Screaming Circuits: Events and activities

SMTA Conference


Hey there -

Next week, if you happen to be down in San Diego, I'll be talking at the SMTA conference. I speak on October 7, at 3:30. I'm in session EMS2, in Royal Palms 1-2. My talk is called "Strengthening Your Downsized Design Teams Through a Strong Prototype Partner"

Duane Benson
It's a long, long way to San Jose
And even further to San Diego

Over, But Not Out

Well, not out yet. I hope I'll be out when I take to the skies soon. Out sleeping anyway. Not out on the wing. Brrrr. I am out of Empty airportthe show and occupying space in a mostly empty airport terminal. I left the floor just a little early to catch a flight home tonight and I still have about an hour before boarding.

I didn't get to explore much of the show this time. In fact, I barely got out of my booth. I guess that's a good thing. I did get to talk to quite a few folks, including a number of people from colleges and Universities.

Some of these chats were actually a little disturbing. In almost all cases, the students and professors said pretty much the same thing: They limit most of their design education to components that can be hand-soldered. While I do understand the economics, that theme gives me a lot of concern. So many of the new chip designs are being produced only in super-small packages. Who's going to create new advanced designs if our students are being taught in thru-hole and old, large smt? It sounds like they're getting prepared to take design jobs in 1984.

It's not always possible to learn on a thru-hole version and then later in professional life, just move to the tiny parts. Many of the new chips don't have thru-hole versions. And with the small parts, there's a whole slew of things that need to be considered that just might not matter with big parts - paste stencil patterns, via-in-pad, escape routing, cap and inductor proximity, and on and on.

I'm not sure what the solution is. We'll have to ponder on it for a bit, but it seems like a pretty important problem to knock off.

Duane Benson
We don't need no thought control, but we might need some frequency-drift control

Grape Power from Ti

Here at the show, we ended up next to Texas Instruments and I spent some time talking with Adrian, their Product Marketing Engineer for the MSP430 ultra low-power MCU. He brought over one of his demo boards which has to be just about the coolest thing I've seen at the show.

MPS430 grape power 002sm

Plenty of things need low power and there are lots of little 8-bit processors that use flea power, but his MSP430 is a 16-bit processor that runs so efficiently that he's powering it with three grapes. He stuck copper and zinc electrodes into grapes - I think they're seedless - and is running it as a clock (as in tells time type clock).

In the picture, here, it's setting next to a Beagleboard powered by it's uncle, the OMAP3530. We built this particular Beagleboard, but we didn't build the grape clock. Pretty clever stuff.

Duane Benson
I wonder if the grapes still taste okay after all the electrons switch sides like that...

H1N1 in Microcode

Booth 909 003

It's opening day here at the Embedded Systems Conference, Boston, 2009. For those of you that stop by our booth, we have a number of things to offer:

You can learn about our pcb assembly services, you can enter to win up to $2000.00 in assembly labor with us and you can spread the swine flu if you've got it. Well, hopefully not that last one. We're keeping our handy-dandy bottle of hand sanitizer close by. It's 62% ethyl alcohol and maybe 38% generic goo and bubbles. I'm hoping that will do the trick. We smeared it all over our ethernet cables to keep the viruses out of our computers and beagleboards. My laptop is using wireless, so I should probably sploit a bunch on it too.

We'll be giving away the assembly labor to one person that registers each day. (two total prizes and we'll notify the winners after the show).

Duane Benson
Stop by and say hi. Or walk by and start to cry.


At the ESC Show

From the ESC show floor...

Booth 909 (Small)

Actually, set up is done already. It went pretty quick this year which makes me question my sanity in choosing to leave Portland late Sunday night on the overnight flight. Still, I'm paranoid that if I did get here at 4:00, I'd hit a traffic a jam, the booth parts would be lost in the warehouse void and my hotel room would have been given to someone else.

Duane Benson
Now I need sleep...

ESC Booth 909

Hi all - especially all of you in the Northeast. Just a reminder that we're in booth 909 at the Embedded Systems Conference next week. Stop by and see the workmanship on the Beagleboards that we built and chat about what we can do to help you with your prototype and short-run production needs. We'll also have a representative from our Design Engineering Group on hand in case you need design help.

