New Dual-Channel Function/Arbitrary Waveform Generators

B&K Precision recently launched its new 4060 Series line of dual channel function/arbitrary waveform generators. The series includes three models that generate sine waveforms up to 80 MHz (4063), 120 MHz (4064), and 160 MHz (4065).BKprecision4060_series

Featuring an advanced pulse generator and high-performance 512k-point arbitrary waveform generator on one channel, these instruments are ideal for use in applications requiring high signal fidelity with extensive modulation and arbitrary waveform capabilities at a value price point.

Unique to the 4060 Series are its advanced pulse generation capabilities. The instruments can generate pulses with low jitter less than 100 ps and output 12-ns width pulses at frequencies as low as 0.1 Hz–a feature not typically found in DDS generators. Rise and fall times are also adjustable within a large range (e.g. users can output pulses with 6 ns rise times combined with 6 s fall times).

All models provide two independent output channels with a large 4.3” color LCD, rotary control knob, numeric keypad, and intuitive function keys to make waveform adjustments quick and easy. Other standard features include a built-in counter, Sync output, trigger I/O terminal, and external 10-MHz reference clock input and output for synchronization of the instrument to another generator.

The 4060 Series offers linear and logarithmic sweep function and a wide variety of modulation schemes for modulated signal applications: amplitude and frequency modulation (AM/FM), double sideband amplitude modulation (DSB-AM), amplitude and frequency shift keying (ASK/FSK), phase modulation (PM), and pulse width modulation (PWM).

Equipped with a high performance 14-bit, 500 Msps, 512k-point arbitrary waveform generator, the 4060 Series provides users 36 built-in arbitrary waveforms and the ability to create and load up to 32 custom arbitrary waveforms using the included waveform editing software via standard USB interface on the rear. A front panel USB host port is available for users to conveniently save waveforms and setups on a USB flash drive or to connect the optional USB-to-GPIB adapter for GPIB connectivity.

Available immediately, B&K Precision’s 4060 Series products are backed by a standard three-year warranty at the following list prices:

4063 — 80 MHz — $1,350
4064 — 120 MHz — $1,670
4065 — 160 MHz — $1,990

For additional technical specifications, accessories, photos, and support documents, visit B&K Precision’s website.

[Source: B&K Precision Corp.]

Troubleshoot Electronics Problems with Logging (EE Tip #141)

Electrical engineers often develop “headless” electronic systems—that is, systems without user interfaces. And many of those systems are embedded within product and are generally out of reach when problems occur. Bob Japenga is an engineer with some advice about logging and how it can help you troubleshoot problems as they occur.

Many of our designs are buried in some product or located in remote areas. No one is there when the device hiccoughs. Well defined logging can help make your system more robust because there are going to be problems and you might as well find out as much as you can about the problems when they happen. Here are some general guidelines that we apply here:

• Use an existing logging facility if you can. It should have all of the features discussed here.

• Unless you truly have unlimited disk space, provide a self-pruning cap on all logs. Linux syslog feature has this built in.

• Attempt to provide the most amount of information in the least amount of space. One way we do this is by limiting the number of times the same error can be logged. I cannot tell you how many times I look at a log file and find the same error logged over and over again. Knowing your memory limitation and the frequency of the error, after a set number of identical logs, start logging only one in every 100, or only allow so many per hour, and include the total count. Some failures are best kept in error counters. For example, communications errors in a noisy environment should be periodically logged with a counter; you don’t usually need to know every occurrence.

• Create multiple logs concerning multiple areas. For example, network errors and communications errors are better kept in their own log apart from processing errors. This will help a single error from flooding all logs with its own problem.

• Timestamp all logs—ideally with date and time—but I understand that all of our systems don’t have date and time. As a minimum, it could be in milliseconds since power-up.

• Establish levels of logging. Some logging is only applicable during debugging. Build that into your logging.

• Avoid side effects. I hate it when the designer tells me that if he turns logging on, the system will come to its knees. That’s just a bad logging design.

