Is This Site Dead?

I hope not…

Sorry for the lack of updates lately.  I got caught up doing other things and kept telling myself, I’ll get to updating the site tomorrow.  Next thing I know, tomorrow became a new season.  Here’s to hopefully seeing some new content soon.

Review: Genuine Altera USB-Blaster II

Lately I have been encountering problems programming Altera FPGA chips.  I have been using several knock-off USB-Blasters purchased from eBay with intermittent problems being seen from day one but now they barely work.  I thought I’d bite the bullet and buy a genuine Altera programmer, which isn’t cheap.

Short answer…  Should have made the investment earlier and saved myself lots of frustration.

If you want a little more detail on the unit, read my quick review here.


Site Reorganization Ahead

I’m finding Worpress to be a double-edged sword.  On one hand, it has a nice WYSIWYG interface for creating blog posts and pages which is certainly easier than manually coding HTML. I also like the indexing and page manipulation/organization capabilities making it very easy to move stuff around without causing “404  Errors”.

On the other hand…
I am finding it difficult to get certain ideas onto the site.  I can’t seem to manipulate the menu system like I want it. Also, sometimes it will just not let me format the page to my vision. And charts/tables, they are non existent unless you install a 3rd party plugin.

I am doing a re-think on the layout of this site. I don’t want to ditch WordPress because it does make content very easy to enter. I guess I have to adjust my ideas to fit the system rather than force the system to accept my ideas. Be prepared for some layout changes as I try to wrap me head around the limitations of WordPress.

Setup Raspberry Pi3 Web Server

I have decided to try doing some web hosting from home.  I have setup a Raspberry Pi 3 as a web-server.  Considering my limited upload bandwidth capabilities of about 6Mbps, the performance of a Raspberry Pi3 should be more then adequate.  All of the page coding will be done by hand.  This will give an opportunity to learn first-hand about web-programming (HTML and PHP), MySQL database management and the general “ins and outs” what it takes to host a website.

You can find the tutorial here.

Mozilla Strikes Again

Why can’t Mozilla just let Firefox alone?  Why must they continuously alter the look and feel of the browser?

I do understand the need to keep the browser up to date to combat security vulnerabilities.  I also get the need to innovate to stay in the running with the competition.  What I don’t understand is the need to redesign the user interface every time there is a version change.  I liked the layout of the old Firefox.  I felt the old versions were laid out in a very productive manner.  When the started moving everything around, I was a little upset until I found an extension called “Classic Theme Restorer” which allow me to customize the UI back to what made me fall in love with Firefox.  Well now a new version of Firefox is upon us, version 57, and Mozilla is up to their old tricks again.  They just had to rearrange everything again but this time they broke comparability with just about every extension I had been running.  Unfortunately for most of the extensions I used, the authors say that they are no longer going to try and update things to make then Firefox 57 compatible.  It is a shame how Mozilla seems to be intent on destroying what made Firefox great.  Guess it’s time to start looking at other browsers.  Oh well Firefox, we had a good run…

Cypress PSoC 6 Kit Arrives

I received my Cypress PSoC 6 BLE Pioneer Kit.  Once again, Cypress has put together a nice little package for doing some prototyping of their products.  The kit came with a PSoC 6 BLE chip (Dual Core MCU, 1MB Flash, 288K SRAM, BLE Radio) on board and some nice on-board peripherals to play with.  It also came with an E-Ink Display shield/board.  I never used an E-Ink display before, only saw them in Kindles as I walked by.  I’m interested to see the power/performance of such a device.  Time to download the beta version of their PSoC Creator software with supports the PSoC 6 series.  I really hope this new chip is worth the wait.

One Thing Leads To Another

A project I was set on doing was my 100W/channel Hi-Fi Amplifier.  But it has snowballed into 3 projects now and some new test equipment.

While designing my amp I find that I need a current limited 500V power supply.  Well, there aren’t too many affordable ones out there.  Check that…there arn’t any any affordable ones.  So I started designing and building my own.  I wanted to verify the accuracy of the current meter/limited and see how it works under different loads.  So now I need a electronic load for testing.  Again, there aren’t any decent affordable loads so now I have to design and build one.  The list keeps growing.

I also just purchased some “new to me” (used) multimeters.  I currently have three meters (Metex, Tenma, UNI-T) and they all give wildly different readings on the same signal.  So I just ordered (2x) GW Instek GDS-8142 (4-1/2 digit) and (1x) Keithly 2015 (6-1/2 digit).  The GW Instek were just about being given away (~$20 ea) but the Keithly made up for it at $650.  I hope this stuff works better then my current crap.

New TI-84 Plus CE Calculator

I need a good engineering calculator at two locations: my computer desk and my workbench.  I have been dragging my good ol’ TI-85 with me, but keep leaving it at one of those locations which forces me to consistently take a walk to retrieve it.  So I had an idea… Buy another calculator.  Since the TI-85 isn’t made anymore I looked at some alternatives.  I wanted to stay with TI since I am familiar with their input methods (so I thought).  I also wanted to stay with a graphing calculator, even though I hardly use the graphing capabilities.  (I like having a small history of my calculations available to look at.)  Another neat feature I thought I might enjoy is a back-lit screen since getting a well contrasted image on the TI-85 can sometimes be a chore unto itself.  So I settled on a TI-84 Plus CE since a lot of reviews called it a “spiritual successor to the TI-85”.  Well I’m hear to tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The TI-84 Plus CE is definitely not the calculator to own for electronics/engineering aficionados. The first annoying thing is that the “EE” (10^) key requires a SHIFT keypress.  That is really, really, really annoying. I guess it’s something you just get used to, but why?  There are at least 10 other keys that don’t need to be shifted, that no one is going to use on a regular basis, no matter what field you are in.  Whose bright idea was it to bury the EE key?

Another thing, the back-lit screen is not that great.  I was surprised at how effective that tiny bit of “kick up” of the TI-85’s screen helps with visibility.  Even though the TI-84 Plus CE is back-lit, the viewing angle is so poor that it reminds me of the old TN displays of the 1980’s. (It’s horrible.)

It’s not all bad however…   The keys feel fine and it’s easy to type on.  It definitely has noticeably more processing power than the TI-85.  And, the rechargeable battery seems to last much, much longer than the AAA’s in my TI-85.

Unfortunately, the poorly thought out EE key is a killer on this calculator and I have started my search for an alternative.  It’s entirely my fault for not thinking about key layout when selecting a new calculator.  It just something that never crossed my mind.  Oh well, $100 gone bye-bye.

Watch Is Still On Hold

I put the Smart Calculator Watch project on hold a while ago when Cypress announced that they would be coming out with their PSoC 6 chip.  Since this chip has greater performance and lower power consumption, I felt it prudent to wait and evaluate the new chip.