We are now well into 2013, and the Chinese New Year holiday has just started. Anyone involved with commercial electronics will know what an inconvenience that can be, but if anyone deserves a holiday, it is the Chinese workers! I for one am not going to begrudge them some time off to see their loved ones. This seems like a good time to take stock of what has happened since my last post, and what my intentions are for 2013.
A Sad Goodbye
As 2012 came to a close, I received some bad news. My good colleague and close personal friend Simon Allen of Intravention Electronics passed away unexpectedly. He was only in his mid 40s, and not much older than me. It takes something like this to make you think about your own mortality, and how fleeting life is. Simon and I had come together when a mutual friend of ours was going through a difficult time. We had known each other for some time, but didn't realise we were in the same business.
Since then we had worked together on several projects - Simon was a great sounding board for my ideas and an excellent "sanity" checker. When Simon passed away we were working on a couple of commercial products. It is a great sadness to me that Simon took with him so much good humoured knowledge and experience.
That rather took the wind out of my sails, forcing me to drop a lot of stuff I was working on. Obviously I don't want to go into details here, but I am now considering whether it might not be the right time to move back into permanent employment rather than being a freelance.The recession is dragging on, and life as a freelancer isn't looking too good here.
Anyway, as they say, life goes on. I finally got around to buying a new calculator! After writing many words on the subject I finally put my hand in my pocket and bought an HP-35S. I could write an in-depth review about what it does and doesn't do. I don't think I need to though, all I can say is that I wish I had bought one long ago. It doesn't have some of the facilities my old HP-28S has, but in all honesty I can't see myself performing matrix operations on a pocket calculator now. The HP-35S actually looks and feels like an engineering tool rather than a toy. It has enough of the old-school look and feel without being an antique. Perfect.
Part of me still wants a true old-school looking calculator with a nice fast ARM processor and OLED screen though...
So What About the LCR Meter?
A good question. The design has been through a couple of revisions since I last wrote about it. Expanding the current and voltage range of the AD chip I was using has proven quite effective but rather complicated to execute.
A thought struck me - if I were designing this on a clean sheet of paper, what would I do? After thinking about it, I have gone back to the drawing board. Rather than hack stuff onto the AD5933, how about using an FPGA, with separate ADC and DAC? That would allow me to generate higher resolution, allow me much better control over the signal generation and analysis, plus it would allow me to configure it as an arbitrary signal generator, plus audio spectrum analyser. If you are going to do feature creep, do it properly!