About Circuit Cellar Staff

Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at editorial@circuitcellar.com, @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar

WIZnet Design Challenge Deadline August 3 (Sponsored Post)

The WIZnet Connect the Magic Challenge deadline is fast approaching — ​August​ 3, 2014! This is your shot to win a share of $15,000 in prizes and gain international recognition as innovator!  We encourage you to finish up your Entry and submit!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Essential info follows:

  • ENTRY TIPS: Participating is simple. Go to the TIPS page
  • ENTER: To Enter, simply upload your Entry via ENTRY DROPBOX
  • PRICES: Check out the great PRIZES

If you already submitted an Entry but want to update something, you must do so before the deadline.

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

Didn’t finish your project? Consider this!

If the deadline approaches and your entry is not complete, we still encourage you to submit your project. 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/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!

Challenge Administrator: Elektor International Media

Sponsor: WIZnet

New Raspberry Pi Model B+

The Raspberry Pi foundation announced what it calls “an evolution” of the Raspberry Pi SBC. Compared to the previous model, the new Raspberry Pi Model B+ has more GPIO, and more USB ports. In addition, it uses Micro SD memory cards and improved power consumption.

Source: Raspberry Pi Foundation

Source: Raspberry Pi Foundation

 

The GPIO header is now 40 pins, with the same pinout for the first 26 pins as the Model B. The B+ also has four USB 2.0 ports (compared to two on the Model B) and better hotplug and overcurrent behavior. In place of the old friction-fit SD card socket is a better push-push micro SD version.

In line with today’s electronic concepts, the new board also lowers power consumption. By replacing linear regulators with switching ones, the power requirements are reduced by between 0.5 W and 1 W. The audio circuit incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply, enabling better audio applications.

The new board is well organized. The USB connectors are aligned with the board edge, and the composite video now has a 3.5-mm jack. The corners are rounded with four squarely placed mounting holes.

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ uses the same BCM2835 application processor as the Model B. It runs the same software and still has 512-MB RAM.

If you want to adapt a current project to the new platform, be sure to study the new GPIO pins and mechanical specs. To ensure continuity of supply for industrial customers, the Model B will be kept in production for as long as there’s demand for it.

At $35, the new model B+ is the same price as the older model B and is already available from Farnell/element14/Newark and RS/Allied Components.

[Source: www.raspberrypi.org]

Birmingham-Based Electronics Design Nook

Steve Karg of Birmingham, AL, recently submitted info about his well-planned, cost-conscious design nook where he builds lighting control products, develops software, tests and debugs his projects, and more. The workspace is compact yet intelligently stocked with essentials such as a laptop, a scope, a toaster, a magnifier, a labelled parts bin, an AC source, and more.

Karg writes:

Here is a photo of my electronics workspace in my cellar. I use the toaster oven for soldering surface mount parts to printed circuit boards, the scope and meters for the usual diagnostics and validation, the AC source for developing line voltage dimming and switching lighting control products, the laptop for developing software including the open source BACnet Stack and Wireshark, and the light tent for deriving dimming curves for various lamps.  I bought the chairs and lab bench at a Martin-Marietta yard sale in Colorado, and they moved 3 times with me to Pennsylvania, Georgia, and now Alabama. I found the Metcal soldering iron in a dumpster in Maryland near an office building.—Steve Karg, Birmingham, AL

Steve Karg’s circut cellar in Birmingham, AL

In addition to placing his essential tools within reach, Karg did a few things we think every designer should consider when planning his or her workspace.

One, Karg neatly labelled the parts box located on the right side of the shelf above his workbench. Label now and you’ll thank yourself later.

Two, Karg has deep, sturdy, wall-mounted shelves above his workbench. As you can see, they’re capable of holding fairly large bins and boxes. They aren’t flimsy 8″ deep shelves intended for displaying lightweight curios or paperback books. If you’re planning a workspace, consider following Karg’s lead by installing sturdy shelving capable of holding everything from electronic equipment to every copy of Circuit Cellar since 1988.

Three, we applaud Karg’s magnification and lighting equipment. A cellar can be dark place, especially if it is completely underground and isn’t a “walkout” (or “daylight basement”) with a windowed door. Many basements have only a few small hopper windows that enable daylight and fresh air to get inside. In such spaces, darkness and shadows can be problematic for electrical engineers and electronics DIYers working on small projects. Without a properly placed light or lighting system, your body can overshadow your work. Good luck trying taking a close look at a board or attempting to repair a PCB trace without proper lighting. It’s clear Karg has proper lighting in mind. As you can see, he has plenty of lamps and light sources at his disposal.

