Given $250K

Not long ago Focus Embedded entered “Mission Small Business,” a contest run by Chase Bank and Living Social to see what deserving entity should get a $250,000 grant to expand.  We were up against what we suspect were about 40,000 applicants, so the odds of winning the whole enchilada were slim.  And we didn’t, although thanks to many of you, we did make it to round two of the contest.  In the second round, we got graded on essays about our establishment.  And while you’re waiting on the next blog entry — this time one on the subject of feedback control of current loops for microstepping motors — we thought we’d post another of the essays we sent on to the good folks at Chase.  Chalk this up under the heading of “getting to know Focus Embedded…”

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And… We’re NOT a winner… ;-)

Once again, thanks to everybody who supported Focus Embedded on “Mission Small Business,” a contest run by Chase Bank and Living Social to see what deserving entity should get a $250,000 grant to expand.  We were up against what we suspect were about 40,000 applicants — all vying for 12 spots.  So to paraphrase The Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor…  But not by very much if any…”

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Easter Eggs and how e-mail is Tracked

Some of you may be reading this because you’re a regular RSS subscriber to our blog, and some of you may be reading it because you clicked on the “Easter Egg” button on our last outbound e-mail newsletter.

For those of you in the latter camp, I probably should explain the term “Easter egg,” which commonly refers to a hidden link or trapdoor in some computer program that allows a user access to some information or set of features that in the course of “normal” use of the media, game, program, etc. he’d never see.

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Focus Embedded Discusses Technology Policy with US Senators

In the third week of June, I had an opportunity to pay a visit to Washington, DC with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.  Our purpose was to meet with members of Congress to discuss, among other things, initiatives to spur small business (and particularly small technology business) growth.

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Support us on www.missionsmallbusiness.com

Hey blog followers…  We’re in the running for a grant on the “Mission Small Business” website.  If you have 30 seconds and a Facebook account, we’d appreciate your vote.  Costs nothing and keeps us where we can continue to blog for you.  The “Log In and Support” button is at lower right on the page in the above link, and we’re located in Round Rock, Texas.  The name is obviously “Focus Embedded.”  Thanks in advance…

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Where is JPEG2000 Today?

Recently this question came up on a discussion board, and we thought it worth a comment, since we’ve been in the video compression business for a few years and have a few experts on the Mallat Transform and JPEG2000 in residence here:

Lossless JPEG2000…  Which kind of industry verticals recently showing interest in this other than medical imaging?

Our reply:

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4mA-20mA Current Loop Chip Selection

The venerable 4mA-20mA current loop isn’t going away any time soon as a communications mechanism for the very simplest of devices used in control systems.  With as many alternative communications methods (Ethernet, USB, etc.) becoming more prevalent and considerably easier to implement now that most major chip vendors are giving away such things as TCP/IP stacks and HID-class USB endpoint drivers, we see far more of that kind of design than we do current loops, which are holdovers from the days when a teletype machine was considered a pretty spiffy user interface.  But we do still see them, and we do still get requests to implement them — particularly in instrumentation circuits that might find their way into a control loop and have to be backward compatible with equipment that’s already installed.

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Selecting an ARM Processor for Video

Recently, the following question came up on an ARM discussion group, and our CEO weighed in on it.  We thought that the response might be of interest:

I have been asked to design a custom 200MIP ARM9 board with a parallel RGB TFT LCD (18bits) interface. Any ideas where I can start?

Our CEO, Eric Overton, responded as follows:

What kind of budget are you on as far as development costs and “Cost of Goods Sold” for the final product?  TI has a whole family of parts that are ARM-based (Cortex A8 for the most part), although they’re adding to the family all the time, and many of them have development stuff in open source (such as is the case with the Beagle Board).

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An Emulator that was not at Fault

Note:  This post also appears in Design News (plus or minus a few edits) as “Beware of the Borrowed Design

Part of the fun of working for a development tools company (which I did some years ago before founding Focus Embedded, where I now work) is that you get to peek into other people’s designs when they don’t go right and they think that the source of the problem is the tool itself.  Once in a while, somebody will use an obscure function of a processor and will find that one “corner case” where the debugging tool is, in fact, at fault.  But usually there’s something else insidious going on, and it’s always amusing to see what it is.

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Product Development Strategies, Part Two

In part one of this two-part series, we had a look at the costs of doing new product development from a clean sheet of paper.  And if there was one message to take away, it was, “Know where you are on the ROI curve for what you’re doing.  Price is not the same as cost, and being back too far on the curve — because you got stingy with price and utterly overlooked value — can be fatal to your business.

If you haven’t read part one yet, we heartily encourage you do to so, since much of what’s written here builds on it, and this part will probably make a lot more sense with part one already read and digested.  The sharp eyed will note that figure numberings in this part begin with “Figure 4,” and it’s probably worth at least looking at Figures 1, 2, and 3 in part one to get a feel for how these latest illustrations differ.

This time around we’re going to address what happens when you’re already down the road with a development effort that’s gone off the rails and has to be substantially redone.

Recovering from Having Made a Mess of Things

Let’s have a look at the scenario where you sent to the work to the low bidder and it didn’t turn out correctly. Continue reading

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