C-Lab Consulting

Guerrilla engineering at its finest!


C-Lab mantras:  (The ultimate unorderable list!  Thanks to everyone who has ever worked here.)
 
Call it like it is.
Timing is everything.  Timing is everything.  Timing is everything. Timing is everything.
Make everything run smoothly.
Why guess when you can know? Measure it.
Check the easy stuff first.
Fix the problem, not the blame.
If you have a better way, say so.
Planning is more efficient.
Give the customer what they need, as well as what they asked for.
It's worth doing right the first time.  And faster.
Anything "free" is probably worth less than you paid.
Never miss a chance to put a smile on someone's face.
We can become expert at it before you can figure out we weren't already.

from  Robert Heinlein:

"A good engineer is a fellow who can do for a nickel what any damn fool can do for a dollar."

"One man's magic is another man's engineering."

"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

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C-Lab maintains state of the art labs and abilities in several areas, including hard and software development, chemistry, physics, information theory, and math.  The bulk of what we do is product development and instrumentation design for other companies.  Much of this work involves microprocessors and DSPs along with PC software for both Windows and Linux.  We have significant expertise in all forms of electronic engineering, from low level analog to RF to of course, computers of all kinds, and using all kinds of devices, even vacuum tubes and custom transformers.  Two of our electronics engineers have 80 years combined experience between them, for example.  We have an in-house fast prototyping facility that includes PC board manufacture, machining and many other types of materials fabrication abilities.  We can turn an idea around into physical reality in mere hours.  We really enjoy working on multi-discipline sorts of things, as we excel at them.  We capitalize on the excessive specialization of others by being specialists in lots of disparate arts and tying it all together in new ways.  We're renaissance folks here, synthesists as well as general purpose from-scratch inventors who've learned how to make it pay by being very effective at it.


Although we are always busy, we are also always looking for interesting work.  If you've got a strange or tough problem, we're the guys who can and will solve it fast and economically for you, because that is how we have fun.  On the other hand, if you've got a need for some boring Windows database/financial programming or a ring-0 opsys driver that needs to workaround a badly flawed hardware design, be prepared to pay our topmost rates in the unlikely event we'd even accept the job.  That is, unless you need us to teach you how to train MLFF neural nets on a Linux cluster to mine your financial database, which then falls back into the fun category.  We can probably send you elsewhere for the boring sort of things if you need that kind of help.  Glad to be of service, but we are already rich enough, and now concentrate on the better things in life.  42, for those in the know.  Fun jobs go cheap, stupid ones buy the next few Ferraris -- if we want them, which is not a foregone conclusion.  We'd rather have fun.

One of our specialties is something we call Intuitive Systems Design, for lack of a better term for it.  Many times a consulting firm such as ours is tasked with something that sounds more or less like "solve my problem using my method" to which the polite response is "why do you need us at all, then?".  Often we can produce significant savings in money and time by taking some unique approach to the problem that a customer hadn't thought of -- yet.  That's our core expertise, seeing outside the normal boundaries.  Sadly, we can't tell you everything we do, as some of our customers prefer to claim credit for what we've done for them, or have other security considerations.  That's fine with us, it's just part of the deal we made with them -- or will make with you.  But we often retain non-exclusive rights to what some hold their noses and call "intellectual property" so we can make it available to other customers in general, in non-compete situations, at fire-sale prices. Just need a tip?  It's no skin off our noses.  After all, the work's been done already, and we are mainly interested in advancing the state of the various arts.  See some of the links on this page for a few examples of what we can say.  Note that because of what we do, and who we often do it for, this is mainly the very lowest-level stuff.  Some is mainly to share some worthwhile techniques with hobbyists and financially challenged startups so they can become more interesting in their own right.  Hey, life is for fun.  Especially after you have enough fun-ds.  Enjoy!

Inexpensive inert atmosphere UV curing light source

Solder reflow oven in a coffee can

Efficient backup generator for a Solar system


Some of our more recent customers have included:

Microchip
Texas Instruments
Valcom
ProVox 
Metavox (prosthetics for deaf persons, this page's background is a segment of the board)
C&S Audio "The Woofer Tester"
"the Government" (various agencies)

But that's about all we can say about most of them.  We can provide references in private to many previous customers under our NDA agreements -- after you sign one of ours, which is fairly gentle as these things go. We do a lot of repeat business. and like that model.  But there's this little problem with actually, truly, solving a customer's problems -- they run out of them at some point and don't need us anymore, they just need to get on with their core business.  We help this along, on purpose.  It's what we do.

Soon to come:

Inexpensive vacuum system and accessories.  We use cut 3 liter wine bottles for bell jars, an inexpensive thermister based Pirani guage, and other nifty tricks.

Fast response multi axis wind measurement device -- a servoed stick gives instantaneous wind readings for micro ecology  studies and benchrest shooters.  Patent pending.

Rants, and pages on things like hard realtime micro-RTOS design,  hybrid signal processing, and other informational stuff.

Oh, and if you're feeling generous and have a need to understand some basics of DSP for audio, you could always buy Doug's book.  Search amazon.com for either Doug Coulter or Digital Audio Processing.  A really cool CD comes with the book, with much totally "open source" code for DSP and some very nifty user interface MFC-based code for Windows.  This is slightly obsolete, but if we only sell yet another 10k+ copies, we might someday get our first royalty payment.  Kind of like the RIAA-musician setup in some ways.  Don't get me started on that one.  The publisher has actually reported negative sales on floor-planned books after saying this is impossible, and without reporting the initial positive numbers.  Go figure.

Links to suppliers and other helpful things

It Almost Worked  Tales of woe, some funny, some just informative.