EasyOCR Makes OCR, Well, Easy

Working on embedded systems used to be easier. You had a microcontroller and maybe a few pieces of analog or digital I/O, and perhaps communications might be a serial port. Today, you have systems with networks and cameras and a host of I/O. Cameras are strange because sometimes you just want an image and sometimes you want to understand the image in some way. If understanding the image involves reading text in the picture, you will want to check out EasyOCR.

The Python library leverages other open source libraries and supports 42 different languages. As the name implies, using it is pretty easy. Here’s the setup:


import easyocr
reader = easyocr.Reader(['th','en'])
reader.readtext('test.jpg')

The results include four points that define the bounding box of each piece of text, the text, and a confidence level. The code takes advantage of the GPU, but you can run it in a CPU-only mode if you prefer.
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Tablet Oscilloscope Claims 100 MHz, But Is It?

[LearnElectronics] grabbed a FNIRSI tablet oscilloscope from a vendor from China. The device has a seven-inch touchscreen and claims to be a two-channel 100 MHz scope. But is it? Watch the video below and you’ll see.

Spoiler alert: [LearnElectronics] was skeptical of the 100 MHz claim and it looks like it is more like a 30 MHz analog bandwidth. Despite that, it does seem like a pretty capable 30 MHz scope in a very handy form factor and a very cheap price: as little as $120 or so, depending on where you shop.

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Software Defined Radio Academy Goes Virtual

They say every cloud has a silver lining. It’s hard to find a positive among all the bad news about the current global pandemic, but it has pushed more conferences and events to allow online participation either live or after the fact. A case in point: The Software Defined Radio Academy’s annual event is all on a YouTube channel so you can attend virtually.

Not all the videos are there yet, but the keynote along with some very technical talks about techniques ranging from FPGAs to spectrum monitoring and spectral correlation density — you can see that video, below. We presume you’ll eventually be able to watch all the presentations listed in the program.

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Breadboard Breaks The Speed Barrier

It is common wisdom that solderless breadboards are only good for low frequencies. But how fast can they really go? There’s been a contest going on to see who can make the fastest breadboard-mounted oscillator and [Joe Smith] has been trying to keep his leading position. He’s already managed 6 GHz and now he’s shooting for 20 GHz, as you can see in the video below.

One of the biggest challenges at these frequencies is just measuring your output. You may have a scope, but how does it do at 20 GHz? So half of the story is how [Joe] managed to monitor his output.

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Your Own Open Source ASIC: SkyWater-PDK Plans First 130 Nm Wafer In 2020

You might have caught Maya Posch’s article about the first open-source ASIC tools from Google and SkyWater Technology. It envisions increased access to make custom chips — Application Specific Integrated Circuits — designed using open-source tools, and made real through existing chip fabrication facilities. My first thought? How much does it cost to tape out? That is, how do I take the design on my screen and get actual parts in my hands? I asked Google’s Tim Ansel to explain some more about the project’s goals and how I was going to get my parts.

The goals are pretty straightforward. Tim and his collaborators would like to see hardware open up in the same way software has. The model where teams of people build on each other’s work either in direct collaboration or indirectly has led to many very powerful pieces of software. Tim’s had some success getting people interested in FPGA development and helped produce open tools for doing so. Custom ASICs are the next logical step.

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Implementing The Exponential Function

Ask ordinary software developers how to code an exponential function (that is, ex) and most will tell you to simply write an expression in their favorite high level language. But a significant slice of Hackaday readers will program tiny machines down to the bare metal or need more speed or precision than available with a customary implementation. [Pseduorandom] knows quite a few ways to do the calculation, and while it isn’t light reading for the math-phobic, it is an interesting tour.

The paper covers a variety of ways to calculate the function ranging from various Taylor series approximations, Lagrange interpolation, and Chebyshev interpolation. The paper is somewhat abstract, but there are Python and C++ examples to help make it concrete.

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Linux-Fu: Parallel Universe

At some point, you simply run out of processing power. Admittedly, that point keeps getting further and further away, but you can still get there. If you run out of CPU time, the answer might be to add more CPUs. However, sometimes there are other bottlenecks like memory or disk space. However, it is also likely that you have access to multiple computers. Who doesn’t have a few Raspberry Pis sitting around their network? Or maybe a server in the basement? Or even some remote servers “in the cloud.” GNU Parallel is a tool that lets you spread work across multiple tasks either locally to remote machines. In some ways, it is simple, since it looks sort of like xargs but with parallel execution. On the other hand, it has myriad options and configurations that can make it a little daunting to use. Continue reading “Linux-Fu: Parallel Universe”