Embedded Muse 222 Copyright 2012 TGG March 19, 2012
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EDITOR: Jack Ganssle, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Editor's Notes
- Quotes and Thoughts
- Salary Survey
- For the Want of a WDT
- Magazines - To Read Them or Trash Them?
- Tools and Tips
- A Different Approach to Managing a Schedule
- Joke for the Week
- About The Embedded Muse
Are you happy with your bug rates? If not, what are you doing about it? Are you asked to do more with less? Deliver faster, with more features? What action are you taking to achieve those goals?
In fact it IS possible to accurately schedule a project, meet the deadline, and drastically reduce bugs. Learn how at my Better Firmware Faster class, presented at your facility. See http://www.ganssle.com/onsite.htm .
Quotes and Thoughts
"Good design adds value faster than it adds cost." - Thomas C. Gale
Thanks to everyone for taking this year's salary survey. The results are here: http://www.ganssle.com/salsurv2012.html .
For the Want of a WDT
Several people had their own stories of systems gone bad. Bob Lee wrote: " We have a Keurig coffee machine a work. One day, soon after it had been installed, I walked by and noticed that all of the lights on the front panel were blinking. In this state it would not dispense coffee. I reached around the back in search of an on/off switch. After cycling the power, the machine returned to normal. This happened several more times before I witnessed the cause. If you fill a cup from the spout on the side of the machine (e.g to make tea) and it drains the internal reservoir of hot water to the point that it needs a refill, it enters this error condition.
Todd Brian contributed this: "5 or 6 years ago, I lost power to every single item in the dash in my Honda CRV. No air, fan, dash lights, speed, tack, I mean everything. Having been frequently traumatized at Toyota, Honda, etc. repair shops, I tried to do the right thing. I pulled every freaking fuse in the car, nada! As a last ditch effort I turned to the web and ran across one of the "Ask an Expert" sites where they ask if it is worth $5, $15, $25 bucks to have an in house expert try to help. I thought what $15 against what the Honda place was going to do to me. So I said $15. A few minutes I got a response from a "Certified Palladium Honda Electrical Tech". I spent an hour going back and forth from the car to the laptop. "Turn right blinker on and let me know what happens", I would report, then another request. Anyhow after 20 trips back and forth he says "Disconnect the battery for 30 minutes, then reconnect, wait 5 minutes and start the car".
"Since that time, this trick has saved my Wife, Sister, Niece, friends and family from replacing various controllers in their own cars. The magic reboot works as well today on my new Dell laptop, Honda and Toyota as it did 20 years ago on my old Apollo and 286. One tip though. Make sure you have the security code to your sound system first.
"Now I only wish I had read this before I started taking apart my 3 year old Carrier AC unit yesterday."
Magazines - To Read Them or Trash Them?
In the last issue I complained about the slow death of print publication, and wrote about the need for us to use magazines to stay current. That sure generated a lot of great dialog! But it got me to rethinking things a bit. Since many publications are available in their entirety in electronic form, perhaps it makes sense to switch over to a tablet. My briefcase is generally stuffed with magazines and downloaded articles I read as time is available. One tablet could hold all of those plus a couple of zillion other resources. A downside is that some magazines come in those execrable flipbook formats that I find extremely unfriendly. So I decided to try carrying around my wife's iPad for a few weeks and see how it goes. Alas, I can't seem to pry it from her grip.
Hans-Bernhard Broker wrote: "[Is print worth the paper it is on?] - Tough call. But then again, I think it's important to separate the "being printed on paper" aspect from the rest of the concept called a "magazine". While that aspect used to be part of what made it a magazine, that may not have to stay so --- actually, I'm pretty sure it _cannot_ stay that way for much longer.
"The thinner the distribution of readers, the more prohibitive the costs of producing and delivering a paper magazine, compared to the content's possible value. This eventually triggers a downward spiral of growing subscription price, loss of advertising revenue and dwindling number of subscribers, which eventually kills the publication. This process has been going on for at least two decades in academia ... scientific journals die by the dozen because even comparatively rich universities can't afford their subscriptions any more. I don't think technical magazines will manage to avoid that effect in the long run.
"Nowadays the main point I see in distributing a magazine on paper (instead of publishing in the web) is that it serves as a kind of proof of sincerity. Printing and delivery is just expensive enough that it pays to be picky what gets printed, and that selection process benefits the reader.
"SF author Douglas Adams made an interesting connection:
- answering machines relieve their owners of the burden of
having to listen to nuisance phone calls
- video recorders do the same job regarding bad TV
- some device should have the job of actually believing in
the stuff preached by door-to-door salesmen/missionaries
--- he called that an "electrical monk".
