AI and ChatGPT have been in the news about how it will change world views or will it be relegated, making sure NPCs in video games don’t repeat dialog?
How easy is it to make a retro gaming console? Stephen breaks down his design and build criteria that involves no custom PCBs.
Parker and Stephen examine an interesting mute circuit Stephen designed for his amplifier and the SN74LVC8T245.
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Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. We are your hosts, Steven Gregg and Parker Dolman. This is episode 120.
And so before we start, we have some announcements. There's a Twitter chat that's every Friday, this one is May 18, at 1pm. Use the hashtag macro fab to join in on the conversation with me, Parker. Well, I'll be controlling the at macro fab Twitter account. The Meetup is next week, May 23 6pm, at macro HQ in Houston, we'll have Brandon from particle, he's going to give a talk about IoT fundamentals. And we'll have a Twitch stream. So we'll have a link for that as well. So we'll stream the meetup events
and he'll probably also be showing off some particle boards and things. Yeah,
it's gonna bring some goodies. And then we have the Houston hardware happy hour, this will be the second one. It is the first Thursday of each month. So this one falls on June 7 at slowpokes, come by bring hacks and hang out and drink beer, coffee, eat food.
And the first one went really well. Yeah, we we filled an entire table. Yeah, we had like nine people. Yeah, it was great. And people people brought stuff too. And they didn't kick us out. They did not know. I mean, because the beer kept flowing.
Yeah. So Steven, yes, sir. You got something very interesting. All right.
Well, which which, which interesting thing? Are you talking about?
Which whatever you want, sir. Okay.
Okay. Because I've got I've got two things, or at least they're of interest to me. Or at least one of them. One's kind of an RFO. What Yeah, one is a little bit of an RFO. But I like this one. I think it's super, super fun. So recently, as in the past handful of weeks ago. We we I knew about this a while ago, but just due to circumstances and the way the podcast goes, we decided to hang off on talking about this one. So you've probably already heard about it. But the Nintendo Switch has officially been hacked, or cracked, or jailbroken, or whatever you want to call it. Yeah. So basically, what that means is, people have found access to the root of the device, and they are able to put their own code onto it. And in some cases, there are some people running a full copy of Linux on that's cool on the switch. And in fact, there's already like a home brew scene coming up. So there's emulators there's Doom is already available, even even though like you could purchase like the 2015 Doom from the Nintendo store, the original Doom is now hackable onto the switch. And something like this is not necessarily something that we normally bring up on this podcast. But the way that it was hacked it, I felt was actually fairly interesting and kind of fun for us to talk about, because it brings up a lot of questions about design. So on the Nintendo Switch, the main processor is a NVIDIA Tegra X one. Now, this processor is kind of an openly available processor. There's it's not like this was designed specifically. I wish, I wish but you know, a lot of times processors are very difficult to get the datasheet. And this ticker x one is difficult to but most of the time to get a datasheet you have to, you know, sign an NDA, you have to prove that you need or can supply millions or whatever, blah, blah, blah, well, with this one, you can be involved in the NVIDIA developers club or whatever they call it. There's like a special thing, you know, and you can get access to the datasheet. So it's actually a lot easier than a little membership card. Yeah, yeah. You carry it around like a little credit card. Yeah, yeah. That would be super nerdy. In fact, if you have an A, a membership card like that, bring it to the hardware happy hour show that those are the kinds of people that would be impressed. But regardless, what people have found with this specific processor is it has a specific mode, that's called USB recovery mode. And this is a mode that's basically there. If the system gets locked out, you can actually access low level. You have low level access to the USB hardware.
Yep, not it's off. It's kind of like a microcontrollers. DFU mode.
