Without Lenses

Apparently That Makes Sense

by Bryon Moyer

A simple-sounding-yet-bizarre notion has been frequenting certain optical research spots. It’s the concept of a “lens-free” imaging system. I’ve found no mentions that bother to explain exactly what that means.

Perhaps that’s because it should be obvious: you need no lens. Duh…

You know, it’s been a long time since I studied optics in college physics. And once my career was plotted on the digital scale, my mathematical tendencies have been spoiled by a solution space that gives you a 50:50 chance of being right just by guessing. Things are either 1 or 0. (OK, or Z or X. Fine. Happy?)

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