• Make the logs easy to automatically parse.—Bob Japenga, CC25, 2013

Engineer’s Transformable Workspace

No two workspaces or circuit cellars are alike. And that’s what makes studying these submissions so fascinating. Each space reflects the worker’s interests, needs, and personality.

Succasunna, NJ-based Mike Sydor’s penchant for “hacking” isn’t relegated solely to electronics. His entire workspace is actually a hack designed for both hardware and software projects. It’s an excellent example of what you can do with a little creativity and planning!

When the front is open, Mike can tackle hardware projects (Source: Mike Sydor)

We love the “transformer” theme that runs through the entire space. Simply put, the compact space is easily rearranged to serve Mike’s various needs:

  • When the front is closed, Mike can work on the “soft arts” of coding, diagramming, and design planning.
  • When the front is open, Mike has easy access to essential tools such as an oscilloscope, isolation transformer, and solder station.
  • A KVM switch enables Mike move back and forth between Linux and Windows

    Mike simply closes the front when he shifts from hardware mode to software mode (Source: Mike Sydor)

Another interesting point to note is that Mike can detach the shelf/drawer so the workspace can fit through a door if necessary. Great idea! Now he can take the workspace with him if he ever moves.

Submitted by Mike Sydor:

Here is my workspace for your consideration.  It is basically a custom, drop-front workspace on wheels so that I can move it easily to reconfigure the equipment or otherwise get to all the gear.  It has two configurations.  The ‘software’ setting (front closed) where I can focus on the code, design docs, etc.  The shelf can also hold a midi keyboard for music ‘hacking.’  There is a drawer in that shelf for miscellaneous items.  With the front open, you have a nice workspace for assembly and debugging, you can still access the drawer, and you can access all of the gear.  Everything is self-contained – only a single power and network cable are ‘on the floor.’  The shelf/drawer assembly detaches for moving day – otherwise it is too wide to fit through a standard door opening.  I also only use three wheels.  This makes a tripod, which is stable on any surface.  I live in an older home – no level floors! – so mobility does not compromise stability and I don’t have to shim one side or the other to keep it from wobbling.   The mass of all the gear keeps the bench stable.  The monitors are mounted on a custom stand so that they can be positioned, via swing arms and are otherwise stable when you need to move the bench around.  I use a KVM switch with multiple computers (windows, Linux) and have a set of cables so that I can plug in a project computer and use the same monitors and keyboard.  All the computers are on the same switch for optimal Ethernet performance.  I build kits, prototype circuits for sensor conditioning and muck around with micro-controllers, as well as fix/hack your various consumer electronics.  Cheers, Mike Sydor.

All the good stuff in one place! Power, a solder station, a scope, and more! (Source: Mike Sydor)

Do you want to share images of your workspace, hackspace, or “circuit cellar”? Send us your images and info about your space.

EIM Bootcamp: Circuit Cellar Today & Tomorrow

BBC47

Elektor bootcamp discussion

Want a behind-the-scenes look at the Elektor and Circuit Cellar teams?  You can link to a short, free report on my recent visit to our company headquarters in Limbricht, Netherlands, where EIM staffers from around the globe met up for a corporate “bootcamp.” The purpose of the meeting was to assess the company’s current offerings (magazines, books, kits, etc.), discuss the needs of members, and plan for the future.

DOWNLOAD REPORT

IoT Innovation: Show Off Your W5500 Project (Sponsored Post)

The WIZnet Connect the Magic Challenge offers you a variety of opportunities to show off your engineering skills and present your Internet of Things (IoT) designs to the world. It’s your shot to win a share of $15,000 in prizes, gain international recognition as innovator, and more.

Elektor/Circuit Cellar is the challenge administrator for the WIZnet Connect the Magic 2014 Design Challenge

Elektor/Circuit Cellar is the challenge administrator

Don’t delay! The submission deadline is ​August​ 3, 2014. All Entries must be received on or before 12:00 PM EDT on ​August 3​, 201​4​.