That's right. Yeah. Well, yeah. And that's almost like a programming mode. But this is basically USB direct connection hardware. It's not like a software stack on top of anything. Well, so what what has happened is people have found a way where you short a handful of pins on the on the switch that are actually connected to where one of the connectors plugs into the device. You short these pins, you can actually convince the Tegra processor to go into this USB recovery mode. And if you go into this USB recovery mode, what happens is It actually bypasses a lot of the protection that's in the boot rom within the processor. So a lot of the high level stuff that says, I'm not going to let you put this unsigned thing on my it basically everything that Nintendo wrote into that processor to say you can't do this, you just walk around it by going into USB mode. And so this was originally found by I think the guy's name is fail overflow, where the OH is zero. And that's his website is a fail overflow calm, this guy basically specializes in cracking devices, well, but gaming systems in particular, like he's got like a full kernel of the ps4 system, like available. And so and so you know, he this is his his jam. And so he found this hardware hack, but apparently, there was like multiple people who all kind of stumbled upon at the same time, mainly because the datasheet just basically says do this. And then they traced out the the PCB and is like, oh, my gosh, this is exposed to the outside world, it's exposed. And in fact, you can actually, if you open up one of the Joi cons, which is the controllers for the switch, the right joy con is sort of like the master JoyCon and the left slaves in a way. Well, if you should put a short wire inside the Joi con, you can make it such that it is a completely concealed like you like it's not like something you have to do external or you don't even have to solder anything into like any extra circuitry, you just short pins.
But sounds a lot like the like in a high end, or in any kind of ARM chip or whatever, like an STM where you have a boot pin. And if you pull the boot pin low, it goes into DFU mode automatically and allows you to bypass pretty much everything that's on the chip, right? And load right in. Yes. And that sounds exactly what this is.
Right. But in this case, what you can do is you get you get past all of the protection. And then you can you have access to be able to load your code, whatever code you want into whatever sector you want. So you can Yeah, that's how DFU mode works on my controller, right? So you can load it separately into wherever you want. And then have it access that the thing that's that's interesting is it's not as simple as just like, you know, you're not going to just drag and drop your files onto this thing. Yeah, so So here's actually a description, I apologize, I don't I don't have the website I got this from so this is a quote from an article I found online. Let me see here. Okay. So by sending a bad length argument to an improperly coded USB control procedure, at the right point, the user can force the system to request up to 65 535 bytes per control request. That data easily overflows, a crucial data memory address buffer in the boot ROM, in turn, allowing access to or allowing data to be copied into the protected application stack.
Okay, so it's not as simple as just like, it's not a DFU mode, where it's like, you can just go okay, stream this data over exactly, you have basically somebody found an exploit, you have to exploit the the USB stack that's on there.
Exactly. So this is actually a double exploit. So the first exploit is hardware going around software protection. And then the second one is USB, getting confused and then saying, Oh, well, I'm confused here I've access to memory, you know, like so. It's this is not something that's like specifically or very easy to do. If you didn't know the script to do this probably already exists. It basically does. So this fail overflow guy has a GitHub, and he's put all this information on there. He's even put a 3d printable clip that you can put a wire in and it plugs into where the Joi con plugs in and does the the the boot rom exploit automatically. So go check out fail overflow.com And he's got a write up of what he's done. Now. Now one of the things that I think is kind of cool is he did not just release this to the public. 90 days before he released it to the public. He actually went directly to Nintendo and I was like, Hey, guys, I broke your system.
I think that's the Turner that is white hat hacker. Yeah,
we'll wait hacker because he was getting green bills for it. Probably. I bet. I think he was getting paid. I think that not not white hat white hat. Oh, my bad white s okay. But I think he was getting paid for this. So I think I think actually, Nintendo had a thing out where it's like, if anyone ever finds a hack, we'll pay you for it. So regardless, I don't I don't know that to be true. I've just heard that. So I thought that was cool. I thought it was it was interesting, especially with someone as like, strict about their IP and their hardware is Nintendo. I wonder if they just kind of overlooked this or didn't
I think I know exactly what this is what is so they probably missed No probably has a piece of software. Okay, yeah, that is designed to re basically fix a Nintendo Switch if the saw if the OH S bricks, something in iOS bricks and so the device isn't usable. And you ship it back to Nintendo and Nintendo shorts out those two pins, what are pins? It is yeah, and then plugs it into their recovery dock. And in it, it uses a correct protocol over the USB to rewrite their operating system. Whereas they don't have that. And so they just trick the USB to give them access.
Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. Because, yeah, it could be a repair function that they built into it, or at least were aware of, yeah, I would, I would think that someone that they would be fully aware of practically every way to get inside of this thing, because they know everyone's gonna try, especially because it's a portable system. It's the first really portable system that plays the triple A games. Like you can take it anywhere and play them. But you know, it's been kind of people's dreams to have it run emulators and all the other stuff that goes along with that. So I don't know, I think it's kind of cool. One of the things I did see is that there are other products that use the Tegra X one. Specifically, there's a Google tablet. And apparently they've quietly discontinued that tablet. So it might be susceptible to problems also. So something interesting,
yeah. But the thing is, the Android tablet party runs Android, which is pretty open.
