Alan Stummer
Research Lab Technologist
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I am curious who uses what. Are these webpages a waste of time, or are they any help to others? Are the circuits, software and utilities appearing in other labs?  Please send your comments or suggestions or what you have used (or not) or schematics of your version or pictures or anything!  Email me, or be creative and send a postcard (first postcard!). I want to hear from the vacuum!

: This website and associated files are provided for reference only. This is not a kit site!  It is a collection of my work here at the University of Toronto in the Physics department. If you are considering using any schematics, designs, or anything else from here then be warned that you had better know something of what you are about to do.  No design is guaranteed in any way, including workable schematic, board layout, HDL code, embedded software, user software, component selection, documentation, webpages, or anything.

All that said, if the webpages say it works (which is the vast majority of projects) then for me it worked. To make the project work may have involved undocumented additions, changes, deletions, tweaks, tunings, alterations, modifications, adjustments, waving of a wand while wearing a pointy black hat, appeals to electron deities and just plain doing whatever it takes to make the project work.

Ongoing Projects

Archived Projects

If you don't see the project listed here, check in Archived Projects.

Sketch to PCB course

So you've sketched out an electronics circuit. Now what? This free non-credit hands-on course for grads and others will show you how to turn that sketch into a physical device. Click here for more details.

Engineering Programs

Screen capture of sample schematic
My Schematic/CAD program is...

Eagle, from CadSoft, a schematic capture and CAD program.  The freeware version is fully functional, with restrictions on writing and editing.  It is ideal for small departments such as UofT's Quantum Optics, plus only a fraction of the price of large CAD programs for 95% of their functionality. Some people have complained that it is hard to learn but I and others have not had problems - if you can find a CAD program that you can learn to use fast, please tell me about it!  Parts are easy to add: I can add schematic symbol and footprint for a 200++ pin FPGA from scratch in a couple of hours, faster if copying and modifying an existing part.  My Quantum Optics library is the only library I use of vetted part, it is available for download and kept up to date.

My Standard Board House is...

Alberta Printed Circuits (APC).  They have a great simple, fast and cheap prototype service.  Send in the gerber files, get a few prototype boards back in a couple of days for a couple $100-200.  I always use 2-layer 1.5mm (0.062") FR4 with 1oz Cu using 0.18mm (7mil) track and space and drills down to 0.016" (0.4mm).

For the record, I have done 7GHz on such a board - just bypass well, keep microwave traces <2mm long, differential signals, do not dwell on impedance controlled traces.

Although I prefer to use a Canadian company and US second (Pentalogix), is far cheaper. For 4- and 6-layer boards which can be expensive, they are half the price.

My Standard MCUs are...

Texas Instruments MSP43x and Microchip's PIC32MZ. They each have their pros and cons.

Texas Instrument's IDE for the MSP43x is free - but limited. For a nominal fee (ha!) you can get the full version. For simpler and low power applications, the MSP43x is good.

For intensive applications involving ethernet etc., I use Microchip's PIC32MZ.A fast, versatile RISC with a good  IDE and configurator (Harmony), reasonably easy to learn. With one external chip, you have a full MCU with ethernet and USB plus oodles of I/Os, ADCs and PWM.

I used to use the Rabbit modules until Rabbit Semi. was bought by Digi Intl. and the line stopped. Their RabbitCore Modules are versatile and reasonably priced 16-bit RISC assemblies with ethernet, serial and parallel I/Os, Flash and SRAM. The Dynamic C IDE is free, if quirky and old.

My Standard FPGA is...

the Cyclone or the MAX10 series from Altera. Specifically, I prefer QFP and similar packages.  These can be soldered by hand and not have to send it out for BGA soldering. I almost always use 2-layer boards and it works just fine at >100MHz, thank you. Just bypass parts well and keep traces ridiculously short.

The standard HDL IDE is Quartus. If necessary, system integration is with Qsys. Free (IP is extra), huge download, steep learning curve and quirky as any other engineering program but effective. Volatile JTAG programming is free, Flash programming may require licencing, depending on the FPGA.  I always use System Verilog HDL.

Altera is very generous with university programs for both Quartus licensing and samples.  Talk to them.

My Standard Spice are...

5Spice, Spice (electronics circuit simulation) program, free version is restricted. Generally easy to use and add Spice models. Adding models to the library is simple because there are only standard symbols (if you want pretty, go to PSpice). 5Spice cannot do FFT, nor can the free version do Monte Carlo simulations.

Texas Instruments' TINA is just as good...and quirky.  The UI is a bit clunky but fortunately it isn't there to look at.  Tina can now import third party models.

Intentionally left blank because I only do five things :-)


File Clerk looks at any file a just plain data.  Examine it in hex and ASCII, graph the byte distribution spacially and as a histogram. A unique feature is to listen to the file as if it is a sound file, to listen for patterns in large data.  Download the zip install file or just the executable.

Collective is a utility that resides in the system tray and provides a list of all of the recently copied text, plus positions windows where you want them when they open, plus has hot corners.  Download the zip install file or just the executable.

Click to download the tail wagging icon.

Tail-wagging cursor that has drawn a few comments and smiles. First download to your Windows\cursors directory (sorry, Mac-ers).  Then under Control Panel - Mouse Properties - Pointers tab, under Link Select, select the file 'waggle.ani'.  Download it here or just right-click it and save.
Turtle (a simple Tortoise or SVN) copies source files to an archive folder so that they may be recovered when you find that that attempt did not work. Download the zip install file or just the executable.
Code Check Bot was originally for Rabbit Semiconductor's Dynamic C IDE where it searches for port assignment mismatches.  It also is great for finding code or text in a multi-file project.  Download the zip install file or just the executable. Broken Links crawls through your web pages and checks every possible link. Bad - AKA broken - links are listed for you to check and fix. Download the zip install file or just the executable.
Thanks for the fish, Adam Bowman.

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Please direct questions, queries, broken links, problems, flak, slings, arrows, kudos, criticism, comments, brickbats, corrections and suggestions to me. Stat Counter says: Made with Nvu