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Oct 23, 2006 at 12:00
If you believe that having the latest thing, the upgrade, the newest widget in consumer electronics is of no consequence to the public, think again. The Consumer Electronics Association reports in its 13th Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns study that consumers in the US will spend $21 billion in the holiday season of 2006, an increase of 21% over 2005. With a US population just passing 300 million this week that represents $70 for every human.
This indicates a consumer belief in the economy -- I guess they believe what they are told, again and again -- and is a happy outcome for the consumer electronics industry and, by extension, all the semiconductor vendors involved in supplying parts. But that is a little stretch, maybe: this week is the first that I have ever included a PRC URL in a news item for, of all things, an RF part. That product ingenuity should be of considerable concern for Western designers and manufacturers.
It has to be assumed, on a first approximation, that the IP is not unique to the ...
Oct 16, 2006 at 12:00
I am not writing here of someone whose sexual identity is in question, or having both male and female characteristics, but of a mechanism: the androgynous peripheral assembly system -- the full title of the electro-mechanical mechanism used for the docking of space vehicles.
A veritable genius of an engineer, Vladimir Syromayatnikov (often spelled, incorrectly, as Syromaitnikov) died this month (October 2006) in Moscow. He was aged 73. His death has not received the attention that it should but his life was well documented.
Syromayatnikov joined the top secret Energia Space Research Corporation based in Star City (aka Zvyozdny Gorodok) East of Moscow in 1956, after graduating from a technical university in Moscow. The immediate technical goal in that period of time was to build a clinically-efficient delivery system for the Soviet Union's growing nuclear arsenal. Many of the scientists in the German missile program were repatriated by the United States after WWII, mostly voluntarily. Others, those working ...
Oct 16, 2006 at 12:00
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course I'm taking has proven to be even more of an interesting experience than I'd bargained for. While all the search and rescue, firefighting, and first aid training has been valuable and interesting, one of the most important lessons I learned is nowhere to be found in the CERT training manual. Spending an evening a week with a bunch of once-strangers from my community has reminded me that of the finest examples of the American spirit can be found in its volunteers. And in this time when the very foundations of our electoral system seem to be a bit shaky (see my editorial Gone in 60 Seconds), maybe it's time to apply some of that volunteer spirit to restore our confidence in its integrity.
That's why I'm taking Tuesday, November 7th off to volunteer as a pollworker, and encourage you to do the same.
Whether or not you believe there have been significant irregularities in the last few elections, there are several compelling reasons you should consider taking a...
Oct 9, 2006 at 12:00
A couple of days ago I was sent an e-mail asking whether I wanted a briefing, for a story, by a PR agency that was hired for the promulgation of the story. The body of the message was:
In a world where security and surveillance issues create uneasiness on the best of days, a team of innovative security and technology experts have come together to create what is the most secure access control solution available for tracking human as well as physical assets on the same network. Imagine hundreds of people passing through a eportal as powerful long-range, unobtrusive cameras capture facial images that are matched against a data archive at a rate of 60,000 images per second. Secondary identification is made as individuals' RFID credentials are read and matched to biometric records. Any exception to the match-ups triggers a security situation, based on business rules in place, focusing on the specific individuals, while others continue on uninterrupted.
I'm sure that many other journalists received the same m...
Oct 2, 2006 at 12:00
The panic over liquids being brought on airplanes after alleged chemical mixes were going to blow them up over the Atlantic -- which suddenly, probably for commercial reasons, is no longer as important as it was -- is incomprehensible compared to the dangers of products that are freely allowed on board.
All our engineering readers are very aware of the power that a battery can deliver -- at least for a short time -- given the right conditions.
Previously our fears of the battery in the millions of laptops that fly every day has been in the fake batteries that have dominated the replacement market. Many of EN-Genius Network's sponsors make products to protect battery packs against bad charging techniques and short-circuit conditions. Leave those devices out of a battery pack, as many fake cells do, and the troubles that can be created are intense -- ranging from smoke to explosion.
The recent spate of battery problems, notably in Dell laptops, has created an even worse situation. The 4.1 million batteries r...
Oct 2, 2006 at 12:00
With the EU Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives now being enforced in the 30% of the global economy they represent, we face an important decision here in the US. Should we adopt the same requirements as the law of the land, or should we just let market forces govern how each state chooses to deal with this, and other upcoming issues about electronics and the environment?
From what I can see, failure to harmonize our RoHS laws with the EU would be a grave disservice to both the US electronics industry and our nation's environment.
In his recent guest editorial, Paul Tallentire, President of electronics distributor NewarkInOne, explained that the costs manufacturers will face when they attempt to comply with a patchwork of statewide RoHS laws will far outweigh the cost of compliance with the stringent European standards:
"Increasing and varying state-by-state rules are already causing problems for electronic manufacturers and distributors. The cost of tracking and meeting varying state...