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Jack's Random Rants And Thoughts About Embedded Systems and Firmware Issues

There are a lot of articles here; so much it can be hard to find what you're looking for, but they are searchable.

2013 Embedded Market Study Embedded.com's parent company has released the results of a new survey, and it has some fascinating data.

A Different Kind of USB Scope GUI We need a new way to interact with those inexpensive USB scopes and logic analyzers.

A Sneak Preview A Sneak Preview

Advice to a Youngster Stability and security are the least important career drivers when young. Go for the wild and crazy

Analog Parts Kit Here's a cool kit of parts for folks who want to experiment with analog circuits.

Asserting Failure Debugging is hard. We need to seed our code with constructs that find bugs automatically.

Assumptions A recent embedded.com article assumes way too much.

Careers Engineering is a fabulous profession. Some disagree, often vehemently.

Cloudy Benefits of the Cloud The cloud offers some advantages, but at a steep price.

Code - The Good and the Ugly Careful C Craftsmanship Creates Correct Code.

Company-Provided Training Does your company demand that you engage in some sort of continuous education?

Computers In Spaceflight The space program needed computers, lots of computers. Here's a new find about their history.

Coverity Scan 2012 The annual Coverity Scan Report is out, and has some interesting data.

Do the Numbers Divine inspiration might get you into heaven, but it won't guarantee system reliability.

Embedded Ada Book "Building Parallel, Embedded, and Real-Time Applications with Ada" is a new and important book I recommend even to those who will never write a line of Ada.

Firmware Developer's Essential Reading List There are a ton of great books about firmware. Here are Jack's favorites.

A Colossal ESC-Brazil 2013 ESC Brazil was bigger and better than ever.

High Tech Jobs A new jobs report shows where high-tech jobs are moving.

Highly-Skilled H1-B Fashion Models It's time we greatly increased H1-B visas, at least for certain jobs.

Hogwarts School of Software Engineering After Voldemort crashed the entire British economy, Hogwarts has a new mission.

IAR's I-jet Power Debugger Jack has been evaluating tools for monitoring current consumption of low-power systems. Here's another.

LogiPort Logic Analyzer Here's a review of the best value I've found in an USB logic analyzer.

Invisible Embedded CPU/MCU shipments are exploding.

Leaks and Drains, Take 2 Every nA counts in ultra-low powered MCU circuits. What about PCB contaminants?

Logic16 Saleae's new Logic 16 is a well-engineered, low-cost logic analyzer.

Metrics We Need Engineering is about numbers; firmware people need to collect metrics.

MISRA C 2012 MISRA C is probably the most popular firmware standard extant. Now there's an upgraded version.

MPLAB REAL ICE Power Monitor Microchip's new Power Monitor is my PICk for working with their MCUs.

Multicore Challenges Moore's Law means more transistors per chip. But will those power-sucking semiconductors doom multicore?

Agilent's N2820A Current Probe Agilent's N2820A Current Probe

Older Engineers Rock Are graying engineers old and in the way? Or are they at their peak?

Personal Astable Multivibrator Valentines Day special: Ever wonder what makes a personal astable multivibrator tick? Here's a teardown.

Real-Time Current Monitor As power becomes increasingly important more tools are coming to market.

Start Collecting Metrics Now Start collecting metrics so you establish a baseline against which change can be measured.

Tech Distractions The Amish are said to want to manage, rather than reject, technology. That's not a bad idea to emulate.

Time to Market Here are some tips to get to market faster.

Typically Typical Does a "typical" parameter in a datasheet have any meaning?

The uCurrent A $60 tool makes measuring low levels of current consumption easy.

ViaDesigner ViaDesigner makes analog design like working with FPGAs.

Coremark - Benchmarking is like statistics; it's easy to fiddle with the results. CoreMark strives to be more quantitative.

Ada 2012 Redux - Answers from AdaCore to many of your questions about Ada.

Informal Observations - Farewell, 2012! Here are my observations about the industry this year.

Ten best things - What are the ten best things that happened in the embedded space in 2012?

An RTOS from TI - TI has a new RTOS. It's free. Is it a good choice?

The LPC800 - Low-pin count, low-cost MCUs always interest me. Now NXP has 32 bit parts in this category.

Not enough engineers? - Are you old and in the way? Or does experience count?

Engineering Congress - The 2012 election is over. Nothing really changed. Do we need more engineers in office?

Bright eyes - Brazil is a bright spot for young embedded engineers.

The cost of quality - The cost of quality code may surprise you. It can be much less than you'd think.

A strange IDE - IDEs are a pain to install and configure. Till now.

Leaks and drains - The holy grail of battery-powered devices is 20 years on a single cell. But is that really achievable?

The not-boring iPhone5 - Pundits have proclaimed Apple's latest a "boring" product. They are completely wrong.

Basis Path Testing - There's a scientific way to compute the lower bound of how many tests on a function are enough.

Microchip's new USB parts - Need an MCU with on-board USB controller? Microchip has upped the ante by lowering the cost and form factor.

21st Century Datasheets Datasheets haven't changed since the day of the vacuum tube. Why is that?

A Puddle of Gates Sometimes a puddle of gates makes a lot more sense than a sea of gates.

A SPIFI New Idea Execute from serial flash? Yes we can.

Ada 2012 Ada 2012 includes some important improvements.

Let There Be Light, and IP Forget PCs and embedded systems: light bulbs will soak up vast numbers of IP addresses.

Android - Now or Later Android was on fire at ESC-Boston. Are you using it now?

Android Users Get Screwed Keeping a product up to date is tough, but is one way to market success.

Autonomous Vehicles Self-driving vehicles are coming. Will they be engineered as well as commercial aircraft?

Better Glasses A nearly-perfect display technology already sits on our noses.

Birthday Week Two hugely important inventions were introduced this week, 20 and 30 years ago.

Design Patterns Finally, there's a book about patterns for firmware.

