Electronic Product Design

Hawkshead Designs' Blog

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014 09:14

electronic wasteElectronic Waste

The news has recently featured several articles relating to the extreme amounts of e-waste we generate throughout the Western world, and also on the current disposal and recycle schemes available to companies and individuals (or lack thereof, or non-committal in other cases). Many of the reports focused on the obscene quantities of electronics goods containing precious and rare metals finding their way to African states where they are ‘recycled’ by individuals with no training, no safety standards who are often deployed by exploitative companies.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 10:08

Patent stampElectronic Patent Trolling

Patent trolls are everywhere, it seems. The act of purchasing an old, expiring patent and wringing the final financial life out of it is currently big business for a number of firms exploiting patent laws developed decades ago. Whilst their actions are within the bounds of the law, the application of these patents are employed as a ruse to coerce businesses into making an out of court settlement, as the cost of a patent defence case can easily rise into millions of pounds, even with a successful defence.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 11:41

Happy 2014! We're kicking off the new year with a new blog session from our new blog writer, Gavin Phillips. And he's off...

3D printing rainbow3D Printing

3D printing is amongst us. I believe it feels akin to quite literally living in the future. The ability to hook a printer up to a computer, download a schematic and voila: a new set of plastic cups and dishes for the upcoming children’s party – with the potential to be throwaway and biodegradable. Just wow.

Friday, 22 February 2013 13:47

sinking copyright symbolUpdate 2: copyright infringement

Since we last posted about our website copyright issue (click here for back story and here for update 1).

Every so often we take a peep at the offending website. Around six weeks ago it appeared to have been removed and the domain was advertised for sale.

This week we note that the domain is active, this time with a Wordpress installation - a very popular content management system (CMS). Last time it was a Joomla! installation, another popular CMS.

Tuesday, 09 October 2012 11:09

wind energy with lightbulbGarage Inventor's Liquid Air Energy Storage Idea Goes Large

The problem of storing excess electricity generated by renewable energy generation sources such as wind turbines is a long standing headache, but we could be one step closer to a full commercial solution thanks to British inventor Peter Dearman. Last week the BBC News website reported on the results of a two year trial of a scaled up version of Peter's cryo-generator, sited at a power station in Buckinghamshire.

Peter Dearman's invention uses 'wrong time' surplus energy generated by wind turbines at night to chill air and turn it into liquid form. The air is then warmed up to generate electricity when demand is higher. 

Friday, 21 September 2012 13:42

sinking copyright symbolInvention activities on the increase during the recession

A couple of weeks ago the BBC reported that the numbers of Inventions and Inventors are on the rise in the recession-hit UK, following the release of results of a survey by The Big Bang (an organisation celebrating science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK).

Whilst I think some of the conclusions drawn are slightly far fetched, the fact that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reports an increase of almost 30% in patents granted in 2011 from the previous year shows that there is an increase in people taking their inventions seriously.

Friday, 07 September 2012 12:06

sinking copyright symbolUpdate: copyright infringement

We have had progress in our copyright infringement issue (click here for full story).

We received an email earlier this week from someone at the offending company. He thanked us for bringing the infringement to his notice. His excuse? That he'd outsourced his web design to a third party and had 'lost track of the data'. He has, apparently, advised his team to look into this and we can expect the content to be removed ASAP.

Friday, 31 August 2012 13:55

cup of teaThe sincerest form of flattery?

Our blog has been quiet of late – we’ve had a busy few weeks and we hear that Sparky has too.

We discovered last week, during some mid afternoon googling of phrases from our website whilst reworking some of our web pages, that a certain Electronic Design company in India has copied the entire written content of our home page and used it as one of their website pages, changing just the company name from ours to theirs, without our permission. Googling other phrases from their site shows that it’s not just our content that the company has ripped off. Several US companies have also had their website content used by this company.

Tuesday, 07 August 2012 11:49

cup of teaThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 15

"We're aground”, Dai utters with frustration.

“But there's loads of water” Des complains and looks over the side and around him...

“Have you forgotten our draft? There's a keel under this boat, which means that we need at least two fathoms to stay afloat” retorts Dai.

Des would like to blame the familiar Flaming Extra Terrestrial but somehow feels that this occurrence may have something to do with his actions, or perhaps lack of them. Mentally, all his sailing silverware has fallen off its display at home. That will make Lind very unhappy. In reality, Lind is even less happy than he imagined. She starts alternating from one side of Gerber to the other trying to make sense of this lack of water.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012 09:28

oopsThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 14

By now there is water all around and Gerber is free of the channel. Des thinks that having learnt helmsman-ship in short order he is all but ready for sailing school. He makes suitable enquiries to Dai and it is agreed that it is time to sail.

