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Kits for Kids

September 28, 2011 1:30 pm | Articles | Comments

Arduino MCU electronic kits and projects make good gifts during the holidays.

Simulation Enhances Embedded Systems

September 7, 2011 7:20 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

You might wonder whether engineers who design embedded systems can benefit from using simulation software. "If you plan to control something like a nuclear reactor or a large piece of machinery, where you'd pay a high price for creating a bad controller...

Remote Controls Go Wireless RF

July 20, 2011 9:56 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

About two years ago, the Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE) Consortium joined with the ZigBee Alliance to create a wireless protocol specifically for consumer-electronic products. Manufacturers and consumers have tired of handheld infrared (IR) controls...

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Get Started with Android

July 18, 2011 7:27 am | by Colin Walls, Mentor Graphics | Articles | Comments

You might think of Android only as an operating system (OS) for high-end mobile phones, but it extends beyond that type of device.

Wireless Sensor Networks Go The Distance

July 8, 2011 8:27 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Whether you use a handful or thousands of sensors in a wireless network, communications can occur in many ways. But each approach requires a thoughtful analysis of distances between sensor nodes, node-power requirements, protocols, and network layouts, among other characteristics.

Kits for Kids

May 23, 2011 7:07 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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?

ESC 2011 Update

May 13, 2011 11:07 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

CAN-Bus Analyzers: From Cables to Communications

March 24, 2011 11:29 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

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Thumbs Up for Touch Sensors

March 1, 2011 11:47 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

Energy Harvesting Suits Remote Low-Power Devices

February 2, 2011 10:08 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

Logic Analyzers Interpret Protocols

January 28, 2011 8:17 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

There's More to an RTOS than Threads

November 10, 2010 5:20 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

Kits for Kids

October 20, 2010 12:10 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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...

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Do MCU Processor Cores Still Matter?

September 30, 2010 12:31 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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 DIY RTOS Meets Its Match

August 7, 2010 6:32 am | by John Carbone, Express Logic | Articles | Comments

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

Debug Code for ARM Cortex-M3 MCUs

July 13, 2010 4:59 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

ESC 2010 Update

June 17, 2010 4:37 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Tools Correlate Code and Current

June 9, 2010 5:18 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

ESC 2010 Update

May 4, 2010 8:41 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Kits for Kids

April 15, 2010 7:10 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

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.

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.

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