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Here's a peek under the skin of Koenigsegg's totally batsh*t Jesko – Roadshow April 24, 2019

The all-carbon hypercar has a price tag of almost 3 million bucks, but looking at the details, we wonder if it shouldn’t cost more. Here's a peek under the skin of Koenigsegg's totally batsh*t Jesko – Roadshow Source: CNet

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Scientists give mice infrared vision, turning them into tiny Predators – CNET

[Best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice] “If it sees, we can improve it.” Scientists give mice infrared vision, turning them into tiny Predators – CNET
Source: CNet

Revolut CFO Peter O'Higgins resigns this week in wake of allegations made against Revolut of allowing money laundering, and using dodgy hiring practices (Finextra Research)


Finextra Research:

Revolut CFO Peter O’Higgins resigns this week in wake of allegations made against Revolut of allowing money laundering, and using dodgy hiring practices  —  The CFO of Revolut has resigned as the fintech unicorn makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, with allegations surface over serious lapses …

Revolut CFO Peter O'Higgins resigns this week in wake of allegations made against Revolut of allowing money laundering, and using dodgy hiring practices (Finextra Research)
Source: Tech Meme

Kanye, Walter White sit on Iron Throne in remixed Game of Thrones posters – CNET

Take note HBO. Twitter will choose who sits on the Iron Throne in season 8. Kanye, Walter White sit on Iron Throne in remixed Game of Thrones posters – CNET
Source: CNet

LittlevGL Brings GUI Tools to Micropython

Microcontrollers are wonderfully useful things, but programming them can be a little daunting if you’re used to the simplicity of compiling for regular PCs. Over time though, this has become easier. Communities have strayed away from assembly code and created higher-level languages such as Micropython, to allow these devices to be programmed in a more accessible manner. Unfortunately, Micropython has historically lacked a decent high-level GUI library. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case, with [amirgon] porting LittlevGL to the platform.

Putting a GUI into a project with a screen seems simple, until one actually gets down to brass tacks. A simple button can consist of a background color, text, and a symbol – and that’s not even considering the use of shading or other visual effects. Having a library to handle the grunt work can massively cut down development time.

LittlevGL is programmed in C, but this effort has made it possible to integrate it with Micropython code. It’s all object-oriented, and thus works well in the broader Python framework. [amirgon] notes that it’s particularly good for quick development, due to Python’s ability to run code without a slow compiling step.

There are other approaches to this problem, too – with MyOpenLab being a particularly versatile example.

LittlevGL Brings GUI Tools to Micropython
Source: HackADay

Inside Star Wars land: New food, rides, and gear details revealed – CNET

Disney’s new Star Wars theme park experience will open this year. Here’s what we know. Inside Star Wars land: New food, rides, and gear details revealed – CNET
Source: CNet

Twitter testing feature that will let you hide replies to your tweets – CNET

Feature could improve the health and civility of conversation on the site. Twitter testing feature that will let you hide replies to your tweets – CNET
Source: CNet

LinkedIn suspends emails to connections when a European member has been mentioned in the news, after algorithm mixes up identities (Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)


Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch:

LinkedIn suspends emails to connections when a European member has been mentioned in the news, after algorithm mixes up identities  —  LinkedIn has been forced to ‘pause’ a feature in Europe in which the platform emails members’ connections when they’ve been ‘mentioned in the news’.

LinkedIn suspends emails to connections when a European member has been mentioned in the news, after algorithm mixes up identities (Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Fortnite season 8: Everything you need to know – CNET

Season 8 has just begun, and there have been some big changes to your favorite battle royale island. Fortnite season 8: Everything you need to know – CNET
Source: CNet

Thailand's government passes cybersecurity bill that has been criticized for vagueness and the potential to give the government sweeping access to user data (Jon Russell/TechCrunch)


Jon Russell / TechCrunch:

Thailand’s government passes cybersecurity bill that has been criticized for vagueness and the potential to give the government sweeping access to user data  —  Thailand’s government passed a controversial cybersecurity bill today that has been criticized for vagueness and the potential to enable sweeping access internet user data.

Thailand's government passes cybersecurity bill that has been criticized for vagueness and the potential to give the government sweeping access to user data (Jon Russell/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

MIT's backflipping Mini Cheetah robot is too cute to fear – CNET

The robot apocalypse just got more adorable. MIT's backflipping Mini Cheetah robot is too cute to fear – CNET
Source: CNet

Dell reports Q4 revenue of $23.84B, up 9% YoY, in its first quarter as a newly public company, but a net loss of $287M, up from $133M in 2018 (Robert Hof/SiliconANGLE)


Robert Hof / SiliconANGLE:

Dell reports Q4 revenue of $23.84B, up 9% YoY, in its first quarter as a newly public company, but a net loss of $287M, up from $133M in 2018  —  In its first quarter as a newly public company, Dell Technologies Inc. today reported marginally better-than-expected quarterly revenue growth but a higher-than-expected net loss.

