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Author Archives: mathscinotes
I was asked last week to write a vibration test plan for a mobile electronic product. I am used to writing vibration test plans that follow canned procedures in standards like MIL-STD-810F or SAE J1455, but this case is different because the customer has specified a non‑standard random vibration acceleration profile, which is also called a Power Spectral Density (PSD). I need to determine the RMS g level for this profile. This post shows how I go about this calculation. I am not going to showing the customer's vibration PSD because it is proprietary. Instead, I will use a well‑known US Navy vibration PSD as a computation example (Figure 1). Continue reading
I am going to grow and process some oats this year. This is a project that I have been interested in doing for a while because one of my sons is now in the oat business and he has shown some interest in working through the entire oat processing cycle. As a boy, I used to mill oats on the family farm, but I remember very little of that time. Continue reading
I was listening to a political pundit mention that both US political parties want to confirm young Supreme Court justices to ensure that their judicial philosophies endure. I was curious as to whether that was true over time. I went to the Wikipedia and saw that they had a list of all the justices since the founding of the US and web pages for each justice. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a bit of web scraping! Continue reading
I have been using Excel's DATEDIF function for years to determine the age of items in years, months, and days. I did not know that the function was unsupported and had issues until I ran into a bug last week. Because much of my personal work involves dates, I need to have an accurate age calculation function for use in Excel and Power Query. In this post, I will discuss a DATEIF workaround that I found online (Figure 1) and a Power Query age calculation function that I wrote based on a concept from Imke Feldmann. My workbook is available here for those who are interested. The workbook shows how I tested the routine by comparing it with the DATEDIF workaround results. I tested the boundary conditions and then random dates. The results agreed with the DATEDIF workaround of Figure 1 and an online date calculator. Continue reading
I was listening to news the other night when I heard a reporter mention that Jimmy Carter just became the oldest US president in history. I thought verifying this fact would be a good Power Query exercise. He had just surpassed George H.W. Bush, the previous record holder. Continue reading
One common Excel task is tracking work hours. As a contractor, I encounter all sorts of approaches to recording work hours. One small company wants all of my hours captured in an Excel workbook that contains one worksheet per week. Every two weeks, an administrator goes in and captures the hours into another worksheet. Continue reading
I test high-speed serial channels every day. The most common test parameter that I need to measure is the Bit Error Rate (BER). Figure 1 shows the most common test configuration used for measuring BER. Because bit errors occur randomly, there is a certain amount of error involved in measuring the parameter. So when you state a BER measurement, you also give a confidence interval to express your level of uncertainty. Continue reading
I have been working since May 2018 as a contractor for various companies on resolving specific issues – I am a troubleshooter. This role has provided me with a number of interesting challenges. One of my recent challenges is dealing with the GPS Week Number Rollover (WNRO) issue that will occur on 7-April-2019, which involves a 10-bit counter that has been counting weeks since 21-August-1999, which is when the counter was last 0. A 10-bit counter can only count to 1023 and then it will rollover to 0 on the next count. This issue shares many similarities with the Y2K problem. Continue reading
erforming an MTBF prediction is to designing HW as putting a license plate on your car is to driving the car. You need the license to legally drive the car, but it adds no value to your driving experience. Similarly, every company I have worked for demands a predicted MTBF for every HW product, but it adds no value to the design process. In fact, I would argue that generating the MTBF predictions actually adds negative value to the product deployment because it generates a number that is often misused by customers to estimate spare requirements and field support costs. Since no one has told customers otherwise, they think the MTBF value accurately reflects the real failure rate of a product. In fact, MTBF predictions provide a gross estimate of the rate of random parts failure at product maturity. Continue reading
Most of the products that I work on are powered by lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are popular today because they have excellent energy density but there are safety concerns with using them because there have been issues with battery fires. These fires have caused the shipping industry to impose special labeling and packaging information on their transport. I recently have needed to consider shipping batteries on airplanes, so I have been looking at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shipment guidance for lithium-ion batteries. These rules require knowing the amount of total amount of lithium mass present in a lithium-ion battery. This is not a number that is easy to get from the manufacturers, though I do have a number from one vendor. Continue reading