BJT is delighted to be involved pulling halyards with youthful enthusiasm. Dai had been wondering about sailing with a reef in. Before he could finish his consideration BJT had hauled up full sail. As Des had to content himself with such a small engine, he though the least Gerber could offer was a generous amount of sail.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012 11:14

cup of teaThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 13

Gerber makes her way towards the awaiting ripples with a sweeping vista of shoreline. There is some sun and enough breeze. With a cup tea in hand and Dai carefully navigating the channel into the promise of open water, all feels well with the world.

“Time for me to take the stick?” Des asks Dai. The incorrect use of vocabulary is somewhat abrasive to Dai Ode, a poet and master of words. “You would like to take the helm and steer by means of the tiller” Dai responds. Des thinks that this is more nautical and the kind of sailor-speak that might be considered appropriate. He agrees and takes the stick.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012 10:43

yacht at seaThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 12

I am somehow volunteered to drive Des and Lind to PC Board's house where we are to meet up with Dai and crew, as well.

PC Board is an authoritarian. He has intricate knowledge of many things but his view of the world is very fixed. He admits to having holes in his knowledge but often finds something to fit the voids that allows a form of connection to another hole.

PC Board's wife is not around when we arrive. However, his daughter Billie-Joe is. Billie-Joe is a teenager and PC Board is apparently challenged by her attitudes. He frequently refers to her as Billie-Joe Teen or BJT for short. Billie-Joe is a collector of many pearls of wisdom and an emitter of just as many, though not always appropriately. On the whole she is well based and lively, with a tendency to either turn off a subject with disdain or turn on to it wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012 09:21

yacht at seaThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 11

The day's spectacle was that of many graceful white arcs moving silently across rippled waters in a light breeze. The lead boat was never the lead for long as competitors jostled for prime position. There was a cluster of well sailed yachts in this contest but even the stragglers were hardly second best.

The supreme imagery of effortless sailing was present throughout. The only noise came from the water that appeared to boil from the stern of the yachts as they passed by our viewing platform (aka Captain Cap's moored yacht).

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:52

boat ropeThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 10

Des and Lind, aboard BWNN now have the challenge of shortening the long line that Captain Cap had secured for them after their second engine died. Jules had watched the whole spectacle with IJ from Captain Cap's yacht.

Jules looked on, not with the nautical perspective but with every action analysed by energy, forces and physics in general. In this instance it works well. Des is growing red faced again. He is trying to heave directly on the line to pull his craft against wind and tide towards that seemingly far off mooring. Every inch is hard won but Des can barely hold any position when the wind pipes up.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012 09:19

anchorThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 9

With a number of boats approaching and a vessel under no apparent control, there is plenty of opportunity for chaos to ensue. Thankfully those on the approach have been observant. Despite the difficulties of an alternative track, one by one they circumvent Des, Lind and the drifting BWNN.

Des lifts the chain clear of the windlass. The weight of the anchor pulls it towards the ocean floor. Well it would be an ocean but this is a relatively shallow estuary for supposedly pleasant mooring. The chain rattles and snakes its way busily across the deck. The anchor has been gone below the waves for what feels like an eternity. There is going to be no stopping this wild mass of metal links chasing one another and leaping like lemmings from the bow.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 10:15

motor boatThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 8

Sparky is safely rafted alongside Captain Cap's meticulously maintained yacht. Jules has appeared from somewhere. He is knowledgeable in many areas and Captain Cap trusts him when it comes to ropes and fenders. There are an array of Captain Cap's enormous and very clean fenders sitting between the two hulls. Sparky's ropes, whilst serviceable and long are not really “in keeping”, so Captain Cap's smart navy blue lines are neatly cleated and laid from Sparky to his yacht.

Jules has arranged lines fore and aft as well as springs. Such springs are not coils of metallic construction. They are simply ropes run from the aft of one vessel to the bow of the other (and the mirror image) so that the two boats don't rub forwards and backwards against one another.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012 09:36

yacht mooringThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 7

It seems that the world of boating is a strange one, especially in the vicinity of Sparky. There is always a real ability to escape the chaos of the land based world of work, mortgages and the myriad of routine details. However simple the water based world, it appears to be full of alternative mysteries and chaos of different forms and terminology.

