Learning From Engineering Failures

Steve Branam July 29, 2021
Introduction

I'm an informal student of engineering failures. They guide a lot of my attitude and approach towards engineering.

This is rooted in two of my favorite quotes:

  • George Santayana: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
  • Louis Pasteur: Chance favors the prepared mind.

and leads to the ultimate advice I offer people:

  • Trust nothing, and verify.

(See My Guiding Principles As An Engineer for the full list...


My Guiding Principles As An Engineer

Steve Branam February 27, 2021

These are my guiding principles as an embedded systems software engineer, forged over 40 years of experience. They shape the way I work and approach problems, and maintain my attitude in the face of adversity.

You may find them useful as well, whether working as a developer, a manager, or an executive, alone or on a team, when things are going well, and when they aren't.

They're a combination of favorite quotes and my own bits of wisdom I've sprinkled...


Review: Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers

Steve Branam September 20, 20201 comment

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for evaluation.

Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers: Building real-time embedded systems using FreeRTOS, STM32 MCUs, and SEGGER debug tools by Brian Amos is an outstanding book. It lives up to its name, extremely hands-on and practical, taking you from knowing nothing about RTOS's (Real-Time Operating Systems) up to building real multithreaded embedded system applications running on real hardware.

It uses the ST Micro


The Self-Directed Virtual Internship

Steve Branam May 3, 2020

A number of my LinkedIn connections are college and university students at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, from all over the world. The embedded systems community constantly amazes me.

One fallout they're experiencing from COVID19 is cancellation of summer internships. This is very unfortunate, because an internship represents maintaining educational momentum and preparing for launch of a career with a taste of the real working world, along with some financial...


UML Statechart tip: Handling errors when entering a state

Matthew Eshleman March 8, 20204 comments

This is my second post with advice and tips on designing software with UML statecharts. My first entry is here.

It has been nearly 20 years since I first studied UML statecharts. Since that initial exposure (thank you Samek!), I have applied event driven active object statechart designs to numerous projects [3]. Nothing has abated my preference for this pattern in my firmware and embedded software projects. Through the years I have taken note of a handful of common challenges when...


Examining The Stack For Fun And Profit

Steve Branam February 19, 20201 comment

Well, maybe not so much for profit, but certainly for fun. This is a wandering journey of exploration and discovery, learning a variety of interesting and useful things.

One of the concerns with an embedded system is how much memory it needs, known as the memory footprint. This consists of the persistent storage needed for the program (i.e. the flash memory or filesystem space that stores the executable image), and the volatile storage needed to hold the data while executing over long...


So You Want To Be An Embedded Systems Developer

Steve Branam February 5, 20203 comments
Then listen now to what I say. Just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play. Oh, wait, that's a song by the Byrds. But the strategy is the same. Get some information and tools and learn how to use them. No need to sell your soul to the company. (This post contains Amazon affiliate links and links to vendor websites.) The items I've listed below are sufficient to get you started on a career as an embedded systems developer. There are of course many additional...

A brief overview of flight control software

Igor Mišić May 3, 20193 comments

It has been a long time since the first drones appeared. If you are interested in such a topic, you may be confused about how and where to jump in. Since I went through the same phase, I'd like to write my findings here and help others.

For this blog post, I've created chart and table with all open source flight control programs I've been able to find.

The chart shows the course of development of the existing software. It is separated in years and you can see when which project...


Tenderfoot: Embedded Software and Firmware Specialties

Matthew Eshleman August 20, 201710 comments

Once upon a time (seven years ago) I answered a question on Stack Overflow. Then Stephane suggested I turn that answer into a blog post. Great idea! This post dives deeper into the original question: “Is it possible to fragment this field (embedded software and firmware) into sub-fields?”

This post represents a detailed and updated response to my original Stack Overflow answer. I hope this post provides guidance and useful information to the “tenderfoots” in the...


So You Want To Be An Embedded Systems Developer

Steve Branam February 5, 20203 comments
Then listen now to what I say. Just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play. Oh, wait, that's a song by the Byrds. But the strategy is the same. Get some information and tools and learn how to use them. No need to sell your soul to the company. (This post contains Amazon affiliate links and links to vendor websites.) The items I've listed below are sufficient to get you started on a career as an embedded systems developer. There are of course many additional...

