Recent Blog Posts

09.26.14
Preparation for an Uncertain Future
by Mark Shughart

As a company, Mindtribe strives to work on a large number of interesting projects. Structurally, many of these projects require similar paths, which is where our methods help to drive success. Technically, our engineers need to have a wide technical base to be able to support the creativity of our clients. This drive for a diversity of technical understanding leads us to spend our time between projects exploring the unfamiliar areas of our fields so that we are able to offer the best solutions to our customers’ problems.

Beyond Michelle’s wonderful post on the varied aspects of 3D printing, other members of the team have also prepared themselves for the future by experimenting with unfamiliar technologies. As sensors become smaller and computation requires less power, devices will become more and more reliant on wireless communication. Many devices today use a Bluetooth connection to allow the computational and communication capabilities of our phones to unlock the power of the sensors.

 » Read more about: Preparation for an Uncertain Future  »

09.15.14
Quick and Small Exponential Scaling on the MSP430
by Timothy Van Ruitenbeek

For a recent project, I wanted to build a variable-brightness LED lamp, using an MSP430 to convert the linear slide potentiometer input into a PWM signal to drive the LED. Unfortunately, directly scaling the 10-bit ADC value to a 16-bit PWM duty cycle does not result in a linear apparent brightness response due to the eye’s (approximately) logarithmic response.

There are several ways to accomplish this conversion in an embedded system, with different trade-offs:

  • Use floating point math and powf() from math.h
  • Use a 1024-element lookup table of pre-computed values
  • Use a smaller lookup table with interpolation
  • Use an approximation that trades accuracy for speed & size

Implementation of approximation algorithm

I decided to try the last option and use the fact that 2^n is equivalent to 1 << n, since bit-shifts are much quicker than multiplication and division.

 » Read more about: Quick and Small Exponential Scaling on the MSP430  »

08.29.14
Why Ink Is the Best Stylus Out There
by Michelle Warner

Ok, so, not going to lie, I’m a little biased on this topic. I’m one of the engineers at Mindtribe who has poured a little bit of my heart and soul into Adobe’s new Ink and Slide. But biases aside, working on this project has given me a lot of experience working with the hardware and the chance to evaluate it for myself. Although I would not consider myself an artist, I do enjoy the occasional doodle, and while working on quality assurance and testing standards for Ink, I evaluated stylus performance by actually doing some drawing. From this experience I’ve gathered my top 5 reasons why Ink is the best stylus out there.

Pressure Sensitivity Really Makes a Difference

One of the most common criticisms I’ve heard about tablet styluses in general is that the experience simply doesn’t compare to working with a pencil and paper.

 » Read more about: Why Ink Is the Best Stylus Out There  »

08.14.14
Energy Harvesting: A Snapshot in Time
by Elisa Duggan

It is important for Mindtribe to keep up-to-date on the maturity of technologies. For electronics, one field that is seeing a lot of innovation is energy harvesting. While some options require high NRE’s, there are several products that are readily available for prototyping.

Solar is the most common but requires custom or at least customized panels and large volumes. So we see things like Citizen watches with solar recharging. We’re likely to see more of this as photovoltaic innovations make it possible to harvest energy from even overcast days and indoor lighting. Developing a relationship with a specific supplier will allow you to obtain a very targeted product.

Most other harvesting options are a bit further afield in terms of implementation. Thermoelectric Peltier devices are used to cool wine fridges and CPU’s, but we are starting to see them appear in other products as energy harvesters.

 » Read more about: Energy Harvesting: A Snapshot in Time  »

07.31.14
YouTube’s Guide to 3D Printing
by Michelle Warner

Here at Mindtribe we love our 3D printer! But to keep it functioning we have to be a bit conservative with it. We print in plastic and mostly for client prototypes, with the occasional personal project thrown in. As 3D printer technologies evolve and grow, the application space is also growing, so I wanted to spend a little time trying to find the craziest (crazy useful or just plain crazy) applications I could. Naturally, I turned to what I consider to be the best source for all things crazy: YouTube.

3D Printing Gets Sweet

You’ve probably seen early 3D chocolate printers (if not, watch the first 5 seconds of this video and you’re pretty much caught up). I’ve always found these FDM-style chocolate printers to be a little disappointing. So I was skeptical when I first saw the Chef Jet,

 » Read more about: YouTube’s Guide to 3D Printing  »

07.21.14
You Have To Get Into It
by Brian Cherbak

What is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good –
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

I recently finished my first read of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Coincidently, I recently started my second read, because there’s certainly a level of comprehension that I missed the first time.

I’ve heard that not everyone who starts the book finishes it. One might say that it’s intellectually involved and requires a lot of careful reading. Many might say it’s boring. And everyone wants to know where the bits about motorcycle maintenance are after page 48.

Actually, I’ve heard Pirsig’s Chautauquas (anecdotal, philosophical life lessons) regarding the maintenance of a motorcycle for years. My dad, who’s never read the book, and who’s been working on machines since he was six,

 » Read more about: You Have To Get Into It  »

07.07.14
How to Make a Tapered Triangular Twisted Tube
by Chet Lim

When we were approached by Adobe to consider the feasibility of making the Ink stylus, one of the biggest risks was manufacturability of the metal housing. It is a unique tapered-triangular-twisted-tube (try saying that five times fast).