It is this alternative world that is being observed right now. Sparky is resplendent for five minutes after her recent launch. There is little doubt that a photograph of Sparky right now would show a pristine looking image sitting in a tranquil, picturesque environment as she quietly rocks on her mooring.

Wednesday, 06 June 2012 11:16

12-06-06 Welcome DoormatThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 6

The sun is shining. No, it was shining but clouds have just come across, it has gone cold again. I can see BWNN bobbing on her mooring but there is no sign of Des and Lind.

Captain Cap is somewhere not too far away – I caught sight of his blue outfit. Jules jaunts by. “How are you doing? Nearly ready for the water?” he says. “Yes, fast coming together thanks” I reply. I was just about to ask Jules how he was doing but he has disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 10:55

12-05-29 - windy weatherThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 5

A while back I said that Sparky was moored close to another vessel that appeared to have no name, known as Boat with no name or BWNN. It is a fantasy of all boat owners to consider that their vessel lives at her home berth.

In reality six months of the year are spent on the land. Inevitably the boat sits at some small angle off level when ashore. This ensures that any screws removed in a refit migrate in an unusual but purely gravitationally focused manner.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 09:15

12-05-15 - paint potsThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 4

The figure that hove into view at the end of last week is known as Captain Cap. He also has a yacht and it really is a yacht. It is resplendent with the latest, greatest sails, all creature comforts and an interior which is alleged to be tidy at all times and in all weathers (unlike BWNN). Captain Cap does not anti-foul his own boat or even service his own engine. He has “a man” on hand to do that for him.

Captain Cap is always in charge. He is also mostly blue but not through the effects of meta-stability suffered by Des last week. Captain Cap belongs to the yacht club and has a very smart blue blazer with gold buttons. However, his nautical outfit is never without a cap. When attending club functions he wears a naval uniform cap with a gold badge. He may even have been an officer in the Royal Navy.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 11:23

12-05-15 - paint potsThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 3

“Oh FET” comes the shout. It can only be Des. The air is blue but not in the sense of foul language. In this case we are talking a different kind of blue with exactly the opposite of foul – anti-foul.

I am at the boat yard, preparing for the season. This includes the application of anti-fouling. It is a paint like substance, available in a variety of colours of which blue is inevitably common. Its intended purpose is to keep barnacles, green weed and all manner of slimy and gooey organisms from living on the hull of your cherished vessel..

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 09:27

12-05-08 - aliensThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 2

I should have mentioned last week, that Des' boat with no name (BWNN) is in fact a motor boat. Its has a cabin, with facilities for overnight stays and two engines. Now we know that Des has a nice house because he keeps saying so. What is not as apparent is the state of his boat.

It all looks fine when static. Unfortunately Lind has a terrible habit of leaving things anywhere and everywhere. When BWNN is on the land or in calm waters, all is well. However, those lumps in the water mentioned last week, create havoc with items not correctly stowed.

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 10:38

12-05-01 - yacht at seaThe Adventures of Sparky

Week 1

We are taking a break from some of the detail of electronics and design related items... Instead we are going to look at the “pleasures” of boating. Although I sense there is an undercurrent of electronics in there somewhere.

Sparky is a boat, sometimes called a yacht, moored in quiet waters on the south coast of Cornwall. As a sailing boat she is equipped with decidedly analogue sails but also has an iron topsail. An iron topsail always seemed like a strategic design error.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 09:32

12-04-24 - budget calculator moneyWhat you want / What you need (part 2)

Last week we looked at the desire for a bargain and the hazards. Now we look at different solutions.

Promoting the promise

We saw (you can read last week's blog here) that the 100VA transformer was not enough for 100W amplifier. So why does this practice still exist? The answer is simple. It makes the cost price less. The 100W amplifier is unlikely to be used at full power for most of the time.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012 10:47

12-04-17 - what you need piggy bankWhat you want / What you need (part 1)

I think we're probably all guilty of it... the idea that we want something this big or that good but only want to pay the price of the economy version. We are striving for that bargain or aiming to keep costs down.

Other approaches

Is this really sensible? In short the answer has to be no. There is a baseline price to everything, once we have reached that there is little more that can be done without some form of compromise or promise. Buying 2nd hand can be an acceptable compromise in some cases (ebay is an example of this). Committing to a bulk purchase is a promise to achieve some form of price reduction.

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