Do Epic Stuff A new Microsoft motto aims to inspire but misses the mark.

To Source or Not to Source How important is it for you to have the source of a package?

Dumbing Down Embedded Design If you believe the pundits, prepare to stuff Android into your next electronic toothbrush.

Embedded Cyberrisks Embedded security? Few care, though the Feds are waving warning flags.

Engineering Everything Engineering is not just a career. It's a way of thinking about problems.

ESC Boston - Hope and Change The old ways of developing embedded systems just don't scale. ESC Boston is the place to go to learn better approaches.

FSMs and Tools Automate everything. Especially brain-dead stuff like standards checks.

Glenn's First Ride Half a century ago the USA first put a man in orbit.

Ham Radio Today Ham radio, and the ESC, are now both paths into this field.

Heathkit Returns Heathkit, the fabled electronics kits company, is going back into that business after a two-decade hiatus.

Heathkit Shutters Heathkit was coming back. Now it appears they're folding.

Hobbies Our hobbies often define our careers.

Hope and Horror The electronics market is set to drastically expand. or fail. Take your pick.

Hot Fields for the College-Bound Studying architecture or the arts? Better get some experience in the food service industry.

Is 8 Bits Dying? Mike Barr's recent column got readers thinking about the future of 8 bits.

Vampire Power Vampire devices such an awful lot of power, often for no good reason.

Kozio's Hardware Diagnostics It's surprisingly hard - and expensive - to get the hardware right.

Latent Defects Some numbers illustrate the cost of ignoring quality.

Microchip's New Analogish Part Microchip has grafted programmable op-amps on the PIC16 family.

Multicore Madness Here's one speed limit that's heavily enforced.

On Metrics It's all about people, process, and good data.

On Testing Testing is important. But it's just one quality gate.

OSTAR The world runs on GPS, but only in recent years.

Linux Wins - Or Does It? RTOSes die, Linux is in. Or is it?

Safety is Hard Building a safe system requires a level of systems thinking that may be impossible.

Selling Yourself We all hate sales, but must be good at one aspect of selling.

Sequence Points Sequence points are one of C's dark corners that trip people up.

Software IS Pretty Darn Good A recent article bemoans the sad state of software. It's just more FUD.

Software Liability Laws - Part 1 A proposed software liability law is fun, perhaps, but na‹ve.

Software Liability Laws - Part 2 A second installment about a proposed software liability law.

Speaking Truth to Power The truth can be unpleasant or even job-threatening. What is one to do?

The Death of the JWST The James Webb Space Telescope faces an uphill battle to survive.

The First Rule of UI Design The first rule of UI design is Don't Piss Off The User.

The GE Transistor Manual One of the old bibles of electronics is still available.

The Heartbreak of Nomophobia Do you suffer from nomophobia? It's an insidious ailment spread by cell phones.

The Price of Tools Firmware is the most expensive part of engineering a product. Tools reduce those costs. Yet developers have a hard time getting management to pony up the cash.

The Rise of FPGAs? ASICs win in high-volume, low cost applications. For now.

Tony Sale, RIP Tony Sale, who built a replica of Colossus, passed away this month at 80.

Virtex-7 2000T FPGAs A new FPGA is truly astonishing.

Anti-Human Apps Smart phone apps do some amazing things. Others are designed to distance us from humanity, or turn us into sociopaths.

What's all this cell phone stuff, anyway? Drivers weaving across lanes. People walking into walls. They're all staring dumbly down at their phones.

15 Bugs Teenagers can learn only from their own mistakes. That seems true for a lot of software types, too.

2010 VDC Survey The latest VDC survey of this industry is not promising.

2010 VDC Survey VDC's annual embedded survey has some interesting facts.

8 Bits is Dead Conventional wisdom is that low-end processors are a dead-end.

Another Take on Twitter Grammar I wrote about poor grammar in electronic communication. Here's a rebuttal.

Babe Magnets Are engineers particularly attractive to the opposite sex?

Best Jobs It's nice to be a nerd, especially considering the job prospects.

The Black Box Unheralded Australian David Warren's invention has improved our safety.

Cars Attacks Hacking a car sounds farfetched, but it's possible today.

Code Reviews - Not Just for Code Code reviews are not just for code. And now there's a tool available.

CodePeer A new tool writes DBC-like contracts for you.

Consulting Survey What are consultants paid? Do they like their work?

CS Graduates On the Rise CS enrollments are up; graduation rates continue to decline.

Cubicle Madness Cubicles are productivity-killers. Yet they're here to stay.

Debugging - The Book Debugging is a learned skill, not one acquired by accident. Here's a good book on the subject.

Department of Redundancy Department Redundancy does not necessarily lead to reliability.

Determinism What makes you think your system will be responsive all of the time?

Disabling Interrupts Accessing shared resources is harder than one thinks.

Does Engineering Pay Well? How much is enough? Rockefeller said "just a little more." Engineers do well compared to other Americans.

EE Times Engineering Survey A recent survey illustrates some cultural differences between engineers.

Embedded Salaries Though raises are seriously off, most of us are happy with our career choice.

Embedded Security Follow-up Securing a system means a lot more than disconnecting it from the Internet.

The Ghost in the Machine As Halloween approaches some systems appear to be possessed by poltergeists.

Getting it Right A new OS has been proven to be correct using mathematical proofs. The cost: astronomical.

GPS Perils GPS is becoming as ubiquitous as the power grid - which is both good and bad.

Home Labs Science and technology: It's growing in America's basements.

I Desperately Need Stinkin' Requirements We need requirements, and must spend more energy gathering them.

Is 4 Bits Dead? Four bits is still around, though seems to be as stealthy as an F-117.

Job Churn Lifetime employment died decades ago. How often do you change jobs?

Hardware Testing Board testing is harder than you think, but there are solutions.

