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...


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...


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...


Coding - Step 0: Setting Up a Development Environment

Stephen Friederichs November 25, 20145 comments

Articles in this series:

You can easily find a million articles out there discussing compiler nuances, weighing the pros and cons of various data structures or discussing the  optimization of databases. Those sorts of articles are fascinating reads for advanced programmers but...


Project Directory Organization

Stephen Friederichs August 20, 20142 comments

A recent question on Reddit’s C Programming sub asked what sort of directory structure people use for their projects. Perhaps not unsurprisingly this didn’t elicit a flood of answers - maybe there are no organizational schemes that people are happy with or perhaps few people consider it a glamorous topic (not that the C Programming subreddit is filled with glamorous people -no offense I love you all). Personally I find it to be a very interesting topic. Organization and process are...


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,...


10 Items of Test Equipment You Should Know

Jason Sachs June 22, 20143 comments

When life gets rough and a circuit board is letting you down, it’s time to turn to test equipment. The obvious ones are multimeters and oscilloscopes and power supplies. But you know about those already, right?

Here are some you may not have heard of:

Non-contact current sensors. Oscilloscope probes measure voltage. When you need to measure current, you need a different approach. Especially at high voltages, where maintaining galvanic isolation is important for safety. The usual...

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...

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...


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...

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...


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...


Basic hand tools for electronics assembly

Ed Nutter November 20, 20153 comments

Though the software tools vary with different microcontrollers, many hardware tools are the same.

If you are working on larger robotic or automotive systems, you will need a 3/8" and 1/2" drive socket set. There are occasions when even larger drive socket sets are needed. For small robots and taking things apart, the 1/4" drive socket set is useful. The sizes usually range from 5/32" to 9/16" and 4mm to 15mm.  You will need both shallow and deep sockets, both standard and...


Code Metrics - SLOC Count

Stephen Friederichs August 19, 2013

Many programmers will start having flashbacks at the title of this article because it contains the words 'metrics' and 'SLOC'.  Newer programmers are probably wondering what all of the fuss is about - most probably have no negative connotations with the term 'code metrics' and some may not even know what SLOC is.  While there is much baggage associated with metrics and SLOC you shouldn't be afraid to gather fundamentally useful data such as SLOC count from your programming projects...


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...


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...


Project Directory Organization

Stephen Friederichs August 20, 20142 comments

A recent question on Reddit’s C Programming sub asked what sort of directory structure people use for their projects. Perhaps not unsurprisingly this didn’t elicit a flood of answers - maybe there are no organizational schemes that people are happy with or perhaps few people consider it a glamorous topic (not that the C Programming subreddit is filled with glamorous people -no offense I love you all). Personally I find it to be a very interesting topic. Organization and process are...


Embedded Toolbox: Windows GUI Prototyping Toolkit

Miro Samek July 7, 20172 comments

In this installment of my "Embedded Toolbox" series, I would like to interest you in the free Windows GUI Toolkit called QWin for prototyping, developing and debugging embedded C or C++ code on Windows.

If you work on devices with non-trivial user interfaces consisting of LCDs (segmented or graphic), buttons, LEDs, etc., QWin could be just the tool for you. It has improved my productivity in such projects dramatically. I personally consider it a gem in my "Embedded...


Will work for tools!

Gene Breniman September 23, 2007

I have always believed that tools are necessary to the creative process. This is something I learned early in life and it's a lesson that has stuck with me to this day.

When I was 7 years old, I made my first trip to see my Grandparents on my father's side of the family. What I remember most about the trip, besides the great food and the company of my Grandparents, was my Grandfather's shop. My Grandfather had built one of the most amazing shops that I have seen to this day in the...