Yeah. So. So I don't know exactly why you would want to do that. Because you can already get emulators to do everything you want. Anyway, on Yeah, on an Android tablet. So but but you know, as someone's always gonna try to break into things.
Yeah. That's interesting. And I guess the only way Nintendo could have gone around that is if they design, they didn't have those hardware pins accessible.
Yeah. Or they have it, you know, in a short a different way. Yeah, as external. But
if you if Nintendo needed to fix this person switch, they would have to open it up and mess with it, instead of just going clicking on a, you know, 3d printed icon.
Right, right. Yeah. Now, you know, actually, so Nintendo released a new software update for the Switch not long ago, and it's version 5.0. So apparently, so I'm talking a little bit out of my butt here, because I don't know the full details of this. But I heard someone on a YouTube thing, say if you want to hack your, your switch, don't upgrade to 5.0. And one of the ways that they tried to get around a hardware hack is the this is the way they described it, they scrambled memory. In other words, memory is not blocks anymore. It puts, it puts all of its data into random addresses. Gotcha. And there's like a hash that controls where they go search that if you wanted to load something onto it, you would have to hash it and put it in random locations, as well, as well. So so if you have system 5.0, then it's a software protection against a hardware hack. So I've heard that, but I don't know exactly how true that is. But I mean, that's a neat way to get around it. Yeah. And if it doesn't impact the performance of the device, that's a really fast and really good fix that Nintendo put in play. Because you can't fix a hardware issue when you've sent 16 million out into the field. You know, yeah, you're done at that point.
Yeah. And if you change the hardware, even a little bit, then how you'd have to basically every single time you come up with new update, you have to have two different versions of that firmware now, one for the hardware affected platform and one for not
well, and somebody has looked into the logs on the the version five update, and there's hints to new hardware. So there might be like a switch plus coming out, which is probably exactly the same thing. Just different, you know, a more hardware protection.
I thought one of the cool things with the switch platform, it was their dock setup. Because it actually implements USB type C Yep. Which can do,
and way to go Nintendo for not doing proprietary crap. Like for once.
Excuse me. The, what's cool with the dock is they make these for PCs, especially laptops, is they make a dock that you can plug your laptop into that's got a built in graphics card. and USB type C has enough bandwidth to basically drive this, you know, powerful graphics card. So you can send enough data basically. And I was always thinking like, hey, a switch plus would basically just be a new dock. And you would just take your switch and pop it into your dock plus, and it has its own GPU in it. Be cool and so
because because right now the dock is like Just a USB C hub basically right that just like it's just a pass through, it's a USB C to HDMI,
HDMI and has a hub on it. And that's one thing that's just interesting about the bump that dock is it doesn't do much, but there's potential there for this happened. And we already know that the software kind of already does this, where if you put it in a dock, and it has been powered up, the switch can actually use more power, it can draw more power off the USBC connector than it can from its batteries. And so it upscales everything in runs higher resolution on your, your TV person portable mode. So we know that they're already designing their software to have variable, like graphics quality. So if they get a switch plus and then you you know, maybe sell it over look better. Who knows?
Oh, so instead of instead of doing the graphics crunching on the tablet, off load that too. Oh, yeah. The graphics card that's in your, your in your in your dock, dock plus dock plus, plus plus. Yeah,
I bet it's gonna be called dock plus.
Yeah. No, it'll probably have some weird Nintendo name.
That they always are like, the Wii Mote plus, somehow it's gonna have like
two eyes in it somewhere. It has to have Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like, that's just their kind of thing. The amiibo and the Wii and oh, yeah, all that crap. Yeah.
German spelling for a Japanese company. Yeah. I like
that. That will not be the weirdest thing.
No, not really. That when the Wii first came out, I was just like, What? What, like, your systems before? This all made sense? Like GameCube? Nintendo 64. Like all of them had, like, they just make sense.
Or the first one was the Nintendo. Yeah. Okay. And the next one was Super Nintendo. Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. put two and two together. And then 64 was originally was Ultra Nintendo.
That's right. Yeah. Or the ultra 64? Ultra 64. Yeah. Cuz like, back then, like, your, your, your your, the number of bits you had available? was like a huge thing. So like 64 would crush the competition was processing man. That would that was a god. That was Genesis doing 16 bit?
