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Design Tips Save MCU Power

March 11, 2010 4:11 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

Get Rolling with Efficient Motor-Control Designs

March 11, 2010 3:58 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

Give Sensors a Gentle Touch

January 13, 2010 4:05 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

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IPv6 Goes Embedded

December 21, 2009 4:27 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Kits for Kids, November 2009

October 5, 2009 11:17 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Brushless DC Motors Roll On

September 10, 2009 12:36 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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: A USB 3.0 Update

September 2, 2009 7:35 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Thermal Management Strategies for Extreme 3U cPCI Embedded System Applications

August 5, 2009 6:47 am | by Barbara Schmitz, MEN Mikro Elektronik | Articles | Comments

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.

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Modules Simplify RF Designs

August 4, 2009 10:01 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

When Good Memories Go Bad – Data Recovery of Flash Media

July 2, 2009 7:55 am | by Sean Barry, Kroll Ontrack, www.krollontrack.com | Articles | Comments

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.

New PICMG 2.30 Draft Standard for cPCI Can Extend Legacy System Life

May 22, 2009 10:14 am | by Charles Staley and Lindsay Powell, 3M Electronic Solutions, www.3m.com | Articles | Comments

To take advantage of advances in high-speed serial data transmission technologies, PICMG is releasing a new option for its popular CompactPCI standard. The new PICMG 2.30 Compact PCI PlusIO standard is based on PICMG 2.30 core specification and defines the migration path from parallel PCI to the serial PCI Express.

A Visit to the 2009 Embedded Systems Conference – Part II

May 18, 2009 11:37 am | Articles | Comments

With over 8,000 attendees, this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) was a pleasant surprise to an industry expecting a low turnout. Held in San Jose from March 30 to April 2, the event had a nice assortment of new tech and devices. Here is our second portion of our two-part coverage of the event.

Embedded Systems 2009

April 23, 2009 7:23 am | Product Releases | Comments

Here are a few pictures we took ont he floor of the 2009 Embedded Systems Confernce. Recognize anyone?

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A Visit to the 2009 Embedded Systems Conference

April 16, 2009 6:55 am | Atmel Corporation | Product Releases | Comments

With over 8,000 attendees, this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) was a pleasant surprise to an industry expecting a low turnout. Held in San Jose from March 30 to April 2, the show demonstrated that while the economy may be depressed, the design engineering community isn’t.

Two Paths Lead to FIR Filters

March 23, 2009 11:07 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Because finite impulse response (FIR) filters use a mathematical algorithm to process information, engineers rely on them when an analog filter just won't do. “FIR filters appeal to people who don't want to become filter designers”, explained Grant Griffin, President, Iowegian International. "They just want to use a filter to solve a problem

6LoWPAN Goes Where ZigBee Can't

February 12, 2009 8:25 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Many “standard” and proprietary protocols use the media-access controller (MAC) and the physical circuits (PHY) associated with IEEE 802.15.4 radios. Those protocols use their own arrangements of bits and bytes to transfer information between nodes, but none of them use the Internet Protocol (IP). So they cannot directly communicate with Internet-based devices and Web servers/browsers.

Linux Update

January 20, 2009 6:19 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

A view of Linux from several perspectives will help embedded-system designers better understand how they can use this open-source operating system. Experts at Eurotech, Texas Instruments, and Rowebots share their approaches. "Contrary to what some engineers might think, Linux provides a mature operating system," said Arlen Nipper, president and CTO at Eurotech. "You can obtain best-in-class security, TCP/IP stacks, and support for wireless networking, for example. The associated code drops into Linux and works right away."

Embedded Systems: Ethernet Modules Act Like SBCs

December 23, 2008 8:45 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Manufacturers offer a variety of small modules that let engineers easily add an Ethernet port to a design. They may need only a UART or I2C port in a main system to communicate with and control one of these modules. But if engineers stop there they will miss many other capabilities offered by these modules--actually single-board computers (SBCs).

FPGAs Offer More Flexible, Affordable Embedded System Solutions

December 23, 2008 5:51 am | by Stephen Cunha, MEN Micro, Inc. | Articles | Comments

Potential solutions for providing application-specific functionality in embedded systems typically come with trade-offs in terms of cost and time to market. With few projects having the lead-time, budget or high-volume payback potential to tool-up for custom chip or hardware production runs, the best answers often revolve around "modular" solutions.

Embedded Systems: A Legacy and a Bright Future for the VMEbus

December 5, 2008 11:05 am | by Ray Alderman, Executive Director, VITA | Articles | Comments

In October of 1981, three semiconductor companies announced the open-architecture VMEbus, spawned by the introduction of the Motorola 68000 microprocessor. After 27 years, the VMEbus still holds the largest market share of all buses and boards. Today's bus technologies have lives measured in months, so why has the VMEbus survived and prospered while other buses have rapidly gone by the wayside? (Engineers use the terms VMEbus and VME interchangeably.)

Embedded Systems: C and C++ Tools Reduce Code Errors

November 19, 2008 8:44 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Programmers now have many tools that help reduce or eliminate problems. Unfortunately, they might not know these tools exist. "In 1998, the UK's Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA) published their standard for the C language to promote 'safe C' in the UK automotive industry," explained Chris Tapp, a field-applications engineer at LDRA. "The software industry has seen MISRA-C as a way to encourage good programming practice, focus on coding rules, and ensure well designed and tested safe code."

Embedded Systems: Take a New Look at Ada

October 28, 2008 11:14 am | by Robert Dewar, President and CEO, AdaCore | Articles | Comments

The world of computer technology has two incompatible characteristics. First, many computer systems have long lives. Second, students and many engineers pay attention to only the latest technologies and they believe old technologies have died out. The "yesterday's-fashion” phenomenon has applied to the Ada programming language, too. If engineers have heard of Ada at all, they may assume it is an old US Department of Defense technology that disappeared long ago.

Embedded Systems: Kits for Kids

October 15, 2008 6:17 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

I'll begin this column with a recommendation: Start kits with a set of basic hand tools. When my son went to college, he had tools to hang pictures, connect TV sets and CD players, and tighten desks and shelves. As a result, he met most of the people on his co-ed floor. When our daughter went to college she got a tool kit, too. I suggest Phillips and flat-blade screwdrivers, pliers, diagonal cutters, wire strippers and a couple of adjustable wrenches. Later you could add a set of nut drivers, sockets wrenches and an inexpensive soldering iron.

Embedded Systems: Safeguard Ethernet Interfaces from Cable Discharges

September 26, 2008 4:39 am | by Timothy Puls, Product Marketing Engineer and Hani Geske, Senior Applications Engineer, Semtech Corporation | Articles | Comments

Protecting Ethernet interfaces from cable discharges can create a challenge for engineers because good protection must meet two criteria. First, and most important, a protective device must effectively clamp a transient to a safe voltage. Second, the device must present an acceptable capacitive load on high-speed differential transmission lines. Good planning and careful selection of transient voltage-suppression devices can adequately protect Ethernet interfaces from electrostatic discharges (ESDs) and cable discharge events.

Embedded Systems: Sniff ZigBee Packets

August 29, 2008 9:14 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

When engineers tackle a project that uses ZigBee communications they may get a surprise. Unlike point-to-point communications, ZigBee involves a network that can establish nodes, repeaters and complex mesh topologies. The proper test tools--often called "sniffers"--help engineers diagnose ZigBee-network problems that could otherwise turn into nightmares.

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