EDA Software

circuitThere are a lot of EDA (Electronics Design Automation) software packages out there. This post briefly talks about what I consider the high end professional ones.  There are ton of zero cost or low cost but these are typically for hobbyists or very small companies (KiCad, Eagle, DesignSpark, etc..) which will not be covered.

I have used Alitum Designer the most, by far, having only used OrCad and Tango (old and no longer around) a little.  I have used Pads and Allego viewers a little.


OrCad + Allegro

From Cadance, a lot of engineers like OrCad (schematic) but dislike Allegro (layout).  Allegro is good at routing but has a very bad footprint builder and it hard to learn.  They tend to be very popular with larger companies and engineers who have been doing design for a while.  OrCad’s CIS system is well established at larger companies.

DxDesigner + PADS

From Mentor Graphics, a lot of engineers like Pads but dislike DxDesigner.  Pads is for layout, tends to easy to use and learn.  DxDesigner is for schematic entry and most dislike it… in fact I have not meet anyone who likes it.

Altium Designer

From Altium, many engineers like Altium Designer.  It is a unified package and tends to be popular for it’s lower price and new features.  It’s unique in that it was designed from the ground up to be both a schematic entry and layout tool. Engineers who use it like but but people coming from Pads/OrCad/Allegro generally look down on it. It has a perception of being not as “professional” as the older software.  It’s electrical to mechanical CAD features tend to stand out and be very advanced when compared to others.  The pricing for Altium Designer is much simpler than the others.

See the Wikipedia entry for further details.  Getting really good at a software package takes years of use thus learning a new software package is not easy task.

Fedevel Academy

I just completed the Fedevel Academy Advanced Hardware Design course.  It was mostly a review, but I did pickup a few tricks and shortcuts I was unaware of.  I’m now going to start the Advanced PCB Layout course.  This is all in parallel with everything I’m doing at work (i.MX6, DDR, HDMI, LVDS, WiFi, Bluetooth, SD, USB, Ethernet).

Engineering and Tech Jobs

dice tech jobs copyVery interesting data on technology jobs in the states done by Dice.  It has an interactive map showing average salaries and growth in certain cities. Check it out here.


circuit boardThis is a big deal.  It looks like Altium has created a hobbiest version called CircuitMaker.  I signed up for the beta, more to come….

circuit boardUPDATE 2015.3.28

I have recently changed jobs.  I’m now at FirstView Consultants as a hardware design engineer.

Signal and Power Integrity by Eric Bogatin was recommended to me for learning how to do high speed PCB design.  I’m heavily dyslexic so it’s going to take me a bit to get through it so I think I’ll track my progress here.

Eric Bogatin also appears to have several articles on EDN and has a host of video courses on-line that appears to be sponsored by LeCroy.

  • 2014.09.18 Chapter 1 (Signal Integrity is in Your Future) done
  • 2014.10.12 Chapter 2 (Time and Frequency Domains) done
  • 2014.10.22 Chapter 3 (Impedance and Electrical Models) done
  • 2014.10.29 Chapter 4 (The Physical Basis of Resistance) done
  • 2014.11.02 Chapter 5 (The Physical Basis of Capacitance) done
  • 2014.11.30 Chapter 6 (The Physical Basis of Inductance) done
  • 2014.12.11 Chapter 7 (The Physical Basis of Transmissions Lines) done
  • 2014.12.14 Chapter 8 (Transmission Lines and Reflections) done
  • 2014.12.31 Chapter 9 (Lossy Lines, Rise-Time Degradation, and Material Properties) done
  • 2015.1.10 Chapter 10 (Cross Talk in Transmission Lines) done
  • 2015.2.8 Chapter 11 (Differential Pairs and Differential Impedance) done

Video References:

Reading vs Doing

After reading several chapters I have realized that there is so much information that I beginning to forget some of the subject matter.  This is mainly due to the fact that I’m just reading the book and not reenforcing the data.  The best way to reenforce the data is to apply the knowledge to a project, create a report on the subject mater, or try to teach the subject to someone else.  I’ve got plans on applying the knowledge but I really need to get through the book first so I’ll have to start creating a summary report for each chapter.

After I started to update my Engineering page I realized that I’m summarizing, in detail, a book and the author might not like that.  So instead I have decided to put the summaries in Evernote.  I can create a note in Evernote and I can access it as a reference anywhere.

Unexpected Uses at Tolteq

I have been able to utilize some of what I have already learned in my work at Tolteq…. didn’t really expect that. I don’t do anything high speed at Tolteq, but I do design the bulk of the downhole (175°C) boards used by the company and I recently came across some issues dealing with impedance matching in some ADC measurements.  I was able to immediately identify the issue as an impedance matching problem, made a few adjustments to some resistors and fixed the issue quickly. I was also able to recognize some o-scope measurements issues when dealing with some digital signals and make appropriate changes to the measurement method to get rid of some false negatives.


DesignCon has caught my attention. It’s in Santa Clara at the end of January and costs about $800, if you want to attend the conferences.  I would love to go, but I’m not knowledgeable enough, YET, to get a lot of out it plus it would be very expensive for the registration + room and board + flight + PTO from work….. maybe next year.

RF and High Speed

While getting further into the book and looking more stuff up on the internet I started to see some overlap between high speed design and RF design. It was later confirmed in the book itself by stating that techniques and principles from the RF world were used in high speed design. This has sparked my interest in Ham radio. I was introduced to the ham work by Jon Barkley, an engineer my dad worked with, when I was still in high school but I never got really interested in it.

I have picked up the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual at the local Barnes and Noble and I’m thinking about going for my technician license.