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Simple time logging in #!/bin/sh

Time tracking has always been an important measurement, especially for employers and supervisors. While starting with my doctorate studies I wrote a simple time logging script which I intended to use daily at the very beginning. There's tons of already written software for time tracking, management, optimization, boosting efficiency, creativity, spring daisies and so on... I wanted something extremely simple, Microsoft-Project-kind-of-software makes me sick. That's why I decided to get a basic mechanism, just like the old punch machines. Unfortunately, things changed a little bit and the need of using time tracking smeared-out... hmmm... really, there is no point in tracking time...

Anyway...So... --->>> Here... ---> | | <--- The script accepts two arguments:

First argument: either in or out

Second argument: a comment, let me give you an example. When I go to the lab I open a shell and write:

punch in Arrived early today, the neighbour's rooster woke me up at 6 a.m. ... I should cook a chicken soup rather soonish...

punch out Lunch!

punch in Let's get that charge pump pumping

punch out Sumo de laranja natural por favor :D


Alternatively you can also type "punch see" to get a list of your timestamps.

The command is called punch for historical reasons. I have simply added a symbolic link named punch in my /usr/bin folder which is pointing to the script. For the youngsters out there - have a look at punch clock ;)

Date:Sun Dec 05 18:56:14 CET 2015


Beta expansion ADCs

Recently, I conducted a quick investigation on esoteric ADC architectures which have probably never left the testchip arena, or if they have, we do not know much about it due to the usual corporate masquerade policies. I want to throw my collection of links to you readers and try to popularize the otherwise very niche field.

One of the esoteric, or rather unexplored areas of ADCs is beta-expansion number representation. Beta-expansion is practically a complex way of saying a non-integer radix number usually falling between radix 1 and 2 when we talk about it in the context of ADCs. Other synonym terms can also be found, such as: "golden ratio encoder", "beta encoder", "non-integer encoder", "flaky quantizer" etc...

The beta encoding technique is mainly applicable to residual types of ADCs such as the pipelined, cyclic and SAR ADCs. It may be that it is also applied to some of the other types of existing ADC architectures however, I am not aware how it could be used in an integrating or flash ADC for example. To make this post more informative, let me give you a brief example of beta quantizers with a pipelined ADC. Here is the transfer function of a 1.5 bit/stage MDAC:

You can see that there is already added redundancy of 0.5 bits, which together with the classic back-end digital error correction algorithm works very efficiently in getting rid of the offset errors in the comparators and MDAC OTA, to up to levels of 1/4 the reference voltage. The figure above isolated only the offset errors, now if we look at the produced gain errors from the OTA and capacitors in the MDAC we get a different form of transfer function distortion:

It is quite clear that the classic stage-redundancy-based digital error correction would not work in the case of residue gain errors, so we would get some rather nasty DNL code gaps. It is very important to mention here that gain errors in the MDAC stage, result in radix deformations in the converted values. These deformations could be tilting towards either higher or lower than radix-2 digital number, usually dependent on capacitor matching and OTA gain.

So if we know that the radix is linearly shifted, we could technically try to correct it with a single multiplication. Here comes the beta-encoding part, which aims to modify the MDAC in advance such that it is intentionally producing redundant code i.e. having a radix lower than 2. Radixes higher than 2 result in binary code gaps which are non-correctable and have no redundancy. Designing for a lower radix code means that we could use a constant-low-gain OTA and intentionally mismatched sampling capacitors in the MDAC. The uncorrected output of such a converter would then look more like in the figure below:

Thus, if we measure two points from the ADC's transfer function (A and B) we can determine the produced radix by using an iterative method. The radix error based on our swept radix search parameter $\beta_{sw}$ and the two points (A and B) from the transfer curve of the ADC would be: $$\sigma(\beta) = \sum_{n=1}^{n=12} (D_{n_{A}} - D_{n_{B}})\frac{1}{\beta_{i}} $$

That fancy equation tells us that the radix shift is linear and can be determined, we have only two points... The non-linearity shown on the graph below comes from $\beta_{i}$ which is our estimation/guess. Beta codes show redundant patterns which is why we see that non-linearity in the radix estimation error.

Once we have estimated the radix, we can apply conventional floating-point multiplication to bring back the A/D converted code to radix-2. All of the above sounds like a great idea, but hmmm...

1) We got rid of the high gain requirement in the OTA, but pushed the problem into designing a constant-low-gain OTA. Which is nearly as non-trivial as designing a very high gain OTA.

2) In the case of a pipelined ADC, capacitor mismatch between the stages is still an issue.