To Enter, simply upload your Entry via the Entry Dropbox.

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES
Didn’t finish your project? You can still participate.

If the deadline approaches and your entry is not complete, we still encourage you to submit your project or submit a project after the deadline. While only these on-time files are submitted to the judges, consider that there are many more opportunities for contest success, such as Elektor/Circuit Cellar’s “Distinctive Excellence” awards.

While Elektor/Circuit Cellar must follow the Sponsor’s rules about submission and judging when it comes to the contest’s official prizes, Elektor/Circuit Cellar is able to include its own award program that takes into account design skills that may otherwise go unrecognized.

By submitting even an unfinished project by the deadline for official judging, you qualify for a Distinctive Excellence review. If there is merit and the project warrants further consideration, those projects that may be offered a Distinctive Excellence award may be updated by the entrant after the contest deadline.

Historically, there have been some really fascinating Distinctive Excellence projects for previous Elektor/Circuit Cellar design contests. Those who win this designation see their projects posted online similar to the official winners and enjoy much of the same exposure. Many are offered separate print magazine publishing deals through Elektor/Circuit Cellar. The benefits of having Elektor/Circuit Cellar recognize and publicize your work in a high profile campaign like this should not be underestimated.\

Plus … Due to Elektor and Circuit Cellar’s international reach, you’ll get even more exposure than ever before! Imagine getting a Distinctive Excellence award—or getting your article published—and being recognized by readers throughout the world! That could lead any number of positive outcomes. Job opportunities? Design deals? The sky is the limit!

THE CHALLENGE

You are challenged to design and build an innovative project that uses least one WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet controller module or W5500 chip. You can use any other MCU and/or module along with the WIZ550io Ethernet module.

W5500

W5500

WIZnet PARTS

Your project must use at least one WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet controller module or WIZnet W5500 chip. You can use any other MCU and other module along with the WIZ550io Ethernet module or W5500 chip. Visit the Eligible Parts page for more information.

WIZnet's WIZ550io auto configurable Ethernet controller module includes a W5500, transformer, & RJ-45.

WIZnet’s WIZ550io auto configurable Ethernet controller module includes a W5500, transformer, & RJ-45.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Participation is simple. First, read the Rules. Second, build and thoroughly document a project featuring a WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet Controller module or W5500 chip. Next, Register for the Challenge and obtain a Project Registration Number. Lastly, Submit a complete project Entry.

JUDGING 

The goal of the Challenge is to showcase the functionality of the WIZnet WIZ550io module. All Challenge entries will be judged by a panel of judges on the following: technical merit 30%, originality 30%, usefulness 20%, cost-effectiveness 10%, and design optimization 10%. It would be smart to highlight these achievements in your documentation. Call attention to your project’s special features.

RN4020 Bluetooth Smart Module

Microchip Technology recently announced its first Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy module, the RN4020, which carries both worldwide regulatory certifications and is Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) certified. The integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) stack and on-board support for the common SIG low-energy profiles speeds time to market while ensuring Bluetooth compatibility, eliminating expensive certification costs and reducing development risks. The module comes preloaded with the Microchip Low-energy Data Profile (MLDP), which enables designers to easily stream any type of data across the BTLE link. MicrochipRN4020

The RN4020 is a stack-on-board module, so it can connect to any microcontroller with a UART interface, including hundreds of PIC MCUs, or it can operate standalone without an MCU for basic data collection and communication, such as a beacon or sensor. Standalone operation is facilitated by Microchip’s unique no-compile scripting, which allows module configuration via a simple ASCII command interface—no tools or compiling are required.

The RN4020 Bluetooth Low Energy Module is available for $6.78 each in 1,000-unit quantities.

[Via Microchip Technology]

WIZnet Challenge Entry Tips (Sponsored Post)

The WIZnet Connect the Magic Challenge deadline is ​August​ 3, 2014. Let’s go over the challenge and cover some tips for entering.WIZnetconnect_logo_horweb_550x

What is the Challenge?