Dell reports Q4 revenue of .84B, up 9% YoY, in its first quarter as a newly public company, but a net loss of 7M, up from 3M in 2018 (Robert Hof/SiliconANGLE)
Source: Tech Meme

Twitter says in the coming months it will test a Hide Tweet feature that allows users to hide replies to their tweets that others can view through a menu option (Sarah Perez/TechCrunch)


Sarah Perez / TechCrunch:

Twitter says in the coming months it will test a Hide Tweet feature that allows users to hide replies to their tweets that others can view through a menu option  —  Twitter has confirmed it’s developing a new “Hide Tweet” option, but has yet to provide detail about its launch plans for the feature.

Twitter says in the coming months it will test a Hide Tweet feature that allows users to hide replies to their tweets that others can view through a menu option (Sarah Perez/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Tesla says it is shifting all sales globally to online, resulting in some store closures and layoffs but allowing vehicle prices to be lowered by ~6% on average (Kirsten Korosec/TechCrunch)


Kirsten Korosec / TechCrunch:

Tesla says it is shifting all sales globally to online, resulting in some store closures and layoffs but allowing vehicle prices to be lowered by ~6% on average  —  Tesla is moving all of its sales online, a dramatic shift in its sales strategy that will result in the closure of stores …

Tesla says it is shifting all sales globally to online, resulting in some store closures and layoffs but allowing vehicle prices to be lowered by ~6% on average (Kirsten Korosec/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

In letter to Sen. Warner, Facebook says teens were ~18% of users of its Research app over its lifetime; Facebook had said publicly that teens were less than 5% (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)


Josh Constine / TechCrunch:

In letter to Sen. Warner, Facebook says teens were ~18% of users of its Research app over its lifetime; Facebook had said publicly that teens were less than 5%  —  Facebook has changed its story after initially trying to downplay how it targeted teens with its Research program …

In letter to Sen. Warner, Facebook says teens were ~18% of users of its Research app over its lifetime; Facebook had said publicly that teens were less than 5% (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

RIAA: US revenue for recorded music grew 12% in 2018 to $9.8B largely due to a 30% surge in streaming revenue; subscriptions to services like Spotify topped 50M (Jem Aswad/Variety)


Jem Aswad / Variety:

RIAA: US revenue for recorded music grew 12% in 2018 to $9.8B largely due to a 30% surge in streaming revenue; subscriptions to services like Spotify topped 50M  —  The U.S. music industry posted its third consecutive year of double-digit growth, according to the RIAA’s year-end revenue report issued today.

RIAA: US revenue for recorded music grew 12% in 2018 to .8B largely due to a 30% surge in streaming revenue; subscriptions to services like Spotify topped 50M (Jem Aswad/Variety)
Source: Tech Meme

Vacuum-Powered Rotary Tool Redux, This Time Machined

We love to see projects revisited, especially when new materials or methods make it worth giving the first design another go around. This twin-turbine vacuum-powered Dremel tool is a perfect example of what better tools can do for a build.

You may recall [JohnnyQ90]’s first attempt at a vacuum powered rotary tool. That incarnation, very similar in design to the current work, was entirely 3D-printed, and caused no little controversy in the comments about the wisdom of spinning anything made on an FDM printer at 43,000 RPM. Despite the naysaying, [Johnny] appears to have survived his own creation. But the turbo-tool did have its limitations, including somewhat anemic torque. This version, machined rather than printed and made almost completely from aluminum, seems to have solved that problem, perhaps thanks to the increased mass of the rotating parts. The twin rotors and the stator were milled with a 5-axis CNC machine, which has been a great addition to [JohnnyQ90]’s shop. The turbine shaft, looking like something from a miniature jet engine, was meticulously balanced using magnets mounted in the headstock and tailstock of a lathe. The video below shows the build and a few tests; we’re not big fans of the ergonomics of holding the tool on the end of that bulky hose, but it sure seems to work well. And that sound!

We first noticed [JohnnyQ90] when he machined aluminum from soda cans to make a mini Tesla turbine. His builds have come a long way since then, and we look forward to what he’ll come up with next.

