Monthly Archives: November 2012

Apple and Their iPhone/iPad Connectors

Once I left my long-time employer, who insisted we use PCs with all their issues, I quickly converted to Apple products, including iPods, iPads, etc. The one thing that I felt was a little “tweaky” was their original flat 30-pin I/O and power connector. The problem we users all had was that it wasn’t very easy to figure out the correct way to plug it in – especially in a dark room. The icon on the plug was not very distinct and you basically have a 50-50 chance of getting it wrong on the first try.
I got the idea to add a stick-on object to identify the correct side, such as those collections of stickers found in scrapbooking stores. Try to find a set of small stickers that have some dimensionally in the “z”-direction, so that you can feel it in the dark. I used a small “period” sticker that has worked great (see photo). This has worked out quite well for me.

Apple’s older 30-pin connector with polarizing “dot” attached.

I have to applaud Apple for finally devising a non-polarized power and I/O plug (the Lightning connector) on the one hand, but on the other, for millions of users, the conversion will be problematic for a (long) while.

Apple’s new “Lightning” connector with reversible (non-polarized) dynamically-assigned pins.

Editor of The Connecting Edge, Martin Rowe, has pointed out an issue with hardware add-ons, such as Oscium’s Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer, which uses the 30-pin connector. Apple’s 30-pin to Lightning adapter works for this receiver, but now the hardware will kind of “dangle” there on the iPad. Not very handy.

Perhaps instrument or accessory manufacturers could use Bluetooth (or similar wireless) connectivity for future products and avoid the hardware connectivity issue altogether.

Anyway, change is hard, but I guess we’ll live through it!

Review: Product Compliance Engineering Symposium – Portland

I recently returned from the IEEE Symposium on Product Compliance Engineering in Portland, OR, this last week. I had been invited by EMC Track Chair, Henry Benitez, to give a three-hour workshop on “EMC Cool Tools and Pre-Compliance Testing”, so was looking forward to meeting the other EMC track presenters, those who planned on attending the EMC track, as well as some of my counterparts in the product safety field.

The conference was kicked off by Don Mays, Director of Product Safety at Deloitte & Touche LLP and formerly the Senior Director, Product Safety and Technical Policy for Consumers Union / Consumer Reports. He spoke on understanding the risks for manufacturers for product safety and what can happen if “things go wrong”.

Keynote speaker, Dan Mays.

There were a number of different tracks – most involving product safety, so I pretty much stuck with the EMC track. Henry Benitez kicked things off the first day with a review of current EMC standards and then Leslie Bai followed up with Latin American EMC and wireless regulations. Mark Briggs ended the first day with more FCC wireless regulations and modular approvals.

EMC track chair, Henry Benitez, reviewing EMC standards.

Day 2 included very interesting half-day presentations on PCB design by Mark Montrose and grounding and shielding by Elya Joffe.

The final half-day included an informative talk on the “KISS” principle for EMC design and my three-hour presentation on “EMC Cool Tools and Pre-Compliance Testing”.

Ken teaching the EMC “Cool Tools” talk.

Ken demonstrating tracing harmonics with a low-cost H-field probe.

Showing how a high-speed trace run over a split in the return plane can generate common-mode emissions on the board.

Retired HP product safety engineer, Rich Nute, with an enthusiastic crowd.

The conference web site is:

Review: The Rigol $1,295 DSA815TG Spectrum Analyzer

If there’s been one spectrum analyzer that’s created buzz lately, it’s the recently announced Rigol DSA815 budget ($1,295) spectrum analyzer, which tunes from 9 kHz to 1.5 GHz. A tracking generator option will run an extra $200 and the EMI option, which provides quasi-peak detection and the three EMI bandwidths (and especially excites us EMC engineers), is an extra $600. There are a number of other options available. I was able to get my hands on a review unit and have put it through its paces during some recent EMC seminars and client projects. More…

Figure 1 – The Rigol DSA815TG (with tracking generator).