Yeah. Yeah. That was DMA.
Those are those are some good times right there. Alright, so on to the next thing. So got a little bit of an announcement. So I am moving on. I am leaving. Actually, no, that's not the truth, necessarily. But so I actually have not been working at macro fab since Gosh, November, November of last year. Yeah. I shouldn't say not not working. I, I've been doing the podcast that that is that is work. So yeah, I actually I left macro fab back in November of 17. Kind of to go off and do a little bit of my own thing for a bit of time. And I actually just got a new position up in Denver, Colorado. So coming up here soon, I will be buggering off to Denver. I think you're moving this weekend. No, we can get out we can. So I still got a two weeks. Okay. Yeah. And then a week worth of moving. Move like that before? Actually, you know what? So I know I have not moved like myself in a family that that far. I mean, I moved when I was younger, from from Oklahoma down to Texas. But you know, the farthest I have moved, like permanently is to College Station, which is like an hour and a half away from Houston. So yeah, this is this is a bigger move for me. So people will probably this, this will not come as any kind of surprise. But I actually picked up a job as a synthesizer designer, at a place up in Denver. Like your dream job. It's well, I mean, and if you've listened to the podcast anytime in the last two years, then you know that I talk about that quite a bit, and do a lot of work. And And funnily enough, the sense that I designed on the podcast helped me get a job up there. So I'm going to be working at a place called WMD, which stands for William Matheson devices. And they are a thing that Iran has right. No Iraq. No, it's supposedly supposedly, yeah. It has not been confirmed. Quotes. But no, so I'm going to be designing Eurorack modules and guitar pedals. And they do they have a whole manufacturing floor up there. So I'm going to be helping out with the manufacturing of musical equipment, which will be super fun. And in terms of what that has to do with the podcast, Parker and I have, we want to continue to do the podcast. We don't have any any ideas right now as to not do the podcast. Yeah. So you know, one of the other big electronics podcast in in our field there Two guys are not in the same location and they're doing just fine in different hemispheres. Yeah, different. Yeah, different hemispheres and probably like, exactly opposite on the earth
that they promote that they were doing the podcast and put a piece of bread down, they'd make a sandwich.
Planet sandwich. That's exactly, yeah. So if they can do it, I think we can do it. So we're gonna, we're gonna, we're gonna try to do some will not try to do we are going to do some remote podcasts. So the format will change just a little bit because I will be in a different location. But so yeah, there's there's an announcement, and I'm sure we'll, we'll have plenty of opportunities to. I'll be down in Houston in Parker as expressed wanting to come up there. So we'll probably do some podcasts up there. And down here again,
it's also like 70 degrees up there in like, August. So,
you know, I was I was packing up my apartment the other day, and it was 90 something degrees. It was brutal outside. So I just pulled out my phone and looked. And at the same time it was 63 degrees in in Denver, and I was like, Ah, I'm so happy I'm getting here.
Yeah, the only other thing knows that when it's winter here. And it's like nice and 50 degrees. It's like 20 Below there.
Yeah, it Yes, it does get cold. That that is that is one thing, but I'm looking forward to that because I've never really had like, I've never had a real winter, like, ever. And so, you know, I'm looking forward to that. And everyone. Everyone's probably like, Oh, you're gonna hate it. It's gonna be the worst. I don't know. Let me let me figure that one out for myself a snowboard. So I do like to snowboard now. And funnily enough, I got rid of my snowboard last year. Oh, I've had it since I was 16. I was like, I'm never going to use this again. And then I got a job in color. So yeah, that's, that's, that's my other announcement. Yep. Cool. Yeah. So what's up with you, Berg?
I'm actually we're just gonna go right on our
Oh, shoot. This was this was a this is
a Steven only podcast? Yes. No Jeep updates, no Jeep updates. What about what I've done some wiring, but that's about it.
Okay, what about your DAX?
That article should be out this week. Okay, for
let me think of what else is like, oh, any any pin hack updates? No, no pin hack update. So
you get some stuff working on like the GPU low level stuff on it. But we've already talked about that. Okay. Anything having to do with like, I posted on my blog last night, actually, with Gameboy stuff. Yeah. FPGA stuff. Yep. What was the post designing a cyclone four design block in Eagle. And I'm like, it's done. So I'm actually going to start posting on the blog, my blog. Three times a week. So that's, that's a last goal. Yeah. So Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, probably.