You are challenged to design and build an innovative project that uses least one WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet controller module or W5500 chip. You can use any other MCU and/or module along with the WIZ550io Ethernet module.

What devices must I use with my project?
Your project must use at least one WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet controller module or WIZnet W5500 chip. You can use any other MCU and other module along with the WIZ550io Ethernet module or W5500 chip. Visit the Eligible Parts page for more information.

WIZnet's WIZ550io auto configurable Ethernet controller module includes a W5500, transformer, & RJ-45.

WIZnet’s WIZ550io auto configurable Ethernet controller module includes a W5500, transformer, & RJ-45.

How do I participate?

Participation is simple. First, read the Rules. Second, build and thoroughly document a project featuring a WIZnet WIZ550io Ethernet Controller module or W5500 chip. Next, Register for the Challenge and obtain a Project Registration Number. Lastly, Submit a complete project Entry.

​​May I submit multiple entries?
Yes. You may submit as many entries as you want. Each Entry must have its own Project Registration Number. Complete a Project Registration Form for each Entry you intend to submit.
What types of projects win design contests?
The goal of the Challenge is to showcase the functionality of the WIZnet WIZ550io module. All Challenge entries will be judged by a panel of judges on the following: technical merit 30%, originality 30%, usefulness 20%, cost-effectiveness 10%, and design optimization 10%. It would be smart to highlight these achievements in your documentation. Call attention to your project’s special features.

New JANSR+ 100krad Transistors for Radiative Environments

STMicroelectronics recently announced it is bringing into the JANS system the innovation released last year within the European Space Components Coordination (ESCC) program. Called JANSR+, the innovation consists of a series of 100krad JANSR high-dose-rate bipolar transistors with an additional 100krad low-dose-rate (100 mrad/s) test performed on each wafer.rad_hard_bipolar_trans

Furthermore, ST has announced it will complete its JANSR+ offer with data from very-low-dose-rate (10 mrad/s) tests, demonstrating the outstanding robustness to radiation effect of its technology.

As a result, ST’s JANSR+ series gives access to products with superior performance in radiative environments, with complete test data to support the claim. These products can be used without any up-screen cost and lead time, thus dramatically raising the bar in the industry.

All parts are housed in advanced hermetic UB packages and are available in sample and volume quantities.

[Via STMicroelectronics]

Q&A with Arduino-Based Skube Codesigner

The Arduino-based Skube

The Arduino-based Skube

Andrew Spitz is a Copenhagen, Denmark-based sound designer, interaction designer, and programmer. Among his various innovative projects is the Arduino-based Skube music player, which is an innovative design that enables users to find and share music.

Spitz worked on the design with Andrew Nip, Ruben van der Vleuten, and Malthe Borch. Check out the video to see the Skube in action. On his blog SoundPlusDesign.com, Spitz writes: “It is a fully working prototype through the combination of using ArduinoMax/MSP and an XBee wireless network. We access the Last.fm API to populate the Skube with tracks and scrobble, and using their algorithms to find similar music when in Discover mode.”

Skube – A Last.fm & Spotify Radio from Andrew Nip on Vimeo.

The following is an abridged  version of an interview that appears in the December 2012 issue of audioXpress magazine, a sister publication of Circuit Cellar magazine..

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us a little about your background and where you live.

Andrew Spitz: I’m half French, half South African. I grew up in France, but my parents are South African so when I was 17, I moved to South Africa. Last year, I decided to go back to school, and I’m now based in Copenhagen, Denmark where I’m earning a master’s degree at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CID).

SHANNON: How did you become interested in sound design? Tell us about some of your initial projects.

Andrew: From the age of 16, I was a skydiving cameraman and I was obsessed with filming. So when it was time to do my undergraduate work, I decided to study film. I went to film school thinking that I would be doing cinematography, but I’m color blind and it turned out to be a bigger problem than I had hoped. At the same time, we had a lecturer in sound design named Jahn Beukes who was incredibly inspiring, and I discovered a passion for sound that has stayed with me.