Does Linux Suck? Linux is the solution to all engineering problems. Or is it?

Listening to Your Customers The customer is always right. Sorta.

Making Software Engineering Engineering Are there provable theoretical underpinnings behind software engineering?

Making the Switch Mac or Windows? I've been lured by Steve Jobs' siren song, at least for the laptop.

Math Is Needed A math professor scoffs at the teaching of math.

Multitasking during sex? Jennifer Connelly wrote in The Atlantic: "I do like to read a book while having sex. And talk on the phone. You can get so much done."

NRE vs COGS What's most important? Schedule? Cost? Maybe none of these.

On Higher Education Should web-based delivery replace the university classroom?

Personal Chips Make your own ICs using, well, much less than a big fab.

More on Requirements What makes great requirements? A few simple rules serve as guidance.

Salary Survey Jack's 2009 salary survey is now out, and the data is interesting.

SCADA Security Infrastructure includes the digital systems that control factories. Is it crumbling?

Science Under Attack The sun goes around the Earth. Or so some still believe.

Security Gets Attention Wind River forms an alliance with McAfee. What will result?

Sharpening the Saw Dull tools and dull developers cripple productivity.

Smoking: For fools only Light 'em if you've got 'em. And prepare for an awful death.

License Agreements EULAs: Read 'em and weep. They are completely one-sided.

The Decline of the H1-B H1-B visas are barely being issued any more.

The Idiot's Guide to Being an Idiot R U OK LOL OMG

The Non-Quality Revolution Deming is dead. Both literally and figuratively.

The Uncelebrated Engineer Though engineers can't get no respect, we are the builders of the modern world.

The Use Of Assertions A new study shows the power of seeding your code with assertions.

A Problem Technology The modern era is nearly defined by the devices that clamor for our attention. One, though, is guiltier than most.

Thoughts on Consulting Some insightful comments about consulting from a reader.

Time or Money? The Embedded Systems Conference is the best event for our industry. Did you go?

Time to Move On? Are developers starting to think about moving beyond C and C?

A Half Century of TIROS TIROS 1, the first weather satellite, was launched 50 years ago.

Tree Hugging For Better Computing Poplar proteins may be the next big thing.

Why Did You Become an Engineer? Fame, money or fun? Why did you become an engineer?

Wither Linux? Linux and Android are the future. Or are they?

Writing In Software Development It's time we recognize that software development is mostly about writing, not coding.

Your Development Platform A poll suggests most of us would like to have Linux tools. Are vendors serving us poorly?

Who Needs a Degree?-Are developers born or made? Does that diploma hinder or help creative design?

Electronic flatulence - is this why we spent years in college to become engineers?

Overuse of Overtime?

Version Control: A disgruntled FAA employee deleted the only copy of critical en-route flight control code.

Reliable Firmware - Is reliable firmware an oxymoron? What's the answer to the quality crisis?

Annoying Delays - Developers unite! Let's eliminate all pointless delays in our systems.

Networked Appliances - Pfoowie! Jack feels the embedded Internet mania is more hype than reality. The near future of embedded is not the Internet.

Pay By Use Tools - Tools are expensive; perhaps pay-per-use model makes more sense.

Firmware without a Design - We don't need no stinkeen design for our code.

Big Balls of Mud - Software too often resembles a Big Ball of Mud.

Which Degree? - Do you really need engineers to develop firmware?

India Rules! - Americans be not complacent! The tide is turning.

Sterile Code - Does consistency mean sterility?

No More Wall Transformers - Those *bleeping* wall transformers are driving me mad!

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - Layoffs have started. More are likely. What does this all mean to us?

Open Source Windows - Poetry or junk? What does Windows look like internally?

Reading? Bah, Humbug - USA Today claims Americans don't read. What about us techies?

The Death of PCs - PCs are commodities with a bleak future.

Hardware Vs. Software - Most hardware is all but defect-free. Is there a lesson for firmware folks?

The Doc Scavenger - Too many systems contain a lot of undocumented, and thus useless, error codes.

8 Bits Forever - 32 bits is surely the future. But is it any fun?

Coders Vs Programmers - Any idiot can write code. The hard part is design.

Loss of Options - fun is more important than money. But times are hard now.

Embedded Linux - A Bust? Linux gets an awful lot of press, but seems to be a stealth OS. Is it really just a tiny part of the embedded space?

What's In a Name? - What's the fuss over titles?

The Failure of Reuse - Real reuse has been a bust. Why?

Code Books - Too many computer books substitute code for descriptive writing.

Firmware, it's not so firm anymore - Yet another vendor of consumer products issues a recall for firmware upgrades. Is this the pattern of the future?

Quality vs convenience - Consumers are voting with their wallets for convenience, not quality.

Fat Boys - Programming is hazardous to your waistline.

Ada's Slide into Oblivion - Did Ada die because we're intellectually lazy?

Can't Get No Respect - When I told her I was in the computer biz she wanted me to fix her PC.

Jump Zero and Explode - Better pay your bills on time. or your electronics may self destruct.

We Don't Communicate - Stuck in a technical rut? Get out of the lab!

I know What You Did Last Summer - Networked embedded systems know everything about you. Are we going too far?

Beware of Programmers Carrying Screwdrivers - Or not?

Over-optimizing - Are we developers creating a world we don't want to live in?

See You in Court - Are we legally culpable for our design failures? Should we be?

Old Farts - Where do all of the old engineers go?

Next Dot Com Bubble Burst - Is anyone ever gonna make money on open source products?

Certification - A vision of the future: without a government "safe-coder" certification, you can't get a job.

A Call for a New Curriculum - Coding stinks, but that's all schools teach. We need a better way.

RTFM - Manuals stink. Tech support is worse. Vendors need to deliver complete, well written docs with their products.

Just Do It - No one cares about your career except you. Whatcha gonna do?

Surveys Lie - What is an average embedded system? Or an average developer? I bet the surveys don't tell.

