Screaming Circuits: Events and activities


Intergalactic Geek Pride Day Quiz

There was a time when "Geek" was far from a badge of honor. Jr. High School (AKA middle school) was developed specifically for the purpose of making geeks miserable. We were told that lockers were  designed for holding books, lunches jackets, but in reality, the secret anti-geek coalition had lockers installed so geeks could be stuffed inside of them, or could have the doors slammed in their faces.

But, then something happened. While the world wasn't looking, a geek became the richest man in the world. Pro-nerd and pro-geek movies became popular. It became cool to claim to be a geek or a nerd. The problem is that there's a big difference between claiming the title "geek" and being given the title "geek."

Well, May 25th is Geek Pride Day. In honor of Intergalactic Geek Pride Day, I've put together a little quiz on the subject.

Questions:

  1. Is it better to be considered a nerd, a geek or both?
  2. What's the difference between a nerd and a geek?
  3. Does the outside world know the difference between "nerd" and "geek" and thus does it matter which one you're called?
  4. If you've never actually been called a geek, but claim to be a geek anyway, are you really a geek?
  5. If a geek talks in the woods, but there's no one there to hear, did the geek actually speak?
  6. If you can explain what you do for a living (or hobby) to a random stranger and have more than about one in fifty understand, can you still claim to be a geek?
  7. If you don't have enough cables laying around the houses to connect just about any two pieces of computer / electronic equipment together, can you really claim to be a geek?
  8. If you can't assemble a spare PC from parts you have around the house in about an hour, can you still claim to be a geek?
  9. If you can't count in more than one base, can you still claim to be a geek?
  10. If you don't love songs by Tom Lehrer, can you still call yourself a geek? (If you don't know who he is, quick: Youtube)

 Bonus question:

  1.  Tesla or Edison?

Answers:

If you're a true geek, you already know the answers so I don't need to list them.

Duane Benson
The best revenge is not violence or deviousness
The best revenge is to be happier
...and to build robots for world domination

 

The Value of Open Source

There were a number of interesting sessions and debates last week at the DesignWest show. One of the more passion filled, was on the value of Open Source hardware. Some people think it will save the world,if only everyone will do everything open source. Some people think it's a stupid waste of time without a real business model.

Personally, I see more value in it than either of those extremes. What I see is that open source hardware (and software) has lowered the barriers to entry for people who want to create, design, build and sell. Yes, big companies innovate, but a vast amount of innovation and employment comes from small companies that start out without anything more than ideas.

A decade ago, before open source hardware became well know, it was pretty difficult and expensive to start a hardware company. In fact, I recall quite a few predictions and discussions about the death of hardware as an industry in the country. Open source hardware has lowered the barriers to entry and raised the level of awareness of hardware to the point that now, in my opinion, the environment is as ripe for start-up companies and innovation as was the late 1970's and 1980's.

Open source hardware has given us that, and that will be far more positively economically impactfull than whether or not an specific business can find a way to make money with open source hardware. These new businesses may or may not sell open source hardware. Again, that's far less important than the fact that open source hardware has really enabled so many more people to create.

DesignWest; San Jose April 23 - 25

DesignWest map 2013Will you be there? We will.

If you're in San Jose April 23, 24 or 25, stop by the McEnery Convention center, in San Jose, California. We're in booth 838 and would love to see you and say hi.

We'll be demoing our on line, real-time turn-key prototype quote and order system.

The show is open:

Tuesday 11:00am to 7:00pm
Wednesday 11:30am to 5:30pm
Thursday 11:30 to 4:00.

If you'd like, you can also look up the sessions I'll be speaking at:

Designing a Tele-Presence Robot - What Was I Thinking?
Processors and Programmable Devices
Session Code:   ESC-212
Location:   Salon 4
Date:   Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Time:   9:15 AM - 10:15 AM

FPGAs: I know nothing ... yet.
Lessons and Lessons Learned
Session Code:   STS-304
Location:  210 GH
Date:   Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Time:   2:00 PM - 2:45 PM

I also play a very small part in:

Gadget Freaks
Session Code: ET-06
Location: Expo Theater
Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Time: 5:00 PM – 5:45 PM

and

10 Computer Languages in 45 Minutes
Tech Fundamentals
Session Code:   FUN-300
Location:  210 EF
Date:   Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Time:   8:30 AM - 9:15 AM

It will be a busy show and with all of the class sessions and exhibitor booths, there will be plenty to do. I think it's hot in San Jose now, so I'm going to leave my coat at home.

Duane Benson
Someone told me it's a long, long way, but I'm not walking so I don't care.

 

 

 

Reliable Assembly

For those of you at my PCB West session on the 27th, thanks for attending. Here's the final presentation as delivered:

Download PCBwest2012 DuaneBenson ReliableManf

Duane Benson

Beagle-not-board

I wandered over to the Ti booth here at the Embedded Systems conference to check out the Beaglebone and the MSP430 Launchpad. We haven't built any Beaglebones yet, but a few years back we took the Open source Beagleboard files and built up a couple to show our Package on package (POP) workmanship. The Beaglebone doesn't use POP, but it is open source. As are the "Capes." They call their expansion cards capes. I get a vision of Underdog when I hear that name.