I just gonna be like, it's going to start off with like, these full written articles and like really nice. And then it's going to devolve to like, a few sentences, then it's going to devolve to like, here's what I put on Twitter, and then it's just gonna be a pitcher of beer.
Yeah. And then they'll just go back to what it was doing. Yeah,
no, no, no, go for it. I think that I think that's great. Yeah. You know, actually, it's
a good idea. I shouldn't make it so that my Twitter account posts directly to my blog
three times a week. Yes, yeah. It's a great way to fill out content. Yep.
Cool. So the our phones this week? Are, we actually have to? One is say hello to Android Things. 1.0. So apparently, this is a thing, like Google has its own Android based IoT platform. And the big thing was they released 1.0 this week. Sure, it's like a software stack that runs on IoT platforms. What was really interesting was, they have a whole bunch of hardware that the stuff just runs on, and they support them, they have designed the guest, they comp System on Modules, they're, you know, like an ESP eight to whatever it is. That kind of style where it's a PCB with parts on it, and capsulated edges and you drop it down. All these are bigger than that, that Wi Fi module, but they are pretty much the same thing. It also supports Raspberry Pi three, but only for prototyping. Like they won't give you official support. Hmm. So that was that was interesting. But why saw was there? The whole thing was, it's ready for production. So you can get, you know, through prototype and scale up right. Hmm. Which is awesome. Yeah, you know, people need that.
But how ready is it really?
Well, I don't know about that, because I haven't used it. But the thing is, they call a they're these modules that everything runs on. It has a three year quote long term support for the hardware. So that hardware is only available for three years, guaranteed
Does that mean like that revision or like that hardware, as they just
say, the hardware? Hmm, that sounds? And I'm like, that's not really long term. I guess that's what we should have asked embedded FM last week, if three years is long term for software people.
God, I would hate to have to redesign a product every three years.
Yeah, I'm like, I would say, because the Raspberry Pi three compute module is guarantee for six years minimal. And that is like, when I saw that I'm like, as a hardware engineer, I'm like, that is okay. I like to see a decade. Yeah, for a chip module.
When you say when you say supported, do you mean still in manufacturing or support as in like,
so manufacturing? So like, if you're building a product to has this system a module? Yeah. You can still get it. You still get it? After three years? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But that seems a little short.
Well, isn't the Raspberry Pi two still in manufacturing? I think I think they, if you go to their website, they say because of their industrial customers. They still manufacture the to make sense. Yeah. Yeah. And and that's, that's good that I think I think that you should do that, even though the three beats it in every way. And it's the same price. Yeah. Like, if you already have your system designed for the two, you can still get it killed.
Yeah. But Google is only saying for their System on Modules. Three years. That's that? Who knows?
Man, you got to manufacture a whole shitload all at once. Yeah. And then be like, well, what's the next product? We're gonna have to do something? Yeah. new
revision every three years? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, maybe that's what they're expecting the market go to? Because I mean, we already see cell phones have a cycle time of like, eight months? Like, there's already a pixel three? Really? Yeah. coming out soon. But that's crazy. Like the pixel two brand new was like six months ago. Yeah. So maybe that's what Google's doing is they expect the cell phone model to trickle down to most other devices. But I don't see consumer grade IoT devices that have that much of a light like that short of a lifecycle.
What's you know, okay, so it's always interesting, something like the ESP Wi Fi chip, like its function is Wi Fi, which that's going to be around for a while, like, we're going to have that the the only way, you know, I shouldn't say the only way but but one way that you make Wi Fi better is you just make it faster, or more reliable, but still like that chip still does that one function, there's no reason why it should be discontinued in three years. I'm not saying that one will be. So I think we can expect things like the ESP to be around for a long time. Now, what makes their hardware only three years capable, you know, is it like specific sensors, or you know, something of that, or they just don't want to support it?
I think it's just, they want to make sure if this doesn't pan out, they can just pull the plug. Yeah, it's all happened with Intel. And they're all their IoT stuff, and x86 stuff, basically, they're like, well, this stuff's not selling pull the plug.
Wow, you know, we, we had a product back in my first job that had a really unique oscillator in it, that was a very powerful oscillator that could actually oscillate almost regardless of what impedance you put on, in on the front end of it. And it was a analog oscillator. And the thing that was interesting about it was a 555
timer with a ginormous op amp.