"Following this same scheme, magazine editors have the job of relieving their readers of the bother of reading articles that aren't worth it. They do that job by deciding what not to print.
"So editors have a job worth doing. But they don't necessarily need printing presses to do it. The question that really needs to be answered is how we can keep editors gainfully employed without having to shred trees to distribute their work product."
Chris Lambrecht had this: "In your last embedded muse you asked "Is print worth the paper it is on? Which magazines do you read? How many a month? Is the `net your primary source of information?"
"I get quite a few magazines sent to me directly. I always look at their contents and then decide which articles are worth digging into. The one that I like the most is Embedded Systems Design. I do miss the larger magazines (from the past), but I think that you bring up a deeper issue here.
"All engineers are constantly solving problems. To do this they need an answer to their immediate question. For an immediate problem, I know the question to ask. Therefore I can "pull" the information that I need through internet searches.
"The best engineers out there are constantly learning for the future. I don't know what problems will exist in the future therefore my search for knowledge for the future is more open ended. For the future, I cannot "pull" the information. I really need it "pushed" to me. For this, I use my sources of information in a different way. I get magazines for this. I read internet groups or chats on a daily basis. I sign up for technical emails (like the Embedded Muse). I rely heavily on vendors and application engineers for new technology. When I'm doing this, I'm turning over as many rocks as possible in search of that proverbial diamond in the rough.
"There is one other thing that I've noticed over time. The better I do my job at solving today's problems, the more time I have to get information "pushed" to me. If I don't do a good job of learning for the future, I find myself back putting out today's fires. Over time, I've had to train myself (or remind myself) that if I'm "pulling" information, I'm not really doing the best I can do."
Mark Txx contributed this: "I still like print magazines but then again I am over 45. Most publishers have quit sending me print versions and only offer PDF files which are better than nothing. Dr Dobbs wants a login I have long since forgotten so occasionally read a free article from them. I used to pay for a subscription to Dr. Dobbs for many years along with CUJ.
"I still get "SD Times" via hard-copy. I follow some of the EEtimes links sent to me via e-mail.
"Once they force me to get info via Facebook then I will quit because that whole nonsense is the equivalent of "Bread and Circuses" from the end of the Roman Empire which may be where western culture is headed.
"-- end rant"
Peter House wrote: "I receive about 30 of the "free" advertising supported industry trade rags and thumb through most of them each month while reading three or four cover to cover. I subscribe to a couple more which I read cover to cover. Cover to cover include reading the adds since there is so much information there on new products. I find all of this reading is very beneficial to my knowledge of current industry practices and evolutions."
Luca Matteini had a few thoughts to share: "To make a long story short: I think that we need a different approach to technical information, over time. I still prefer having a paper magazine, whatever is the subject, turning physical pages lets me run visually better to the article or figure I search for. But when you start looking for a keyword in a 1000 pages data sheet, well, the electronic format helps, a lot. Not to mention search engines. PDF really changed everything, and marked an epoch.
"I'm a regular reader of Circuit Cellar, and it's a few years that I'm a subscriber of the digital edition (the paper one is comprehensibly more expensive, and took too long shipping from US to Italy!). Then I'm a reader of EDN (digital edition as well, dropped physical copies in years), EPN, and many others web based, like EETimes.
"Really I'm unsure on how paper is important nowadays in such a fast pace, high information volume market. I like the brochures I get at seminars, but as I return to office I drop them somewhere and run to see what's newer on the web!
"Still, for books on other subjects (novels, fiction, essays) I keep liking most plain old paper."
Gary Lynch also likes print: "I still subscribe to print magazines because:
- Sometimes I see useful ads that are not in the electronic
equivalents. This is surely a capricious choice, but all
the publishers do it.
- I can still save clipped-out articles that I might need
down the road. A PDF or HTML file lends itself to much
easier archiving, in addition to being rapidly searchable,
but I see a disturbing trend among some publishers to
protect their electronic IP in a way that renders it
useless unless I can deploy it and forget it right now.
- The act of picking up a magazine requires a conscious
choice to devote time to education, and I must set my
deadlines & tasks aside and take a 'mini-retreat', whereas
e-mails tend to distract me on the spot from something I
"Now & then I face a stiff deadline and stop reading for weeks or months, after which I tend to skim the tables of contents until I catch up. I still get print versions of:
- Embedded Systems Design,
- EE Times, &
- Elektronik (a German magazine you endorsed a few years
ago.. I have subscribed for over 30 years.)
