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February 11, 2008 5:23 am | Comments

If you’re like most people living in the “digital home,” you have a plethora of those bulky, brick-like power adapters — wall warts as they’re commonly known — connected to a wall and one of perhaps a dozen or more electronic devices, each with its own unique DC power requirement. Whether to power a laptop, cell phone, computer and peripherals, games or power tools...

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Silicon Temp Sensors Measure by Degrees

January 25, 2008 6:05 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

People measure temperature more than any other physical characteristic. As a result, semiconductor vendors offer a large variety of silicon-based temperature sensors that usually operate in a range from -40°C to 125°C, although vendors sometimes tailor sensor spans for specific applications. Sensors used in PCs and servers, for example, may measure in a narrower range — about 75°C to 110°C. Depending on your application and budget, you can purchase inexpensive sensors with an accuracy of ±1°C to ±2°C.

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Charger-Circuit Designs Fulfill Consumer Needs

January 25, 2008 6:00 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries have taken the portable-electronics world by storm. Tony Armstrong, the power-products marketing manager at Linear Technology Corp. recently told me he bought his son a radio-controlled all-terrain vehicle. About half of the RC models and transmitters he examined came with lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries. Just two years ago, Armstrong found almost all models relied on nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

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Networked Digital Video Surveillance — What’s the Impact?

January 25, 2008 5:53 am | by Michael L Long – Product Line Manager, Industrial Video Applications | Comments

The field of video surveillance has seen explosive growth in the last 3 years. The convergence of heightened security demand and innovative technology, in the acquisition, transport, analysis and storage of quality video has resulted in a massive deployment of cameras and systems in a number of venues. Major cities, transportation centers, highways, military installations, retail and business centers are all covered by the un-blinking gaze of millions of cameras. According to some reports, the UK alone has over 15 million security cameras.

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Building Automotive GUIs “In a Flash”

January 25, 2008 5:51 am | Comments

According to Adobe Systems, over 300 million mobile devices have graphical user interfaces (GUIs) based on Adobe Flash technology – a number that may exceed a billion by 2010. Developers of in-car navigation and infotainment systems are also beginning to embrace Flash, for a simple reason: it can reduce the time to build a GUI by up to 50%. In the past, software teams had to translate their GUI prototypes into C, C++, or Java code, a labor-intensive process that can take many months. Now, teams can prototype their GUIs with high-level Flash tools and run those GUIs directly on embedded Flash players, without having to write graphics code.

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Brainstorm - MEMS

January 7, 2008 10:58 am | Comments

What do you perceive as the biggest hurdle for adoption on MEMS by engineers?(a) Lack of familiarity with MEMS-design tools; (b) Need for customization of MEMS devices;(c) Lack of design tools for electronic application of MEMS; (d) Few simulation models forMEMS devices; (e) Little understanding of MEMS capabilities and characteristics

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Military and Aerospace Systems Still Rely on Proven COTS Technology

January 3, 2008 5:55 am | by Doug Patterson, VP-Worldwide Sales & Marketing; Aitech Defense Systems Inc. | Comments

Because of its inherent benefits including decreases to development times and increases in component compatibility, COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) has been adopted by a vast number of industries, including the aerospace, military and space exploration markets. Most embedded systems within aerospace and military applications perform a function in some way related to mission-critical operation of the larger system and/or platform, making performance, reliability and functionality imperative to the design and manufacture of the embedded computing system.  These systems must therefore operate flawlessly in very specific and defined ways while exposed to extreme environments, including high shock and vibration resistance, wide, dynamic temperature ranges, high humidity (or immersion), and the absolute vacuum of deep space.

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Demystifying ZigBee and 802.15.4

January 3, 2008 4:58 am | by John Schwartz, Digi International | Comments

In today’s world, wireless networks are becoming more ubiquitous, and they are implemented using a variety of protocols that are specifically designed for radio frequency systems. Some protocols that are in use are proprietary to individual vendors, while others are industry standards. Recently, a lot of attention has been given to 802.15.4 and ZigBee, but there is still some ambiguity as to what is different about 802.15.4 and ZigBee and what kind of networks or systems would benefit from these particular protocols.

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The next great read?

January 3, 2008 4:01 am | by Chris Warner, Executive Editor | Comments

If you got a head start on your holiday shopping in the days before Thanksgiving, you were greeted at Amazon.com with a message by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announcing the release of Kindle, the company’s handheld e-book reading device. I have to admit, when a colleague first told me about Kindle, I reacted with a great big yawn.

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Tips Help Reduce Power Demands

January 2, 2008 10:09 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Jon Titus provides tips aimed at helping embedded-systems designers save power. Areas covered are peripherals, power sources, memory and more.

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10 Tips Make Embedded-System Code Easy to Maintain

January 2, 2008 9:18 am | by Timothy Stapko, Digi International | Comments

In the rush to get a product out the door, programmers often ignore code maintenance — a key aspect of application development. For applications with short lives, this rush may not pose a significant problem because once deployed, no one will touch the code again. Embedded systems applications, however, may have lives that span decades, and early coding mistakes can result in significant bug-fix and update costs later on.

Honoring the best

January 2, 2008 4:38 am | Comments

As I watched the evening news on Thanksgiving weekend, I was struck by how much politics and the upcoming Presidential race is interwoven with the way Americans are celebrating the holiday this year. Even as lawn signs continue to dot every landscape in the wake of Election Day 2007 (everyone will take down all those signs they put up, right?)...

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New Approaches Maximize Power Supply Efficiency Across All Loads

December 19, 2007 11:04 am | by Andrew Smith, Power Integrations,Inc. | Comments

New power regulations are redefining the meaning of efficiency in power supply design. Driven by increasing demand for electrical power worldwide, government agencies and industry groups are adopting new environmental standards that are designed to reduce power consumption by improving power efficiency. In the U.S. for example, the Department of Energy (DoE) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program grants certification to electronics devices that meet a range of standards for power consumption. More recently, the State of California through the California Energy Commission (CEC) has implemented a mandatory program to implement more stringent power efficiency standards for external power supplies and consumer audio and video equipment sold in California.

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Serial Ports Still Bash the Bits

December 19, 2007 10:43 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

Like many inexpensive desktop PCs, my Dell Dimension C521 lacks a serial port. But, don't write off serial communications which will continue to play important roles in industrial controls, point-of-sale terminals and other equipment. USB and Ethernet have a place, but simple serial I/O still solves a lot of problems.

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DC Power Tests: Many Instruments Do the Job

December 19, 2007 9:52 am | by Bob Zollo, Agilent Technologies | Comments

For simple static-DC source-and-measure tests, familiar instruments such as power supplies, scopes, voltmeters and function generators work well. Dynamic DC-bias tests, though, involve sequencing and sourcing voltage and current, as well as making measurements. These bias tests require complex interactions among traditional instruments, and they can create setup and configuration challenges.

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