Vacuum-Powered Rotary Tool Redux, This Time Machined
Source: HackADay

Elon Musk’s long-promised $35,000 Model 3 has finally arrived, Tesla says

Elon Musk’s tweets earlier in the week had sparked an industry-wide guessing game over the electric automaker’s big surprise. Elon Musk’s long-promised ,000 Model 3 has finally arrived, Tesla says
Source: Washington Post Tech

MWC 2019: The 7 most important developments – CNET

A lot happened at Mobile World Congress 2019, but here’s the stuff you actually need to pay attention to. MWC 2019: The 7 most important developments – CNET
Source: CNet

The $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally available to order – Roadshow

Elon Musk’s entry-level Tesla offers an estimated 220 miles of range. The ,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally available to order – Roadshow
Source: CNet

Tesla to close retail stores, only sell cars online – Roadshow

Tesla is shutting down the bulk of its retail operations in favor of moving to an online-only sales methodology. Tesla to close retail stores, only sell cars online – Roadshow
Source: CNet

New York makes its pitch — again — for Amazon's HQ2 – CNET

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local business leaders are asking Amazon to come back. New York makes its pitch — again — for Amazon's HQ2 – CNET
Source: CNet

Cuomo Speaks With Bezos, Furiously Trying to Win Back Amazon

The governor of New York has called Jeff Bezos and other Amazon executives to persuade them to resurrect their plan to build a campus in Long Island City. Cuomo Speaks With Bezos, Furiously Trying to Win Back Amazon
Source: NY Times Tech

Sources: Gov. Cuomo has talked with Amazon execs, including Bezos, to try to lure Amazon back to NYC; a full-page ad coming Friday in the NYT will urge the same (J. David Goodman/New York Times)


J. David Goodman / New York Times:

Sources: Gov. Cuomo has talked with Amazon execs, including Bezos, to try to lure Amazon back to NYC; a full-page ad coming Friday in the NYT will urge the same  —  [What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]  —  Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who was staggered …

Sources: Gov. Cuomo has talked with Amazon execs, including Bezos, to try to lure Amazon back to NYC; a full-page ad coming Friday in the NYT will urge the same (J. David Goodman/New York Times)
Source: Tech Meme

Here’s who has the most juice in Twitter’s AI influencer community


Insight analyst Lizzie Dunmore today published an analysis of Twitter interactions on the topic of AI between the general public, the media, and the 18 most influential AI influencers. Dunmore, who works for Onalytica, looked at a year’s worth of tweets from 3,000 influencers and 1,000 news media outlets to figure out who the most influential AI tweeters tweeting on Twitter ’twere (that’s bad grammar; good poetic license). She also determined what impact their interactions (likes and retweets) had on the top media outlets publishing AI stories. Furthermore, she even revealed whether the media outlets or the individual influencers had…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Twitter

Here’s who has the most juice in Twitter’s AI influencer community
Source: The Next Web

Tesla Offers a $35,000 Model 3, as Elon Musk Long Promised

The lower-priced offering comes as sales appear to slow and follows a reduction in the federal tax credit for the company’s electric vehicles. Tesla Offers a ,000 Model 3, as Elon Musk Long Promised
Source: NY Times Tech

Uber and Lyft Said to Offer Drivers a Chance to Participate in I.P.O.s

The ride-hailing companies intend to set up programs to give cash to some of their drivers, enabling them to buy company stock ahead of an initial public offering. Uber and Lyft Said to Offer Drivers a Chance to Participate in I.P.O.s
Source: NY Times Tech

SpaceX and NASA to Test Launch Crew Dragon, a New Ride to Orbit

No astronauts will be on board for the Saturday launch, but the capsule could carry crew to the space station later in the year. SpaceX and NASA to Test Launch Crew Dragon, a New Ride to Orbit
Source: NY Times Tech

Polestar, Volvo's brand for electric performance cars, unveils Polestar 2, the first car with built-in Android Auto, coming in 2020 (Sean O'Kane/The Verge)


Sean O’Kane / The Verge:

Polestar, Volvo’s brand for electric performance cars, unveils Polestar 2, the first car with built-in Android Auto, coming in 2020  —  Coming in 2020 with 275 miles of range and a native Android infotainment system  —  The first all-electric car from Volvo Cars is here.

