The Glories of Information Overload

The Glories of Information Overload

| 4/30/2013 8:30:00 AM

When I was a kid, the first thing little boys did after we learned how to read was open the encyclopedia and look up everything that was poisonous, carnivorous, had a stinger or was just downright mean.  And it was a great relief to find out that most of these critters just wanted to be left alone.  They wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t bother them.  I can’t say that this knowledge ever stopped me from heaving a tennis ball at a wasp’s nest.  But it was comforting to know, after I’d been stung by half a dozen angry wasps, that at least I’d had a choice. 

The expansion of broadband Internet has made it even easier to look up things that are poisonous, carnivorous, have stingers or are just downright mean.  The entire knowledgebase of our universe doesn’t have to be distilled down to fit in 22 hardbound volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia anymore.  Nowadays you not only get to read about scary beasties, you can watch and hear them in action as they go about the business of being scary.  And whether they’re pouncing, slithering, skittering or crawling, it’s still a relief to know that they probably won’t bother me if I don’t bother them.

As limited as my encyclopedias may have been, they taught me that you don’t have to wait for knowledge to fall into your lap, and that you can find out what a king cobra is without learning it the hard way.  No matter what it is you’re trying to learn, somebody, somewhere, already knows a lot about it.  Find that person and you find the knowledge.  Instead of starting at zero, you can absorb what they know and then build upon it.

Watch out for the Inland TaipanI thought about that yesterday, after working with a couple of engineers on a communications problem.  The central issue involved RS-485, used by so many and fully understood by so few. My customers had tried tackling the question themselves first, but after losing countless frustrating hours and the associated productivity, they wisely decided to ask an expert.  And I was able to solve it for them in about 20 minutes.    It all revolved around the basics of termination, biasing and grounding.  If you’d like to learn more about those issues, or if you’re just looking for a useful reference guide, you should check out B&B’s RS-422 and RS-485 Applications eBook, which is located on our web site in the B&B Electronics Learning Center.  Click Here.

My customers also had some questions about wireless.  For example, the current 802.11n Wi-Fi standard provides for the use of multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology.  Instead of trying to do battle with multipath propagation, MIMO devices make use of it.  They employ multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving sides of the wireless connection, split the data into numerous spatial streams, and onboard software uses signal processing algorithms to correct and interpret the incoming data. Suddenly Wi-Fi has the ability to perform tasks that it couldn’t handle just a short time ago.  My customers were curious about the ways in which Wi-Fi can now be used as a true wire replacement.

These are the kinds of questions that we answer over and over again here at B&B; we get an average of 100 calls every day.  So rather than sit back and wait for folks to call in, I thought it might be useful to put together a webinar on the subject of wireless.  We’ll cover all the fundamental laws of wireless physics, from fade margin to antenna placement.  It’s prerequisite knowledge for any type of wireless deployment, be it Wi-Fi, cellular or proprietary radio.  Join me on the Internet on Thursday, May 16, from 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM CDT, and I’ll present a 30-minute refresher course on wireless.

Afterwards, I recommend looking up the Inland Taipan.  Just one bite from this snake contains enough venom to kill up to 100 adult humans.  Yikes.  Thankfully – and this is the case with most snakes -- if you don’t bother the Inland Taipan, he won’t bother you.

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