Featured Engineer

Interview with Tomi Engdahl

Tomi Engdahl

Tomi Engdahl – ePanorama.net webmaster

Can you give us a little background about yourself? How did you get into electronics?

When I was a boy I would take apart all kind of things, and I played a lot of with electronics and electrical devices. Then I got a computer and got a lot interested in computer science, but also kept doing electronics as well.

Please tell us about your website, epanorama.net.

The story of epanorama.net starts almost 20 years ago when I first started using the world wide web. I started building my own collection of interesting web bookmarks 1994 on my web page, because I wanted my best links to be easily accessible from home and university computers. The link collection kept growing and the page became well-known. With two friends I started commercializing the page 1999 to become ePanorama.net site. The site focus has been on electronics related to the link lists and documents. Now my interest has shifted more to developing the blog on the site. The site gets around one million page loads per month.

What do you do when you’re not working on the website?

I work daytime at Netcontrol Oy designing energy network automation solutions for power companies. I mostly develop embedded software related to communications. Then I have normal family life (two kids).

Besides that, I have been a long time contributing writer for electronics and computer magazines in Finland. I have written for Prosessori magazine and Tietokone magazine.

What has been your favorite project?

One of my favorite huge hacks is working on the Assembly (http://www.assembly.org/) computer festival audiovisual team. For many years I have spent one week every summer to designing and setting up the systems that run the show on the arena and the TV broadcasting for the event (streaming video, cable TV, mobile TV, nationwide over-the air broadcast). The system is a huge hack that was a combination of professional equipment, consumer video gear, computers and special electronics just soldered together for the event to make different things work together. I have even sold some of the special hardware I developed for or during the events.

What tools are your favorites?

On the software side I like using Linux and related open source software (gcc, apache, php, bash, Wireshark, etc..). It is the software that runs the ePanorama.net web site and various embedded system projects I have worked on. There is also a place for Windows, Microsoft Office and Visual Studio.

On the hardware side I like using a soldering iron, small wire cutters, a good automatic wire stripper and “third hand.” On the measuring side I like using a combination of multi-meter with oscilloscope functions and a clamp meter.

What was the trickiest bug you ever fixed?

The trickiest bugs have been related to unreliable wireless communications. When you have embedded Linux devices, severs, TCP/IP, firewalls, VPN techniques, several protocols, 2G/3G wireless modules, operators and varying communications conditions all in the same picture trying to pinpoint the problem is very hard. And you never know when the bug is really gone because those wireless communications technologies are never 100% reliable.

What is on your bookshelf?

Lots of electronics, computers and telecommunications related books and magazines. Also many binders full of papers (photocopies of articles, circuit diagrams, etc.). One part of the bookshelf is for electronics tools and equipment. On top of the bookshelf there are boxes of electronics components.

What are you currently working on?

Besides the daily work I do I don’t have any big electronics projects going on. I mainly do some smaller-scale hacks which I can quickly turn from ideas to working circuits.

Is there anything you’d like to say to young people to encourage them to pursue electronics?

Play with electronics. There are many very nice open source electronics projects (both software and hardware) at the moment that are making designing electronics much easier than it ever was before. If you are into computers and programming, try some embedded platforms (Arduino, Embedded Linux) and software that can simulate electronics circuits.

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