Choosing a Vehicle

Ed Nutter May 25, 20163 comments

There are a few things to take into consideration when choosing a vehicle or chassis for your autonomous vehicle. You can design and build your own, buy a stripped robot chassis, or use a radio controlled (RC) vehicle as a starting point. I usually use an RC vehicle as a starting point.

Two basic styles of RC vehicles exist. The first, is the toy-grade vehicle. It can be found in most retail stores, and usually costs below 50 dollars. Its main advantage is the low price, which can be as low...


A few uses for an autonomous vehicle

Ed Nutter May 21, 2016

From the time technology that we have come to know was invented, it has been used to gain an advantage militarily or to make life easier. Military usage seems to be a driving factor, but it is not the only factor.

Guerilla tactics played an even greater part in the US conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Using lessons learned fighting the Soviets in the 1980s and training from US backed anti-Soviet forces, the guerilla tactics did increasing damage to US military forces. Insurgents...


Stability or insanity

Tim Wescott May 17, 20161 comment

I've just spent over two weeks getting ready to do my next video.  It was a combination of one of those vast underestimations one occasionally makes, combined with falling into a bit of an obsession.

I am, at this point, not only wondering if it was worth it, but questioning my sanity in carrying on even when the going went beyond tough to just plain crazy.

At any rate, a good video needs a visual aid, and I decided that my video needed to demonstrate stability with a pendulum....


Modern Embedded Systems Programming: Beyond the RTOS

Miro Samek April 27, 20167 comments

An RTOS (Real-Time Operating System) is the most universally accepted way of designing and implementing embedded software. It is the most sought after component of any system that outgrows the venerable "superloop". But it is also the design strategy that implies a certain programming paradigm, which leads to particularly brittle designs that often work only by chance. I'm talking about sequential programming based on blocking.

Blocking occurs any time you wait explicitly in-line for...


Data Types for Control & DSP

Tim Wescott April 26, 20166 comments

There's a lot of information out there on what data types to use for digital signal processing, but there's also a lot of confusion, so the topic bears repeating.

I recently posted an entry on PID control. In that article I glossed over the data types used by showing "double" in all of my example code.  Numerically, this should work for most control problems, but it can be an extravagant use of processor resources.  There ought to be a better way to determine what precision you need...


PID Without a PhD

Tim Wescott April 26, 201611 comments

I both consult and teach in the area of digital control. Through both of these efforts, I have found that while there certainly are control problems that require all the expertise I can bring to bear, there are a great number of control problems that can be solved with the most basic knowledge of simple controllers, without resort to any formal control theory at all.

This article will tell you how to implement a simple controller in software and how to tune it without getting into heavy...


Scorchers, Part 1: Tools and Burn Rate

Jason Sachs April 12, 20167 comments

This is a short article about one aspect of purchasing, for engineers.

I had an engineering manager once — I’ll leave his real name out of it, but let’s call him Barney — who had a catchy response to the question “Can I buy XYZ?”, where XYZ was some piece of test equipment, like an oscilloscope or multimeter. Barney said, “Get what you need, need what you get.” We used purchase orders, which when I started in 1996 were these quaint forms on...


Embedded Firmware Refactoring, Optimisation and Migration

Ian Smith March 29, 2016

Legacy products are often based on older hardware platforms which often become under-powered or run out of memory which constrains further product development. Customers are always looking for new features and improved performance but often either don’t want to invest in new hardware or need to retain the current field population of devices.

These are ongoing challenges for any product manufacturer, but are particularly highlighted in embedded systems where product...


Basic Sensors for an Autonomous Vehicle

Ed Nutter March 27, 2016

The following are a few basic sensors that can be used to help an autonomous vehicle navigate its environment.

The faster the vehicle is traveling, the faster the sensor must be processed.  

Moving vehicles could knock something over or cause damage to a person or object if it collides with them.

Drop-off and line sensors function better when mounted to the front of the vehicle.

Drop-off and collision sensors should be mounted front and rear, if your vehicle can back up.


3 Good News

Stephane Boucher March 9, 20161 comment
Good News #1

Last week, I announced a new and ambitious reward program that will be funded by the new Vendors Directory.

