Mutex vs. Semaphore - Part 1

Niall Cooling April 12, 20195 comments

It never ceases to amaze me how often I see postings in forums asking the difference between a semaphore and a mutex. Probably what baffles me more is that over 90% of the time the responses given are either incorrect or missing the key differences. The most often quoted response is that of the “The Toilet Example (c) Copyright 2005, Niclas Winquist” . This summarises the differences as:

  • A mutex is really a semaphore with value 1

No, no, and no again....


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...


Embedded Programming Video Course Teaches RTOS

Miro Samek January 20, 2019

If you'd like to understand how a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) really works, here is a free video course for you:

RTOS part-1: In this first lesson on RTOS you will see how to extend the foreground/background architecture from the previous lesson, so that you can have multiple background loops running seemingly simultaneously.:

RTOS part-2: In this second lesson on RTOS you will see how to automate the context switch process. Specifically, in this lesson, you will start building...


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...


Is it a Bug or an Error?

Michael Barr January 31, 20184 comments

Probably you’ve heard the story of how Adm. Grace Hopper attached a moth that was dislodged from a relay in the Harvard Mark II mainframe to an engineering notebook and labeled it the “First actual case of bug being found.”

Designers of electronics, including Thomas Edison, had been using the term bug for decades. But it was mostly after this amusing 1947 event hat the use of words like “bugs” and “debugging” took off in the emerging software realm.

So why is it that if a...


Lazy Properties in Python Using Descriptors

Jason Sachs November 7, 2017

This is a bit of a side tangent from my normal at-least-vaguely-embedded-related articles, but I wanted to share a moment of enlightenment I had recently about descriptors in Python. The easiest way to explain a descriptor is a way to outsource attribute lookup and modification.

Python has a bunch of “magic” methods that are hooks into various object-oriented mechanisms that let you do all sorts of ridiculously clever things. Whether or not they’re a good idea is another...


Android for Embedded Devices - 5 Reasons why Android is used in Embedded Devices

Maharajan Veerabahu November 6, 20173 comments

The embedded purists are going to hate me for this. How can you even think of using Android on an embedded system ? It’s after all a mobile phone operating system/software. 

Sigh !! Yes I did not like Android to begin with, as well - for use on an Embedded System. But sometimes I think the market and needs decide what has to be used and what should not be. This is one such thing. Over the past few years, I have learned to love Android as an embedded operating system....


Introduction to Deep Insight Analysis for RTOS Based Applications

Jacob Beningo September 20, 20171 comment

Over the past several years, embedded systems have become extremely complex. As systems become more complex, they become harder and more time consuming to debug. It isn’t uncommon for development teams to spend more than 40% development cycle time just debugging their systems. This is where deep insight analysis has the potential to dramatically decrease costs and time to market.

Defining Deep Insight Analysis

Deep insight analysis is a set of tools and techniques that can be...


Continuous Integration for Embedded Systems

Dr. Tayyar GUZEL September 5, 20172 comments

It is no secret that anyone who wants to streamline project management, reduce risk and improve the quality needs some form of "automation" in SW development processes. What is commonly used in most companies as a tool for such automation is called Continuous Integration (CI). It is a good practice for embedded systems as well even though it is much harder to use CI for embedded systems compared to pure software development because embedded systems mostly depend on...


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...


VHDL tutorial - A practical example - part 2 - VHDL coding

Gene Breniman May 27, 2011

In part 1 of this series we focused on the hardware design, including some of the VHDL definitions of the I/O characteristics of the CPLD part.  In part 2, we will describe the VHDL logic of the CPLD for this design.

With any design, the first step to gather the requirements for the job at hand.  From part 1 of this article, I have copied two sections that address some of the requirements for the CPLD design.

The data acquisition engine has the...


Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part V: State Machines

Jason Sachs January 5, 20158 comments

Other articles in this series:

Oh, hell, this article just had to be about state machines, didn’t it? State machines! Those damned little circles and arrows and q’s.

Yeah, I know you don’t like them. They bring back bad memories from University, those Mealy and Moore machines with their state transition tables, the ones you had to write up...


Data Hiding in C

Stephen Friederichs April 20, 201317 comments

Strictly speaking, C is not an object-oriented language. Although it provides some features that fit into the object-oriented paradigm it has never had the full object-oriented focus that its successor C++ offers. C++ introduced some very useful concepts and abilities that I miss when I’m developing in ANSI C. One such concept is protected member variables and functions.

When you declare a class in C++ you can also declare member variables and functions as part of that class. Often, these...


Unit Tests for Embedded Code

Stephen Friederichs March 5, 201411 comments

I originate from an electrical engineering background and my first industry experience was in a large, staid defense contractor. Both of these experiences contributed to a significant lack of knowledge with regards to software development best practices. Electrical engineers often have a backwards view of software in general; large defense contractors have similar views of software and couple it with a general disdain for any sort of automation or ‘immature’ practices.  While there...


Embedded Toolbox: Programmer's Calculator

Miro Samek June 27, 20178 comments

Like any craftsman, I have accumulated quite a few tools during my embedded software development career. Some of them proved to me more useful than others. And these generally useful tools ended up in my Embedded Toolbox. In this blog, I'd like to share some of my tools with you. Today, I'd like to start with my cross-platform Programmer's Calculator called QCalc.

I'm sure that you already have your favorite calculator online or on your smartphone. But can your calculator accept...


Implementing State Machines

Stephen Friederichs January 18, 20145 comments

State machines are a great way to design software but they can be difficult to implement well.To illustrate this I’ll develop a simple state machine then increase the complexity to demonstrate some of the difficulties

We’ve all washed dishes before - it’s easy isn’t it? Scrub, rinse, dry, scrub, rinse dry. Scrub the dish until all of the gunk is off of it, rinse until the soap is off, put it in the drying rack. If you want to design software to implement this you have options. You...


Delayed printf for real-time logging

Yossi Kreinin October 25, 20133 comments

You often debug by adding a few printfs and looking at the logs. In some real-time/low-level contexts though, you don't have time for text formatting.

You don't want prints to affect timing too much, because then timing-related bugs you're chasing might disappear. And you certainly don't want the system to stop functioning altogether because prints cause it to miss real-time deadlines.

A common alternative to prints is more "raw" logging - an event buffer, where event is a union keeping...


Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part IV: Singletons

Jason Sachs November 11, 20142 comments

Other articles in this series:

Today’s topic is the singleton. This article is unique (pun intended) in that unlike the others in this series, I tried to figure out a word to use that would be a positive concept to encourage, as an alternative to singletons, but


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 II: Immutability

Jason Sachs September 14, 2014

Other articles in this series:

This article will discuss immutability, and some of its variations in the topic of functional programming.

There are a whole series of benefits to using program variables that… well, that aren’t actually variable, but instead are immutable. The impact of...