Failure is an Option - Your perfect code is probably rife with latent errors. What happens when one appears? Crash and burn or safely carry on?

Digital TV - The Feds say "if you don't want digital TV, you get nothin'"

A Call for More Vacation - I bet you're not reading this. It's August, so surely you're deep into a well-deserved month off with pay.

Why the Towers Fell - Build it and it will break. Everything fails, but sometimes in a way that saves lives.

Applied Bails - Applied Microsystems is leaving embedded. Does this suggest hardware tools are dead or dying?

kibi - My computer does NOT have 256 mb of RAM; it has 256 mebibytes, built of an array of 64 mebibit DRAMs.

Toxic Bosses - You better watch out, Mr. or Ms. Boss. There's an exodus coming.

Engineers Without Borders - Engineering is great, but rarely gives one a feeling of helping others. Here's an option

What a Show - The recent ESC was a near sell-out; maybe that's a sign of lurking health in the embedded industry.

Convergence - Dump the PDA and MP3 player -cell phones rock.

The DMCA and Us - Better bone up on the DMCA - it's your new bible.

Warchalking - Don't bogart my air! Nor my `net connection.

Columbia - NASA is delivering the goods; we just lack imagination.

Drive in London? Dig out your Wallet - Londoners start paying 5 quid a day to drive in the middle of town. Technology, not the cops, is the enforcer.

Securing Cyberspace - Embedded systems will insure the President's new strategy for securing cyberspace will be a bust. What's the solution?

Twists on Testing - Testing? Nah, our systems are bloody perfect.

Mental Health Days - We get sick leave for physical ailments. What about our minds? They pay us to think. Should we get burnout days as well?

On Language - The word "embedded" has yet another, new, meaning. but nothing to do with electronics.

Too Much Cool - Cool features are pretty, well, cool. But not at the expense of basic functionality!

April 1 - The State of the Art - Hate your job? Tired of the same old same old? It seems you're not alone.

I R a Enjineer - Use the title "engineer" in Texas and expect to shell out $3k/day in fines.

RTOS Implosion - Is the RTOS market collapsing? Is it a victim of the recession or part of a sea change?

Schedule Masturabation - Agile methods are as flawed as big up-front design in creating schedules. Worse - there's no solution.

Resume Follies - Should creating a resume be an act of creative writing or absolute non-fiction?

Memory Lane - The boss might be Ghengis Kahn, but this is still the best job in the world.

Send in the Engineers - The country was torn by wars and decades of neglect. Only the engineers can save it.

A Cheaper CE Creates Competitive Challenges - Microsoft mounts another attack on the embedded market.

Magic is Back - Are we creating a culture of division, of savvy people who understand how the world works, and the vast majority who haven't a clue and care even less?

Outsource Vulnerabilities - Does contracting software overseas lead to insidious security threats?

Road Rage - Does an assault on Linux justify e-violence?

H1-B - Out of work? How do you feel about that H1-B visa holder doing your ex-job?

National Missions - Do we need another Apollo-like crash program? Or will that lead to yet another tech crash?

Power Programmers - Superprogrammer or not, most of us think we're killer developers, and none of our bosses know how to properly use our skills.

Local Knowledge - Local Knowledge, accumulated painfully via experience, is not valued by companies. That's a mistake.

NRE - Does your company understand NRE versus cost of goods sold?

It's Only a Software Change - Reprogrammable memory devices are evil, in that they lead bosses to figure there's no cost to firmware changes.

Age Discrimination - New to engineering? Plan to be used as a disposable commodity, tossed out just when you're hitting max capability.

Salaries Hit Zero - Now you, too, can spend $100k on a college education and work for free! Limited time offer - sign up now!

SCO - : If SCO can't play nicely they shouldn't be allowed in the sandbox.

Message From the President - Companies are getting more honest in their employment policies. Read one and weep.

Expectations of Perfection - A single grid failure in 25 years means the system is too well designed. Maybe we should downgrade the electric system?

Yea for Big Brother - Perhaps a big brother world isn't so bad after all?

Hurricane Madness - As Jimmy Buffet said, You just can't reason with hurricane season.

California Votin - Time to vote in California; just don't expect us to actually count the votes.

C sucks - It's a horrible language that offers little to help us make correct programs.

The End of Days - The Collapse of the World, and More on C.

The Dialectics of Technology - Are consumers and vendors locked in a class war that would delight Marx?

The Vote - Followup - In an earlier Pulse I badgered the state of the voting machine industry. The Feds answer. and it's scary.

No One Likes GUIs - Does a GUI or command line interface make more sense for developers?

Tool Costs - Do firmware development tools cost too much?

Clairvoyance - Without clear requirements it's tough to build decent software. Many would argue it's impossible. Yet too many of us wind up guessing what the code is supposed to do.

State of Grace - Grace Hopper was born 97 years ago this week. She gave us many things we still use today, including bugs.

Professionals - Why can't we get no respect? Does anyone think engineers are professionals?

Refactoring - Agile methods stress the importance of refactoring, yet few of us "get it".

On Getting Respect, Redux - Maybe we don't want any respect after all. This leads to a prediction about the nature of engineering jobs in the future.

Topsy Turvey - Firmware is topsy-turvey. Unlike most engineering, adding margin costs big development bucks.

Just Reset It - Everything crashes all the time. Or so it sometimes seems. I'm sick of cycling power, removing batteries and the like. Are there any options?

I'm OK, You're OK - Perception is more important, it seems, than reality, whether it's choosing insurance or paying an engineer's salary.

Killing Time - Real-life, daydreaming, Slashdot and telling anecdotes consumes a big chunk of the work-week. Is this normal?

A Feel For Things - EEs have a feel for circuits, Justin Timberlake a feel for, uh, whatever, but do firmware people develop a feel for code?

No Cute Code - C is a very expressive language. We can make working code that's ugly, pretty, silly or just cute. That's not always a good idea, though.