This week, I am happy to announce that we have our firsts two sponsors!  Quantum Leaps & Abelon Systems have agreed to pay the sponsorship fee to be listed in the new Vendors Directory.  Because of their support, there is now some money in the reward pool ($1,000) and enough to pay for the firsts 500 'beers' awarded.  Please...


Ada 2012 Comes to ARM Cortex M3/M4

Mike Silva April 25, 20148 comments
Ada, that old dinosaur?  I thought Ada was dead!

Admit it, at least a few of you had that thought, right?  Well, far from being dead, the Ada language has been evolving, improving, and helping to save lives, property and money around the world for the past 30 years.  And what's more, the latest version of the language, Ada 2012, will soon be coming to a two-dollar microcontroller near you.

A Personal Dream Come True

OK, maybe that's going too far -...


Recruiting New Bloggers!

Stephane Boucher October 16, 20157 comments

Previous calls for bloggers have been very successful in recruiting some great communicators - Rick LyonsJason Sachs, Victor Yurkovsky, Mike Silva, Markus NentwigGene BrenimanStephen Friederichs,


How to make a heap profiler

Yossi Kreinin May 23, 20141 comment

We'll see how to make a heap profiler. Example code for this post makes up heapprof, a working 250-line heap profiler for programs using malloc/free.

It works out of the box on Linux (tested on "real" programs like gdb and python). The main point though is being easy to port and modify to suit your needs. The code, build and test scripts are at github.

Why roll your own heap profiler?

  • It's easy! And fun, if you're that sort of person. What, not reasons enough? OK, how...

Practical CRCs for Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 20, 20157 comments

CRCs are a very practical tool for embedded systems: you're likely to need to use one as part of a communications protocol or to verify the integrity of a program image before writing it to flash. But CRCs can be difficult to understand and tricky to implement. The first time I attempted to write CRC code from scratch I failed once. Then twice. Then three times. Eventually I gave up and used an existing library. I consider myself intelligent: I got A's...


Ten Little Algorithms, Part 6: Green’s Theorem and Swept-Area Detection

Jason Sachs June 18, 20173 comments

Other articles in this series:

This article is mainly an excuse to scribble down some cryptic-looking mathematics — Don’t panic! Close your eyes and scroll down if you feel nauseous — and...


Second-Order Systems, Part I: Boing!!

Jason Sachs October 29, 2014

I’ve already written about the unexciting (but useful) 1st-order system, and about slew-rate limiting. So now it’s time to cover second-order systems.

The most common second-order systems are RLC circuits and spring-mass-damper systems.

Spring-mass-damper systems are fairly common; you’ve seen these before, whether you realize it or not. One household example of these is the spring doorstop (BOING!!):

(For what it’s worth: the spring...


Free Goodies from Embedded World - What to Do Next?

Stephane Boucher March 6, 20193 comments

I told you I would go on a hunt for free stuff at Embedded World in order to build a bundle for someone to win.


Digital PLL's -- Part 2

Neil Robertson June 15, 20162 comments

In Part 1, we found the time response of a 2nd order PLL with a proportional + integral (lead-lag) loop filter.  Now let’s look at this PLL in the Z-domain [1, 2].  We will find that the response is characterized by a loop natural frequency ωn and damping coefficient ζ. 

Having a Z-domain model of the DPLL will allow us to do three things:

Compute the values of loop filter proportional gain KL and integrator gain KI that give the desired loop natural...

Elliptic Curve Cryptography

Mike November 16, 20156 comments

Secure online communications require encryption.  One standard is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) from NIST.  But for this to work, both sides need the same key for encryption and decryption.  This is called Private Key encryption.  Public Key encryption is used to create a private key between two sides that have not previously communicated.  Compared to the history of encryption, Public Key methods are very recent having been started in the 1970's.  Elliptic...


How to Include MathJax Equations in SVG With Less Than 100 Lines of JavaScript!

Jason Sachs May 23, 20146 comments

Today’s short and tangential note is an account of how I dug myself out of Documentation Despair. I’ve been working on some block diagrams. You know, this sort of thing, to describe feedback control systems:

And I had a problem. How do I draw diagrams like this?

I don’t have Visio and I don’t like Visio. I used to like Visio. But then it got Microsofted.

I can use MATLAB and Simulink, which are great for drawing block diagrams. Normally you use them to create a...