Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Test and Measurement Metaphors

To prepare for an upcoming sales meeting, I was ask to explain the value proposition of the Tektronix AWG5208.  The question was - why did it accomplish a task for our customer that no competing product could perform?

For those who don't know, an AWG, or Arbitrary Waveform Generator, is like a reverse-oscilloscope.  It takes samples in memory and "plays" them in the real world.  They are very popular for developing new types of signal processing, such as MIMO Radar.  Anything you can dream can be played.  Later, hardware engineers can create a device based on the signals you create.  AWG's are defined by basic specifications like sample rate (highest frequency signal) and dynamic range (or how small of a signal you can create in the presence of a large signal).

Sample rate and high dynamic range are fairly easy to understand, but I was asked, "Why is having 8 channels in one box a value?  Can't you just use 8 signal generators tied together?"

Monday, January 8, 2018

Joel Avrunin's Advice for College Hire Job Interviews

In my position managing the US AE team, I have the opportunity to interview engineers at various levels of experience, from new college hires to senior level engineers.  Having conducted more interviews than I can count, there are certain pieces of advice I would like to give to engineers looking for their first job out of school.  My list applies mostly to engineers going into sales, but of course, much of this applies to any job interview.

Main caveat here - I am not a career coach or counselor.  I'm just an employer sharing what I find are best practices in a college interview.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Why and not the What of Receiver Test

It is important for an engineer in technical sales to be able to explain not just what "what" of test and measurement technology, but the "why".

I use this question in almost all of my interviews now for sales engineers, and it helps me see how well an engineer can explain a concept at a high level.  The conversation goes something like this...

Joel Avrunin: "Many Gen 1 and Gen 2 high speed serial standards only involve transmitter test (TX), requiring an oscilloscope.  Receiver test (RX) is limited or non-existent.  I am an engineering manager putting someone else's silicon into my design, and I am concerned about the cost of test.  So why do Gen 3 standards such as USB3.1 require RX test?"

Here is the wrong answer.

Applicant: "Because it is required by the compliance test."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Using a VNA to measure an HF Antenna Tuner

This is a great intro the using a VNA to measure an HF Antenna Tuner.  There are some good low cost VNA options such as the new TTR from Tektronix, and Alan has a nice demo of how to use one.  And of course, discussing the intricacies of using a Smith Chart:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not so High on High-Resolution

Like many people in this industry, I love technology. Working for Tektronix, I am excited when we are the first to introduce new technology, like the Tektronix MDO4000 Mixed-Domain Oscilloscope. But I am also interested to innovation from other test and measurement suppliers. 
Last year, Teledyne LeCroy introduced the WaveRunner HRO, or High-Resolution Oscilloscope. They rebranded it this year as the HDO, or High-Definition Oscilloscope. The idea is to use a 12-bit digitizer instead of an 8-bit digitizer to acquire a waveform. With an 8-bit digitizer, there are 256 voltage levels that define the wave shape. In theory, 12-bits means that there are 4096 distinct voltage levels, a great improvement in resolution. More recently, Agilent introduced the DSO9000H, a competing product that also promises 12-bits of performance through oversampling and processing. Such an oscilloscope should allow you to see small signals in the presence of big ones, provide greater accuracy of DC gain, and less noise on a signal.
So why doesn’t Tektronix provide a 12-bit oscilloscope? Aren’t more bits always better? Let’s review.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Graduation Address - Is Science the Sum of All Knowledge?