A Value Proposition - Methodologies are great but vendors do a lousy job of proving their approaches are any good. So practically no one buys the tools.

The Commoditization of Software Development - Software development went from an artistic process, to a sort of science, back to the arts, and is now just a commodity.

Treat Them Well - Engineers are not robotic automatons mindlessly cranking out code. Great results come from teams that feel "special".

Offshoring - Some thoughts on Outsourcing.

Schedules and Budgets - Decompose the problem into little bits. Design each module carefully. Estimate time per piece and sum to form a schedule. Then multiply by two?

Connectivity - We have an insatiable demand for more, better and faster communications. How much is enough?

Teaching Testing - Testing? We don't need no steenkin' testing, at least at the college level.

Abused by the Machine - The machine sucked in Jack's ATM card but hung. Where's the cash?

Gaining Creativity - Is it "a RTOS" or "an RTOS"? Does the curly brace go on a line by itself, or as part of the next statement?

Geeks On Call - Vision-challenged? A lot of us are. Why, though, are glasses the thickness of coke bottles an enduring image of geek-dom?

Some Assemly Required - In a world of high level languages, does being an expert assembly language developer help one craft better C/C++ code?

The BUG Tax - A tax is an expense levied on citizens, often without the payer's approval. Are bugs a form of taxation? And how much is the bug tax, anyway?

The Two Things - It's enlightening - or at least a lot of fun - to try and express the essence of a profession with just two facts. What are the two facts for embedded systems?

Separating Functions - Architects design, contractors build. Software engineers design, estimate, code, debug, test and document. Maybe the Jack-of-all-trades model is flawed?

Cheap Changes - Agile methods appealingly promise a drastic drop in the cost of making code changes. Utter nonsense.

A Shifting Landscape - Microsoft's new CE license targets the GPL, while Wind River now embraces Linux and offers alternatives to per-unit royalties. Everything we know about OS licenses is changing.

Using Slow Downloads - Get buff! Write buggy code.

Static Analysis Tools - We have a wealth of tools that help us generate better software, tools that delve deep into the code and highlight potential errors before debugging starts. Surely you use these. If not, why not?

Real-Time Firmware Updates for the Dishwasher - Lots of embedded systems use desktop OSes and processors. What distinguishes an embedded app from a PC? Could the fundamental difference be quality?

Specialization - The evolutionary impetus to specialize or die is changing the nature of embedded development. It's hard to be a generalist when systems explode in complexity and size.

Radio Days - Efforts to clean up our rivers and air aren't enough. We need to preserve the pristine wilderness of the RF spectrum as well.

Who's at Fault when code Kills? - In 2001 a software error in a radiotherapy device killed a number of cancer patients. Just this week a Panamanian court sentenced the guilty. Did those responsible for the bad code go to jail?

Software Aging - Software rots. It generally ages badly, especially when maintenance people hack in quick fixes instead of cleanly excising the necrotic tissue and healing the wound.

Bonus Time - How will programmers' bonuses stack up this year?

Device Software Optimization - Marketing-speak is now taking over the embedded industry. What are these folks talking about, anyway?

Analogies - We have rotten tools. At best they give us only a crude analogy about our code. The future holds more visceral visualizations.

Productivity - How productive are you? Do you track the numbers? Why not?

iPods for the Masses - Offices are so noisy it's hard to be productive. To compensate wise managers should provide MP3 players to the developers.

Writing Rite - Emale iz fast but giffs a image of who u r. Rite pour Englsh and ur reader wll think u is an idiot.

Old and In The Way - Few engineers stay in the field past age 50. Are these people really dinosaurs? Is their experience a useful resource we're squandering?

Generational Differences - Some products are too hard to use. Others have secret modes nearly impossible to access. But most of it baffles an awful lot of people.

Anyone Can Do It - Don't know embedded systems? No problem! Take a week-long programming class and then start cranking code.

See Ya Carly - Carly Fiorina is out. There's talk of selling off the printer division. Turmoil, for a time, is sure to follow.

Button Pushers - Who can resist pressing a button on a cool-looking panel covered with switches and blinking lights? What happens when we play with the buttons and crash the code?

Mr. Fixit - Consumers are baffled by their technology, and have largely given up trying to understand anything more than which button to press. Isn't it important to understand and master the technology?

It's Show Time - If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. And check out the ESC.

Medical Upgrades - A systems engineering manager writes that the tsunami of embedded systems coming into his hospital have created new integration and support issues largely unaddressed by the vendors.

Software is Cheap - Though traditional wisdom claims software is hideously expensive, in fact it's pretty darn cheap. At least compared to the alternatives.

Software Engineering is NOT an Oxymoron - Is software engineering an engineering discipline, a science. or one of the liberal arts?

Brave New World - In the Brave New World of product development, lawyers may become more important than engineers.

Advanced Degrees - More engineers seem interested in getting their MS degree. Jack wonders why, since there seems so little benefit to one's career.

40 Hours - Though overtimes seems inevitable in this industry, companies have a responsibility to manage it properly. and fairly compensate the developers.

Failure is an Option - Zero percent of big software projects succeed. Even smaller systems are generally delivered late and with only a subset of the promised functionality.

Sea Code - Want to go on a cruise. and get paid? You, too, can make $1800/month while living the life of luxury, anchored 3.1 miles off LA for months on end.

Spares & Tools - What's with us engineers? We collect spare parts and tools more assiduously than most folks buy lottery tickets.

Human Failure - A Cessna approaches Washington DC. Air traffic control goes into overdrive. Was the pilot evil or just confused?

Certifications - As firmware controls ever-more of our lives, and is responsible for legions of safety critical applications, will developers someday require certifications?

Wall Warts - Want to make a million bucks? Here's an idea that could launch a couple of startups.