Polestar, Volvo's brand for electric performance cars, unveils Polestar 2, the first car with built-in Android Auto, coming in 2020 (Sean O'Kane/The Verge)
Source: Tech Meme

Amazon says it has decided to stop selling Amazon Dash buttons globally, but will continue supporting new orders made through existing Dash buttons (Ben Fox Rubin/CNET)


Ben Fox Rubin / CNET:

Amazon says it has decided to stop selling Amazon Dash buttons globally, but will continue supporting new orders made through existing Dash buttons  —  Amazon has come up with some pretty odd ideas over the years: delivery inside your car, a talking tablet for your kitchen counter …

Amazon says it has decided to stop selling Amazon Dash buttons globally, but will continue supporting new orders made through existing Dash buttons (Ben Fox Rubin/CNET)
Source: Tech Meme

Teardown Of A Luxury Bluetooth Nightlight

If you had asked us yesterday what peak nightlight technology looked like, we might have said one of those LED panels that you stick in the outlet. At least it beats one of those little wimpy light bulbs behind the seashell, anyway. But after looking at a detailed teardown of the “Glow Light” from Casper, we’ve learned a lot about the modern nightlight. Such as the fact that there are adults who not only sleep with nightlights, but are willing to pay $89 USD for one.

But more importantly, as [Tyler Mincey] demonstrates in his excellent look inside one of these high-end nightlights, they are gorgeous pieces of engineering. Even if a nightlight next to the bed has long since gone the way of pajamas with feet on them for you personally, we think you’ll be impressed just how much technology has gone into these softly glowing gadgets.

On the outside they might look like marshmallows, but the insides look far more like what you’d expect from an expensive piece of consumer gear. It’s based on the Nordic nRF52832 Bluetooth SoC which is becoming an increasingly common sight in consumer gadgets, and uses an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to detect when it’s moved or twisted and adjusts the light output accordingly. If you’ve got the disposable income for two of these things, they’ll even synchronize so that twisting one will dim its counterpart.

The teardown that [Tyler] did on the Glow Light is quite frankly one of the best we’ve ever seen, and while it might be a bit light on the gritty technical details, it more than makes up for that with the fantastic pictures that are about as close to actual hardware porn as you can get. The only question we have now is, how long until a hacker replicates this design with a 3D printed enclosure and an ESP?

[Thanks to Adrian for the tip.]

Teardown Of A Luxury Bluetooth Nightlight
Source: HackADay

Huawei pleads not guilty to accusations it stole T-Mobile’s trade secrets

The pleas follow a U.S. campaign to discredit Huawei among European allies. Huawei pleads not guilty to accusations it stole T-Mobile’s trade secrets
Source: Washington Post Tech

US music fans throw more money at vinyl and CDs than iTunes downloads now – CNET

Streaming is king, bringing in 75 percent of the US recording industry’s revenue. US music fans throw more money at vinyl and CDs than iTunes downloads now – CNET
Source: CNet

How to watch SpaceX, NASA launch historic test flight to ISS this weekend – CNET

Witness history in the making as the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission heads to the International Space Station. How to watch SpaceX, NASA launch historic test flight to ISS this weekend – CNET
Source: CNet

Fortnite season 8, week 1 challenges and how to complete them – CNET

Season 8 has finally arrived with new locations on the island and a new set of challenges that takes advantage of them. Fortnite season 8, week 1 challenges and how to complete them – CNET
Source: CNet

Apple patent hints at AR headset that'll work with your iPhone – CNET

The wide-ranging patent application for augmented reality tech hints at a possible headset from the iPhone maker. Apple patent hints at AR headset that'll work with your iPhone – CNET
Source: CNet

'Huawei Beauty': Chinese kids literally sing company's praises in surreal video – CNET

Prepare to have Huawei Beauty stuck in your head. 'Huawei Beauty': Chinese kids literally sing company's praises in surreal video – CNET
Source: CNet

Zach Archer: Live Coding 500 Watts For ToorCamp

ToorCamp is a five-day open air tech camping event held every two years somewhere around the northwest corner of Washington state. Think of it as something like Burning Man, except you can survive for three hours without water, there aren’t a whole bunch of scenesters and Instagram celebs flying in on private planes, and everyone there can actually build something. Oh, and ToorCamp has delivery drones that will send you creme brulee. These mini creme brulees were probably made with the hot air gun hanging off a soldering station. Don’t worry, you’re getting fresh air that’ll balance out the heavy metal poisoning.

For last year’s ToorCamp, the biggest welcome sign was a 40-foot-long illuminated ToorCamp sign. This was designed, built and coded by Zach Archer, and he was at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference to give us the details on how he made it and how it was coded.

