Podcasts for Electronic Engineers, Hackers and Makers

Podcasts are a great way of keeping up to date with what is happening in the fields of electronics and embedded systems. They also offer the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others in the wider technical community.

There are three podcasts that I listen to regularly. All three podcasts are well produced and frequently release new episodes. Each podcast has a slightly different focus – based mainly on the background of the hosts.

The Amp Hour

The Amp Hour is co-hosted by Dave Jones (EEVBlog) and Chris Gammell (Contextual Electronics). New episodes are released weekly.

Dave is based in Sydney, Australia and Chris is based in Chicago, USA. Despite having hosted well over 300 episodes together, the two only met in person quite recently when Chris dropped in on Dave down under!

Both Dave and Chris are hardware engineers. Naturally then, some of the most informative episodes have been hardware related.

Dave and Chris regularly interview guests on The Amp Hour. The two co-hosts have different but complementary interview styles, and this generally works quite well.

The guest list is enviable. As the podcast has a technical rather than business focus, the interviews with startup founders, CTOs, etc. are usually more engaging and open than one might expect.

Twitter:
The Amp Hour
Dave Jones
Chris Gammell

My Favourite Episodes:
#77 – An Interview with Dr. Howard Johnson – Winsome Waveform Wizardry
#196 – An Interview with Mike Engelhardt – SPICE Simulator Synteresis

Embedded.fm

As the name suggests, Embedded.fm is a podcast with a focus on Embedded Systems. Elecia White and Christopher White co-host the podcast and release a new episode on a weekly basis.

This podcast tends to have more of a focus (and expertise) on embedded software and algorithms than The Amp Hour. The two podcasts complement each other very well. Occasionally, the two shows hold crossover episodes.

Elecia and Christopher have a light-hearted and jovial interview style, but both can get right to the heart of the most technical matters in a very accessible manner. My ears perk right up any time a Kalman Filter is mentioned!

Elecia and Christopher run Logical Elegance – a California based consulting company.

Elecia is also the author of Making Embedded Systems: Design Patterns for Great Software.

Twitter:
Embedded.fm
Elecia White
Christopher White

My Favourite Episodes:
9: Kidnapped and blindfolded
53: Being a Grownup Engineer (with Jack Ganssle)

The Engineering Commons

The Engineering Commons tends to have a broader focus than either The Amp Hour or Embedded.fm podcasts. With multiple co-hosts and a focus on all aspects of engineering, conversations with multiple perspectives tend to evolve over the course of each show.

Episodes are released less frequently than that the other two podcasts – perhaps once or twice a month on average.

The broad range of topics covered on The Engineering Commons makes this podcast of great interest to anybody wishing to become a well-rounded professional engineer.

Twitter:
The Engineering Commons
Jeff Shelton
Carmen Parisi

Free Software Tools for Electronic Engineers, Hackers and Hobbyists

Here are some of the free software tools that I use daily while working on both professional and personal electronics projects.

Are there any free software tools that are indispensable to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Notepad++

Notepad++ LogoNotepad++ is a versatile source code editor. It probably has as many uses as it has users.

I usually use it to view and edit C, CSV, XML, PHP and HTML files.

It supports a variety of plugins. I find the file comparison and FTP management plugins particularly convenient as they are integrated seamlessly into the editor.

LTSpice

LTSpice LogoLTSpice is a fantastic professional-grade SPICE simulator from Linear Technology. The fact that it is free should not be viewed as a reflection of its quality or versatility.

There is a great interview with Mike Engelhardt, the man behind LTSpice, on The Amp Hour podcast.

SPICE is an acronym of Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. The Computer History Museum recorded a very enlightening panel discussion on how SPICE originally came into being at UC Berkley in the early 1970s. It is available here.

EAGLE

EAGLE LogoLike many hackers and hobbyists, EAGLE is the first PCB design tool that I used. It’s still the one that I use most regularly though Altium is always lurking somewhere in the background.

After the recent acquisition by Autodesk, licensing for EAGLE has switched to a subscription model. There is still a free version available that is attractive to many users. The PCB layer count and area are both limited in the free version but for many users, this is not a problem.

EAGLE is an acronym of Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor.

KiCad

KiCad LogoKiCad is both free and open-source. For many hackers and hobbyists, it is an attractive alternative to EAGLE.

I use KiCad occasionally, but it is not my first choice PCB design tool. It is continually being improved by the community of people that support the tool. More recent versions are considerably improved in comparison to the early versions that I used many years ago.

FreeCAD

FreeCAD LogoI’m not an industrial designer so I don’t know how feature rich or easy to use FreeCAD is in comparison to the costlier alternatives available on the market.

I do know that it does everything that I need it to do. I use it to view 3D models of components that I use in my PCB designs. I also use it to view 3D models of enclosures that I receive from industrial designers that I work with.

The interface takes a little bit of getting used to but that is the same for most CAD tools.

Octave

GNU Octave LogoGNU Octave is a free alternative to Matlab.

Octave is a great tool for carrying out numerical computations. For example, Octave can be used to determine the appropriate filter coefficients to be used in a FIR or IIR filter.

Like Matlab, Octave has a variety of packages available to aid numerical computation in a range of fields.

nRF Connect for mobile

nRF Connect for mobile LogoBluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled projects are very popular these days. Quite a lot of my current work for clients involves BLE.

If you are working on a BLE project, the nRF Connect for mobile app is incredibly useful.

Nordic Semiconductor manufactures a range of BLE enabled devices including the nRF51822 and the nRF52832.

To support product development and debug, they have released this BLE scanner and logger app. It can be used to connect to BLE devices and supports reading and writing characteristics, etc.

It is available on both Android and iOS though the Android version has many more features.

Audacity

Audacity LogoIf you’re working on an audio electronics project of any description, then Audacity will be high on your list of must-haves.

Audacity is a widely used audio recording, processing and playback tool.

Audacity is both free and open source.

Evernote

Evernote LogoAs the name suggests, Evernote is a note-taking tool.

I find it useful for making quick notes on whatever topic I happen to be working on at the time. There are iOS and Android apps available for Evernote. Being able to make a quick note on my phone and then have it sync to the Evernote app on my laptop is great.

I occasionally use Evernote to record bench measurements on my phone. It’s no substitute for the good old-fashioned lab book but the convenience is sometimes beneficial.

Todoist

Todoist LogoAt any given time, I’m typically working with many different clients. I also tend to have my own projects on the go.

I wanted a simple to-do list app to help me keep on top of things. I didn’t want a complex project management tool. Something little more advanced than pen and paper would do fine and Todoist did the trick for me.

As well as a Windows app, there are also iOS and Android apps available for Todoist. I find it handy to be able to quickly add a task on my phone and know that it won’t be forgotten about down the line.

Todoist isn’t the perfect tool but I think that the perfect task manager has yet to be invented. Todoist certainly helps me keep on top of my to-do lists, both personal and professional.