 Transcript of Joel Avrunin's Address to the Undergraduate and Graduate Students at
Towson University's 148th Commencement Exercise
January 6, 2013 Commencement - 10 AM - Towson Center Arena
Graduation from University of Baltimore / Towson University Joint MBA Program        

      Thank You Lisa Jackson our GSA president for that introduction. Good morning President Loeschke, distinguished guests, honored faculty, family and fellow graduates.  With my undergraduate degree in engineering, I sought to answer the question, “Is science the sum of all knowledge?”  Society accepts that if you learn the science behind a system, you are now an expert who can tackle any problem.  With that mindset, I started at Towson to become an expert in business, specifically wanting to know how to manage organizational change.  If science truly is the sum of all knowledge, then just as an expert in the science of engineering can design, an expert in the science of business should be able to manage.  I foresaw going to class and learning the skills needed to not only motivate employees and monitor their productivity, but also to be an expert in all aspects of the business.  My course schedule certainly read that way – finance, project management, marketing, and accounting.  And yet it was in an economics course that I read the prescient words of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek who asserted that the knowledge of the circumstances of time and place were more important than all of the science we can learn.  Hayek teaches us that since a manager cannot be at every decision point, he must empower those he employs to make decisions on their own.  He teaches that the further removed a decision maker is from the point of knowledge, the slower an organization will be able to adapt to change.  But if the key to management is to be hands-off, then why go to business school at all – what is the role of a manager?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why Would an Engineer Work in Sales?

Recently I had a chance to revisit my path from the design bench to the world of sales. Our sales organization was in the process of adding some field applications engineers (FAE), and I found myself advising prospects about how life would be different if they were to become FAEs. While I am currently a regional sales manager, my first job off the bench was as an applications engineer for Tektronix. Since this is a choice many design engineers may consider at some point, I thought it would be good blog fodder. Before you trade in your soldering iron for a minivan (mine on the left, Tektronix FAE Alan Wolke’s on the right), it’s important to consider all aspects of the FAE role.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Putting the Logic in Logic Analyzers

Crossed posted at: Bandwidth Banter Blog

Tektronix recently introduced the TLA6400, a performance leap in the world of value-priced monolithic bench-top logic analyzers.  Performance like this used to require more expensive card-modular systems, more suitable to ASIC designers than FPGA programmers or general purpose users.  However, with faster parallel bus signals (such as new high-speed COTS ADC’s and DDR memory), many designers find themselves needing performance logic analyzer specifications at budget-friendly prices. While a high-end performance logic analyzer can cost over $100k, the TLA6400 starts at around $13k.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Solid-State Drives Offer Easy Speed Boost for Scopes

This is my first cross-posted blog post.  I recently started blogging at Tektronix Bandwidth Banter, so I will cross post my writings here.  Link to Bandwidth Banter Post (same as below).

The DPO5000 oscilloscope gives easy access to the hard drive bay.
Tektronix recently added solid state hard drive option to several of its higher performance oscilloscopes known as Option SSD. Why would you want a solid state hard drive, and what value would it add to your lab?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Analyzing SpaceWire Bus - Creating the Clock with Oscilloscope XOR

SpaceWire is one of the most exciting new technologies in the space electronics industry.  Previous designs used MIL-STD-1553, but are limited in speed to 1MB/s. SpaceWire (IEEE 1355.2) uses low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) to push speeds from 2MB/s to 400MB/s.  For those who are in the commercial world, it may not sound incredibly fast, but it represents a huge improvement in the harsh environment of a spacecraft.  Today you can buy SpaceWire bus analyzers to see the detailed protocol, but as designs move from faster, many designers are discovering the need to look at the actual bits for signal integrity work.  Fielded designs are still using speeds below 100MB/s, but in the future it will likely be pushed to its limit.  In this first blog post, I will discuss how to generate the clock using the MATH system on your oscilloscope.  In future posts, I will discuss simple bit level decode and more advanced jitter and timing measurements.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What's Wrong with my Function Generator? (hint: nothing)

You sit at your bench and in front of you is a a function generator and a basic oscilloscope.  You connect the function generator to the oscilloscope with a BNC cable and proceed to create a simple signal to measure.  Surprise, the amplitude measured on the oscilloscope does not match what you set on the function generator.  The sine wave may read 1V peak-to-peak (Vpp) on the function generator, and yet on the oscilloscope, it says 20Vpp or 2Vpp.  Now is when you ask,

"What is wrong with my function generator?"