Key CAD Developer Interviews

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(OK, I say tomatoe; my wife says tomahto.  But out of respect, we don’t say we use Lienix, or Pythone, right? Although it took from  1991 to the late 90s, we did eventually stop saying Lienix, Leenix and Linooks.)

Chris Gammell, the expert interviewer half of The Amp Hour and long time KiCad supporter, organized a fantastic first KiCon conference in Chicago. Chris conducted some execellent interviews, including one of some of the KiCad developers, including project lead Wayne Stambaugh.  Wayne is now employed full time to develop KiCad, a new milestone for this tool that seems to be on track to become the gcc of PCB CAD in coming years.

 

April 8th Meeting: Hitchhikers Guide to LoRaWAN! by Charles Lord

LoRaWAN™ – a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery-operated Things in a regional, national or global network. Join us as Charles Lord reviews the elements of LoRa and LoRaWAN, the advantages (and disadvantages) of this protocol, and the tools we need to develop IoT solutions that use LoRa – including building your own LoRaWAN hub. Charles will do a demo and show some examples of ways to build your own LoRa network for fun or commercial use. We will also look at how we can build our own LoRaWAN gateway using an inexpensive kit for both development and for deployment where a local LoRa provider doesn’t exist – and how to interface where we do have providers – like in the Triangle!

Charles J. Lord, PE is an embedded systems consultant and trainer with over 40 years’ experience in system design and development in medical, military, and industrial applications. For the last twelve years, he has specialized in the integration of communication protocols into clients’ products, including USB, Ethernet, and low-power wireless including ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, LoRa, and Thread.

Meeting Details here.

Image from Cisco’s LoRaWAN datasheet.

February 11th Meeting: Microbe-powered Remote Sensing

 

The presentation slides are now in the meeting archive here.

Many different kinds of microbial metabolic processes  generate free electrons that can be harvested, either to enhance activities like water treatment or hydrogen production or to be a source of electrical energy.

Join us at the next TriEmbed meeting to find out how simple-to-make microbial fuel cells can be used to power embedded systems for truly remote sensor applications.

As well as seeing the presentation, you’ll be invited to join in a brainstorming session to invent and explore different solutions to a practical problem involved with a specific project.  There will also be a raffle for IOT and other gadgets and gizmos and embedded development supplies from the giveaway box.  The last part of the meeting will be devoted to show and tell and general discussion.

Meeting details are here.

NCSU and area CE/tech-interested students: This is for you!

Owl that judges emotions via Google AI
Robotic owl that judges emotions via Google AI

In a recent edition of the Embedded FM podcast, you can listen to ideas for projects from a fire hose. This is a concentrated and amplified version of the sort of ideas regularly floated, discussed, and demonstrated every second Monday night in one of the NCSU engineering buildings during monthly Triangle Embedded Interest Group (TriEmbed) meetings.

If you’re a student hoping to find a killer internship or permanent job doing embedded development this summer, check out TriEmbed. Details are under the Meetings dropdown menu above.

We look forward to seeing and getting to know you there.

 

Shop Talk

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I’ve been listening to The Amp Hour podcast for some time and want to point out one episode that was particularly pleasant to listen to.  This is episode #412 titled “3 Cent Micros and 1000s of LEDs”. It’s Dave Jones of EEVBlog and Mike Harrison of Mike’s Electric Stuff talking shop, sharing interesting news items, and just yacking about a very wide variety of topics. I found it just the thing while standing in line to vote, rummaging through my old ham radio gear hoping my LMR400 cable was still there (wasn’t) and struggling with the failing Digikey web site (first time every: could not do a parametric search for a SMD cap without getting a weird “page not found” web server error).  Dave is free and easy this time around and the only problem folks will have is that when a Brit and an Aussie talk rapidly American ears can struggle to recognize all the words in real time, so have your “replay the last 10 seconds” button ready. Still, well worth it, and good on you Dave, for an excellent interview!

Arrows for your Quiver

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Two events reminded me recently that you can’t have too many choices for solving a sourcing problem.

A client and I had finished a simple PCB design, got it off to OSH Park and OSH Stencils, and turned attention to the BOM. All passives but one: in my shop already, so check. The remaining one and some connectors: Digikey has them, so check mark. The central IC that is the point of the board:  Digikey, zero. Mouser, zero. Other suppliers we’d heard of, zero. Anyplace in the USA, zero. China, only on breakouts. Ouch.  Europe: “Rutronik”. Who? After a day of thrashing I noticed this is the chip manufacturer’s favorite distributor in Europe, and I should be able to trust them. I had to establish a business account but all was well until we got to shipping: Big ouch. And this huge minimum shipping wasn’t for  Startrek teleportation beaming from their warehouse to my bench, as the fee implied. They predicted 72 hours, but later we found that was if you’re in the EU. Oh, right. When it wasn’t at my door in 72 hours I dug up an Excel spreadsheet  via a well disguised link on my account page and on one row was a red “warning dot”. More digging and I decoded this warning to translate to English as ” six days estimated delivery from order date”. But the chips should be here in time for the reflow oven and all is well even if the client’s wallet is thinner than desired.

Just days later another client and I were deciding what parts of a new board really needed breadboarding to give us confidence in a major respin and this forced an immediate order of a few piddly parts (note to self: as soon as the part is on the short list for a design, order three of them.) I was inhaling to commiserate about shipping when the client reminded me that Arrow isn’t charging anything for shipping. Period. Zero, no matter what size the order is. I  was startled, as this has been going on for months and I just assumed it was a one shot, short time thing and had let it fade from my memory. Instead I was able to throw the part number and quantity  for a special FET I want to try out into the client’s order, smiling at the idea and my share of the shipping will be zero. Nice.

Meanwhile, the US rep for the big Euro distributor contacted me and we’ve agreed I will call her before risking another big wad on shipping that isn’t even fast in relation to the cost.

So, one arrow moved to the front of the quiver and a new one added for Euro parts that the US hasn’t discovered or that got too popular for supply here to keep up with.