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Tech Smorgasbord Archives - 29

RF Cafe University"Factoids," "Kirt's Cogitations," and "Tech Topics Smorgasbord" are all manifestations of my ranting on various subjects relevant (usually) to the overall RF Cafe theme. All may be accessed on these pages:

 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37

Forbes' 2011 List

of World's Billionaires

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Forbes' 2011 BillionairesForbes just published their annual list of the world's billionaires (1,140 of them). It has not changed much at the top. Here are the high tech winners. Mexico's telecom magnate Carlos Slim remains king of the hill with $74B, while Bill Gates plays second fiddle. Warren Buffet takes slot #3. #5 is Oracle's Larry Ellison. Googles wonderboys share #24. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is #30. India's Wipro software guy Azim Premji sits at #36. Michael Dell: #46; Steve Ballmer: #38. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg ranks #52, but soon he might drop to sharing somewhere around #150 if a lawsuit by alleged co-founder Paul Ceglia is successful.   Malaysia's telecom giant Ananda Krishnan owns slot #93. The Wal-Mart Waltons occupy #10, 20, 21, and 22, 323, 409 (importing everything from China is good business). Un-PC Alert: Bill and Warren have given away a lot of their wealth the last couple years, which affected their rankings. Maybe Mr. Slim should offer some of his wealth to fellow countrymen to return from their illegal residences in the U.S., then let us see how he fares.


2010-11 Best Colleges

for Big Paychecks

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - 2010-11 Best Colleges for Big PaychecksPayScale.com released the results of its survey of college statistics for 2011. It covers topics like which school averaged t he highest beginning salaries, best salaries by degree type, and most popular career choices. Harvey Mudd College always seems to come out tops for pay (#1 this year, too), and I'm not sure why since I had never heard of Harvey Mudd College prior to reading these surveys. HMC calls itself a Liberal Arts school, but it does offer a BS in Engineering degree. Anyone out there who is an HMC alum and wants to enlighten me about why such a degree is worth more than, say, an EE degree from MIT, please write. Beginning salary (bs): $68.9k, mid-career (mc): $126k. Runner up was Princeton: bs $58.9k, mc $123k. Harvard: bs $57.3k, mc $121k. CIT: bs $69.9k, mc $120k. MIT: bs $68.3k, mc $119k. More here. OK, so which degree is pulling down top dollars (yen, euros, etc.)? The top 7 are in engineering, with Petroleum at #1, bs $93.0k, mc $157k. Aerospace: bs 59.4k, mc $108k. Electrical is #3 at bs $60.8k, mc $104k. Physics #8 at bs $50.7k, mc $99.6k. More here.


America's 25 Fastest-

Growing Tech Companies

Forbes just released is list of the 25 fastest-growing companies in America. I personally have never heard of most of them, but evidently the right people have. Here are what appear to be the top electronics type companies.

  1 First Solar


  2 Neutral Tandem

       (telephone comms)

  3 Riverbed Technology

       (data processing)

  4 Illumina

       (analytical instruments)

  5 Cavium Networks


  7 Rackspace Hosting

       (Internet software)

16 Apple Computer


17 Google

       (Internet services)

19 Red Hat


25 Dolby Laboratories

       (motion pic/audio)


The Unemployed

Need Not Apply?

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - The Unemployed Need Not ApplyUntil recently, I believed that given the extended depressed condition of the job market that employers were sympathetic to the plight of its innocent victims (not all are innocent). Surely a hiring manager or human resources staffer would not shun an otherwise qualified candidate simply because he has not had any luck in securing a new position within a few months of having been laid off. That is probably the way you see it too, right? Wrong. As it turns out, there is no mercy being shown. According to articles widely available on business websites and magazines, the prevailing attitude is that this is an employer's dream scenario because the market is flush with highly qualified prospects (read stories here, here, here, here, and here). This is not new; it happened as recently as the late 1980s / early 1990s. The difference this time is that employers now are able to exploit people's willingness to expose everything about their personal lives on social media websites like Facebook to vet for risky traits. Even without being "friended" there are ways to dig into posted content for revealing facts about you. That has had a huge impact on many of the unemployed's attempts to find new work. The situation is so dire that there are now services like Socioclean available for helping to assimilate all the locatable references to you on the Internet and help scrub the party animal or radical activist reputation you have been so erstwhile proud of.