The Hundred Years War - Feedback stabilizes systems. but only if it's used. We developers need to reflect on our practices from time to time.

Professionals - If we want to be treated as professionals, we must act as such. That starts with continuous education.

Liability - EULAs are merely tools to thwart lawsuits, yet the cruddy code they guard can reap havoc on our computers.

At Sea - There's no escaping the world of embedded systems - even if we wanted to.

Who Needs a Degree? - How important is a degree, anyway?

Code Guardians - Who is really responsible for the code? Should we assign a strong guardian angel, someone with the authority to say "no!", to insure we're not taking shortcuts?

The New Greenies - The environmental movement has neglected their best ally. Us.

Balance Sheets - A balance sheet tracks the value of all of a company's assets. except the most expensive. Like software and IP.

One Hour - What a long, strange trip it's been. One generation ago computers were guarded by a tribe of high priest operators. Now we buy them like appliances.

Flash - Flash memory is one of the great inventions of the silicon age. But are we using it as a schedule-enhancer?

Worst Case Analysis - Engineers have a very different way of looking at the world. We apply worst case analysis to our products, designs, hobbies and relationships.

Stashing It Away - Retirement is closer than you think. Will you be a pauper peddling programming talent or living the life of sand and palm trees?

For the Want of a Nail - Tight funding gave New Orleans part of a hurricane protection system. A few bucks more might have made a huge difference.

More on Certification - An ACM author plunges into the certification argument. and then flounders.

Static Analyzers at the ESC - A new breed of static analyzers are surfacing. Two companies showed their wares at this week's ESC

Juxtapostions - In the south of England a masons built a castle that has stood for a thousand years. Would that our products lasted for more than a few years!

Margin - Flight 292's near-failure was in fact a brilliant success, an example of engineering margins that saved lives.

Big Code - Vista, Microsoft's long delayed next-generation of Windows, will be huge. And really buggy. As are nearly all large software projects.

A Wal-Mart Future? - An engineer writes of his inability to find a job. other than at the local Wal-Mart.

Nuclear Exception Handler - A nuke plant's emergency coolant system had a design flaw that lingered for almost two decades. Why is it so hard to get emergency systems right?

Team Sizes - Big teams tend to be unproductive, but growing code sizes mean we need more developers.

The Further Decline of English - Technology is leading to the total breakdown in the use of English. Or something.

Keil Buys ARM, Intel - Is a small compiler company taking over ARM and Intel?

Drunk Driving - Embedded "virtual cops" monitor our behavior. Who holds them accountable?

Engineering Employment - A recent spate of articles suggests that hardware design jobs are disappearing, while software developers will be needed in copious numbers. But they're not to be found in the USA.

Hot Stuff - Desktop and server computers suck astonishing amounts of power. But most embedded apps don't - is this a distinguishing feature of an embedded system?

Comments - Self-documenting code? What rubbish!

It's a Business Effort - Everything decision engineers make should be evaluated from a business perspective.

Apolcalypse Now? - It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. Or is it?

New Years's - The Morning After - E gads! It's the morning after yet the night before won't go away.

Tool Upgrades - Do you bungie jump? Climb K-2? Do helo-skiing? How's this for scary: changing compilers in the middle of a project?

Quality is Job One - For some non-embedded firms meeting quality goals determines when a product will ship. What's up with the embedded field?

Keystroke Madness - Computers are great productivity enhancers. some of the time.

Total Recall - Recalls, upgrades and patches are a way of life in the software world. Perfection isn't attainable, but we can surely do a lot better.

Keep It Clean - Successive maintenance cycles can make the code grow ever worse. The solution: refactoring.

National Engineers Week - This is National Engineers Week. Though few will take note of it, it's a great profession that we should be proud of.

Brainstorming - Brainstorm this! What's the best way to generate lots of ideas quickly?

Marketing Speak - Some marketers seem to speak their own lingo, which is composed of English words. but conveys no meaning.

NASA - I'm in awe at the amazing missions NASA has accomplished. But their current direction is troubling.

PC Programming - Job description: "Programmer needed to write filters to produce politically-correct DBMS results that read the mind of the searcher to insure we don't offend, well, anyone."

Talking to Management - Engineers are doomed to failure when we try to communicate with upper management using the lingo of the lab.

Middleware Madness - Middleware and big OSes offer lots of significant benefits. The costs are much harder to quantify.

Rock Stars - In the 1800s engineers were veritable rock stars. One engineer is still considered the second greatest Briton of all time.

Best Job in America - Surprise! You've got the best job in America, according to a new CNN Money poll.

Getting Rich While Doing Good - VCs are starting to fund eco-companies. They better hire a bunch of embedded engineers, because all green tech will be driven by processors.

Vacation - Vacation is a critically important bit of down time that revitalizes every worker. Without it, we're tired drones creating bugs. Yet in the US vacation seems a commodity in short supply.

Henry Petroski - Henry Petroski is a prolific and interesting chronicler of the nature and spirit of engineering. If only more people read his stuff.

Five Technologies You Need to Know About - Will you be using holographic storage in your next embedded app? Probably not. What does the future hold?

Refactoring Mercilessly - To refactor or to not refactor, that is the question? Whether `tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous bugs, or to refactor against a sea of troubles.

Complexity - Complex and hard to use products and processes surround us. and it's not just because of software.

Voting Software - It's an election year, and we're still struggling to get voting machines that people trust.

RTOS Dissatisfaction - RTOS vendors have never offered better or more powerful products, but a growing chorus of developers seems less than thrilled.

Intel Bows Out - The end of an era. Intel's 8051, 186 and many other processors have been end-of-lifed.

Microkernal vs Monolithic - Minix's reliability design goals represent a philosophy that should apply to all sorts of code.

Trusted ICs, Trusted Software - PCs are under a hailstorm of virus attacks. What about our development tools?

Discipline - Much of success in life stems from a disciplined approach to doing, well, everything. That applies to software engineering, too.