Enter to win one of our daily contests - each day we're giving away Up to $2000.00 in assembly labor. All you have to do is stop by our booth and let us zap your card. As long as you don't have a mini Faraday cage around it, that should enter you into the contest. We'll notify the winners by email and announce them here on the blog after I get back to the West Coast.

BB we built powered on cropped I'm not a Linux expert - my embedded programming is pretty much limited to 8-bit micro programming - so we don't have anything cool running on the Beagleboard we built. I did manage to get a distro up and running but all it will do is just show you that it works. I'm using the Angstrom image that the Beagleboard folks have for download. I had purchased an already set up SD card with Angstrom on it, but I messed up the boot parameters or something trying to get WiFi working and couldn't make that SD card boot anymore. I thought it would be cool to show the Screaming Circuits website on the Beagleboard, but I gave up on WiFi after that. The hardware works. That's what counts. Right?

We'll also have one to hand around and look at so you can examine our package on package and .4mm pitch BGA workmanship up close and personal.

See you all (well, some of you) there on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Duane Benson
Can someone bring me a Brat from Jacob Wirth?
My dad says they're really good and I won't have a chance to go there

ESC Show is Near

The Embedded Systems Conference is almost here again. We'll be in booth 909 next Tuesday and ESC_Boston 08 Wednesday. Drop by and say "hi." See what we're up to and enter to try and win our contest. You can also take a look at the Beagleboards we've built and talk about how we might be able to help you out with your prototypes or small-lot production runs. 

And, just what is that contest, you might ask? Why, it's a chance to win up to $2,000 in assembly labor from us. At the end of each day of the show, we'll pick someone at random from our lead file and award them the prize. All you have to do is stop by our booth and have us scan your card. Then, if you are chosen to be the winner, you can use that $2,000 of assembly labor to have us build some stuff for you this year.

We'll also have someone in our booth this year to talk about our engineering design services. We've been introducing engineering design services, such as layout, under the Screaming Circuits brand this year. Our parent company, Milwaukee Electronics Companies, has been offering custom design services for many years and will have a representative in the booth to chat with any of you that might need some help with your design load.

The clock is ticking. We'll see you at the show!

Duane Benson

Beavers and Ducks at ESC last week

Up in Oregon, we have our rivalry between the OSU Beavers and the U of O Ducks. Everybody's got some kind of rivalry and most of the times you exhibit at a trade show, you'll end up with some competition around. This one takes it to the extreme though. Microchip and Atmel are of course as rival as rivals get. In the microcontroller community, the M vs A discussion is full of passion and absolutes. It's like AMD vs. Intel or Mac vs. PC.

At this year's ESC show last week, the two companies are right across the aisle from eachESC 0409 MicroAt 002 (Medium) other and ESC 0409 MicroAt 001 (Medium) seemed to be having some "fun" with it. Atmel has a poster quoting the Microchip CEO complimenting Atmel. Microchip has a big poster quoting a survey the shows declining favor for Atmel. Goofy.

Personally, I suspect that they both make great products, but it would help if there was actually some way to tell which is best for what without getting into a pseudo religious argument. I've asked that questions before of folks that use one or the other, but I haven't ever run across anyone that uses both and can give me a fair and un-biased overview of where the strengths and weaknesses are of either company's parts. Anyone that uses both want to chime in with some plain and dry toast, I mean plain and dry thoughts?

ESC 0409 MicroAt 003 (Medium)

Duane Benson
Two chips, no salsa

Sore Feet at ESC

I finally got a little time to walk part of the show. The only thing that caught my eye so far is the FreeScale air hockey robot. Supposedly, no one has managed to get a puck in past the robot. They didn't say if the robot has managed any goals thought. That would be a lot more impressive.

Pretty cool, none the less.

Duane Benson

ESC Rolling, Rolling

We're up and running here at ESC in San Jose. I haven't had a chance to walk the floor yet to see if there's anything interesting. We've been too busy. If you're around, stop in and say "hi". We'll give you a show discount code and a cool pen.

ESC 0409 004 (Medium) 

Duane Benson