Yeah, dumping like half an amp into it. Yeah. This This was a dual transistor kind of configuration, where they kind of like shared the energy and passed it between each other. And with that, kind of with that kind of oscillator, it works really well if both of the transistors are matched. And you can buy super match transistors in a single like SOT package like five or whatnot, where the emitters are connected together and things like that. But my boss would not allow us to get any of those, because it had been his experience. He's been doing it for 30 years, he's like those kinds of chips, they will only be around for like two or three years. And he's like, that will change. And then you know what your most critical component the the front end oscillator on your entire product. Now the most critical component of that is obsolete, you can't find it anywhere. And so we would go and completely redesign these these old designs, just because of that. Now in a situation like that, it makes sense. Like you would dodge something like this. But if you're just talking about like, I don't know, some kind of like add on little plugin thing. It seems kind of weird that they would go out for three years. It doesn't. But there's got to be something behind it. There's got to be some reason.
Yeah. Especially where they also said three years was long term. And I'm like, you don't really know what long term is Google?
Maybe, maybe, you know, maybe it is long term for software. Okay. Who knows?
There's no in the Slack channel or in comments below. Yeah. So number two is a email that we got in. And it's a, it's an interesting question. It's, I look or the listener writes, a topic I'd be interested in hearing you guys discuss is how you go about intentionally improving your engineering skills. I've been thinking a lot recently about the idea of achieving mastery in quotes of a skill. And I'm interested in interested in other people's take on that topic. Hmm. So how do you get better at engineering?
Good, do it. Let me see here. So I think I think what, what what, one way that could really work well, or one way that I like to employ is I'm always trying to learn in some way. I'm always trying, I think, like, most important thing. Yeah. So I mean, even my wife makes fun of me, because we'll be like, sure, like, hey, let's watch a movie. I'll be like, All right. And then the entire time I'm on my computer, like researching some white paper on Yeah, we're like, swear to God, like, I'll be on my on the simulator. I'm, like, simulating a new way to do something, or whatnot. So trying things like, like, if you come across, like a question where you like, what if? Or I don't know if or how do you? Like if if those ever popped into your head, like, don't just be like, Oh, I can't think about that, like, follow that, like, let that let that go down that path.
Right. And if you can't do it right, then write down your question that you just had, yeah, then you can get to it.
Right, right. Right, actually, here's a great example. The other the other day on the podcast, Parker and I talked about different grounding schemes for electronic circuits. Yeah.
And I'd like for papers like the next day.
Did you really? Yeah. That's great. So we talked about true honest to God, Star grounding. Yes. So I have a PCB in the works right now, where I'm doing honest to god star ground on it. Like I'm actually making one and, and it's purely like, I really don't know if that's going to be great. And I really want to measure it against other circuits that I have that are similar. So I'm just trying it and in, you know, but at the same time, I've also I'm also reading about it and figuring out like, what's the best? So I think the best way to do it is to just try it. Also, you know, this is not a criticism at all, to the way that you know, this question was worded, but like, I wouldn't ever, like seek to be a master at something. I think you'll just like, I'm certainly not a master at anything, but I think coming on sweet Bo Staff skills, so me and Nunchuck skills. Yeah. But like becoming a master at something. I think that's something that like you, you just earn. I don't think that's something that you're like, I'm going to be a master at this. And then like, it's not something that you ever like end at for Ash Ketchum, though. That's true. He was a Pokemon well, but you had to play the entire game and be the master. Yes, there was a set of goals that you had to achieve to do. So that's, that's my take, what do you think? Um,
so this is what I do. So it's the same thing where like, if you have a question, are you thinking about something new? I just research the hell out of it. Like I think I probably spend like, from like 11 o'clock to midnight my go to bed. I spend like all that one hour I just been looking at like forms, looking at white papers, new chips, that kind of stuff. Anything that was like, interesting. I look at at work I spend at least an hour a day looking at the same kind of stuff researching looking through websites like E web electronics weekly, anything that looks interesting. That is like my area which is like embedded systems. I will go down that rabbit hole like new sensor technology is like my favorite like great new stuff and MEMS or any kind of like I found these really cool new ethanol sensors that are like actually certified and stuff and tested it out last weekend. Oh nice. So
they work like did like it field test on them.