Failure to Launch - An astonishing 41% of all engineering projects never see the light of day. Think of the waste!

It's Done - "It's done, boss," the developer happily relates. But one person's "done" may mean something very different than anothers.

EDN Turns 50 - EDN, the electronics industry's leading publication, is 50 years old this year. It has reported on breakthroughs that have taken us from the vacuum tube age to the Core 2 Duo.

We're All Geeks - 40% of this nation is fascinated by science. That's a hopeful number for all of us.

Quantum Puzzlement - The promises of quantum computing are astounding. Will we non-physicists be able to actually program these things?

Languages - The use of OOP continues to grow in the embedded space.

UML Use - Go to the ESC and you'll see "UML" plastered over many booths. But is anyone using it?

Linux Surveys - Is Linux dying in the embedded space? Or is it healthier than ever? Surveys don't paint a clear picture.

Reverse-Shoring Jobs - Indian companies are hiring like mad. even here in the USA.

Code Inspection Book - Code inspections and reviews are a powerful bug-prevention tool. Here's a great book on the subject.

Walter Mitty Dreams - It's an emergency; is there an engineer on-board?

The Show Myth - It's time to stop using The Show as the basis for the schedule.

Learning a Trade - Advice for college bound students: learn a trade. The skill can't be offshored and it offers its own satisfaction.

Catastrophe Disentanglement - Catastrophes are ultimately people problems.

60 Years of Change - ENIAC and the IEEE Computer Society were born the same year. So much has happened in just a single lifetime!

A Close Vote - November 7 is almost upon us. Much of the nation will vote electronically. What will happen?

Quality Software - Quality starts first with a customer or team that demands great software. Then we use a reasonable process to deliver code that lives up to those demands.

Stack Management - It's tough to estimate stack size. Now it appears that at least one tool can help.

Introspection - Though Socrates' statement "The unexamined life is not worth living" is somewhat elitist, there is some wisdom in the thought.

Engineering Shortage - A few years ago engineers were working in Walmarts. Today at least one report claims there's a shortage of talent.

State of Grace - Grace Hopper was born 100 years ago December 9.

No Second Sources - Sometimes it seems like ICs have lifetimes equal to that of a particular model iPod. What do you do when a part end-of-lifes?

The Grid Comes to Embedded - Now we can use grid computing to speed up compilations.

Data Management - Programs have been described as collections of algorithms and data structures. But in firmware we tend to cobble up our own data management code all the time.

Work vs Life - Do we live to work or work to live?

Going Gray - US engineers are getting older, while in developing countries most are in their twenties.

For Love or Money - As Ford goes down the tubes their executives are showered in riches. What about their engineers?

Retire Rich - You will get old. Will you then live in poverty?

Experiential Engineering - Engineering is about building stuff. Yet few EE students have a chance to really do that.

Firware Maintenance - Those who study software have always claimed that maintenance is the biggest cost in software. But is this true for firmware?

A Pretty Good Bill - The Vote Integrity and Verification Act of 2007 is Congress's latest attempt to fix e-voting problems. It's a pretty good bill.

Is it live, or is it Memorex? - I've been playing with a simulation environment that seems pretty good. Is simulation finally coming of age?

Feature Creep - How many things does your cell phone do? And how many of those do you use?

Comments on Comments - It's a mistake to place a comment after a line of C or C++.

It's (Not) a Poor Craftsman Who Blames His Tools - Homo Sapiens is a tool-maker and tool-user. Great tools help developers ship better products faster.

Backups - Reformat hard drive. Lose $39 billion.

Spares - It's the project's end. Do you know where your resources are?

Nohau - Nohau USA is dead. Long live Nohau USA.

RMA - Preemptive multitasking is inherently non-deterministic, but RMA can change that. But does anyone use it?

The Modern Oscilloscope - In 1947 Tektronix invented the triggered oscilloscope. That legacy still lives on.

Superprogrammers - What is a superprogrammer? An undisciplined hacker with social failings or someone with another set of characteristics?

Telecommuting - Telecommuting still has a small presence in the embedded space. Why?

Tool Costs - When selecting a software tool, the only important consideration seems to be price.

Blocked Sites - Does your company block access to parts of the Internet? Why?

GNU Tools - What's in your toolbox? Do you favor proprietary tools or those that are open source?

New Code - Legacy code, no matter how bad, will be the foundation for most products of the future.

The Descent of Man - Engineers are usually curious about the world. But is that a recessive trait?

Why I Became an Engineer - Why did you become an engineer?

The Use of Agile - The agile community's primary conference occurs in August, and looks to be quite interesting.

Married to the Team - Marriage and developer teams have a surprising amount in common.

Degrees - Once it was possible to fall into an engineering job without a lot of credentials. Now one needs an appropriate degree.

Watchdogs - : Is a watchdog timer a crutch for lousy developers or a wise bit of insurance?

40 Hour Weeks - A survey suggests we waste 20% of the workday. Can this be true?

The Unending H-1B Saga - H-1B Visas are always a hot topic. Here's a fascinating link about the issue.

Ads I Like - Ads: Love `em? Hate `em? Some are great

Agile 2007 - The Agile 2007 conference catered mostly to PC types, but some embedded heads showed up.

The Boston ESC - Are you an East Coastie? Don’t you dare miss the Boston ESC!

Unionization - Engineers are telling me they're unhappy being compromised by offshoring and guest worker visas.

Software Warranties - Is it impossible to build a warranted product from components that disclaim any sort of guarantee?

ESC India - The first-ever Embedded Systems Conference in India exceeded all expectations.

The Fourth Law - Isaac Asimov's Three Laws are neither sufficient nor applicable only to traditional human-like robots.

Google Trends - Google Trends suggests a declining interest in embedded subjects.

Self Documenting Code - Are comments always necessary?

Data Has No Value - That's my conclusion based on how poorly we take care of it.