2011 Camaro

Antenna Solution

RF Cafe - 011 Chevy Camaro Convertible AM/FM Antenna SolutionI have often said that some of the most capable and enthusiastic engineers and technicians - and even managers - I have worked with in my 30-something year electronics career have been amateur radio operators. They are the rare few who are able to combine a hobby passion with a profession that pays for the hobby... kind of like the airline pilot who flies model airplanes or the druggie who works at a pharmacy. Oh, wait, scratch that last example.

Here we see a video from Chevrolet where two engineers, one of them a Ham, took up the challenge to replace the AM/FM whip antenna originally planned for the 2011 Camaro convertible with a blended, inconspicuous antenna. Leaked photos of the prototype car showed the whip, which caused Camaro aficionados to descend upon Chevy requesting its removal. The flexible, folding rear window prevented an embedded solution as is the norm for many cars. The ultimate solution? Embed the antenna in the spoiler. <more>


IMS2011 Student

Competition - Prizes!

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - IMS2011 Student ContestsEach year student technical paper and design contests are held as part of the MTT-S show. This year's categories include a Student Paper Competition, Student Design Competitions, and new this year a Graduate Student Challenge. Eight separate circuit design areas are available for selection - Power Amp, ASH Rx, LNA, Packaged Triplexer, Wideband Balun, SDR, Optical-to-Microwave Converter, and Innovative Modeling Techniques. Winning any of these competitions would be a shining star on anyone's resume. Applied Wave Research (AWR) will be sweetening the deal by giving away fully-functional, one-year, personal-use licenses for Microwave Office and Visual System Simulator to the top 3 winners / winning teams of the High-Efficiency Power Amplifier and Wideband Balun competitions. The value of each package will be worth as much as $10kUS... a nice bonus on top of gaining celebrity status!


Say Goodbye to America's

Manned Space

Transportation Program

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - The Demise of America's Manned Space Transportation ProgramSpace Shuttle Endeavour (named after the ship of British Lt. James Cook) lifts off for the last time tomorrow (April 29). Atlantis flies next month, marking the end of the USA's manned space flight vehicle program for the foreseeable future. Henceforth, we will be hitching rides on Chinese and Russian craft that still land in the desert using parachutes.

Here are some stats on the Shuttle program.

Number of shuttles: 5 - Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour; expected launches: 500; actual: 135; total flight time (as of Jan 2011): 1289 days; shuttles lost: 2 (Challenger, Columbia); total passengers: 836; failure rate: 1:67.5; fuel consumption rate: 660,000 lbs/min solid, 45,000 gpm liquid hydrogen; 17,000 gpm LOX; time to orbit: 8.5 min.; orbital speed: 17, 500 mph; touchdown speed: 220 mph.

As with our oil drilling industry, politicians have chosen to trash our domestic space transportation industry and send that money to countries that yearn for our demise. We pass on cutting edge technology, lend money (which rarely gets repaid), and even pay for the privilege <more>


Unusual Units

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Unusual UnitsWhile reading through the Old Farmer's Almanac, I saw an article on units of measure. It included examples from nuclear physics like 1 barn = 10-28 m2 and 1 shed = 10-24. The BB (as in BB gun) is 0.18 in. Ø because it is between a size B and a BBB lead shot. A Garn is a level of space sickness adopted by NASA in honor of astronaut Jake Garn's infamous episode in 1985. If you will be back in a jiffy, you had better be fast, because 1 jiffy = 10 ms (1 cycle of a computer clock when it was coined). 1 beard-second = 10 nm, about how much facial hair grows in one second. A milliHelen [of Troy] is the amount of beauty needed to launch just one ship. Don't forget the Smoot unit of length, which I recently covered, which equals 5 feet, 7 inches. In 1957, Mad magazine issue #33 published an entirely new system "Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures," where, for instance, 1 potrzebie = the thickness of Mad issue #26. If you Google these units, there will likely be disagreement about some, but who really cares?