Shannon: What do your interaction design studies at CIID entail? What do you plan to do with the additional education?

Andrew: CIID is focused on a user-centered approach to design, which involves finding intuitive solutions for products, software, and services using mostly technology as our medium. What this means in reality is that we spend a lot of time playing, hacking, prototyping, and basically building interactive things and experiences of some sort.

I’ve really committed to the shift from sound design to interaction design and it’s now my main focus. That said, I feel like I look at design from the lens of a sound designer as this is my background and what has formed me. Many designers around me are very visual, and I feel like my background gives me not only a different approach to the work but also enables me to see opportunities using sound as the catalyst for interactive experiences. Lots of my recent projects have been set in the intersection among technology, sound, and people.

SHANNON: You have worked as a sound effects recordist and editor, location recordist and sound designer for commercials, feature films, and documentaries. Tell us about some of these experiences?

ANDREW: I love all aspects of sound for different reasons. Because I do a lot of things and don’t focus on one, I end up having more of a general set of skills than going deep with one—this fits my personality very well. By doing different jobs within sound, I was able to have lots of different experiences, which I loved! nLocation recording enabled me to see really interesting things—from blowing up armored vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) to interviewing famous artists and presidents. And, documentaries enabled me to travel to amazing places such as Rwanda, Liberia, Mexico, and Nigeria. As a sound effects recordist on Jock of the Bushvelt, a 3-D animation, I recorded animals such as lions, baboons, and leopards in the South African bush. With Bakgat 2, I spent my time recording and editing rugby sounds to create a sound effects library. This time in my life has been a huge highlight, but I couldn’t see myself doing this forever. I love technology and design, which is why I made the move...

SHANNON: Where did the idea for Skube originate?

Andrew: Skube came out of the Tangible User Interface (TUI) class at CIID where we were tasked to rethink audio in the home context. So understanding how and where people share music was the jumping-off point for creating Skube.

We realized that as we move more toward a digital and online music listening experience, current portable music players are not adapted for this environment. Sharing mSkube Videousic in communal spaces is neither convenient nor easy, especially when we all have such different taste in music.

The result of our exploration was Skube. It is a music player that enables you to discover and share music and facilitates the decision process of picking tracks when in a communal setting.

audioXpress is an Elektor International Media publication.

Diode Bridge Solution (EE Tip #140)

Once I connected a battery up to a DSP in the wrong “direction,” thereby destroying the DSP. That incident drove home the necessity of “suspenders and belt” design.Diode

After the accident, my colleague and I added a diode to the circuit to make it impossible to repeat that mistake. Nowadays, when I teach elementary electronics courses, I generally mention the diode bridge as a way to make it possible to connect up a battery in either “direction” without endangering the electronics to which the battery is to be connected.

My mistake has served as a cautionary tale for many years now.—Shlomo Engelberg, CC25, 2013

Eight-Core 64-bit Processor for Mobile Devices

MediaTek has announced the MT6795, which the company is targeting at the high-end Android 4G smartphones and tablet segment. According to the press release, the eight-core processor also supports 2560 × 1600 resolution displays, FDD/TDD LTE technology, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM Radio, and 2G and 3G wireless networks.mediatek

The chip also supports video recording and playback at Ultra HD (4K2K) resolution using the H.265, H.264 and VP9 formats, supporting high-speed 1080p video recording at up to 480 frames per second allowing slow-motion playback on screens with 120 Hz refresh. An integrated 16-MP camera image signal processor handles video input and MediaTek’s ClearMotion technology eliminates motion jitter to ensure smooth video playback at 60fps.

The MT6795 uses eight ARM Cortex-A53 processors, based on a 28-nm process that clocks at 2.0 GHz and a Mali-T760 GPU to handle display control. MediaTek also supplies its CorePilot technology, which provides multicore processor performance and thermal control of the chip. The MT6795 also supports dual-channel LPDDR3 memory at 933 MHz.

According to MediaTek, we can expect to see 4G smartphones using MT7695 chips before the end of  2014.

