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Combined Audio/Arduino Club: 8:00 p.m. in Coover 2011. (10.19.17)

Soldering for n00bs. (Maybe we can call it Soldering Club tonight.) Everyone has been itching “to build stuff”, so we had better get to it. We will have a bit of a tutorial at the start, and then I will have all the parts needed for soldering a couple of circuits. I’ll try to have enough for 24 people, which should be more than adequate. Old hands should still consider attending — you can help teach the rookies and show them some of your tricks and techniques. The Fire Department has been alerted.

If you want to partake in the fun, you should bring your EE 201 lab kit — or at least the tools (wire cutter, wire stripper, needle-nosed pliers, screwdriver). Also bring along a 9-V battery to power the circuits — it's not essential for tonight, but if you want to power your circuits later, you will need one.

Flight 666 to HEL. (10.14.17)

Sounds like a bad made-for-TV movie. This is funny, because my family took this flight once — on a Friday, no less. But it was a Friday the 12th, so not as demonic as it might have been. The flight itself was quite pleasant — just an easy hop across the Baltic Sea to a nice city. What was hellish about the ordeal for us was getting on the plane in the first place. When we got to the Copenhagen airport, Finnair told us that our whole group had been put on stand-by. Great — we might get bumped. We trudged off to the gate, hoping that there would be seats for us. On the way there, we went through the most severe security screening that we have ever encountered. The Danish TSA (or whatever they are called) questioned and probed in ways that we had never imagined before. Fortunately, they stopped just short of conducting cavity searches and allowed us to continue on. After nervously waiting for an hour, we were finally allowed to board. But to make certain that we weren't having too much fun, the gate agent felt compelled to lecture us about the proper quantity and sizes of carry-on luggage as headed down the ramp. (Our luggage was all in compliance — he was just being a jerk.) Sheesh. I guess that even normally laid-back Scandinavians have their moments.

Arduino Club: Thursday, Oct. 12 at 8:00 p.m. in Coover 2011. (10.11.17)

We will look at interacting with the Arduino: switches and potentiometers for input and the serial monitor, LCDs, and seven-segment LEDs for output.

A husband's plan for murdering his wife revealed by her FitBit. (10.11.17)

Our always-on trackers will have all sorts of interesting implications as they become more prevalent. In this case, the tracking information has done some good by revealing the truth in a terrible crime. But we know that there will be many instances when tracking data will be used in less beneficial ways. What was needed in this case was some sort of sensor that would have shown the wife that her husband was a cheating, murderous SOB before he could carry out his plot. (Minority Report?)

Forward to the past. (10.10.17)

While most the bumbling Trump administration spins its wheels and accomplishes nothing (a good thing), the EPA is moving with ruthless efficiency to dismantle decades of environmental protections. (Perhaps it needs to be renamed to EDA.) The EPA chief has announced that the Clean Power Plan was being withdrawn. Apparently, he and fellow geniuses are eager to get back the pristine environments that the energy industry produced in the 1970s. Being of a sufficiently advanced age, I remember some of environmental conditions of that decade — smog so thick that it blocked the sun, rivers that spontaneously started on fire, and whole towns having to be abandoned because of impossibly high levels of chemical pollution. Look at the photos in the link to see the sort of vistas that await us.

Elizabeth Friedman (10.09.17)

Here is the story of a woman who played a pivotal role in developing code breaking techniques that helped stopped smugglers in the 1930s and Nazi spy rings during World War II. She had no formal technical training — she intended to be poet — but apparently she was a natural genius at cryptography. Most of her work was classified and kept secret for decades and so her story was hidden away during her lifetime. (It also appears that J. Edgar Hoover, the goon who ran the FBI for many decades, took an active role in trying to keep her contributions under wrap.) I often wonder how many lost geniuses were never able to make any sort of contribution because they were the wrong gender, or the wrong color, or born in the wrong place. How many future geniuses will be stymied by the same barriers? At least Elizabeth Friedman was able to put her skills to good use, and now her story will be known. This book might be a good read over Thanksgiving break.

No Arduino (or Audio) Club tonight. (10.5.17)

EE 201 students should be studying for their exam! Meetings will resume next week.

Audio Club tonight: 8:00 p.m. in Coover 2011. (9.28.17)

I’m sorry about the meeting time clashing with the football game. I had asked the university if they would move the game to another night, because it was interfering with Audio Club, but they declined.

Audio club question sent yesterday via the Slack group: Is tomorrow the day we are making the amplifiers?

