Antenna Guru

RF is not 'black magic' – It's Synthesis, Optimization, Analysis and Realization.

UPDATE

I had forgotten about this blog for over two years, until somebody emailed me about it.

We’re quite busy these days growing our business, Machine2Wireless LLC, remodeling our house in Northwest Arkansas and RV camping around the area and around the country.

I have corrected my contact information here.

Be well!

Mark

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EW!

Engineer’s Week, that is.

Look with me at ‘our’ celebratory poster for a moment… The e– earth’s blossoming western hemisphere beneath some random stars shuffled together with rising monarch-ish butterflies and framed by tropical flora… shadowy stylized translucent distant skyscrapers hovering beyond the blue horizon like an outsider’s fanciful view of a distant city…

(Would your manager have approved that drawing for release, I wonder?)

Uh, like… awesome, dude…

Celebrate!

The Future…

…less traveled…

“The future” … an indefinite, murky idea. It is by turns immediate, temporary, indeterminate,  … possibly eternal. It seems to have a somewhat symmetrical relationship to the past, divided by the dynamic boundary of now.

We may extrapolate out a short way to a reckoned point, but only if we disregard the inevitability of surprise.

Sometimes in the dead of winter it seems spring will never come, but of course it will; it always does. When it comes, it comes as a mixture of expected and amazing, of dirty snow and shimmering sunshine, of muddy roads and glorious flowers.

Whatever future be, it will be the season to come. Why not extrapolate to an amazing, shimmering, glorious future?

Seasons’ Greetings!

(k)Now-how

Picture0006It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

–Sun Tzu

How does one know, exactly? There is knowledge that __, e.g. 1+1=2. There is knowledge of __, e.g. “I know I left my glasses somewhere.” Knowing that and knowing of are somewhat easily written out and studied.

Then there is knowledge how __. General Sun was referring to the peril of not knowing the how of his enemies/himself. He referred to what know-how is not in attempting to describe what it is.

Know-how can be difficult to pin down. It is implied or inferred in the result of doing.

Perhaps the best way to judge another’s know-how is to ask the question, “Can you show me?”

“Showing how” is “doing now.”

Past

The past is constantly in transition.

The past is the foundation of  the present and bridge to the future.

The past is in transition — the past is transition.

So long as we live, it will continue to grow.

Then’ is foundational to ‘now.’ 

It forms the superstructure as we pass now to the future.

At critical junctions in life or a project it may be profitable to examine the past before moving on.

Some say, “You cannot change the past,” but we believe you can — by putting your best ‘nows’  into it!

You probably don’t have skin cancer

The other day Debi noticed that one of the funny looking wart-like things on my back seemed to be bleeding a bit. I figured I probably didn’t have skin cancer, but that I should get checked out. (I spent many a shirtless summer in hay fields in upstate New York as a youth; something we now know is not a good idea.) The epidemiologist — dressed like a tweedy archaeologist — took a quick look at the object and pronounced it, “seborrheic keratosis.” For prudence’s sake (and Debi’s!) he carved it out of my back and sent it off to the lab.

So on the one hand, I wasted half a morning on something that turned out not to matter. But on the other hand, I bought a kind of insurance policy that I wouldn’t waste years of my future with something that turned out to be melanoma.

If you have a funny mole you probably don’t have skin cancer either. Waste a little of your time, not a lot — get checked.

A Yen for Yin and Yang

C++This has been an interesting week and it’s only Tuesday…

Yesterday I found myself involved in computer code of all things. I was actually able to dig out some C++ code I wrote for a *.dll way back in the year of ’99. My direct involvement in computer programming was short-lived — there were other people who were pretty good at it already and the integrated development environment simply wasn’t ‘real’ enough for me. Still, and all, it was neat to find (and find useful) an archived project from days gone by.

After that walk down memory lane I worked on the finishing touches of an algorithm that uses Inverse Fast Fourier Transform analysis to automatically tune split ring resonator filters as they are being manufactured.IFFT

But then I had to put that project on hold because the fellow who is commissioning the tuning algorithm wanted new (22 GHz) test fixtures built to test the prototypes he has built so far.

But the test fixture project required me to grind some special holding fixtures so that I could machine the teensy weensy test fixtures in the first place. I don’t have a precision grinder, so I used my mill.

Parallel_grinding_01

I wouldn’t want to do this all the time, but this was for a prototype and it worked out. So now, I’m back to getting those fixtures done, so we can validate the algorithm.