[Via Elektor]

 

Embedded SOM with Linux-Based RTOS

National Instruments has introduced an embedded system-on-module (SOM) development board with integrated Linux-based real-time operating system (RTOS).NIsom

Processing power in the 2” x 3” SOM comes from a Xilinx Zync-7020 all programmable SOC running a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 at 667 MHz. A built-in, low-power Artix-7 FPGA offers 160 single-ended I/Os and Its dedicated processor I/O include Gigabit Ethernet USB 2.0 host, USB 2.0 host/device, SDHC, RS-232, and Tx/Rx. The SOM’s power requirements are typically 3 to 5 W.

The SOM integrates a validated board support package (BSP) and device drivers together with the National Instruments Linux real-time OS. The SOM board is supplied with a full suite of middleware for developing an embedded OS, custom software drivers, and other common software components.

The LabVIEW FPGA graphical development platform eliminates the need for expertise in the design approach using a hardware description language.

[Via Elektor]

 

New GaAs MESFET Chips

BeRex recently began shipping the BCF-series family of GaAs metal–semiconductor field effect transistor (MESFET) chips. According a press release, the family “addresses the need for low phase noise with high gain and power in applications such as single and multistage amplifiers, oscillators, synthesizers, etc. ranging in frequency from DC to 26.5 GHz.”

You can use the MESFET chips for both broadband and narrow-band applications from DC to 26.5 GHz. A typical application requires a high level of Output Third-Order Intercept Point (OIP3) linearity and a low phase noise that cannot be easily achieved with other technologies, BeRex announced.

Seven devices comprise tje BCF-series family. Each device is built utilizing a 0.25-µm gate length and with a gate width of 200, 300, 400, 600, 800, 1,200, or 2,400 µm, depending on gain and power requirements (up to 1 W for the largest 2,400-µm device).

[via BeRex]

Teaching Photonics with Lego Bricks

To inspire children to get involved in science you need low-cost, open-source, learning-by-doing projects with a high cool factor. A Lego-based Michelson Interferometer developed by the University of Osnabrück is all that. Professor Mirco Imlau presented their project at the open hardware fest EHSM.

Source: EHSM

Source: EHSM

The second edition of the Exceptionally Hard and Software Meeting (EHSM) took place in Hamburg June 27-29. True to its tagline “pushing the frontiers of open source & DIY,” the meeting drew a crowd of people doing remarkable things in the field of open science and open soft and hardware. Subjects ranged from learning how to make synthetic diamonds which are used in experiments for quantum computing, the presentation of the first mostly open source hardware camera and an introduction to a DIY device to produce printed circuit boards.

One of the speakers was Mirco Imlau who heads the Ultrafast Physics Research Group at University of Osnabrück. Imlau explained he is looking for ways to playfully teach kids about photonics so that by the time they’ll join his classes they already have internalized knowledge about the field.

Imlau and his collegues did some serious research about what a project needs to appeal to kids and came up with a set of basic rules. Children aren’t the most affluent of citizens so the project needs to be low-cost. The required components for photonic experimenting also need to be easily available. That’s why the team turned to Lego. A third important factor is appeal and lastly the project needs to based on the principles of open hardware. That means a rich environment of instruction manuals and video’s, platforms to exchange ideas and the possibility to look under the hood. All that is available at the MyPhotonics website.

Combining all these principles the team developed a project for kids to build a historic optical experimentation device: the Michelson Interferometer. A tool to measure the qualities of optical beams. Imlau pointed out that another important aspect between failure and success is that the project once constructed should function properly. So for instance, the Lego mirror mount has the same functionalities as its professional counterpart, like 2-axis adjustment and reflection suppression. The result is a fully functional Lego-based Michelson Interferometer with a price tag of approximately $194 (€142) against approximately $3900 (€2,870) should professional components be used.—Tessel Renzenbrink, TechTheFuture.com

[via TechTheFuture.com]

TechTheFuture.com is Elektor International Media publication.