What are you reading? April 2020 Edition

More lockdown…more reading? Hope everyone has been staying healthy and safe!

I usually split what I’m reading into business, technical and fun books, but you are welcome to post however you’d like!

Here is last month’s post as reference: March 2020

Tec: TinyML
Biz: Youtility
Biz: Good To Great
Ent: How the Weak Win Wars
Audiobook: The Coldest Winter

The Coldest Winter was actually a Twitter recommendation by Greg Charvat.

  • Tech - Art of Electronics
    • My son is doing his freshman computer engineering courses and “labs” at home. Refreshing fundamentals is helping me help him :slight_smile:
  • Fun - The Border. Part of Don Winslow’s cartel series.
    • Historical fiction that often has me confusing these books, Narcos on Netflix, and history.
1 Like
  • Tech stuff: still working my way through Practical Electronics for Inventors, which I’m only half-liking. Lots of mistakes, lots of hand waving. I think I’ll be very ready to settle down with The Art of Electronics after this. Also reading 3-4+ articles every day (all electronics, but a real grab bag). I use Pinboard to manage bookmarks, and I’ve been finding that my “unread” list has been hovering around 200 entries or so for the last couple of months. I mostly blame All About Circuits, who have a lot of stuff I feel like I ought to know (and don’t!).
  • Fun: The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear (second world fantasy, vaguely silkpunk, second book in a second series), which is the sort of thing I usually race through, but I’ve been getting distrated by articles about PCB layout. I suppose that’s a good thing…
  • Other: None. See above.

Tech Stuff:

The Art of Electronics, I am struggling to get into it though. I refer to it when I need to.
I also have been dipping into railway signalling standards which are truly boring…I need to know it but dear lord it’s dry…
Blogs on Open Source FPGA programming, I’m trying to get used to an ICEstorm compatible board called ULX3S which is really good!

Fun Stuff: Peter F Hamilton’s Salvation Series - classic British Space Opera and really diverting!

I also have Practical Electronics for Inventors - Can you give examples of the mistakes and handwaving areas…I’m interested. I found it ok but a little simplified…like it didn’t tell the whole story in places. I haven’t read it cover to cover mind…I just browse it when I need to.

Basically all of the physics stuff feels a little half-baked, both EM and semiconductor physics. There’s not enough there to really get a feel for what’s going on unless you’ve seen it before. (I was a physicist in an earlier life…) The battery section also doesn’t have much about electrochemistry, which I think makes it hard to understand how batteries “know which way to push the electrons”.

As for mistakes, I’m pretty sure there are some confusions in the symbols for MOSFETs (although they might be my confusions…) and I’m also pretty sure I spotted a couple in some of the calculations. I’ve not been making notes, since I’m mostly trying to skim through it as a quick survey.

I’m well aware that my complaints basically come down to “I wish I was reading a different book”, which is slightly silly. I understand why they wrote the book the way they did (it’s over 1000 pages already, so it’s not like there’s much space to add more stuff), and I picked it up because I’d been slightly traumatised by The Art of Electronics as a young student. I have been learning things from it, and I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of editing such a big book, both for correctness and for consistent level of treatment.

Let me see if I’m still complaining about it in a few months when I’ve got my head down in The Art of Electronics!

Which version of Practical Electronics for Inventors do you have? There used to be an errata note floating around which probably covers a lot of the mistakes.

I would accept the physics is less than adequate. It depends what level the author was pitching at…it was one of the recommended texts when I was studying for my HND (Higher National Diploma) which I think equates to an Associates Degree in the U.S of A.

I have the fourth edition, which I think did correct a lot of the mistakes in the previous ones.

I think I know what a HND is (I grew up in the UK), and I guess PEfI makes sense there.

It’s always a problem when you pick up a book aimed at an audience with a different background to your own. It’s not much use sitting there thinking “Why didn’t they write a book for me?”. I just landed on it because it has a reputation for being an easier introduction to electronics than TAoE. I think that it is a good book for a very quick overview of things, but I definitely feel like I’m going to need to go back and cover a lot of things “properly”.

There’s a thing I’ve started noticing with electronics that was brought into relief in the last few weeks while I was studying some power supply stuff. It’s not all that hard to pick up enough knowledge to use things, without having the first clue how you would build one of those things yourself. It’s easy to wire an op amp up to do something, but the step from that to being able to design an op amp yourself feels huge. Some of that need to do things “properly”, for me at least, is about trying to fill in some of that gap, because for some things it feels as though you do need some of that gap filled to really understand what’s going on when you use these things.

As for the other things you mentioned: FPGAs = fun, railway signalling standards = insomnia cure!