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Top 10 must-see posts for November

December 6, 2012 3:38 pm | by The ECN Editors | Articles | Comments

Here’s a rundown of the most read, most popular, most awesome articles on the web. Take a look at what you missed the first time around or check up on an old favorite to see the conversation in the comments. Keep checking out the Lead at and follow us on Twitter @ecnonline for our most up-to-date articles.

Should schools use RFID chips to track students?

December 6, 2012 2:53 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

A few weeks ago, I came across an article on Slate talking about a school in Texas that had put RFID tags in the student ID cards that everyone has to wear.  The article—available at the link--was a discussion on whether the tags were an invasion of privacy.

Robotcolypse: When the robots take over

December 6, 2012 2:08 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

Well friends, it appears the end is almost upon us. I’m not even referring to the end of the world a la the Mayan Calendar but rather an entirely different kind of a not-so-hostile takeover: robots. We’ve touched on robots taking over before, but this time, it’s getting serious. This robot was designed to actually replace humans.


Saudi Arabia's new "tracking" system for women

December 6, 2012 12:33 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

When you work in the tech world, your days are usually full of creative people doing incredible things; on the darker days, you occasionally stumble on people (or governments) using technology in ways that make your skin crawl. Reports out of Saudi Arabia are saying when

Retailers employ crony capitalism in push for online sales tax

December 5, 2012 5:11 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has written a letter to Congress urging them to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act by the end of the year. This "e-fairness legislation" would allegedly "close the decades-old loophole enjoyed by online-only retailers" and "restore free market principles."

Why Android is beating Apple

November 29, 2012 3:26 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

It wasn’t so long ago the Apple was the phone to have. Yes, there were the holdouts who took a dislike to the brand’s smartphone monopoly, but for the most part, if you wanted a phone that worked, you took a trip to Steve Jobs land. It seems, however, that the tide is now changing....

“Sustainability” is inherently unsustainable

November 29, 2012 9:50 am | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

I recently came across a site (no link will be provided for reasons that will be obvious shortly) that proposed that engineers design products for sustainability (how long is that?). They also propose going one better for really advanced products. Those would be products that pose no risk to society.

Long lines on a PCB

November 28, 2012 12:17 pm | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

On a list I belong to (which prefers to remain anonymous), there has been a long discussion on how to terminate lines on a PCB that uses parts with fast rise times. Of course, circumstances vary and it depends on the rise time, but for rise times on the order of one nanosecond (TTL, AHC, LVC, etc), a resistor from 22 to 50 ohms in series with the source seems to work well.


Giving thanks

November 21, 2012 9:12 am | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

M. Simon, freelance writer extraordinaire, shares some of the things he's thankful for this holiday. "A few of the things I'm thankful for this holiday. In quasi random order": Atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison and his assistant Nikola Tesla....

7 things I am thankful for...

November 20, 2012 3:21 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

When I was little, at some point during the Thanksgiving season we would write down things we were thankful for. It was usually at school, written on a turkey that I’d made by outlining my hand, and it was usually things like candy, puppies, family, food, and probably whatever else was in my direct line of sight while I was writing.

What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving

November 20, 2012 11:46 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

It's that special time of year when we all get bloated from eating too much turkey, get into fist fights at Best Buy over that last doorbuster sale, and enjoy Christmas music that started in June. But there is much to be thankful for, and it goes far beyond my propensity for Holiday-induced mayhem.

Top 5 free apps for the holiday season

November 20, 2012 9:22 am | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

Back in the dog days of summer, we offered up a list of the 6 must-have apps for a stress-free summer. It was all about keeping kids distracted, watching your spending, and utilizing apps that got you to the relaxation phase faster.Now we’ve entered a season that can feel entirely the opposite of relaxing: holiday season

This watch could save your kid’s life

November 19, 2012 11:35 am | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

If you’ve ever felt that heart-in-throat, hyperventilating, out-of-body feeling of not being able to find your kid in a park or after school, only to have her reappear after a few seconds of mind-numbing panic, you can understand why someone would want to invent a Lojack for children.