Answer: No, I think we will use one more audio club meeting to discuss fundamental notions a bit further. At tonight’s meeting we will talk a bit about the frequency content of audio signals (the phrase “Fourier Transform” will be mentioned, if that scares anybody), and we will play around with some filters and distortion to demonstrate some of the ideas. In two weeks, we will have a “soldering session” for noobs and then try building the Altoids amp. Part of the reason for waiting is to allow for EE 201 to cover amplifiers before we start building those at the meetings. (Many of the people attending the club are in 201.) The Altoids amp is very low-power and quite simple — it is a good place to start. Then we will build the bigger amps and other circuits later, as we get better.

John Oliver on corporate mergers. (9.28.17)

This is a first-class rant about corporations and the merger mania that has taken hold of the business world. He is spot on about why this is mostly bad for the average citizen.

SpaceX blooper reel. (9.27.17)

Interview with Carl Nelson. (9.27.17)

Very interesting interview with analog design guru Carl Nelson, who worked at Linear Technology for many years. I found myself nodding in agreement to many of the things he said. His comments are well worth reading. A bit of trivia related to our classes: He designed the LM35 temperature sensor chip that is included in the EE 230 lab kit and that you might have used (or maybe will use) in a project.

Trivial Ass-kicking. (9.26.17)

Our team dominated at McFly's Trivia night. We won first place ($25 towards our bar tab) and earned two rounds of shots for knowing the answer to the "baffler" question (Burt Rutan) and for having the high score at the half-way point. It doesn't get any better than that. I may have found my next career. If you are OK with dive bars, McFly's is a fun place to go, especially on trivia night. (No website for McFly's, but I think they have a Facebook page.)

More awesome National Geographic nature photos. (9.26.17)

(Via the Washington Post.) Some truly beautiful pix. (And one that is a bit gruesome.) I particularly like the aerial shot of the camels.

Star Trek: Discovery. (9.25.17)

The new Star Trek is out (after 12 years of no new TV shows), and it looks to be a good one. It has all of the usual stuff that every Star Trek is expected to have, but with plenty of new things to make it interesting. Rather than the standard formula of the heroic captain and crew taking on aliens in a new episode every week, the new version will be a serialized story stretching through the entire season. And the underlying theme appears to be redemption, which is quite different from usual Star Trek tales.

It's a bummer that the show is available only on CBS All Access, which requires a monthly subscription fee (like NetFlix or Hulu). But it is probably worth it, if you like Star Trek. Clearly, from a business perspective, Discovery is a vehicle for pushing All Access subscriptions. One side benefit of having a subscription is that there are lots of old shows available, including every single episode from the previous Star Trek TV series.

The AppleWatch is now the biggest-selling watch in the world. (9.25.17)

It's now bigger than Rolex in terms of revenue. Horace Dediu has some interesting commentary about the slow and steady rise of the AppleWatch to the top of the heap.

Autumnal equinox. (9.22.17)

Summer is gone, and soon we will be freezing (in the northern hemisphere).

Sziklai transistors. (9.15.17)

Basically, a Darlington pair made using a pnp with an npn. It could be fun and useful — as an EE 230 problem if nothing else. But what I would particularly like to know is how connecting two transistors together is ground-breaking enough to have your name permanently attached to the little circuit? I guess that it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Good-bye, Cassini. (9.14.17)

The Cassini Spacecraft is making its final orbits before crashing into the atmosphere of Saturn on Friday. It was an amazingly successful scientific expedition. Here are 100 awesome Cassini photographs taken over the years.

Audio Club tonight. (9.14.17)

8:00 p.m. in Coover 2011. A bit of introduction to the club. Some talk about digital and analog storage media. And maybe some music — probably Portugal. The Man.

Lixie Tubes. (9.14.17)

These look like fun. Maybe we will have to try them as a club project. (Although they are a bit expensive. And apparently out of stock at the moment.)

Getting out of our bubbles. (9.14.17)

I think this is a good idea. Instead of dashing off to our hipster-y enclaves on the coasts or just sitting in our red-state domiciles watching Fox News, it would be good for everyone to spend some time with people from other "walks of life". The first thing that we would probably learn is that we really aren't all that different. With a bit of understanding and a little effort, we might get past the silly divisions that keep us yammering at each other. Travel helps in this regard, and I'm definitely in favor of that, but a "year of service" where everyone is put together to work toward some common and worthy goal might go a long way towards fostering some more tolerance in our fractured society. Sadly, anything like this is very unlikely to happen.

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