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Comment: The basics (Score 2) 208

by wrmrxxx (#41605037) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Equipment and Furniture For an Electronics Hardware Lab?

Without knowing much about your application, I can only reasonably make suggestions about the basics.

1) Bench space, with good lighting and plenty of power points.
2) Flooring that won't build up static.
3) Good ventilation, because soldering fumes are not good for you.
4) A sink. You will probably need to be able to clean PCBs, and you will need to use wet chemicals if you make your own boards.
5) Component storage. Unless you want to spend hours digging through piles of parts, a good way of organizing components is very useful. Raaco make some nice steel cabinets for drawers, but they're not cheap.
6) A stereoscopic assembly microscope. I would be lost without mine - it is amazing how much easier it is to position small parts (e.g. 0201 size passives) when you can see what you are doing.
7) Multiple decent lab power supplies.
8) A good bench multimeter: one with a computer interface for logging would be good.
9) Digital storage oscilloscope, again with a computer interface of some sort (many have USB now) so you can store captured waveforms for later analysis and comparison.

These are the first things that come to mind, but undoubtably I have forgotten some essentials.

There's a wide range of things that may also be important, but it depends what you're doing so I can only speculate. For digital work you'll want a logic analyser / protocol analyser. If there are modern CPUs involved you will probably want a JTAG interface. If you are doing RF work there is a whole set of specialised equipment. If you are doing loads of SMD you might want a pick and place machine and a reflow oven. If you are making your own PCBs you might want a UV exposing unit and chemical trays, or alternatively a PCB milling machine (it takes a high end machine to do the very fine pitch work).

Comment: Re:It sounds feasible (Score 5, Informative) 612

by wrmrxxx (#38306976) Attached to: Iranian TV Shows Downed US Drone

My recollection is that it was only the video feed returned from the drone that was unencrypted. The control signals sent to the aircraft were still encrypted. Even signal jamming is apparently a difficult way to disable the drone because it has a degree of autonomy.

If Iran's claims are true (that it gained control of the plane) then that is either quite an achievement on their part, or quite a failure on the part of the US engineers.

Comment: Re:Let's not leap to conclusions. (Score 2, Insightful) 1079

by wrmrxxx (#30409720) Attached to: Sci-Fi Author Peter Watts Beaten, Charged During Border Crossing

would you accept at face value, ..., the account of a guy who is known for being particularly vocal about the evils of Homeland Security?

Probably more so than I would accept Homeland Security's account of events. After all, they're known for being particularly vocal about the evils of everyone, including the people they purport to be protecting.

Comment: Don't expect chips in a hurry (Score 2, Informative) 50

by wrmrxxx (#29395005) Attached to: 18 Foot Multitouch Wall and New Multitouch Tech Hit the Streets

Atmel makes some great microcontrollers, but their recent record of delivery is very poor and it has hurt their reputation. In particular, Atmel announced the XMEGA range of AVR micros years ago, but they repeatedly failed to become available: see AvrFreaks for just one of many discussions on the topic. A limit subset of the range is just becoming readily purchaseable now.

There are various theories about why Atmel has had such delays in producing the XMEGAs: upper management turmoil, the distraction of a takeover attempt by Microchip, the change to being fab-less, and serious bugs in the early XMEGA production efforts.

I hope I'm wrong, but I wouldn't be too surprised if these new chips aren't physically available for a long time.

Comment: Can't trust them (Score 5, Insightful) 154

by wrmrxxx (#28755015) Attached to: RIAA Spokesman Says DRM Is Dead

Aren't these the people who told us that the law suits were over? Call me paranoid, but I can't trust them.

I suspect the only reason the RIAA are presenting a softer image on things like the lawsuit threats and DRM is because they believe (or know) that they're going to get their way with the ACTA treaty and we'll all end up being subject to outrageous three-strikes laws.

Comment: Re:Waiting to see when the spam starts (Score 1) 604

by wrmrxxx (#27757333) Attached to: When it comes to the Swine Flu, I am ...

Hmm... just thought of another way of putting that:

I'm waiting for the spam
Pack of face masks in my hand
Down to Mexico, via I5
Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive
I'm waiting for the spam

Hey, white boy, what you doin' uptown?
Hey, white boy, you chasin' our women around?
Oh pardon me sir, it's the furthest from my mind
I'm just lookin' for a deal, a cure for flu of swine
I'm waiting for the spam

Comment: Who gets the money? (Score 1) 395

by wrmrxxx (#27719183) Attached to: Music Copyright In EU Extended To 70 Years

So performers will collect for 20 more years from the date of performance

Really? Or do the record companies collect more money? There was an attempt to ensure that extra profits went only to artists, but it was defeated. From the Open Rights Group article:

A key amendment to ensure benefits accrued only to performers was also rejected.

Comment: Slackware then Redhat; Minix before that (Score 1) 739

by wrmrxxx (#27711845) Attached to: What Did You Do First With Linux?

My first Linux encounter was with Slackware. A friend had it on 5 1/4 inch floppies, and showed me an installation. I was interested, but didn't see it as practical for me compared to DOS and Windows. I didn't switch my own computer over until quite a few years later when I got Redhat on CD from a computer swap meet - I have no idea what version it was, but it was a few years before Fedora Core. Over the years I've gradually changed from being interested in every technical detail and willing to configure endlessly to just wanting something that works - now I'm annoyed if a distro doesn't just automatically detect and work with all my hardware. I use Ubuntu at home and at work, and I'm still impressed by how smooth it all is.

My first experience with a Unix like OS running on a PC was a then new OS called Minix. The lecturer for our Operating Systems subject at uni showed it to the class and encouraged us to try it out. I looked at it and it thought it was cool, but that was about all.

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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