|Jack Ganssle's Blog
This is Jack's outlet for thoughts about designing and programming embedded systems. It's a complement to my bi-weekly newsletter The Embedded Muse. Contact me at email@example.com. I'm an old-timer engineer who still finds the field endlessly fascinating (bio).
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May 26, 2020
I blew it.
The last Embedded Muse newsletter (# 398) had a goof in it, one that was entirely my fault. The emailed version had, as usual, a link to the on-line newsletter, but the link was incorrect. It referred to an earlier Muse.
I've made this same mistake in the past. That link is embodied in the template I use to create the newsletter. My checklist, used to ensure Muses go out correctly, has this item:
2.3 At the beginning, in the code window, around line 5, make sure the "Click <a href="http://www.ganssle.com/tem/tem326.html">here</a> to go to the on-line version" has the right Muse number in the link.
Muse 398 went out in haste, and I didn't carefully follow the checklist.
Shortcuts lead to long delays. This is an all-too-true aphorism attributed to JRR Tolkien.
Which gets me to the point of this posting. When something cannot be automated but is a task that must be done more than once and correctly, we need a detailed checklist. Memory is too fallible.
My checklist to send a Muse and post it to www.ganssle.com has 57 steps. Miss some of those and the result might not be much of a problem; sort of like having a bug in a program that doesn't cause a crash. But that missed step might reduce the quality of the effort.
Other steps are absolutely vital to get right.
I'm a list maker. Memory is just not reliable. My email client is Microsoft Outlook and one of the features I'm slaved to is the "task list", a daily-updated list of things that must get done. Here's an example:
(Obviously, the item "Go to movies" is not going to happen in these Coronavirus days. This is a task that appears every Friday which is indicated by the annotation "RW", for "repeats weekly").
Some of those tasks, like "Rotate external HD" have associated checklists. That task refers to swapping external hard disks with one stored elsewhere (the computers back themselves up to this disk, and another internal drive, every night), and other, associated backup activities. It's a critical task that must be done correctly to avoid losing data. The itemized checklist insures I perform every step correctly.
As long as I don't rush through the process.
I have a checklist for creating and posting this blog.
As pilots, we were taught to always go through each step of each checklist. You may have done this hundreds of times, but we were still required to slavishly stick to the written items, step by step. Commercial pilots are even more fastidious. The copilot reads a step and the pilot confirms it.
Checklists are boring, are perhaps even considered anal. But they are effective. I don't like screwing up so am happy to use whatever works.
I even use them when needed for fun activities. Before we head on a long offshore sail in Voyager, our 32 foot sailboat I run through our Sea Checklist. So, a thousand miles from land, we never slap our heads and complain "I wish I had remembered to bring…"
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Recent blog postings:
- My GP-8E Computer - About my first (working!) computer
- Humility - On The Death of Expertise and what this means for engineering
- On Checklists - Relying on memory is a fool's errand. Effective people use checklists.
- Why Does Software Cost So Much? - An exploration of this nagging question.
- Is the Future All Linux and Raspberry Pi? - Will we stop slinging bits and diddling registers?
- Will Coronavirus Spell the End of Open Offices - How can we continue to work in these sorts of conditions?
- Problems in Ramping Up Ventilator Production - It's not as easy as some think.
- Lessons from a Failure - what we can learn when a car wash goes wrong.
- Life in the Time of Coronavirus - how are you faring?
- Superintelligence - A review of Nick Bostrom's book on AI.
- A Lack of Forethought - Y2K redux
- How Projects Get Out of Control - Think requirements churn is only for software?
- 2019's Most Important Lesson. The 737 Max disasters should teach us one lesson.
- On Retiring - It's not quite that time, but slowing down makes sense. For me.
- On Discipline - The one thing I think many teams need...
- Data Seems to Have No Value - At least, that's the way people treat it.
- Apollo 11 and Navigation - In 1969 the astronauts used a sextant. Some of us still do.
- Definitions Part 2 - More fun definitions of embedded systems terms.
- Definitions - A list of (funny) definitions of embedded systems terms.
- On Meta-Politics - Where has thoughtful discourse gone?
- Millennials and Tools - It seems that many millennials are unable to fix anything.
- Crappy Tech Journalism - The trade press is suffering from so much cost-cutting that it does a poor job of educating engineers.
- Tech and Us - I worry that our technology is more than our human nature can manage.
- On Cataracts - Cataract surgery isn't as awful as it sounds.
- Can AI Replace Firmware - A thought: instead of writing code, is the future training AIs?
- Customer non-Support - How to tick off your customers in one easy lesson.
- Learn to Code in 3 Weeks! - Firmware is not simply about coding.
- We Shoot For The Moon - a new and interesting book about the Apollo moon program.
- On Expert Witness Work - Expert work is fascinating but can be quite the hassle.
- Married To The Team - Working in a team is a lot like marriage.
- Will We Ever Get Quantum Computers - Despite the hype, some feel quantum computing may never be practical.
- Apollo 11, The Movie - A review of a great new movie.
- Goto Considered Necessary - Edsger Dijkstra recants on his seminal paper
- GPS Will Fail - In April GPS will have its own Y2K problem. Unbelievable.
- LIDAR in Cars - Really? - Maybe there are better ideas.
- Why Did You Become an Engineer? - This is the best career ever.
- Software Process Improvement for Firmware - What goes on in an SPI audit?
- 50 Years of Ham Radio - 2019 marks 50 years of ham radio for me.
- Medical Device Lawsuits - They're on the rise, and firmware is part of the problem.
- A retrospective on 2018 - My marketing data for 2018, including web traffic and TEM information.
- Remembering Circuit Theory - Electronics is fun, and reviewing a textbook is pretty interesting.
- R vs D - Too many of us conflate research and development
- Engineer or Scientist? - Which are you? John Q. Public has a hard time telling the difference.
- A New, Low-Tech, Use for Computers - I never would have imagined this use for computers.
- NASA's Lost Software Engineering Lessons - Lessons learned, lessons lost.
- The Cost of Firmware - A Scary Story! - A hallowean story to terrify.
- A Review of First Man, the Movie - The book was great. The movie? Nope.
- A Review of The Overstory - One of the most remarkable novels I've read in a long time.
- What I Learned About Successful Consulting - Lessons learned about successful consulting.
- Low Power Mischief - Ultra-low power systems are trickier to design than most realize.
- Thoughts on Firmware Seminars - Better Firmware Faster resonates with a lot of people.
- On Evil - The Internet has brought the worst out in many.
- My Toothbrush has Modes - What! A lousy toothbrush has a UI?
- Review of SUNBURST and LUMINARY: An Apollo Memoir - A good book about the LM's code.
- Fun With Transmission Lines - Generating a step with no electronics.
- On N-Version Programming - Can we improve reliability through redundancy? Maybe not.
- On USB v. Bench Scopes - USB scopes are nice, but I'll stick with bench models.