One Heck of An Issue

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - February 2011 MicroWaves & RFFor ten years I have been scanning all the major engineering magazines each month for content that I think will particularly benefit RF Cafe visitors. You see links to those articles frequently in the homepage Recent Additions list, plus they are archived for later reference. While looking through the February 2011 edition of MicroWaves & RF (anyone notice the new title style?) two things greatly impressed me. First, nearly every article is worthy of linking to because of the relevance to everyday circuit and systems designers. Second, many RF Cafe advertisers have large ads for your edification. That goes for both MicroWaves & RF and the Defense Electronics magazine insert. An interview with Analog Devices' Barrie Gilbert (of Gilbert cell fame), articles on Cellular Trends, Understanding Dynamic Range, Prevent PCB Problems in ISM-Band Designs, and VCSO Technology Silences Synthesizers are among the many that will keep you in rapt technical bliss. That doesn't even include the plethora of great Defense Electronics articles. Don't be selfish -pass your copy on to a fellow engineer... or at least leave it in Wally's "other" office.


A Cornucopia of Secrets

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Downed Helicopter at bin Laden RaidWhen I heard about the helicopter that went down during the raid at the bin Laden compound, my first concern after the safety of the crew was that now a high technology aircraft would be available to the enemy for inspection. Even after learning that the craft was "blown in place," I was still worried that unless some high temperature incendiary material like white phosphorous was used prior to the explosion, the pieces remaining would be in-tack enough to glean useful info. My worst fears were confirmed with the release of photos by Reuters (always sure to post images that could harm the U.S.) showing not just this large section of the tail boom and rotor, but also smiling kids walking around with scrounged parts of airframe and electronics gear. As an engineer who spent many years tearing down other company's designs to figure out how they designed and implemented leading edge circuits (and also checking for patent infringements), I can tell you that a circuit or system does not have to be in full functioning order to yield critical information. Material samples are now available for the stealth skin composition, lamination and attachment methods, and facet angles. Super quite airfoil and blade shape data is <more>


UK's Best UFO Hoax

by Engineering Students

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - UK's Most Successful UFO HoaxPranks by engineering students are a big part of the legacy of some schools. Caltech students famously replaced the hillside Hollywood sign their alma mater's name, and MIT students launch objects from beneath the AstroTurf on the football field during games. Canadian engineering students dangled a VW Bug from the Golden Gate bridge. That was all child's play compared to a 1967 hoax played on all of England by Royal Aircraft Establishment engineering interns. UFO sightings were at fever pitch. "The hoax caused panic among intelligence agents, senior police officers and top-flight mandarins. And it put Britain on alert for a full-scale interstellar invasion." The students constructed six oval flattened objects, 54" long, 30" wide and 20" deep, molded from fiberglass and laced with artist's graphite to give them an other-worldly sheen. Read the hilarious story, including how a policeman was reprimanded for bringing one of the saucers to the station and risking contamination.




RF Cafe - Darling, Brown & Sharpe Wire Gauge ToolDo you ever find yourself using a common word or saying, and then suddenly realizing that you have no idea of its meaning or origin, even though you have used it often? Then, you ask if anyone else knows the etymology and all you get is deer-in-the-headlights stares. Try this one in the lab later today: How did the AWG (American Wire Gauge) system decide on wire sizes, and why are smaller wire sizes given larger numbers? Brown & Sharpe, a metrology tool company founded in the mid 1800s, standardized wire diameters. They decreed that No. 36 wire would have a diameter of 0.0050 inches, and No. 0000 ("4-ought") is 0.4600 inches in diameter. That leaves 40 wire sizes, with a diameter ratio between largest and smallest of 92. Therefore, the geometric formula that governs in-between wire sizes (in inches, for solid wire) is:

    RF Cafe - AWG wire size formula


  RF Cafe - AWG wire number formula

OK, so why do small wires have larger numbers? It is because smaller wire gauges need to be drawn through the forming die a larger number of times.


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