Altium Expert Article: Take the Risk Out of Prototype PCB Assembly

I’ve been making prototype PCBs since my first technical job in 2004, and have learned a few things the hard way. I wrote this article for Altium to explain a few lessons to those looking to save some time (and heartache).

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Supercon 2019 Talk: Scrounging, Sipping, and Seeing Power

Supply Frame put on a great conference which I was happy to attend and honored to give a talk. I spoke about different alternative energy options for small scale projects and a few pitfalls to avoid along the way.


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Altium Industry Expert Article: The Art of Selecting Connectors

Check out this article I wrote about how to select connectors! The best part is this video I reference:

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Altium Industry Expert Article: Should I Make, Find, or Download my PCB Symbols?

Check out this article I wrote for Altium’s Industry Expert Series about the options designers have for generating parts for their libraries!

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e14 Project: Raspberry Pi 2 Laser Dog Watcher

Raspberry Pi 2 Laser Dog Watcher PhotoMy dog Penny is one of the best. She has the two critical commands of ‘come’ and ‘stay’ down pat so well that I can go for a run with her off-leash here in Denver. She’s gentile with our newborn baby, and she doesn’t destroy things. Her only issue is that she goes BONKERS for food. My wife and I have done a great job training it out of her when we’re around so we no longer have to worry about a cheese board sitting on the low coffee table, but I know she gets on the counters any time we are away.

I decided that it might be helpful to have a surrogate to defend the counters when she’s home alone. After the success of the Silent Laser Doorbell <link>, I decided that a Laser Dog Watcher could be similarly effective. Here are the features:

  • Setup a Laser tripwire using the same mechanical system in the Silent Laser Doorbell<link>
  • On a laser beam break, trigger the digital GPIO of a Raspberry Pi<product link> to play an audio file of me reprimanding her AND taking a photo with the Pi Camera<product link>. The audio file changes so it’s not always the same.
  • There is a calibration knob to allow for various levels of ambient light.
  • There is an ‘enable’ switch to disable the audio and photo features to allow the user to line up and calibrate for ambient light.
  • If the first audio file doesn’t get her off the counter and reestablish the beam, it plays up to two more audio files before disabling itself. That way it won’t loop over and over in case the system was knocked out of alignment,.

Check Out The Full Project on!

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Using a Raspberry Pi 2 and ownCloud v8 to Control My Cloud Data


A couple years ago, I showed how to setup an ownCloud server on a Raspberry Pi.  The system worked, but there were some performance hiccups. Most importantly was the ability for the system to handle large files and for the Pi v1 to take on the task in a speedy manner. I found myself using Microsoft’s OneDrive more often, electing to use their more proven platform for anything that didn’t require tight privacy controls and a firm handle on my data’s location. Still, it was a small, secure, and low-power cloud storage solution.

With the latest release of the Raspberry Pi 2, I thought this was a perfect time to update both my hardware and software in hopes of seeing performance improvements. The result gave ownCloud a whole new lease on life, at least in my lab.

Check out my video and tutorial over at element14!

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Rocky Mountain SMTA Brings its A-Game to the 2015 Expo at Mile High Stadium

Last week the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA) held their 2015 expo at the United Club of Mile High Stadium (home of the Denver Broncos). The event, which was free to the public, brought together anyone related to the design, procurement, and manufacture of surface mount boards for technical sessions and sponsor exhibits as well as a stadium tour, lunch and happy hour.

They had some amazing sessions on how to optimize an SMT line including a lot on cleaning and I learned a lot. Populating boards is a nuanced task!

Check out my full coverage for element14 here

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e14: EAGLE ULPs Every User Should Know

I love designing PCBs. It’s more than just connecting wires in a given area; it’s devising clever ways to make connections while controlling the design for things like EMC, switcher noise, signal integrity, heat dissipation, and many more.

But the actual laying down of traces isn’t the whole challenge. The design needs to be accurately described to the manufacturer to be sure that everything comes out correctly. Generating footprints, managing the BOM, noting the placement of each component and its rotation are all integral, if boring and time consuming steps.

I’ve found many useful ULPs (User Language Programs) in EAGLE, one of my CAD packages. These have saved me time and errors, resulting in better schedules and costs for my clients. I’ve shared a few of them in my latest article:

Read the Full Article Here

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e14: Laser Doorbell in the Cloud!

Sometimes the notion of the Internet of Things (IoT) strikes me as silly; why would anyone want to connect their dishwasher to the internet? But still, I wanted to develop a hobby project that would explore some of the tech.

I came across Xively, a service that can take data from a Raspberry Pi and publish it to the cloud.  What’s really nice is that it takes care of the networking, security, and dataflow management. Compare this to the Dog Kennel Project that I made when I got my Pi, and it is much simpler.

I wrote up the design and released full documentation at so if you want to build one you can pick up where I left off. But it is pretty great so far!

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How to Characterize a Switch-Mode Power Supply Design with a Tek MDO3000 Scope

Most of the designs that I work on require some sort of power supply design. The power supply rails are the foundation of a good design, allowing one to hit not only the desired voltage level, but also low noise, efficiency, and EMI specifications. There are many tests a power supply design goes through before it can be qualified, however there are a few that are almost always used.

I thought I’d use my Tektronix MDO3104 to show some of the tests that are always done on a switch mode power supply design. I’ve created the video below, and written an accompanying article over at Element14.

Read the Full Article Here

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