3) In the case of a cyclic ADC the beta-encoding technique might actually work well, as we have a single capacitor pair for all conversions

4) Requires a costly floating-point multiplication as well as an initial radix estimation and coefficient storage

5) 4) makes the implementation in an ADC array nearly impossible, or not worth due to the huge number of coefficients and multiplications required

All of the above facts make the classic beta expansion technique at first sight not extremely attractive, however some of the properties of redundant codes make them worth having a deeper look. There has been ongoing research on beta expansion for a while now and I sincerely hope that it would continue in the future. Here is my list of collected links on the topic:


Boris Murmann, On the use of redundancy in Successive Approximation A/D Converters

Daubechies et. al., Beta Expansions: A new approach to digitally corrected A/D conversion

Suzuki et. al., Robust Cyclic ADC Architecture Based on Beta-Expansion

San et. al., Non-binary Pipeline Analog-to-Digital Converter Based on Beta-Expansion

Rachel Ward, On Robustness Properties of Beta Encoders and Golden Ratio Encoders

Biveroni et. al., On Sequential Analog-To-Digital Conversion with Low-Precision Components

Daubechies et. al., The Golden Ratio Encoder

Kohda et. al., Negative Beta Encoder


The "Fibonacci Code" viewed as a Barcode

The "Fibonacci Code" viewed as a Serial Data Code

Conversion between Fibonacci Code and Integers

Finally, something pretty neat and "chaotic" :

Beta-expansion's Attractors Observed in A/D converters

Date:Sun Nov 22 17:53:23 CET 2015


A must-read book for every analog designer

for both practicing analog designers and those who are thinking of becoming one...

The Art and Science of Analog Circuit Design, is a book edited by Jim Williams, an analog guru who spent significant amount of his career teaching postgaduate students in analog electronics design at MIT, he was also a circuit designer with Linear and National Semiconductor. A brilliant writer, who is unfortunately not with us on this world anymore.
      A few chapters of his book are a must-read for every analog engineer as well as everyone who is thinking of going towards the analog electronics design path. I would like to "advertise" some of his most brilliant works based solely on my personal views.
      It is more than just another circuit design book, it is an adventure through the world of analog design combining theory and real world examples with deep philosophies behind the design process. Apart from design aspects, this book would tell you why you should or should not attempt going on the dark side of the moon. For those of you who have already landed there, by opening "Part 1: Learning How", you will find a mirror of yourself on every page.

This is a weird book. When I was asked to write it I refused, because I didn't believe anybody could, or should, try to explain how to do analog design.

      The weird collection of articles by Williams however, by far does not finish here.
Analog Circuit Design: Art, Science and Personalities - it is the predcessor of the firstmentioned in the post book, released some 9ish years before the release of its second edition. Even though that both books share somewhat similar names, the latter covers far deeper and heavily philosophical analog design paradigms. Some of my personal favourite chapters include:

  Analogs, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, or Metaphors of the Continuum

  Reflections of a Dinosaur

  The Zoo circuit: History, Mistakes, and Some Monkeys Design a Circuit

  Propagation of the Race

As you might notice, all the articles included in both books and edited by Williams are written by practicing analog gurus. But let's hop over to some less philosophical works from Williams, yes, you guessed it right - technical notes. Here is my proposal:

  Switching Regulators for Poets - A Gentle Guide for the Trepidatious

  Bridge Circuits - Marrying Gain and Balance

  1ppm Settling Time Measurement for a Monolithic 18-Bit DAC - When Does the Last Angel Stop Dancing on a Speeding Pinhead?

  Slew Rate Verification for Wideband Amplifiers - The Taming of the Slew

One last link to share with you - check out doctoranalog's blog entirely dedicated to Williams and the early silicon era gurus.

So, to summarize, I am getting even more confused, does analog design take a heavy part in the philosophy of science then? Also, how about coining a new book genre - "philosophical analog science fiction"? :)

Date:Sun Oct 27 23:07:51 CET 2015


An IC Designer's Nightmare

An IC Designer's Nightmare

Date:Sun Aug 21 22:18:11 CET 2015


Bit-Banged SPI for the MCP3008 ADC chip

I wanted to interface Microchip's 12-bit ADC chip (MCP3008) to the Olinuxino MICRO board, which uses the Allwinner A20 processor. Unfortunately, no kernel module supporting full-duplex SPI mode exists yet, or at least I was not able to find a working one. If we can not write and read at the same time we are limited to reading only 8bits from the ADC, which is otherwise a 12-bit SAR converter.

Here's some code implementing a bit-banged SPI specifically tailored to read out the MCP3008. It is written in python and uses the pyA20 GPI/O library by Olimex.

Date:Sun Jul 25 22:27:15 CET 2015