Live Coding 500 Watts

Beyond the mechanical problems of manufacturing 8-foot-tall letters, encasing them with plastic, transporting them to an island, running power, and making sure everything is waterproof (ish), there’s the issue of deciding what to put on a 40-foot-wide display. This is hard, because if you have months and months to work on a project, you can come up with some killer animations. Zach did not have months. He had a few weeks, and during that time he had to actually build the sign. The solution? Live coding.

There wasn’t any time between when the people behind ToorCamp gave the okay for a gigantic LED installation and the date of the camp to do a whole lot of coding, but Zach has been working on a framework for live coding LEDs for a while. He’s built an incredible installation at Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle with the same technology in the ToorCamp sign, and even this relatively small installation demonstrates the power of his scripting language. You can get fire effects using RGB LEDs, and if you turn that effect upside down and make it green, you get a Matrix-style screensaver.

To demonstrate this, Zach took to the stage during the Superconference to demonstrate his LED lighting system. This system is set up so that a microcontroller controls the LEDs (so good, so far), and the microcontroller receives commands from a computer. A system like this allows you to change the LEDs on the fly, vastly speeding up the time it takes to design a custom LED animation.

Although Zach wasn’t able to bring one of the gigantic LED letters from ToorCamp, he did pack a smallish LED display made out of WS2812 LEDs. With this setup, he was able to first set all the LEDs to red, then implement a wave pattern in the LEDs with just a few lines of code. All of these functions are just math operating on an array, and with the right code it’s easy to build a Mandelbrot set out of LEDs.

This talk was one of the highlights of the 2018 Hackaday Superconference. You don’t get to see live coding talks pulled off well very often, but this one went off without a hitch. Maybe it’s just our proclivity to blinky bling, but this is one of the best examples of what you can do with the right firmware running on a microcontroller connected to LEDs.

Zach Archer: Live Coding 500 Watts For ToorCamp
Source: HackADay

Facebook says Workplace by Facebook, its Slack rival, now has 2M paid users and is in use at 150 companies with over 10K users each including Walmart and Nestle (Ingrid Lunden/TechCrunch)


Ingrid Lunden / TechCrunch:

Facebook says Workplace by Facebook, its Slack rival, now has 2M paid users and is in use at 150 companies with over 10K users each including Walmart and Nestle  —  With Slack gearing up to go public and now seeing daily active users of 10 million with 85,000 organizations using …

Facebook says Workplace by Facebook, its Slack rival, now has 2M paid users and is in use at 150 companies with over 10K users each including Walmart and Nestle (Ingrid Lunden/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

YouTube to ban comments on most videos featuring minors to combat child exploitation

Google said Thursday that it would block YouTube users from leaving comments on most videos that feature minors, responding to reports that pedophiles had used the site to find, track and exploit children. YouTube to ban comments on most videos featuring minors to combat child exploitation
Source: Washington Post Tech

Experian says it is dropping the planned £275M acquisition of UK-based ClearScore after UK antitrust regulators indicated they might block the deal (Noor Zainab Hussain/Reuters)

Noor Zainab Hussain / Reuters:

Experian says it is dropping the planned £275M acquisition of UK-based ClearScore after UK antitrust regulators indicated they might block the deal  —  (Reuters) – Experian Plc, the world’s biggest credit data firm, said on Wednesday that it had agreed with rival ClearScore to abandon …

Experian says it is dropping the planned £275M acquisition of UK-based ClearScore after UK antitrust regulators indicated they might block the deal (Noor Zainab Hussain/Reuters)
Source: Tech Meme

Reddit is testing tipping users starting with a single user, shittymorph; the user, Reddit, and card processor Stripe receive 78.5%, 18.5%, and 3%, respectively (Amanda Kooser/CNET)


Amanda Kooser / CNET:

Reddit is testing tipping users starting with a single user, shittymorph; the user, Reddit, and card processor Stripe receive 78.5%, 18.5%, and 3%, respectively  —  Enlarge Image  —  Reddit has several ways you can express your appreciation of a good post or comment.

Reddit is testing tipping users starting with a single user, shittymorph; the user, Reddit, and card processor Stripe receive 78.5%, 18.5%, and 3%, respectively (Amanda Kooser/CNET)
Source: Tech Meme

Obsidian Security raises $20M Series B led by Greylock Partners for its AI-powered identity protection platform (Angela Moon/Reuters)

Angela Moon / Reuters:

Obsidian Security raises $20M Series B led by Greylock Partners for its AI-powered identity protection platform  —  NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cybersecurity company Obsidian Security raised $20 million in a funding round participated by Greylock Partners, the company told Reuters on Tuesday, a day ahead of a planned announcement.