"as well as an assortment of IEEE and Computer Society publications.
"I feel like I am wasting my time when I start to read the same article a second time, (print after electronic) but I don't see a cure for that.
"The IEEE still charges more to receive their magazines electronically, even though it costs them less to deliver it, and I am resolved to wait them out, much as I did when AT&T insisted on charging me $1.25/month to get tone dialing on my home phone. Otherwise I would consider switching to electronic only there.
"I grieve the format changes you mention, which I see everywhere: in my hometown daily, national news magazines, even TV Guide. They portend the inexorable death of print journalism as we know it, and I fear we will be a dumber class of readers by the time this is over."
Jon Titus, who has had a long career in the magazine business, wrote: "Engineers and people in marketing probably ask your question about printed publications vs. Internet sources many times. I spent most of my career writing and editing so I have an affinity for paper and ink.
"In the '80's and'90's, many magazine companies thought they were in business to provide an advertising "vehicle" that used editorial information simply to separate the ads. Most publishers of individual magazines come up through the ranks of the ad-sales staff and they lack an understanding of what readers do on the job and what types of information they want and need. So, when the Internet boom started and companies cut print-advertising budgets in favor of online marketing, publishers panicked and started to cut staff--often highly competent engineers who could write well--and relied more on contributors and freelancers. This type of philosophy diminished the value of the free trade publications and most suffered dramatic drops in editorial and advertising pages. If only publishers had thought long term and had strengthened their publications to make them competitive with the Internet sources. (By the way, when a publisher rose through the editorial ranks, his or her magazine--and its readers--benefited greatly.)
"Most of the magazines I pay attention to today have paid circulation, so they quickly measure--through renewals and new subscriptions--the value of their information, both editorial and advertising. And they keep up the editorial quality and maintain information at the right level for my interests. I take a quick look at the cover and table of contents of most "free" magazines and if I find nothing of interest they go right into the recycle bin. Only a few get a cover-to-cover perusal."
James Thayer sent this: "This may be something unique to my personality, but I tend to feel that if a magazine is worth reading, it is worth having it printed on paper. There are two reasons for this...
"The first thing is that I agree with you about "...the serendipity of the "push" technology of a print magazine. You never know what you'll learn while paging through a printed magazine..." Indeed, many of my successes as an engineer came as a result of things I learned while flipping through magazine pages.
"But I don't find digital magazines to be "flippable". I don't find them easy to browse through. I go straight to the article of interest, read it and then set it aside. (If there are enough others out there like me, this is a problem for advertisers, by the way...)
"The second thing is that digital magazines come in the e-mail. I am rarely in a magazine reading mood when I am reading e-mail. My goal is to reduce the stack as rapidly as possible and get on with other things. Digital magazines tend to get handled with the old "I'll take a look at it later..." and then it's out of sight, out of mind. The rare exception to this is Embedded Systems Design, but that's only because there's a column in it called "break points" that I always find to be worth the time to read. (If you haven't seen it, I urge you to check it out...)"
Dave Telling wrote: "Over the years, I have had subscriptions to most of the "mainstream" electronic design magazines, and while I would generally flip through each issue, I found that I read very few tech articles. The reason for this is that almost none of them had any relevance to the work I was doing. It seems that the focus (and probably rightly so) of these articles is the state-of-the-art technologies, but I think that there are a lot of people in the design arena who are nowhere near the bleeding edge. Overall, I think we tend to focus on parts and techniques that are relevant to our projects. I have also learned over the years that "what you don't use, you lose". Reading a tech article about a cool new device, or a new design idea may be fun, but if there is no way that you will ever use that information, it will just fade away.
"I dropped almost all of my paper subscriptions, and now just get the electronic versions. I wish that all had .pdf as an option, instead of the web-based viewers, but overall, it saves paper, space, and time to use electronic delivery. I still have old copies of some magazines stashed around, but the reality is that I should just toss them, as I will likely never open them again.
"However (and I know you'll appreciate this!) I have several years worth of "Woodenboat" magazine that I just can't bear to throw out - I will occasionally pull an issue out and re-read an article I found enjoyable. Tech magazines aren't quite like that!"
Don Herres likes on-line versions: "I get everything possible on line. EETimes is the most important single source for work and the e-mail summaries let me speed read through the topics and then read the full articles. Basically, if I have not read it in two days, it is deleted since I know I will never get to it. Worst case, I got to the web site and look it up.
"Spectrum I get on my iPad and can save it for the wonderful quality time I get to spend in airports and on planes. I pack one device and have numerous books and magazines to read (much lighter weight).