In defense of the Tesla Model S

November 19, 2012 9:10 am | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

When Motor Trend announced an electric car was their pick for Car of the Year, something tells me you could have heard a pin drop in the car world. An electric car? They must have rigged the vote.Well, my friends, I hate to break it to you, but Consumer Reports just agreed with Motor Trend,

Trending at electronica: More from less

November 16, 2012 11:51 am | by Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director | Blogs | Comments

Okay, so it’s no surprise that the engineering community is continuing to be taxed by a need to shrink both the number of components housed on the board as well as the size of them. So it’s been great to see how a number of semiconductor, power supply, and connector companies are working to provide these solutions.

The future of nanotechnology is now

November 16, 2012 8:57 am | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

I count several popular science fiction writers as friends. I share a political/whimsey blog with one of them, Sarah Hoyt. I was visiting Sarah's personal blog, and the question of the future of nanotechnology — given the upcoming fiscal cliff — came up in the comments. Sarah was of the opinion that the technology would be delayed indefinitely.

Greatest advertising technique of all time (Hint: Involves urinals)

November 15, 2012 4:18 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

Here at ECN, we often talk about alternative energy options. Sometimes it’s solar power, other times wind power, and occasionally we dabble in the world of electric cars. But there is one energy option we’ve been sorely remiss in covering: pee-power.

Raspberry Pi, Android accessory access, a Smarter Zeus and 48-Volt Systems ... someday

November 15, 2012 1:47 pm | by Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director | Blogs | Comments

My first trip to electronica has proven both awesome and challenging. Awesome in the number of new technologies that are on display; challenging in navigating a show that is so expansive. Awesome in how much I love Munich; challenging in that my body is not loving the amount of bier being consumed.

This “smart” traffic light could cut commutes by 60 percent

November 14, 2012 11:08 am | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

Were you aware of the fact that you waste one week per year sitting in traffic? One week per year. That is 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, stuck in traffic.  Not only is it a huge waste of time, breathing in the exhaust fumes while you sit and mentally-fume can actually be dangerous to your health

It's about time: Timing and frequency issues in engineering

November 13, 2012 9:30 am | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

Time and timing have been long term interests of mine. Especially so since I got my start measuring tenths of a nanosecond in 1967. I was looking around the www for information on time and frequency and came across a group of amateurs interested in time standards. One of the favorites of these amateurs is buying surplus rubidium clocks on ebay and bringing them to life.

ECN’s Veteran’s Day tribute: Remembering those who’ve served

November 9, 2012 2:50 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

On the cusp of Veteran’s Day, I’m reminded that a disproportionate number of our friends and colleagues served in the military. And that makes me proud to work in this industry. ECN — and her parent company, Advantage Business Media — is no exception. You can’t swing a dead cat (or give a resounding Hoooah!) without hitting a veteran.

Companies I enjoy doing business with

November 9, 2012 9:20 am | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

My very old Ungar 8800 soldering stand had a cracked ceramic iron holder from decades of use/misuse. So I went looking for Ungar on the www. They are no longer with us. But I found that they are now owned by Weller....

They are bringing back tubes

November 6, 2012 5:50 pm | by M. Simon | Blogs | Comments

Yes, tubes are coming back. No, not the thermionic space bottles of my youth. These are a different kind of tube. Made of small bits of graphene. Carbon nanotubes. IBM reports on their progress in the area. And it is amazing.

Do ultracapacitors make wind energy a sustainable option?

November 5, 2012 12:27 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

The idea of using wind to create energy isn’t exactly new. The first examples can be traced back to 200 B.C. in Persia – a creation of Heron of Alexandria. That particular device simply harnessed the wind to power a machine, so a case could be made that the first real windmills were built a little bit later, in the 7th century in Sistan, modern day Iran.

Apple confronts challenge of low-cost tablets with launch of iPad Mini

November 5, 2012 10:48 am | by Adam Leach, practice leader, Devices and Platforms, Ovum | Blogs | Comments

The introduction of a smaller iPad was much expected by the wider tech community. Ovum sees this as a defensive move by Apple to stave off competition from cheaper and smaller tablets introduced by Amazon and Google. Apple faces a tough challenge with the iPad Mini.

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