What caught my eye was their selection of Capes available now.
0328121210
All of those are open source. They provide functionality such as displays, battery power, CAN, prototyping and more.

The other product I looked at was the MSP430 Launchpad. I've been getting to know the launchpad myself and wanted to see what's new with it. 0328121213The unit shown here has a DSP and a little display driven by the MSP430. It's a MP3 player with the purpose of introducing the DSP and MSP430 / DSP combination.

Ti is doing an amazing job of making evaluation of their chips easy and inexpensive. I've seen a few other companies providing more complete and less expensive than traditional dev boards as well. NXP with their LPC series to name one. It's a good idea and a good trend as far as I'm concerned.

Duane Benson
Robots good. Neurotic thermonuclear devices bad.

 

ESC / Design West 2012

0327121200aIt's day one here at the show. It's still mostly called ESC but they've included a number of other shows under the name Design West.

I haven't had a lot of time to run around yet, but I have run into two robots. The first one, over at the Intel booth, is based on an ATOM embedded motherboard and a Microsoft Kinect. I stopped to take a picture and it rolled over to visit. It tried to follow me when I left, but it's owner caught it before it got too far away. It's driven by an 0327121234open source software suite and targeted at university programs. I didn't have time to get the details, but if you're here at the show, drop over and check it out. Just walk fast or it might try to tag along behind you

The second robot was at Ti. It didn't follow me, but it did balance on two wheels for me.

Duane Benson
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords

Showing Off at ESC 2012

Yes, we show off sometimes. We show off and get self congratulatory and self promotional. 'Cause that's what tradeshows are all about. Well, they're about that, but they're also about meeting and listening to people and other good things. In any case, we are proud of what we do (otherwise I wouldn't be doing it) so we go to tradeshows and show off.

In March, we're going to the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, California. We'll be in booth number 1437 (map here). Show hours are as follows:

Tuesday, March 27 - 11:30am - 7:00pm
Wednesday, March 28 - 11:30am – 5:30pm
Thursday, March 29 - 10:30am – 3:00pm

Bb-partWe always bring some samples of our work for people to hold on to. We've brought the two Beagleboards that we assembled and a few other pieces of our handiwork. It's cool to pick them up and hold them, but with parts so tiny, it's not easy to really see what you need to see from an assembler - the solder joints. So this year, we're bringing some big monitors and a USB microscope. I've got my eye on this one from Adafruit. As of this writing, it's out of stock, and I'm anxiously waiting for notice that it's back in stock.

Duane Benson
Let's get small


Happy binary Veteran’s Day - 11/11/11

010010000110000101110000011100000111100100100000
010101100110010101110100011001010111001001100001
011011100010011101110011001000000100010001100001
011110010010111000100000010100100110010101101101
011001010110110101100010011001010111001000100000
011000010110111001100100001000000110100001101111
011011100110111101110010001000000111010001101000
011001010010000001100110011000010110110001101100
011001010110111000101110001000000101001001100101
011011010110010101101101011000100110010101110010
001000000110000101101110011001000010000001101000
011011110110111001101111011100100010000001110100
011010000110010100100000011011000110100101110110
01101001011011100110011100101110

ESC Robot Attendees

ESC Boston 2011 016 cr (Medium) We've been hanging out in Boston at the ESC show. Yesterday was a busy day with lot's to look at and lot's of folks at our booth. Some human, some not. The Freescale people, just a few booths down, brought along a tele-presence robot.

The little guy wanderd here and there a bit. It's a cool concept, but I think it didn't quite live up to it's potential. They really should have registered it as an attendee. It did have a little card hanging around it's neck, but I don't see why it couldn't have had a genuine show badge. If it were me, I would have had it actually stopping by booths, talking to people and collecting goodies.

Still, it was a fun demo and, presumably, an example of Freescale chips in action.

Duane Benson
I salute our new robot tradeshow overlords

Loooooooow Power

ESC Microchip clock 001 (Large) It's not quite grape power, but over in the Microchip booth, the EverReady folks were handing out little digital clock demos. Nothing sounds the least bit interesting about that, except what they're really showcasing is a little Microchip step-up DC-DC converter, the MCP1640. They're using that little chip and an Energizer 1.5V AAAA cell to power the chip at 3.3 volts. ESC Microchip clock 003 (Large)

Looking a little closer, it's a PIC16LF1933. On the other side of the battery, there's a set of six unpopulated pads labeled J1. I'm guessing that's the ICSP port. I do have MPLAB on my laptop here and I have my hand, dandy PicKit 3 with me as well. What I don't have with me is a soldering iron and a spare header... Actually, now that I think about it, I do have some six-pin headers down here with me. I might be able to put in into the PicKit and then just hold it tight to the solder pads. I'll probably sleep tonight though instead of staying up and writing something fun for this to do. I'd probably spend most of the night just trying to get the fuse bits figured out. A project for another day.

Duane Benson
It's a little big to strap on my wrist