"The final reason is that I get the articles a week or two sooner on line compared to waiting for a print copy to arrive. And, of course, the publishers like the savings on their side."
Bruno Muswieck sent this: "I love paper and I hate read on the computer, for me magazine and books, paper is the choice.
"Circuit Cellar and EDN Design Ideas, I try to read every month. EDN and Microwaves, sometimes. Plus a book, technical always, but now that I'm on my final part of my master degree, sometimes is hard to keep reading the month's issues of Circuit Cellar.
"My primary source?? Well, I think it's a merge of magazines, books and net (forums (I really like), newsletters)."
Tools and Tips
I suspect last issue's mention of wire striXXers, uh, devices that remove insulation from wires, caused a number of spam filters to reject the Muse. How long will it be before every word in the lexicon is considered objectionable?
Further mentions of those tools will encode the word that means "to remove insulation" to something less likely to cause problems.
A different Approach to Managing A Schedule
Luis Uribe sent an alternative to the common theme of the last 10% of the project consuming 90% of the schedule. Enjoy!
We (embedded) Project Engineers have been accused of schedules that nobody follows. But this is not true. Experience shows some facts that do not fit in old management theories; for example, that 20% of the activities will use 80% of the time.
The only way that this statement fits into your schedules is seeing the time in what will be known as the
URIBE'S PROJECTS SPECIAL RELATIVITY THEORY,
in which ALSO the TIME IS CURVED.
In this SPECIAL Theory we may use the following expression to calculate REAL time in terms of Project scheduled dates:
t < 0.20*N ? n = 0.80*N*(1-EXP(-t)) : n = N*0.75 + 0.25*t;
(It is a well known fact that the Universe is best expressed in "C")
- N is the forecasted (by you) week number
- t is time (the number of the week under analysis, for example)
- n is the real, curved, relativistic time (week number).
- 0.8 is a COSMOLOGICAL CONSTANT that forces the time to fold in a
curve such that 20% of the activities will use 80% of the project's
time; 0.2, 0.75 and 0.25 come from solving the non-linear equations
that represent the project's time, with 0.8 as a Constant.
Solving for my university courses, in which students ALWAYS finish their assignments during a quarter (12 weeks), no matter what, we may tabulate the results as follows:
WEEKS (Project programmed to be done in 12 weeks, as an example...) +----- CALENDAR Week number | +-- The work of 'which' week is done in the "Calendar" week... | | 0 0-- Al projects begin on time! 1 1-- In week 1 you work in the job programmed for the 1st week 2 1-- In week 2 you continue to work in the 1st week assigned job! 3 1-- ..and so you will do during the 3rd week... 4 1-- ..and through the 4th... 5 1-- ... 6 1-- In week 6 you FINALLY finish the 1st week assignment !!! 7 2-- In week 7 you work in the job programmed for the 2nd week... 8 2-- In week 8 you FINISH the work programmed for week 2... ********************************************************************* * AT THIS POINT, 20% of activities have used 80% of project's time. * Now: RUN, boy; RUN !!! ********************************************************************* 9 3-- In week 9, finish the work programmed for week 3rd, and so on 10 4,5 11 6,7,8,9 12 10,11,12-- In week 12 you finally FINISH ALL activities programmed -- ..to be done during weeks 10, 11 and 12 !!!
There will be a URIBE'S PROJECTS GENERAL RELATIVITY THEORY to cover projects that do NOT fit in a fixed slot of time, as my university courses do, but that extends the milestones accordingly to the mysteries of the real, curved, relativistic time.
I will be expecting to meet the new Lorentz or Poincar‚ that will help to transform all this mess into something nobody understands, in order to assure me my first Nobel Price. May be I will be expecting it forever, in linear times, victimized by my own unknown laws.
Let me know if you're hiring firmware or embedded designers. No recruiters please, and I reserve the right to edit ads to fit the format and intents of this newsletter. Please keep it to 100 words.
Joke for the Week
Note: These jokes are archived at www.ganssle.com/jokes.htm.
Tom Mignone sent this:
Two computer engineers were driving down the highway listening to the radio when an announcement came on the air "Caution, there is a car going against traffic on route 495". "One?" the passenger said to the driver - "there must be at least 50!"
About The Embedded Muse
The Embedded Muse is a newsletter sent via email by Jack Ganssle. Send complaints, comments, and contributions to me at email@example.com.
The Embedded Muse is supported by The Ganssle Group, whose mission is to help embedded folks get better products to market faster. We offer seminars at your site offering hard-hitting ideas - and action - you can take now to improve firmware quality and decrease development time. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.