Obsidian Security raises M Series B led by Greylock Partners for its AI-powered identity protection platform (Angela Moon/Reuters)
Source: Tech Meme

YouTube says it will disable comments on almost all videos featuring minors, improve classification of comments, and continue to ban harmful accounts (YouTube Creator Blog)


YouTube Creator Blog:

YouTube says it will disable comments on almost all videos featuring minors, improve classification of comments, and continue to ban harmful accounts  —  We know that many of you have been closely following the actions we’re taking to protect young people on YouTube and are as deeply concerned as we are that we get this right.

YouTube says it will disable comments on almost all videos featuring minors, improve classification of comments, and continue to ban harmful accounts (YouTube Creator Blog)
Source: Tech Meme

Filing: Square sold over $166M in bitcoin during 2018, with $52.5M in Q4, generating a net profit of $1.7M for the year (Frank Chaparro/The Block)


Frank Chaparro / The Block:

Filing: Square sold over $166M in bitcoin during 2018, with $52.5M in Q4, generating a net profit of $1.7M for the year  —  Square, the payments unicorn led by bitcoin believer Jack Dorsey, reported earnings for the fourth quarter Wednesday evening that beat analyst estimates but fell short on guidance.

Filing: Square sold over 6M in bitcoin during 2018, with .5M in Q4, generating a net profit of .7M for the year (Frank Chaparro/The Block)
Source: Tech Meme

Sources: Uber is in advanced talks to acquire its Dubai-based rival Careem, valuing the company at $3B, in a deal that could be announced in the coming weeks (Bloomberg)


Bloomberg:

Sources: Uber is in advanced talks to acquire its Dubai-based rival Careem, valuing the company at $3B, in a deal that could be announced in the coming weeks  —  – Dubai-based Careem may be valued at about $3 billion in a sale  — Companies may be ready to announce a deal in the coming weeks

Sources: Uber is in advanced talks to acquire its Dubai-based rival Careem, valuing the company at B, in a deal that could be announced in the coming weeks (Bloomberg)
Source: Tech Meme

Sorry, I’m too busy planning our smart home to help pack


I’m supposed to be packing up all the electronics I “won’t need until after the move.” What does that even mean? I need all of my electronics all of the time. Instead, I’m pretending to write a review of these Aukey smart outlets. I’m really just surfing Amazon and planning out our new smart home. Aukey makes everything from headphones to keyboards. I’ve come to expect a certain level of quality from its products – they usually aren’t the best, but they’re often the best value – and these smart outlets are no exception. They feel well-made, there’s nothing wrong…

This story continues at The Next Web

Sorry, I’m too busy planning our smart home to help pack
Source: The Next Web

The best food processors you can buy today – CNET

From shredded cheese to almond butter, we put these processors through their paces to find the best. The best food processors you can buy today – CNET
Source: CNet

Irish Data Protection Commission report: watchdog received 2,864 complaints in 2018 after May 25, when GDPR came into force, compared to 2,642 for all of 2017 (Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)


Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch:

Irish Data Protection Commission report: watchdog received 2,864 complaints in 2018 after May 25, when GDPR came into force, compared to 2,642 for all of 2017  —  A report by the lead data watchdog for a large number of tech giants operating in Europe shows a significant increase …

Irish Data Protection Commission report: watchdog received 2,864 complaints in 2018 after May 25, when GDPR came into force, compared to 2,642 for all of 2017 (Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Computer Algebra for Electronic Design

Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, there’s nothing I enjoy more than solving a long, involved math problem by hand. But, sometimes, a few pages of algebraic scratches on paper is just a means to an end. I find this especially true during electronic design sessions, be it circuit design or PCB layout; I just need the answer, and any time spent finding it distracts me from the larger task at hand. For me, at least, this seems to happen at least once a week, and about five years ago I decided to do something about it. I had heard of computer algebra packages, of course, but they weren’t taught as part of the undergraduate engineering curriculum when I went to school. So, I set about learning one: let the computers do the math!

The package I chose is wxMaxima, a document-based front-end to the Maxima computer-algebra system. Descended from code originally written in the late 1960s, it’s a general-purpose package supporting symbolic computation for algebra and calculus. There’s solid, mature code underneath with a modern UI veneer on top. Plus, it’s FOSS.

As I’ve progressed, I’ve found that some additional functions make the Maxima environment especially convenient for circuit design. A few are simple enough that I’d typically just re-create them as needed, so I never really got organized – there were several versions of my “library” floating around on various machines. I finally got my act together, cleaned up the most-frequently used functions, and put them into a GitHub repo.