And finally, kudos to Karg for purchasing the bench at a yard sale and staying with the discarded soldering iron he found in a dumpster. We all know the saying: “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We agree, except when what’s broke is mounted on your circuit board, of course!

Do you want to share images of your workspace, hackspace, or “circuit cellar” with the world? Click here to email us your images and workspace info.

USB-230 Series: New Low-Cost 16-Bit DAQ

Measurement Computing Corporation recently announced the release of two, 16-bit, multifunction USB DAQ devices with sample rates up to 100 ksps.

Source: Measurement Computing

Source: Measurement Computing

The USB-230 Series are the lowest priced 16-bit multifunction USB devices available from MCC. They feature eight single-ended/four differential analog inputs, eight digital I/O, one counter input, and two, 16-bit analog outputs. Removable screw-terminal connectors make signal connections easy.

The USB-231 costs $249 and has a 50 ksps sample rate.  The USB-234 offers a 100 ksps sample rate and is available for $424.

Included software options for the USB-230 Series include out-of-the-box TracerDAQ for quick-and-easy logging and displaying of data, along with comprehensive support for C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, and Visual Basic .NET. Drivers are also included for DASYLab and NI LabVIEW.

Source: Measurement Computing

SDK for OpenCL Dev Flow

Altera Corp. has simplified a programmer’s ability to accelerate algorithms in FPGAs. The Altera SDK for OpenCL version 14.0 includes a programmer-familiar rapid prototyping design flow that enables users to prototype designs in minutes on an FPGA accelerator board. Altera, along with its board partners, further accelerate the development of FPGA-based applications by offering reference designs, reference platforms and FPGA development boards that are supported by Altera’s OpenCL solution. These reference platforms also streamline the development of custom FPGA accelerators to meet specific application requirements.

Altera is the only company to offer a publicly available, OpenCL conformant software development kit (SDK). The solution allows programmers to develop algorithms with the C-based OpenCL language and harness the performance and power efficiencies of FPGAs. A rapid prototyping design flow included in the Altera SDK for OpenCL version 14.0 allows OpenCL kernel code to be emulated, debugged, optimized, profiled and re-compiled to a hardware implementation in minutes. The re-compiled kernels can be tested and run on an FPGA immediately, saving programmers weeks of development time.

Altera and its board partners further simplify the experience of getting applications up and running using FPGA accelerators by offering a broad selection of Altera-developed reference platforms, reference designs and FPGA accelerator boards. Altera provides a variety of design examples that demonstrate how to describe applications in OpenCL, including OPRA FAST Parser for finance applications, JPEG decoder for big data applications and video downscaling for video applications.

Design teams that want to create custom solutions that feature a unique set of peripherals can create their own custom FPGA accelerators and save significant development time by using Altera-developed reference platforms. The reference platforms include an SoC platform for embedded applications, a high-performance computing (HPC) platform and a low-latency network enabled platform which utilizes IO Channels.

One notable enhancement is production support for I/O Channels that allow streaming data into and out of the FPGA as well as kernel channels allowing the result reuse from one kernel to another in a hardware pipeline for significantly higher performance and throughput with little to no host and memory interaction. Another enhancement is production support for single-chip SoC solutions (Cyclone V SoC and Arria V SoC), where the host is an embedded ARM core processor integrated in the FPGA accelerator.

Altera’s SDK for OpenCL allows programmers to take OpenCL code and rapidly exploit the massively parallel architecture of an FPGA. Programmers targeting FPGAs achieve higher performance at significantly lower power compared to alternative hardware architectures, such as GPUs and CPUs. On average, FPGAs deliver higher performance at one-fifth the power of a GPU. Altera’s OpenCL solutions are supported by third-party boards through the Altera Preferred Board Partner Program for OpenCL. Visit www.altera.com/opencl.

The Altera SDK for OpenCL is currently available for download on Altera’s website (www.altera.com/products/software/opencl/opencl-index.html). The annual software subscription for the SDK for OpenCL is $995 for a node-locked PC license. For additional information about the Altera Preferred Board Partner Program for OpenCL and its partner members, or to see a list of all supported boards and links to purchase, visit the OpenCL section on Altera’s website.

[Source: Altera Corp.]