Is Honesty the Best Policy? - Don't lie. We all know it. But is it the best policy when creating schedules?

Del Cross B - How much ma

Ode to the X-Acto Knife - The lowly X-Acto knife is one of the most important tools on my desk.

R & D - Do engineers really do R&D?

Protected Memory Spaces - Protected memory spaces are like a fuse that gives a system some degree of fault-tolerance. So why aren't we using them?

A Million Lines of Code - Programs on the scale of 1m lines of code are getting more common. But how big is 1m LOC?

Apprentices - In the days of guilds craftspeople were expected to serve a long apprenticeship. Is this appropriate for engineers as well?

E-Voting - In 2008 we chose a president. Or. will someone else control the election?

Demotivated Teams - Broken teams need a serious dose of enlightened management, not more process.

Code Size - Some of us are working on huge programs. It appears, though, that most applications remain pretty small.

Working From Home - Despite all of the promises of the e-age, most engineers continue to commute to the office every day.

Is Assembly Obsolete? - The reports of assembly language's death are greatly exaggerated.

The Rule of Fifty - Studies suggest overtime is counterproductive. But it's still commonplace.

What's Embedded? - Can you define "embedded system?" I can't.

The Dearth of C Training - New grads learn on huge systems. Are they prepared for resource-constrained system development?

Professional Organizations - Are you part of a professional engineering organization?

Optimistic Programming - We assume 1+1=2, but the evidence suggests that's often not true.

CS Schooling - Do CS departments come even close to producing graduates that meet the needs of the firmware community?

Programmers - The word "programmer" should be banned from the lexicon.

Expectations - When there's not an absolute expectation that products will be correct, they won't.

Salaries and Ages - There's new salary data that shows healthy wages and aging (in the US) developers.

A Visit to Bletchley Park - Perhaps the first electronic digital computer has been reconstructed at Bletchley Park.

Know Your Numbers - Do you know your bug metrics? If not, why not?

The Age of Ignorance - Too many supposedly educated people feel the modern world of science and technology to be utterly inaccessible.

Brain Books - We're drowning in information. One way to capture it is the use of Brain Books.

Fun With ASICs - When will an ASIC project cost a billion bucks? You might be surprised.

Recession Proof Jobs - A new survey pegs software as recession-proof. Does that scale to embedded development?

The Real National Security Issue - The oil will run out, eventually. And that will devastate our economy.

Misguided - More stories abound about electronics steering us wrong. Both users and developers need to step up to the plate.

Miracle and Wonder - These are the days of miracle and wonder. Sometimes, though, we forget that.

IP Theft - Is the theft of IP any different than stealing that bright red Ferrari?

Warning Labels - WARNING! Do not insert neck into sawblade! Do not start car before adjusting seatbelts!

A Trillion Lines of Code - We're counting the dollars as the financial mess expands. Has anyone counted how much code we're produced?

Jobs: Implosion or Same Old - Is engineering the place to be. or are we equally at risk with burger-flipping English majors?

Bell Labs - Bell Labs, sadly, is refocusing to concentrate on near-term problems rather than basic research.

Microchip and Atmel - Contrary view: Microchip is pretty smart to make a move on Atmel.

Hardware/Software Disconnect - There are hardware engineers, software people, analog experts. and then there are the systems people.

Assembly Languages - Embedded might be the last refuge of assembly language. Is it fading from that, too?

Ode to an End mill - The iPod was designed to be beautiful. Many mundane products weren't. but are.

Nulticore - More evidence shows that multicore just doesn't scale.

Nulticore Continued - If SMP multicore isn't a solution, what is?

Integrity at EAL6+ - Security is usually neglected in the embedded space. Now there are some options.

Going Walkabout - Max Maxfield has ruined my year. Unless I fail to keep the resolution.

Dr. Dobb's Journal No More - Dr. Dobb's magazine is going to a web-only presence. And that's a shame.

Ada's Lack of Adoption - Despite its strengths, Ada just doesn't have a lot of market share.

Ada Take Two - More on the lack of adoption of Ada. and career inertia.

Fictitios Features - A new survey shows IT people are sick of sales folk.

Jobs: Has the Meltdown Hit us Yet? - Obama signs a big stimulus bill. How are prospects in the embedded space?

Small is Beautiful - 8 bits will never go away. In fact, various vendors have some pretty cool new parts available.

On Language Again - Language is important. That includes spelling and grammar, whether your writing ad copy or comments. (And that word misuse is intentional).

CS Education Statistics - CS enrollments have been awfully gloomy for a long time. New data suggests that at least the rate of decline is slowing.

Take Charge - No one cares about your career except you. Or, do you?

Metrics - Few of us collect metrics. That's not what engineering is all about.

Life After Layoffs - Engineers are no longer immune from the recession. What's your job-seeking strategy?

Software Engineering - Some wags call software engineering an oxymoron. What's needed to change this perception?

Hacked - Virginia loses a pile of data. How could this happen?

The Kindle - Amazon's Kindle gets the ebook just about right.

Deep Agile - Deep Agile 2009 explored using agile methods in embedded development.

Hurricane Season - You just can't reason with hurricane season.

Vacation Time - Two weeks of vacation is ridiculous.

Forgettable Flash - Flash is not forever. What happens when they drop bits?

Securing Keys - DRAM is like an elephant: it has a long memory.

Intel Buys Wind River - In a surprise move, Intel plans to purchase Wind River.

Where Were You On July 20, 1969? - 40 years ago man first walked on the moon. What were you doing at the time?

The Death of Software Engineering - Tom DeMarco, always a fascinating pundit, thinks we should stop building mundane products.

No Time for a Startup? - Things are awful. Maybe that means it's time to start a company!

Wernher von Braun - What role did Wernher von Braun play in getting us to the moon?

Doom and Gloom - EE unemployment doubles. What's the prognosis?

 

 

 
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