Let’s have a look at how we can use them to take the tedium out of math for some design problems.

Preliminaries

There are few things we need to know about Maxima syntax, which differs from the usual languages you may be more familiar with:

  1. Lines are terminated either with a semicolon, which shows the resulting output, or a dollar sign, which suppresses it.
  2. Variable assignment uses a colon. To set variable “x” to value “3,” we say “x : 3;”.
  3. The equals sign establishes a symbolic equality relationship: “y = 2*x;” defines an equation that can be manipulated symbolically.
  4. If you mix up #2 and #3, you’ll get very confused.

With these in mind, we’re prepared to have a look at some functions from the GitHub code. Three simple functions end up being very useful. The first function, par(), calculates equivalent values for parallel resistors or inductors, or for series capacitors. For example:

The second function, vdiv(r_top, r_bot), calculates a voltage divider ratio for the given resistors. In the first example, a 5 V supply is divided by 400 and 100 ohm resistors to yield a 1 V output, while the second example creates a symbolic expression for the divider formed by r1 and r2.

Finally, the pref(x, E) function finds the closest value to x from the selected EIA “E-series” of preferred values. You can choose any series from {E3, E6, E12, E24, E48, E96, E192} plus the combined series {E48_E24, E96_E24, E192_E24}. For example, we can find the closest 5% and 1% resistors for a value of approximately pi ohms.

Armed with these three functions plus the built-in power of Maxima, we’re ready to tackle some problems.

VGA Output: The New Blinking LED

Since 2019 is destined to be the year that hackers fully embrace the power of FPGAs, it seems only fitting to apply these techniques to a common FPGA example. While the introductory microcontroller project is traditionally the blinking LED, simple VGA output is the first “real” FPGA project for many. To generate the analog signals, a few digital output lines are typically fed into a simple resistor-based DAC per color channel, with sync lines handled by two other outputs.

 

The circuit shown here represents one color channel (say, red), and allows for eight distinct output levels from three bits of input, so the RGB display will be capable of 512 colors. In this case, Vc is the MSB, and Va the LSB. This topology is a simple weighted-resistor DAC, and we choose it over the more common R-2R variety because the latter (pun intended) requires seven resistors instead of four. There are a few things we know right away, namely that our supply voltage is 3.3 V, while the full-scale output (Vmax) for the DAC should be 0.7 V when loaded with the 75-ohm terminator (Rl) inside the monitor (we know this from the VGA spec).

We need to find the values of four resistors (R1 – R4), so we’ll need to come up with four equations to solve. One of them should set the output impedance to 75 ohms to avoid reflections on the cable and the resulting blurriness on the display. From the schematic, we see that the output impedance is simply all the resistors in parallel (imagine Va, Vb, and Vc all connected to ground). So, we define a variable, Zout, using the par() function. Later, we’ll create an equation assigning it the value of 75 ohms. The result we get back shows a nicely formatted version of the formula:

We need three more equations. There are a number of sets that one might choose, but maybe the simplest way is to consider the output voltage when only one of the input lines is in the high state. For instance, when just the MSB is high – the state {Vc=1, Vb=0, Va=0}, or “100” – the resistors form a voltage divider from Vcc with R4 as the top resistor, and all the others in parallel as the bottom resistor. We use the vdiv() and par() functions to define a variable V100 for this state, which we’ll also create a subsequent equation for. The output is a messy expression to us, but Maxima isn’t bothered by it.

Similarly, when only Vb is high (the “010” state), we can define V010 with a similar voltage divider, this time with r3 as the top resistor, and all the others paralleled on the bottom.

Finally, applying the same logic to the “001” state yields an expression for V001.

Now, we can form the four equations and have maxima solve() them. The first equation sets the output impedance to 75 ohms, while the remaining three set the voltage outputs for the states we’ve chosen. For a 3-bit DAC, the MSB has a weight of 4/7 of the full-scale voltage, the middle bit has a 2/7 weight, and the LSB a 1/7 weight. Equating the three voltage states with these fractions of Vmax gives us the other three equations. Along with the equations, we also pass a list of variables to solve for: the resistor values.

The output shows two things: our desired solution, and the fact that the output of computer algebra packages can be messy. In this case, the way the problem has been solved has introduced a number of “solution” families that we don’t particularly care about. The last one in the list, however, is obviously what we’re looking for.

Since we’re not likely to buy a 130.26316-ohm resistor, we can select the closest values from the E24 (5%) series and assign the result to the variable “vals.”

