Coding Step 3 - High-Level Requirements

Stephen Friederichs August 18, 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 11, 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...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - 7-segment displays & Multiplexing

Mike Silva August 14, 2014

Doing the 7 Segment Shuffle

The 7 segment display is ubiquitous in the modern world.  Just about every digital clock, calculator and movie bomb has one.  The treadmills at my gym have 6 or 7, each one displaying 3 or 4 digits.  What makes the 7-seg interesting is that it presents an opportunity to make a trade off between GPIO (output pins) for time.  Every 7-seg display requires 8 outputs (the 7 segments and usually either a decimal point or a...

How to make a heap profiler

Yossi Kreinin May 23, 2014

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...

Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part IV: DC Link Decoupling and Why Electrolytic Capacitors Are Not Enough

Jason Sachs April 29, 20147 comments

Those of you who read my earlier articles about H-bridges, and followed them closely, have noticed there's some unfinished business. Well, here it is. Just so you know, I've been nervous about writing the fourth (and hopefully final) part of this series for a while. Fourth installments after a hiatus can bring bad vibes. I mean, look what it did to George Lucas: now we have Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and

Unit Tests for Embedded Code

Stephen Friederichs March 6, 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...

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...

Understanding and Preventing Overflow (I Had Too Much to Add Last Night)

Jason Sachs December 4, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Maybe the memory of eating too much turkey is fresh in your mind. If so, this would be a good time to talk about overflow.

In the world of floating-point arithmetic, overflow is possible but not particularly common. You can get it when numbers become too large; IEEE double-precision floating-point numbers support a range of just under 21024, and if you go beyond that you have problems:

for k in [10, 100, 1000, 1020, 1023, 1023.9, 1023.9999, 1024]: try: ...

C++ on microcontrollers 1 - introduction, and an output pin class

Wouter van Ooijen October 9, 20118 comments


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 am lazy. I am also a programmer. Luckily, being a lazy...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Further Beginnings

Mike Silva September 1, 20133 comments
Embedded Programming Basics

This tutorial entry will discuss some further embedded programming basics that you will need to understand before proceeding on to the LED blinky and other example programs. We will do this by looking at the general organization and types of instructions found in most microcontrollers, and how that organization and those instructions are reflected (or, in some cases, ignored) by the C programming language.

Basic CPU...

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...

Byte and Switch (Part 1)

Jason Sachs April 27, 201112 comments

Imagine for a minute you have an electromagnet, and a microcontroller, and you want to use the microcontroller to turn the electromagnet on and off. Sounds pretty typical, right?We ask this question on our interviews of entry-level electrical engineers: what do you put between the microcontroller and the electromagnet?We used to think this kind of question was too easy, but there are a surprising number of subtleties here (and maybe a surprising number of job candidates that were missing...

Arduino robotics #1 - motor control

Lonnie Honeycutt October 13, 20133 comments
Arduino Robotics

Beginner robotics is a series of article chronicling my first autonomous robot build, Clusterbot.  This build is meant to be affordable, relatively easy and instructive.  The total cost of the build is around $50.  

1. Arduino robotics - motor control2. Arduino robotics - chassis, locomotion and power3. Arduino robotics - wiring, coding and a test run4. 

How to Read a Power MOSFET Datasheet

Jason Sachs September 15, 201511 comments

One of my pet peeves is when my fellow engineers misinterpret component datasheets. This happened a few times recently in separate instances, all involving power MOSFETs. So it’s time for me to get on my soapbox. Listen up!

I was going to post an article on how to read component datasheets in general. But MOSFETs are a good place to start, and are a little more specific. I’m not the first person to write something about how to read datasheets; here are some other good...

VHDL tutorial - Creating a hierarchical design

Gene Breniman May 22, 20086 comments

In earlier blog entries I introduced some of the basic VHDL concepts. First, developing a function ('VHDL tutorial') and later verifying and refining it ('VHDL tutorial - part 2 - Testbench' and 'VHDL tutorial - combining clocked and sequential logic'). In this entry I will describe how to...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Interrupts

Mike Silva September 18, 20135 comments

It's Too Soon To Talk About Interrupts!

That, at least, could be one reaction to this chapter.  But over the years I've become convinced that new microcontroller programmers should understand interrupts before being introduced to any complex peripherals such as timers, UARTs, ADCs, and all the other powerful function blocks found on a modern microcontroller.  Since these peripherals are commonly used with interrupts, any introduction to them that does not...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - More On GPIO

Mike Silva September 13, 20134 comments

Now that we have our LED Blinky program nailed down, it's time to look more closely at outputs, add button/switch inputs, and work with reading inputs and driving outputs based on those inputs.

It's ON - No, It's OFF - No, It's ON...

I have to confess, I cheated.  Well, let's say I glossed over something very important.  In our LED Blinky program, we never cared about whether an output '1' or an output '0' turned on the LED.  Since we were just...

How to Build a Fixed-Point PI Controller That Just Works: Part I

Jason Sachs February 26, 20127 comments

This two-part article explains five tips to make a fixed-point PI controller work well. I am not going to talk about loop tuning -- there are hundreds of articles and books about that; any control-systems course will go over loop tuning enough to help you understand the fundamentals. There will always be some differences for each system you have to control, but the goals are the same: drive the average error to zero, keep the system stable, and maximize performance (keep overshoot and delay...