Cool. Yeah. While we're playing Star Wars D 20. I was actually tested it if
the numbers kept going up.
I was actually coding it as we were playing Star Wars.
Oh my god, like wait, like you stepped away from Dungeons and Dragons to code
and trying it out and seeing how accurate was compared to a really cheap breathalyzer I purchased Yeah, yeah.
Wow, that's that's actually really nerdy. It's pretty well.
Yeah, I always say just never always you need to take a leap. I think you have to every day. Yeah, that's one thing is you have to you can't take a break from it in my opinion, like even like online not sleep, even on like, vacation like, quote, vacation. Like, I'm still looking at stuff like two weekends ago, I went down to Galveston went fishing, like, cleaned up, cleaned all the fish, all that stuff. And we're, you know, back at the Bay house, and I just like looked at my phone, I got an email from TI saying, Hey, we got some new chips. I'm like, awesome. Start reading through them. Yeah, that's gorgeous. New App notes. I really like app notes. Because it's always like a very specific thing of how to do it. And they usually have a, like, high level app abstract of like, this is like the problem and blah, blah, blah. And this how you solve it. And you learn like a very sliver like, but it's a vertical sliver sliver of like, the problem, the solution? And then like the technical aspects, you learn all that and this really narrow problem. That's an engineering Oh, yeah. But then you learn everything about it. Eventually, in your, you know, in your lifetime, you'll probably never come across it. But when you do you know, every single thing about it and know what to
do. Yeah, yeah, actually, and funnily enough, I kind of have a thing, this was this happened last night, I was I was looking up loads for transistors and tubes, for their, I guess, their anode connection, or the collector connection. So for an amplifier like that, and I'm not talking about like an audio amplifier, but just an amplifier configuration, the best load is a constant current load. For those things, you get the highest, you actually realize the full gain out of a system. But if you're wanting to make it constant current load at voltages that are above say, 15 volts, it actually gets kind of difficult, because you have to have the right things for that. So I went on this like odyssey of how do you like, how do you make a high voltage constant current source that has incredibly high output impedance, but like, can drive loads at like 100 milliamps or something like that? And you know, a lot of where it starts is Google image search. Yeah, you do Google image search. And then you see a whole bunch of schematics and like, you get to this point where you look at one you're like, that's crap, that's crap. That one's good. And then you go to that website and start digging. Yeah, it's a lot of reading. But you you know what one skill that you actually learn is how to skim really fast. Yeah, oh, you're
the right information, I
will skim through and I will see equations, or I will see numbers, and I start looking at those first. And if they look like decent, then I'll go back and start reading some more the actual words because, you know, if it's just a guy who's like, this thing is really great. And it's like, okay, cool. That's his opinion. But like, if you see another guy was like, really analyzing something. It's like, I want to learn it to the level that he has. And you just start reading it.
Yeah. Cool. Yeah, I think that's, that's what you just got to do is just, and I think surround yourself with it too.
Right. forfeit your social life entirely. That's, that's one of the I know I have. Yeah, no, or go be that guy who researches these things at a bar? He, you know, he's on his phone two weeks ago at the hardware meetup. And not just, there was like nine of us. Yeah, in fact, it was actually really cool. At the happy hour. There was, you know, a lot of the people who showed up where they would, you know, say like, Hey, have you seen this new XYZ chip, or whatever. And everyone's like, Oh, no, what does it do? Like? It was cool. Yeah. It was a lot of fun. So yeah, involve yourself in that kind of stuff. And listen, listen to all of our podcasts. Yeah. You might learn something I cannot prove. I can't I yeah, I will. Yeah, we cannot say that. You absolutely will. But you mind. Yeah.
Yeah. Okay. That was the McWrap engineering podcast.
We were your hosts Parker, Dolman and Steven Gregg. See you next time guys take it easy
Thank you. Yes, you are listener for downloading our show. If you have a cool idea, project or topic that you want Steven and I to discuss, tweet us at Matt crab or that email us at podcast at macro calm. Also check out our Slack channel. I'm sorry, I've been low congestion today. Allergies are crazy. And if you're not subscribed to the podcast yet, click that subscribe button. That way you get the latest map episode right when it releases. And please review us wherever you listen and helps the show stay visible and helps new listeners find us. You know, I probably should subscribe to the podcast.
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