I like going from math books to machine shop and back. It’s interesting and fun to keep up that balance. It’s invigorating, it’s yin and yang.

Parallel_grinding_02
I wonder how that C++ code is going to turn out?

 

IIABDFI

dishwasher disassembly for repair/replacement ...

dishwasher disassembly for repair/replacement of chopper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

About eight years ago I bought a KitchenAid dishwasher. I had had good experience with them over the past quarter century or so, and I didn’t even think about a different brand. Today, I am very impressed with this latest model, but it did not start out that way, the way I had expected.

From the time I first brought it home, it never cleaned the dishes like I thought it was supposed to. It would leave soap in the dispenser if I didn’t arrange the dishes just right. Coffee grounds would stay in the bottoms of the tall cups I like to use if I left the dirty cup on the counter all day before rinsing it out like I like to do. So even though they were just little nagging issues, I was not happy with the appliance.

Right after I bought the thing I had called a repair guy and asked him to check it out. He came out, ran it through a cycle, made some perfunctory tests, and said, “Well, your water’s not hot enough, and you’re not using the recommended detergent. That’ll be eighty-nine bucks.”

I figured they’d sold out, cheapened the product; I figured the new ones weren’t as good anymore. But it still worked. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

About a month ago we had a thunder storm come through that knocked out the power in such a way that the lights went off and on several times and dimmed and so on. The dishwasher had been running at the time, and the storm fried it — The blue LED’s would sort of dimly light on the control panel, but the buttons didn’t work. So, I ordered a control board. That didn’t fix it, so I sent it back and ordered a control panel. The new control panel let me turn the dishwasher on and cycle it, but it didn’t clean the dishes at all.

“Time for a new dishwasher,” I thought. “At least I can send back the panel, too.”

But being a little short of cash right now, my wife talked me into trying some more to fix the (eight year old) one we had. So I puzzled and I thought. I probed and I Googled. I went through that entire dishwasher, cleaning all the strainers and inspecting all the wash arms. Reluctantly, I ordered a circulation pump assembly. I wasn’t hopeful that this would fix it, because when the dishwasher cycled water sprayed… sort of. But I had looked at everything else.

The circulation pump arrived and I replaced it with the help of an online video and Debi’s thoughtful suggestions. (Her suggestions really helped: She studied the video, too, and saw important details that I had missed. Plus, she had encouraged me to press on instead of giving up in the first place.) When we started it up Debi said, “It seems louder to me,” and that was because…

The dishwasher now cleans better than it ever has in the last eight years!

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, certainly.

What We Do (SOAR)

I am trying out some copy writing for our upcoming website. Here’s just a smidgen…

Synthesize

The most general meaning of the word is “combination of parts to form a whole”. In electrical engineering, the term strongly implies mapping from mathematical functions, e.g. Chebyshev polynomials, to some sort of network, e.g. a lumped element filter or an antenna array. We prefer the general meaning which includes the math-to-circuit idea but further conveys the thought that we bring our individual talents to bear on every problem (as necessary)– and our collective expertise spans a number of subject areas.

Optimize

Again, the general meaning of the word, “make something as functional and effective as possible,”  is what we intend to convey. We have a passion for making things and we are passionate about making them as functional and effective as possible.

Analyze

In synthesize the activity goes somewhat like this: If you give us a set of performance requirements we will try to come up with a combination of elements that performs as required. Analysis inverts that activity, like this: If you give us a combination of elements we will try to predict their performance. If synthesis involves “putting it all together”, analysis involves “breaking it down.” We often employ computational techniques to break a problem down, but we also apply philosophy and common sense.

Realize

“…bring into concrete existence …convert into actual money …be fully aware of …cause to happen …”  We have a machine shop so that we can build prototypes. We have a test lab so that we can measure them. We have project management experience because time is money. From beginning to end we like to “keep it real”.

The Internet of Things

Thingernet

The “internet of things” is already here — in the media, at least.

It is not hard to find these types of articles nowadays. Whether or not you think connecting your cow to the www is a great idea, it certainly is a popular topic of conversation. I’m all for it. Here is why, as Linus Pauling famously said

If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.

But there is a problem with the populist application of internet-to-things that goes unmentioned by the tech writers. The cacophony of “information” that results from Farmer Brown giving Bessie her own cell phone potentially threatens our shared bandwidth. This is the reason we have the FCC and the PTCRB. We need to comply with their rules so we all can remain in polite conversation.

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