The three laws of safe embedded systems

Michael J. Pont November 12, 20151 comment

This short article is part of an ongoing series in which I aim to explore some techniques that may be useful for developers and organisations that are beginning their first safety-related embedded project.

Developing software for a safety-related embedded system for the first time

Michael J. Pont October 31, 20151 comment

I spend most of my working life with organisations that develop software for high-reliability, real-time embedded systems. Some of these systems are created in compliance with IEC 61508, ISO 26262, DO-178C or similar international standards.

When working with organisations that are developing software for their first safety-related design, I’m often asked to identify the key issues that distinguish this process from the techniques used to develop “ordinary” embedded software.


“Smarter” cars, unintended acceleration – and unintended consequences

Michael J. Pont October 20, 2015

In this article, I consider some recent press reports relating to embedded software in the automotive sector.

In The Times newspaper (London, 2015-10-16) the imminent arrival of Tesla cars that “use autopilot technology to park themselves and change lane without intervention from the driver” was noted.

By most definitions, the Tesla design incorporates what is sometimes called “Artificial Intelligence” (AI).Others might label it a “Smart” (or at least “Smarter”)...

Coding Step 3 - High-Level Requirements

Stephen Friederichs August 17, 20152 comments

Articles in this series:

If this series of articles has been light on one thing it's 'coding'. If it's been light on two things the second is 'embedded'. In three articles I haven't gotten past Hello World on a desktop PC. That changes (slowly) with this article. In this article I'll...

Lessons Learned from Embedded Code Reviews (Including Some Surprises)

Jason Sachs August 16, 20152 comments

My software team recently finished a round of code reviews for some of our motor controller code. I learned a lot from the experience, most notably why you would want to have code reviews in the first place.

My background is originally from the medical device industry. In the United States, software in medical devices gets a lot of scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration, and for good reason; it’s a place for complexity to hide latent bugs. (Can you say “

Dark Corners of C - The Comma Operator

Stephen Friederichs July 23, 20158 comments

I've been programming in C for 16 years or so and the language has existed for much much longer than that. You might think that there'd be nothing left to surprise me after so long - but you'd be wrong. Imagine my surprise the first time I saw a line of code that looked something like this:

if (!dry_run && ((stdout_closed = true), close_stream (stdout) != 0))

My mind couldn't parse it - what's a comma doing in there (after...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 4: Topological Sort

Jason Sachs July 5, 20151 comment

Other articles in this series:

Today we’re going to take a break from my usual focus on signal processing or numerical algorithms, and focus on...

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part VI : Abstraction

Jason Sachs June 16, 20153 comments

Earlier articles:

We have come to the last part of the Important Programming Concepts series, on abstraction. I thought I might also talk about why there isn’t a Part VII, but decided it would distract from this article — so if you want to know the reason, along with what’s next,

Coding Step 2 - Source Control

Articles in this series:

When I first started out in programming, version control was not an introductory topic. Not in the least because it required a 'server' (ie, a computer which a teenaged me couldn't afford) but because it seemed difficult and only useful to teams rather than...

Coding Step 1 - Hello World and Makefiles

Stephen Friederichs February 10, 20156 comments

Articles in this series:

Step 0 discussed how to install GCC and the make utility with the expectation of writing and compiling your first C program. In this article, I discuss how to use those tools we installed last time. Specifically, how to use GCC to compile a C program and...

The Hardest Bug I Never Solved

Matthew Eshleman December 27, 20189 comments

I agreed to four hours. 

Four hours to help hunt down and kill a bug. A terrible malicious bug that was eating away at this project, wreaking havoc upon the foundations of a critical feature, and draining time randomly from every one of eight firmware engineers on this project. Quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time it took more than an hour or two for me to locate, isolate, and fix a firmware bug. Surely I could help find and solve this issue within four...

3 Overlooked Embedded Software Elements

Jacob Beningo July 9, 20223 comments

Have you ever wondered, while you and your team are busy writing software if the foundation of how embedded software systems are built has changed and left you in the dust? What if while you were busily focusing on getting your product out the door, fighting bugs, and dealing with supply issues, there were techniques and processes that you completely overlooked that could save the day? I’ve found three elements embedded software teams often underutilize that could dramatically improve...

Lightweight C++ Error-Codes Handling

Massimiliano Pagani November 16, 20232 comments

The traditional C++ approach to error handling tends to distinguish the happy path from the unhappy path. This makes handling errors hard (or at least boring) to write and hard to read. In this post, I present a technique based on chaining operations that merges the happy and the unhappy paths. Thanks to C++ template and inlining the proposed technique is lightweight and can be used proficiently for embedded software.

AI at the Edge - Can I run a neural network in a resource-constrained device?

Stephen Martin March 11, 20192 comments

Hello Related Communities,

This is my first time blogging since joining Stephane in November. He and I were at Embedded World together and he asked me to write about some of the important trends as they relate to all of you. I expect to post others in the near future, but the biggest trend in the embedded space was all of the activity around artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge. 

This trend caught me a bit by surprise. I have been doing a lot of reading about AI over the last...

Short Circuit Execution vs. Unit Testing

Stephen Friederichs July 7, 20141 comment

The key to effective communication is to say what you mean and avoid ambiguity.  Words and phrases with multiple meanings can confuse your audience and hinder communication. That’s why so many programmers prefer writing code to writing specifications: written human language introduces ambiguity and subsequently, confusion. Code only has one interpretation, period. This doesn’t, however, ensure that the right message is getting through. Code can, indeed, only do one thing,...

Scorchers, Part 2: Unknown Bugs and Popcorn

Jason Sachs April 5, 20202 comments

This is a short article about diminishing returns in the context of software releases.

Those of you who have been working professionally on software or firmware have probably faced this dilemma before. The scrum masters of the world will probably harp on terms like the Definition of Done and the Minimum Viable Product. Blah blah blah. In simple terms, how do you know when your product is ready to release? This is both an easy and a difficult question to answer.

What makes...

STM32 VS Code Extension Under The Hood

Peter McLaughlin April 21, 2023

VS Code is becoming the "go to" environment for many developers. Increasingly, toolchain providers are publishing VS Code extensions and ST has recently followed suit. Additionally, CMake is significantly growing in popularity, with many projects adopting it for its ease of use and flexibility. This video shows how the STM32 VS Code extension works under the hood and how to get more out of it.

Specifically, we'll review the CMake files generated by the VS Code extension and how to modify...