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76 Posts authored by: Charles Gervasi
Portable Scores DigiTally is a small remote controlled scoreboard.   It is intended for small competitions or events where a large scoreboard is impractical but where there is a desire to display the score to the group.  Little leagues - Soccer, Football, Baseball Adult leagues - Softball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, tennis. Schools - School sports such as track, volleyball, wrestling, basketball, football, etc. Gyms - Interval training, swimming. Camps - There are nearly 8 ...
Computer analysis of nonverbal cues in video blog entries (vlogs) can predict human perceptions of personality, according to research publish in the latest IEEE Transactions on Multimedia.      The researchers gathered human perceptions of videos using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform.  Mechanical Turk (MTurk) participants were paid to watch videos and evaluate the personality traits they observed in the videos.    The researchers compa ...
A research paper published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes an experiment to measure heating of brain tissue exposed to 1.9GHz RF energy.  The researchers believe data from this experiment may be useful in the search for possible health risks of cell phones.   The experiment setup the researchers used was for me the coolest thing about it.  They used an MRI to measure temperatures throughout a sample of brain tissue with a 1 degree ...
Last week Spectrum Magazine interviewed Daniel Beringer about an initiative to end traditional landline telephones by June 2018.  To those of us for whom the public switched telephone network (PSTN), which often goes by the nickname plain old telephone service (POTS), was once the primary means of communication, this feels like a radical change.    One advantage to an all-VoIP system is audio quality could be improved.  A POTS line runs at a constant data rate of 8k samples ...
Charles Gervasi

Spice Gets Easier

Posted by Charles Gervasi Dec 17, 2012
In college I found Spice very frustrating.  I was still learning the basics of circuits.  Spice won’t tell you that a typical SMT discrete can’t dissipate several watts.  Some of the analyses won’t even tell if you the circuit isn’t biased properly; they provide output as if it were biased right.  So I came away with the idea that Spice is more trouble than it was worth.  I thought if the circuit was so close to the edge of meeting spec that you n ...
Many of you have seen the inspiring viral video about the 15-year-old self-taught engineer, Kelvin Doe, who lives in Sierra Leone and builds electronics from parts scavenged from the garbage.     This inspiring video made me think of where innovation comes from.  Here is a case of someone developing electronics from trash, showing innovation happening without investment.  On other hand, if electronics had not become so cheap, partly due to large investments in the pas ...
Charles Gervasi

Storm Chasers

Posted by Charles Gervasi Nov 19, 2012
Last week Dr. Robin Tanamachi of National Severe Storm Labs spoke to my local IEEE Section about scientific storm chasing.  Part of her job is to get near tornadoes and take scientific data on them, mostly using radar.    Storm Chasers Storm chasing has had a recent surge in hobbyist interest.  It’s not illegal, but there are informal rules of storm chasing safety and etiquette.  Because of the recent interest there are often long streams of cars on rural roads ...
How can you verify in software that a smartphone was at a particular location and interacted with a particular person?  For example, suppose a coffee shop has a rewards card that allows customers to get a free cup of coffee after ten visits.  You want to replace the physical punch card with a phone app, but how do you verify the user actually bought a cup of coffee?    Madison, WI based startup Snowshoe has come up with a hardware key, which they call a snow stamp, that can ...
I had been meaning to try the Raspberry Pi for a while, but I was occupied working on a Parallax Propeller project.  The task was to communicate with a keyboard, just to read what keys were pressed.  It was easy to do with a PS/2 keyboard.  USB keyboards are much more complicated.  We used an FDTI Vinculum chip to act as a host for the keyboard and ended up having to get into recompiling firmware running on the Vinculum chip to get it working.  That allowed us to get ...
Last week attorney and EE Rick Abegglen talked to my local IEEE Section about trademarks.    Most of us have stories about components purchased from brokers appearing genuine but turning out to be fake.  A few years ago I worked with a company that purchased ICs that turned out to have no die inside.  The guys on The Amp Hour told of transistors that appeared to have the correct I-V curves but when they opened the package, counterfeiters had replaced the transistor with a s ...
Several times this year, a year that marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, I have come across cases of computers being able to masquerade as humans.  A few months ago I talked to a telemarketer for almost two minutes before I worked out it was a bot.    Around the same time an old friend sent me text from a chat session he had with AT&T.  In this chat session, my friend asked about internet service for his home.  AT&T didn’t serve t ...
Charles Gervasi

First Robotics

Posted by Charles Gervasi Oct 8, 2012
Regular readers of this space know that in my opinion automation is upsetting labor markets more than globalization and that this makes STEM education critical.  Even in my supposedly intellectual town, I frequently hear anecdotes of parents and students at the public schools valuing athletics more than STEM education.  People are surprised that many young people struggle to find jobs that can support that an affluent lifestyle.  Some people say fatalistically that jobs disappear ...
At an engineering professional society meeting a few years ago an engineer going to speak to high school students about engineering careers lamented that the students focus on how well jobs pay and engineering comes off badly in that area.  Setting aside the question of whether high pay is more important than job satisfaction, the claim that engineering has low pay is wrong.  Engineering is by far the highest paid profession requiring only a bachelor’s degree.  It is true th ...
Last week IEEE Spectrum published an article about how interference is a problem for NASA and ESA efforts to measure soil moisture levels to predict droughts.  With over half of North America experiencing a drought, this is a timely issue.  The cause of the interference is “rogue transmitters”.  The ESA has contacted the authorities in the areas of the offending interference to ask them to go after the sources.  My first thought was might I somehow be on their lis ...
By chance a few weeks after I wrote about sharing the RF spectrum, I came across an article in IEEE Communications Magazine about using TV white space (unused TV channels).  The same week IEEE Spectrum ran an article about using terahertz frequencies for communication and imaging.  RF spectrum issues are becoming a hot topic.  (The image to the right is from the article about white space.  It dramatically shows with pink shading the areas in Europe where channel 21 is used fo ...

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