After a brainstorming session with the larger project team, several technologies were identified and investigated:

  • Reverse impact extrusion then twist

Issues: Not able to control the uniformity of twist

  • Extrusion then twist

Issues: Not able to have taper, not able to control the uniformity of twist

  • Twist extrusion (like rotini pasta)

Issues: Not able to have taper, vendor for aluminum twist extrusion not readily available

  • Hot gas forming / hydroforming

Most promising solution, able to support the complex shape

In short,

 » Read more about: How to Make a Tapered Triangular Twisted Tube  »

06.26.14
Ink and Slide: Design-led Engineering at its Best
by Steve Myers

If you’re familiar with product development, you know that products are typically designed by designers, then built by engineers. We call this specification-driven engineering: specify what you want, then build it.

Unfortunately this approach is extremely risky. If your vision isn’t exactly what users want, you’ve just wasted a bunch of time and money (perhaps all of it if you’re a start-up).

We worked closely with Adobe Experience Design (XD) using a different approach for Ink, Slide, and Line: design-led engineering. Here’s how we did it.

1. Starting with Adobe XD’s vision for users, we created a list of prioritized user needs before focusing on features.

We often think of products in terms of features and it’s easy to get fixated with them. Users care about pain points they have, not features. Features follow needs.

Once we had a list of needs the product would address,

 » Read more about: Ink and Slide: Design-led Engineering at its Best  »

06.18.14
Hardware-Enabled User Experience: What Drove Adobe to Make Ink and Slide
by Steve Myers

You might have noticed that Adobe, a software company, just created a couple of very compelling hardware products—Ink and Slide.

If a software company making hardware is a head-scratcher for you, here’s why this is a forward-looking move for Adobe and why you’ll be seeing more hardware from software companies in general:

Creating user experiences that people love and evangelize requires tight control over both hardware and software.

Apple was the first to broadly show the user experiences possible when developing hardware and software together (and went from a reverberating death knell to the world’s most valuable company as a result).

Here’s why the Adobe Experience Design (XD) group decided it was time to make hardware: armed with tablets and mobile phones more powerful than desktop computers of just a few years ago, creatives don’t sit at desks all day anymore.

 » Read more about: Hardware-Enabled User Experience: What Drove Adobe to Make Ink and Slide  »

06.05.14
The Single Transistor Radio
by Chasen Peters

In my spare time between projects here at Mindtribe, I am always looking for something to keep my mind busy. Recently, I have become fascinated with the idea of a software-defined radio, or SDR for short. From a very high level, the concept behind an SDR is to use high speed digital electronics to replace functional blocks, like frequency mixing and modulation/demodulation, that traditionally require the use of high speed analog electronics. The advantage of using digital blocks is that they are easily configured through firmware/software. This approach gives the system a new level of flexibility that has traditionally not been available with a fully analog radio.

However, when learning something new, it is good practice to review the background and why it is necessary. For instance, learning to do differential equations before Laplace transforms. I thought it would be a good exercise to build a simple analog radio in order to gain some appreciation for the advantages of the SDR.

 » Read more about: The Single Transistor Radio  »

05.19.14
Spotting Patterns in C Disassembly
by Jerry Ryle

I’m grateful to Github for many things, but especially for making source control usage “normal” behavior. Perhaps Github’s popularity correlated with, rather than caused this trend, but I’m going to give them this one. Since Github’s advent, I’ve not needed to remind clients and new hires to put code into source control–it has become second nature. As a result, I have not had to patch a binary for quite some time now.

There was once a time when the phrase, “I’ll send you the source code,” found me in a cold sweat, hitting “check mail” in Outlook until the promised zip arrived. I’d be crushed to discover that the zip contained my worst fear: a binary executable, and nothing more. Invariably, I’d receive the, “oh, that’s all I have,” response to my grasping follow-up–hoping they might scrape together some crusty scraps of actual source out of old emails or off of that forgotten shared folder.

 » Read more about: Spotting Patterns in C Disassembly  »

05.07.14
ESD-Compliant Design (it’s not what you think)
by Adam Rothschild

I recently experimented with veganism. I’d been in France for a couple of weeks gorging myself on cheese and foie gras, so I needed a cleanse. While I won’t launch into stories about all the creative things you can do with cashews, I will share one lesson from my vegan foray: I like steak.

I wouldn’t particularly recommend veganism—nor would I discourage it, I actually felt about the same—but I will say that if you want a steak to taste super extra delicious, try not eating animal products for six weeks and then sinking your teeth into a medium rare, perfectly seared wagyu steak at Alexander’s.

So what do steaks have to do with engineering? As it turns out, a lot.

ESD compliance is a Mindtribe achievement that many have coveted but few have achieved. I’m not talking about high-energy electrons wreaking havoc on your silicon here.

 » Read more about: ESD-Compliant Design (it’s not what you think)  »

Load More