Summer vacation arrives soon and parents will have to come up with activities and projects to keep kids busy. Why not consider some electronic kits, boards, tools, and books?
At the Embedded Systems Conferences manufacturers talk about their new and improved hardware and software products. I wish space and time let write something about them all. Instead, the short descriptions below give you brief highlights of some standout products.
Engineers know about tools for controller-area network (CAN) applications that help identify problems with bits and bytes. But they might get fooled into ignoring low-level problems that can occur down at the "wire-and-connector" level.
Many product designers have thought, "My product uses four push buttons, a rotary switch, and 7-segment displays. How do I take the first step with touch-control replacements?" Semiconductor manufacturers now supply a wide range of touch-control ICs...
Contrary to what you might think, the awareness of "green power" didn't spawn the drive to harvest energy. Low-power electronic fabrication technologies did the trick. They cut the power needs of small monitoring devices to the point...
Small pocket-size logic analyzers can capture and display signals from parallel buses, but many engineers now use these capable instruments mainly to examine I2C, SPI, UART, CAN, and other protocols. A PC, connected via a USB cable, displays these serial signals and helps engineers interpret them.
When engineers think about using a real-time operating system they worry about task timing, interrupt latency, and other timing- and task-related concerns. But other aspects of adopting an RTOS deserve equal attention. "Keep an eye on your project's future growth and expandability," said Andy Gryc...
The Microchip Technology PIC processors have appealed to electronics experimenters and hobbyists for some time, and many companies sell a variety of device programmers and development boards. Young people, though, can start with a less elaborate setup...
Ask an engineer who uses microcontrollers whether processor cores matter and you'll likely hear, "Not much." People at three MCU vendors--Silicon Laboratories, Renesas, and Microchip Technology echo this answer. The capabilities and types of peripherals blended into an MCU chip matter much more.
The do-it-yourself approach to a real-time operating system appeals to many an engineer’s desire to control, schedule, and manage application interrupts. So ten years ago, the number of in-house RTOS applications outstripped all commercial RTOS implementations. Although the do-it-yourself (DIY) RTOS remains the number-one competitor to commercial RTOSs, industry analyst Embedded Market Forecasters has found
ARM counts six large silicon suppliers as licensees for the Cortex-M3 processor core, which attests to its popularity. Microcontroller manufacturers license the Cortex-M3 core and its attendant debug-and-trace macrocells, called CoreSight. The CoreSight block includes many capabilities, and hardware and software engineers should know how to take advantage of them.
In late April I visited the exhibits at the annual Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, CA. For the most part, people I met with discussed microcontrollers, communication, and development kits.
The emphasis on low-power embedded systems can give engineers heartburn. They must strive to enhance a system's performance, add capabilities, and make its battery last for as many as 10 years. A combination of hardware and software tools now help engineers understand power consumption without the antacids.
In late April I visited the exhibits at the annual Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, CA. For the most part, people I met with discussed microcontrollers, communication, and development kits. The short descriptions below represent only a snapshot of the interesting products announced or unveiled at ESC.
As a teenager, I built many "computer" circuits with relays and switches. As I recall, a flip-flop took two 2PDT relays and a binary adder took two 4PDT relays in my brute-force logic circuit. Kids today can get started exploring computers more easily.
Microcontrollers offer engineers a variety of power-saving techniques. But using them effectively requires careful attention to tradeoffs in software and hardware at the start of a project. "Engineers must partition their application so they have a rough idea how long their microcontroller will stay in a sleep mode or in an active mode," said Mike Salas...
To find out more about the state of motor-control design in embedded systems, I recently talked with three engineers at Texas Instruments who work with motor-related hardware and software. "Motor control looks simple to start but it covers many disciplines so it's almost impossible to have one designer do everything," noted Miroslav Oljaca...
New devices, technologies, and development kits make it easier than ever to include haptic controls in a design. Here's an overview of several hardware and software advancements. Atmel's first maXTouch touch-sensor controller and microcontroller, the mXT224, gives equipment designers as many as 224 sensing nodes across display screens than can exceed 10 inches.
Most networked equipment uses Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4, which provides for about four billion 32-bit IP addresses. Concerns about exhausting these addresses--and other technical issues--led the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)to develop Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6.
Young people with an interest in electronics still have a cornucopia of kits to start with. As a youngster I had a crystal radio that picked up several local stations I listened to with a small headphone. You can still buy crystal-radio kits and many cost under $20.
You can find brushless-DC motors in appliances, medical instruments, and industrial equipment because they offer advantages over their brushed-DC-motor siblings. But before you can use a brushless-DC (BLDC) motor you need to understand how it works.
SuperSpeed USB connections — coming in 2010 — will zip data between devices at a theoretical rate of 5 Gbps, or more than 10-fold faster than a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. The faster transfers could help embedded-system developers who design video kiosks, TV recorders/players, and test-and-measurement equipment that use large quantities of information.
As the cooling challenges of 3U CompactPCI (cPCI) embedded system applications multiply due to increased processing power, reduced package sizes and more hostile environments, new thermal management options and industry standards continue to evolve. Chip and board manufacturers have already done a vast amount of work to mitigate thermal management concerns.
Ready-to-use wireless modules provide a way to quickly get a design "on the air" when engineers find RF circuits and communication protocols fall outside their areas of expertise. Even when engineers have RF experience, a module still might make sense from the perspective of saved time and money.
Computer hard disk drive storage has an impressive history of technological advances, from the RAMAC storage systems in the 1950s to perpendicular recording introduced a few years ago. The advancement of these technologies has increased the density of today’s hard disk drives to the terabyte range. Along the way frustrations with new storage technology have been proprietary equipment formats, initial high investments, and failed expectations of reliability.