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Engineer In Wonderland

Install Microchip MPLAB X on Linux Mint

Microchip MPLAB X on Linux Mint

To skip my waffle, scroll down for a few tips. The round-the-houses version…. Perhaps in hope, spare time being as limited as it is, I have been preparing to complete a long-term project – my LED ceiling at home. The analogue parts of the control circuit have proved reliable, and it could now really do with the planned embedded controller to ...

Shaker table envy


For anyone who has ever sat next to a vibration table, as I have, I couldn’t resist printing a picture of this luxury-grade monster. It is a six-degrees-of-freedom machine (linear x, y and z, and rotations about those axes) at Sandia National Labs in the US. Apparently it was David Smallwood (second from left) who created the maths behind the ...

Isn’t wireless car charging only 50% efficient?


In August, I had a quick look through the Highways Agency feasibility study on in-motion wireless vehicle charging: ‘Powering electric vehicles on England’s major roads’. And was a bit shocked at how much power might be wasted by this system – tens of MW. Now engineer Les Birt has had a detailed look through, and he thinks there is a fundamental error ...

Windows 10 collects stuff about you

Friends and I were chatting this weekend. Should I change from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free? asked one. My response was: leave it a while until bugs appear and are ironed out. Helpful, but nothing like as helpful as another response, which was that Microsoft is collecting an awful lot of data from any computer that has Windows 10. ...

Cunning funicular railway saves rails and digging


Until two days ago, I thought the Snowdon Mountain Railway, whose trains pull themselves up the mountain using a rack and pinion system, was a funicular railway. Wise Graham Prophet, editor of EDN Europe, put me straight on this: Snowdon’s is, perhaps unsurprisingly in retrospect, called a ‘rack, or ‘cog’ railway, and it transpires ‘funicular’ is reserved for systems where ...

Foldable keyboard rolls into a 25mm stick


LG Electronics (LG) showed a neat roll-up/roll-up keyboard at IFA in Berlin It is called the Rolly Keyboard, or model KBB-700. Physically, it is four stiff strips of keys attached to one another by floppy joints, with a further square cross-section strip at one edge. Rolled up, it is fatter (<26mm) square cross-section featureless stick with all its bits held ...

Music from old floppy drives


Anand Jain has made old floppy drives play music, using the sound of their stepper motors. It is amazing what he has achieved with such limited sound transducers, and I can only start to imagine how much work went in to getting it all working. Hats off. httpv://youtu.be/lx_vWkv50uk

Cunning Linear Tech chip saves bicycle camera flash effect


I was impressed the moment I first saw Linear Tech’s LTC3110. It is a voltage rail back-up controller that uses supercaps (or a rechargeable battery) as an energy reservoir. It includes almost everything you need, including being able to empty the supercaps (one or two in series) until there is only 0.1V left – which is over 99% of available energy. ...

How does a planar inverted F antenna work?


Planar inverted F antennas get used a lot in phones, and there is a most excellent introduction to PIFAs at antenna-theory.com. At least I hope it is, because it is very easy to pull the wool over my eyes when it comes to radiating power so I have no real way of judging. Not only is the explanation clear, but ...

Surfaces self-dry under water


Water just rolls off some natural surfaces – like lotus leaves. The key is little hairs, but what principles are at work? A team of US, Danish and Swiss engineers think they have got to the bottom of how to keep surfaces dry under water. What has to happen is that water vapour has to form and be trapped close ...