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Farewell

December 14, 2007 3:51 am | by Aimee Kalnoskas, Editor-in-Chief | Comments

You found me! And I do hope that the journey to the back of the magazine was productive. It’s not often that someone has the luxury of a forum such as this column to tell a very large number of people that they are moving on but, as luck and timing have it, I do have this opportunity and I would like to take just a brief amount of your time to bid farewell to the readers of ECN as I leave my position as editor-in-chief.

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Brainstorm - Solid State Lighting

December 4, 2007 9:43 am | Comments

Solid state lighting offers greater energy efficiency, as well as what are now still long-term cost benefits. Here, industry experts comment on the biggest challenges in the design and manufacturing of LED illumination and what is needed to make the widespread adoption of LED illumination by design engineers a reality. Follow the links to read the complete commentary.

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Do Silicon Carbide Schottky Diodes Make Silicon Rectifiers Obsolete?

November 29, 2007 7:02 am | by John Jovalusky, QSpeed Semiconductor | Comments

Power factor is the ratio of the actual power used to the apparent (reactive) power that a piece of equipment draws from the alternating current (AC) line. The reactance of large capacitors or inductors can cause the apparent power drawn from the line to exceed the actual power used, resulting in low power factor (PF). The lower the PF, the more energy is lost along the AC power line. The result is higher electricity bills for the utility customer. That lost energy also lowers the capacity of the utility distribution system.

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Transceivers Connect You To the CAN Bus Lines

November 28, 2007 9:51 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Most likely you know a bit about the Controller Area Network, also called CAN or CAN bus, developed for communications between equipment in vehicles. The CAN has spread into embedded systems, too, but unlike chip-to-chip I2C or SPI connections, CAN communications may occur between cards and systems over a bus that can extend from 10's to 100's of meters. (The ISO-11519 and ISO-11898 standards covers CAN protocols and physical-layer specifications.)

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Power Relays Give Designers Much to Ponder

November 19, 2007 11:52 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

My first experience with a relay came about when a friend found a radiosonde -- a small balloon-borne weather instrument -- in the woods behind his house. My friend Ben wanted the parachute, so I got the electronics. As a kid of 11 or 12, the circuitry didn't mean much, but it included a simple relay I experimented with.

Transmission Line Pulse (TLP) is an Effective Analysis Tool for ESD

November 15, 2007 7:26 am | by Robert Ashton, Ph.D., ON Semiconductor | Comments

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs when objects -- including people, furniture, machines, integrated circuits or electrical cables -- become charged and discharged. Electrostatic charging brings objects to surprisingly high potentials of many thousands of volts in ordinary home or office environments. ESD produces currents which can have rise times less than a nanosecond, peak currents of dozens of Amps and durations that can last from tens to hundreds of nanoseconds. Unless ESD robustness is included during design, these current levels can damage electrical components and upset or damage electrical systems from cell phones to computers.

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ATCA: It's More Than a Bus

November 15, 2007 6:45 am | by John Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Competitive telecom businesses have realized they can no longer design proprietary hardware. In response to this changed business climate, members of the PICMG, a consortium of industrial-computer vendors, developed PICMG 3.0, or the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA). Marc LeClaire, a product manager in the Advanced Blades and Servers Division at Kontron, stressed that the ATCA standard covers boards, enclosures, interconnections, communications, and other architectural components. "Designers must think of the ATCA as a complete architecture, not simply as a bus."

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DDS Simplifies Serial-Data Receiver Stress Tests

November 15, 2007 5:31 am | by Christopher J. Loberg, Tektronix | Comments

For years, synchronous parallel buses have served as the media for data exchange between digital devices. Timing issues, however, plague parallel buses at high clock frequencies and data rates, and limit their capability to keep up with demands of higher-speed computers. Over the past few years, serial-bus technology has advanced the computer industry because serial buses send self-clocking bit streams that eliminate skew associated with parallel buses. As a result, serial data rates have risen above 1 Gbits/sec. and newer implementations approach 3 to 6 Gbits/sec. As multi-gigabit data rates become common, however, signal integrity -- the quality of signal needed to properly transmit data to an IC -- becomes a paramount concern for designers.

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What Is the Best Measure of Software Development Productivity?

November 6, 2007 11:34 am | by Dr. Adam Kolawa, CEO, Parasoft | Comments

I think the simplist productivity metric which should be used across the industry is the total number lines of code in the organization divided by the number of people who are working on that code (including QA as well as development).

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Brainstorm - Medical Electronics

October 29, 2007 12:45 pm | Comments

The trend toward miniaturizing medical electronics devices also brings with it a number of challenges. In this month's edition of Brainstorm, we ask industry experts in the medical electronics market what they believe to be the most critical of these challenges and what current and developing technology is available to help the designer meet those challenges.

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ECN Brainstorm: Portable Power

October 29, 2007 12:14 pm | Comments

What do you consider to be the most important factors that will further the development of power management in portable systems? What do you think are some of the customer misconceptions about power management that must overcome to move the industry forward?

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Problem solvers

October 29, 2007 7:32 am | by Aimee Kalnoskas, Editor-in-Chief | Comments

As I kid, I sometimes got frustrated with what I saw as my Dad not giving me a straight answer. For instance, I would say, “Dad, I need a hammer”. “What are you using it for?” he would say. “There’s a finishing nail sticking out the wooden floor in my room and I need to pound it back in.” (I grew up in an very old farm house.) “Then you need a rubber mallet, not a hammer.

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Digital Signal Controllers Enhance Motor Control

October 25, 2007 11:29 am | by Jorge Zambada, Microchip Technology Inc. | Comments

Designers are always on the lookout for semiconductors and algorithms that help to boost the efficiency of appliances with a minimum addition to the overall system cost. Motor-control systems need to compensate for system input changes and can use control algorithms to ensure the efficient operation of the motor. Using advanced algorithms, such as a field oriented control (FOC), motor torque can be controlled dynamically, keeping it constant within the rated speed range (see Figure 1). Toward this, the most commonly used motor-control loop is the Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller, which comprises error calculation (reference minus measured variable), compensator (controller), and output generation to the system.

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The end of region-specific TV designs?

October 25, 2007 11:12 am | by Brian D. Mathews, Marketing Director, TV Segment, Xceive Corporation | Comments

Consumer electronics manufacturers must develop completely different television receiver product designs for different countries or regions. The standards and technologies for television reception vary considerably so it has been impractical to consider a single flexible design covering multiple standards or regions. However, new technologies are emerging which will make it possible to have a single product design address multiple countries or regions.

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Dial-Up Modems Still Ring a Bell

October 25, 2007 10:41 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Years ago I ditched my 9600 bps modem, but I still rely on dial-up modems. Those modems exist in automated teller machines, gasoline pumps, traffic controllers, medical instruments, security systems, point-of-sale (POS) equipment, and other devices. According to several sources, dial-up modems still provide the largest number of access points to the Internet. Fortunately, several OEM vendors supply dial-up modem modules that offer drop-in communications in small packages.

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