Dave made it home safe and sound! We’re glad to have him back and appreciate Jeff from MightyOhm stepping up to the plate in his absence. This week we jumped right past the videos Dave plans on posting and into talking about current events, so why don’t we do the same with the links?
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- Thanks for the mention from Jack Ganssle, rock star of the embedded world for mentioning The Amp Hour in his column. And he mentions Jeri’s awesome garage experimenting as well!
- In terms of larger custom designs, we like Jeff’s idea of using MOSIS for chip development.
- We were added to the Podcast Bunker. Thanks!
- Dean Kamen, famed inventor of the Segway, has a new show called “The Dean of Invention” on the Discovery Channel. The first episode about biometrics is available for free online.
- Discussion Points
- Sky high! A video on fixing an RF control tower! Awesome!
- Speaking of dangerous, a 500 kV rock sorter that blows rocks apart with high voltage (thanks to reddit for the link mention)
- Blue collar vs. White collar. Mike Rowe (of the Discovery Channel show, Dirty Jobs) discusses why the former is important for a strong middle class.
- Also important is the role of entrepreneurs. Chris went to a seminar last night with Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen of the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship. While Dave and Chris were slightly skeptical about the “teaching” of building businesses, from what we hear it sounds like they are doing it right: namely the “doing”.
- Speaking of entrepreneurs, Dave noticed the “EcoSwitch” is finally available. It’s a cautionary tale about staying away from companies that claim to want to help you design your invention.
- Dave doesn’t like that it’s “Open Hardware” instead of “Open Source Hardware”, mostly that he’s corrected about it. Who cares about the name?
- China / US tensions building. Bills introduced in US gov’t, China cutting off rare earth supplies. Could get messy, but hopefully it’s just dumb politicians rattling the saber.
It was good to have Dave back and us making fun of one another from different continents. Something about that just seems right. Do you have something to make fun of us about? Did we miss or mess something up? Let us know in the comments!
John Dowdell says
I like the “how is China affecting me this week?” bits. They were talking rare earth minerals on the radio on the weekend (BBC or Aussie ABC). The slant they took was that China uses dirty unecological processes to refine the stuff. They pointed out that China produces a great deal of it because people want the most affordable stuff.
Apart from trade embargos but still sort of on the same topic, CNET’s Reporters Roundtable with Rafe Needleman had an interesting discussion on war minerals which included many in electronics.
Wouldn’t it be funny if tantalums became currency? “how much is that?” “ahh.. that’ll be 47uf 10V and 10uf 16V thanks”.
I like the entrepreneur talk. I’d like to start something up some day. In the mean time i listen to This Week In Startups. Its a little web business focussed but there’s lots of general takeaways. I take Jason Calacanis with a spoonful of sugar though. Sorry Jason.
I really like Dean Kamen’s TED talk on robotic prosthetics. Especially in the context of returned servicemen and women who have lost a limb or limbs. http://www.ted.com/talks/dean_kamen_previews_a_new_prosthetic_arm.html
And props to all the “tradies” and “craftsmen”. I’ve known several sparkies and sharehoused with a chippy and a plumber. They never seem to be short of a dollar and appear to have free time in spades. Maybe I chose the wrong career path? I’m jealous of the ease with which their skills are applied. I don’t know that others could say the same of mine.
A couple of years ago I ran into an old acquaintance on the train. It was New Years day. He was singing the blues about his girl leaving him, was trying to get clean, had spent New Years alone with his dog, was losing his house. It wasn’t a very upbeat story but when he told me he still had his Electrician’s Licence I wasn’t worried. It’s a licence to print money (but it probably won’t get his girl back!?).
John Dowdell says
holy cow! i think my heart rate doubled watching the Sutro Tower Climb.
For reference, here is an open source VLSI chip design software:
Please check chapter 7 of the documentation (Technologies). Especially http://www.staticfreesoft.com/jmanual/mchap07-04-02.html where they describe the support they have for that MOSIS project you mentioned.
I have never meet anyone using the software. Maybe one of you has the balls and means to design a chip with it, and find a sponsor to actually fabricated it – just for bragging rights?
Yi Yao says
Here’s another layout editor that seems to be quite polished (half open-source):
It seems that there are quite a few layout programs based off Magic. Also, LVS, IRSIM and other layout related tools can be found here:
Do the fab plants still accept GDSII formats? What are the preferred format for fab plants?
John Boxall says
Thanks for the mention (self-learning etc and website). You are both right – if you don’t like what you are doing, change it if you can. Or work towards being able to make the change. In my earlier years I slaved my arse off in the mobile phone industry, and ended up hating it. Now I live a more simple life, doing what I enjoy, instead of what people expect me to do, and am much happier and content.
Booking your own fab run isn’t as costly as it seems; else, students would never get their stuff fab’d. The way it’s done is through MPWs, or multi-project wafer runs. Companies do it as well.
Last time I checked (earlier this week), 40 die in a 0.25um process with MOSIS is still over $15,000 USD. So it’s not cheap, even using the shuttle run / MPW model. If you know of a cheaper way to get on an MPW, please post about it here!
One comment about the show:
Dave mentions at one point that “mil” and “millimeter” are interchangeable. In the US at least, they are not.
1 mil = 0.001″ = one thousandth of an inch
1 millimeter = 0.03937″ = 40 mils.
Chris Gammell says
Ha, I knew someone would comment on that. I was actively trying not to because we had just talked about not correcting people about silly things where we knew the other person knew what they were talking about. The irony was amazing as was my self restraint, if I do say so myself!
Jeff, I just checked on MOSIS as well. If you’re willing to go to a 0.35um process, 40 parts cost $7,500. The incremental cost for each additional lot of 40 parts is $1,100. I think it’s safe to say that the $6,400 cost differential in the first 40 parts is due to mask making. However, each part is 5mm x 5mm. That’s a pretty big die. If you and 9 others want to each take 2.5 sq mm and share the die, you can lower that cost to $750 for 40 parts. If you wanted 200 parts, that’d be $1,190 for each of the 10 of you. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that you can fit 100k digital gates within 2.5 sq. mm. Take away the area needed for bond pads and I bet you can still fit in 80k gates. That’s a lot of gates to do stuff with.
Dave Jones says
In Australia “mils” only have relevance to PCB work, but “mil” can also be an abbreviated spoken form of “mm”, so if you are talking about say a box that is “300 mil” wide, it is clear you are talking about “mm” instead of imperial “mils”. If you are talking PCB’s then a good engineer knows not to use the shorthand “mil” to mean “mm” as it’s confusing, so “Thou” is more often used instead. Countless other examples exist in electronics where differening terms are used to mean the same thing in different areas and countries. A good engineer will not get confusing and will be able to interpret correctly based on the context.
Thanks for the discussion on the ecoSwitch! Just starting a very similar project that a friend had the idea for and I am doing the circuit part of it. It was very informative on how to get these things to market and some of the issues. Thanks again.
Here in the UK, ‘blue collar’ IEE qualified Electricians can easily earn more in a year than a good experienced graduate ‘white collar’ electronics engineer. However, European regs mean that “equivalent” qualified people can come over from eastern bloc countries and that pushes down pay in certain areas.
What is the link to the tutorials from Jon (Melbourne Australia)?
John Dowdell says
I believe you’ll find it at http://tronixstuff.wordpress.com. there’s a link on this site, top right, under “friends”.