C++ on microcontrollers 2 - LPCXpresso, LPC-link, Code Sourcery, lpc21isp, linkerscript, LPC1114 startup

Wouter van Ooijen October 24, 20115 comments

 previous parts: 1

This blog series is about the use of C++ for modern microcontrollers. My plan is to show the gradual development of a basic I/O library. I will introduce the object-oriented C++ features that are used step by step, to provide a gentle yet practical introduction into C++ for C programmers.  Reader input is very much appreciated, you might even steer me in the direction you find most interesting.

I teach my students that...


Levitating Globe Teardown, Part 2

Tim Wescott November 6, 20139 comments

Part 1 of this article was really more of an extended (and cynical) product review.  In this part of the article, I actually take things apart (sometimes a bit more suddenly than I meant to) and show you some innards.First the globe.  I knew there was a magnet in there someplace, because it's obviously plastic and it also attracts metal.  I had intended to gently part the globe at the glue bond along the equator.  I started by trying to gently flex the thing on my work...


Levitating Globe Teardown, Part 1

Tim Wescott November 4, 20133 comments

I've been kicking some ideas around for a long time for a simple and inexpensive platform I could use for control systems experimentation for the beginner.  I want something that can be controlled easily in a basic fashion, yet that provides some depth: I want to be able to present ever-more challenging goals to the student, that can be attained by fancier control algorithms all on the same device.

I'm currently looking at magnetic levitation.  It's fun, it has the potential to be...


Tenderfoot: Embedded Software and Firmware Specialties

Matthew Eshleman August 20, 201710 comments

Once upon a time (seven years ago) I answered a question on Stack Overflow. Then Stephane suggested I turn that answer into a blog post. Great idea! This post dives deeper into the original question: “Is it possible to fragment this field (embedded software and firmware) into sub-fields?”

This post represents a detailed and updated response to my original Stack Overflow answer. I hope this post provides guidance and useful information to the “tenderfoots” in the...


Examining The Stack For Fun And Profit

Steve Branam February 19, 20201 comment

Well, maybe not so much for profit, but certainly for fun. This is a wandering journey of exploration and discovery, learning a variety of interesting and useful things.

One of the concerns with an embedded system is how much memory it needs, known as the memory footprint. This consists of the persistent storage needed for the program (i.e. the flash memory or filesystem space that stores the executable image), and the volatile storage needed to hold the data while executing over long...


Review: Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers

Steve Branam September 20, 20201 comment

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for evaluation.

Hands-On RTOS with Microcontrollers: Building real-time embedded systems using FreeRTOS, STM32 MCUs, and SEGGER debug tools by Brian Amos is an outstanding book. It lives up to its name, extremely hands-on and practical, taking you from knowing nothing about RTOS's (Real-Time Operating Systems) up to building real multithreaded embedded system applications running on real hardware.

It uses the ST Micro


Tenderfoot: Recommended Reading

Matthew Eshleman June 28, 20171 comment

Twenty years ago I read Code Complete by Steve McConnell. And then read it again. And again. And again. Of all the books I have read during my career, I believe this was the book that catapulted me from a young electrical engineer to a young and aspiring embedded software engineer. So to all the ‘tenderfoots’ embarking upon an embedded systems and especially embedded software and firmware career, this entry is for you.

First, I would certainly recommend that all engineers read and read...


C++ on microcontrollers 3 – a first shot at an hc595 class with 8 output pins

Wouter van Ooijen November 2, 2011

 previous parts: 1, 2

This blog series is about the use of C++ for modern microcontrollers. My plan is to show the gradual development of a basic I/O library. I will introduce the object-oriented C++ features that are used step by step, to provide a gentle yet practical introduction into C++ for C programmers.  Reader input is very much appreciated, you might even steer me in the direction you find most interesting.

In the first part of...


Embedded Systems - free EdX course by UT-Austin!

Lonnie Honeycutt October 29, 20131 comment

I was very excited to see that there will be an Embedded Systems class available for free at https://www.edx.org/course/utaustin/ut-6-01x/embedded-systems-shape-world/1172

It's free to sign up and take the online class at the EdX website.

More exciting is that the class is based on a TI Launchpad Tiva microcontroller development board.  The Tiva Launchpad features an 80-MHz ARM Cortex M-4 MCU with 256 KB of flash storage, 32 KB of RAM and 43 general purpose I/O pins.