Of course, selecting these values will change the performance of the DAC, so it’s best to check what these resistors actually produce. The ev() function evaluates its first argument using the context of the second, so in this case, we’re substituting the preferred value resistors. (The fpprintprec variable controls the floating point printing precision; here it has been set to four significant figures.)

The outputs should ideally be [75, 0.4, 0.2, 0.1]. I’d probably be OK with these values, maybe because I have a large stock of 5% resistors, but if we wanted a closer result, we could simply find the preferred values from the E96 (1%) series instead.

There are a couple of footnotes to this analysis. First, we’ve ignored any output impedance for the drivers into the DAC. If we know their output impedance (or can measure, guess, or deduce it from graphs in the datasheet), we can subtract it from each input resistor to compensate. We’ve also conveniently left out gamma correction, which unfortunately can’t be done with just a resistor network. Finally, this is just one way to calculate the resistor values. You could instead use the knowledge that R1, R2, and R3 should be related by factors of two to simplify the calculations, although maybe the point is that you don’t have to be so clever.

555 Timer Servo Controller

As a second example, consider the design of a servo controller using the ubiquitous 555 timer IC. Let’s say we have a 10 k potentiometer (R1), and we want to control the servo position with it. We need the 555 timer to output pulses between 1 ms and 2 ms, corresponding to the full travel of the servo, as the potentiometer travels its range. We also decide that the pulse repetition rate should be 200 Hz or lower. Consulting the Wikipedia page, we find that the addition of a diode to the typical 555 astable circuit lets us have duty cycles less than 50%, which we need to generate the pulses. The page also gives us equations for the high time (Th) and low time (Tl) with the added diode.

To start the design, we dump everything we know into variables. We choose a 5 V supply for Vcc, and assume a forward voltage of 0.7 V for the diode (which we’ll revisit later). The expressions for the high time (Th) and low time (Tl) are direct translations of the equations given on the Wikipedia page, while the frequency (F) is simply the reciprocal of the period.

Given these definitions, we can now write three equations to constrain the solution for the three unknowns, r2, r3, and c1. We use the ev() function, which evaluates expressions given a list of relationships. For instance, the first equation, “ev( Th = 1e-3, r1 = 0 ),” says that the pulse width should be 1 ms when R1 is set to zero (rotated all the way to the left). Likewise, we set the pulse width to 2 ms with R1 set to its maximum resistance (10k). Finally, the last equation says that the frequency should be 200 Hz with R1 at zero. These three equations are enough to solve for the three unknowns.

Again, the results are not all values we’re likely to find in the junk box, so we can choose the closest 5% values.

So, we can check our parts stash for 10k and 56k resistors plus a 100n capacitor. If we wanted to be cautious, we could also check that these substitutions haven’t substantially changed the solution by evaluating the pulse width and frequency with R1 at both extremes.

The results look good: 1 ms to 2 ms pulses at between 170 Hz and 205 Hz. But, of course, this only validates that the chosen components work with the circuit model we’ve chosen. Underlying this model is the assumption that the diode forward voltage is a known constant 0.7 V. In reality, this forward voltage varies with the current through the diode: a quick peek at the 1N4148 datasheet shows that it’s probably around 0.5 V at the currents involved in this circuit. So, before building the circuit, we might want to re-run the calculations using this value. Either way, the results get us in the ballpark and ready for the next step, whether that’s simulation or prototyping.

PCB Footprint Conversion

What the datasheet gives (left) vs what I want (right).

Here’s a final simple example that I frequently use for creating PCB footprints. In Eagle, footprints are created by placing pads of a specified size at a specified center point. Some datasheets give their footprints in this format, while others force you to do some math to convert the dimensions. I used to do these in my head, but after receiving a trio of purple coaster PCBs due to a stupid mistake, I make my computer do the work now. Two quick equations can be found by inspection, and maxima does the rest. In this case, I express the dimensions the datasheet gives in terms of what I want: the size (h, w) and position (x, y) of the pads.

Typing in the equations only takes a few seconds, and greatly reduces the probability of a stupid mistake relative to doing the calculations manually.

Going Further

If you’re intrigued by Maxima and want to get started on your own, there are many tutorial links on the github.io page. There also a number of examples on the web specific to circuit design: an analysis of damping in oscillators, some introductory circuit analysis, applying differential equations to RC circuits, and transistor amplifier design (PDF warning).

Of course, computer algebra isn’t the only way to solve circuit problems. You could also use a good-old spreadsheet.

Computer Algebra for Electronic Design
Source: HackADay

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