Watchdog Timer Anti-patterns

Alexandru Lazar June 8, 2019

The humble watchdog timer has been an essential part of our reliability tool chest for decades now. The way it works is straightforward and easy to understand, and most practical designs are easy to interface with.

There is a wealth of reference material that covers both the theory behind watchdog timers and practical design tips. But what we'll talk about today is of a slightly different nature.

Despite its straightforward operation and long history, the watchdog timer does occasionally get...


Mutex vs. Semaphores – Part 2: The Mutex & Mutual Exclusion Problems

Niall Cooling May 15, 20197 comments

Part 1 of this series we looked at the history of the binary and counting semaphore, and then went on to discuss some of the associated problem areas. In this posting I aim to show how a different RTOS construct, the mutex, may overcome some, if not all, of these weaknesses.

To address the problems associated with semaphore, a new concept was developed during the late 1980’s. I have struggled to find it’s first clear definition, but the major use of the term mutex (another...


Designing Communication Protocols, Practical Aspects

Fotis Chatzinikolaou May 14, 20192 comments

For most embedded developers always comes the time when they have to make their embedded MCU talk to another system. That other system will be a PC or a different embedded system or a smartphone etc. For the purpose of this article I am assuming that we are in the control of the protocol between the two ends and we don’t have to follow something that is already in place on one side.

So let’s say that we have our embedded MCU, we have implemented and configured the USB stack (or just...


A brief overview of flight control software

Igor Mišić May 3, 20193 comments

It has been a long time since the first drones appeared. If you are interested in such a topic, you may be confused about how and where to jump in. Since I went through the same phase, I'd like to write my findings here and help others.

For this blog post, I've created chart and table with all open source flight control programs I've been able to find.

The chart shows the course of development of the existing software. It is separated in years and you can see when which project...


Debugging DSP code.

Mark Browne May 1, 2019

I am fascinated with neural network processing and have been playing with them since the 80's.

I am a frequent contributor to the Numenta forum. Numenta is the current project of Jeff Hawins, the guy that gave us the Palm Pilot. They are working with the HTM model. This is a system based on studies of the functions of the cortical column and has some very interesting properties: It processes sequential data streams and has very effective one shot learning. The data is arranged in Sparse...


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....


Patents and the little guy working at home

Mark Browne April 11, 20191 comment
There are pluses and minuses to having patents. As it stands now the patent system is horribly broken and not doing what the founders intended when they set it up.I have some patents through work and it does look nice to see my name on the patent database. It's kinda like wetting yourself in a dark suit - it gives you a warm feeling but nobody notices.Don Lancaster makes a compelling argument that for the little guy it’s best to avoid the whole mess to the degree possible.

Public speaking

Mark Browne April 3, 20192 comments

Public Speaking: This common task goes with embedded system engineering. Pitching a project. Presenting at a conference. Delivering a status report. Teaching. All part of the job.

Stephane Boucher did a v-blog post here last week and is naturally apprehensive about how he did.

If you have not seen it you can catch it here:

First - Stephane - You did fine!

I spent some time (5 quarters, 3 classes a day, computer technology in a tech school) in a classroom and am comfortable in front of a...


Getting smacked by the long tail of poor design habits

Mark Browne March 25, 2019

In the 80’s I did a fair amount of consulting and enjoyed it greatly.

I would come in, hear what it was the person hiring me wanted; meet with the people that I needed to work with and proceed to toss together a design, parts list, and program. Sometimes I would work with them to get a board into production. I knew my chips and code and could make all kinds of amazing toys.

One of my biggest repeat customers eventually offered a good salary at the same time that my wife was feeling...


Free Goodies from Embedded World - Full Inventory and Upcoming Draw Live-Streaming Date

Stephane Boucher March 22, 2019

Chances are that you already know that I went to Embedded World a few weeks ago and came back with a bag full of "goodies".  Initially, my vision was to do a single draw for one person to win it all, but I didn't expect to come back with so much stuff and so many development kits.   Based on your feedback, it seems like you guys agree that It wouldn't make sense for one person to win everything as no-one could make good use of all the boards and there would be lots of...


Using the Beaglebone PRU to achieve realtime at low cost

Fabien Le Mentec April 25, 20148 comments
Introduction

I work as an engineer in a synchrotron facility. A few weeks ago, I helped the people in charge of the power supply developments to integrate a realtime control algorithm on a prototype platform: a BeagleBone Black (BBB) running Linux. I had already worked with this board in the past, and I found it very interesting given its excellent resources versus price ratio (around 40 euros). This time, I was impressed by its realtime capabilities. I thought it would be a good idea to...


How to Estimate Encoder Velocity Without Making Stupid Mistakes: Part I

Jason Sachs December 27, 201230 comments

Here's a common problem: you have a quadrature encoder to measure the angular position of a motor, and you want to know both the position and the velocity. How do you do it? Some people do it poorly -- this article is how not to be one of them.

Well, first we need to get position. Quadrature encoders are incremental encoders, meaning they can only measure relative changes in position. They produce a pair of pulse trains, commonly called A and B, that look like...


Ten Little Algorithms, Part 2: The Single-Pole Low-Pass Filter

Jason Sachs April 27, 201513 comments

Other articles in this series:

I’m writing this article in a room with a bunch of other people talking, and while sometimes I wish they would just SHUT UP, it would be...


StrangeCPU #1. A new CPU

Victor Yurkovsky February 24, 20136 comments

Summary: In this multi-part series I will share with you a design, implementation notes and code for a slightly different kind of a CPU featuring a novel token machine that resolves an 8-bit token to pretty much any address in a 32-bit or even 64-bit address space, using not much more than an adder.

Table of Contents:
  • Part 1: A new CPU - technology review, re-examination of the premises;  StrangeCPU concepts; x86 notes.

Thermistor signal conditioning: Dos and Don'ts, Tips and Tricks

Jason Sachs June 15, 201116 comments

In an earlier blog entry,  I mentioned this circuit for thermistor signal conditioning:

It is worth a little more explanation on thermistor signal conditioning; it's something that's often done poorly, whereas it's among the easiest applications for signal conditioning.

The basic premise here is that there are two resistors in a voltage divider: Rth is the thermistor, and Rref is a reference resistor. Here Rref is either R3 alone, or R3 || R4, depending on the gain...


Chebyshev Approximation and How It Can Help You Save Money, Win Friends, and Influence People

Jason Sachs September 30, 201220 comments

Well... maybe that's a stretch. I don't think I can recommend anything to help you win friends. Not my forte.

But I am going to try to convince you why you should know about Chebyshev approximation, which is a technique for figuring out how you can come as close as possible to computing the result of a mathematical function, with a minimal amount of design effort and CPU power. Let's explore two use cases:

  • Amy has a low-power 8-bit microcontroller and needs to compute \( \sqrt{x} \)...

How to Read a Power MOSFET Datasheet

Jason Sachs September 15, 201512 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...


Coroutines in one page of C

Yossi Kreinin August 20, 201315 comments

A coroutine is a function that you can jump back into after returning from it - and it remembers where it was in the code, and all the variables. This is very useful at times.

One use is generating a sequence of values. Here's how you can generate all the x,y pairs in a 2D range in Python:

def iterate(max_x, max_y): for x in range(max_x): for y in range(max_y): yield x,y for x,y in iterate(2,2): print x,y

This prints:

0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1

The yield keyword is like...


MSP430 LaunchPad Tutorial - Part 3 - ADC

Enrico Garante June 25, 20138 comments

In this new episode of our journey into MSP430 I will explain the basics of Analog to Digital Conversion on the MSP430G2231.We will write a program that will read an ADC channel and will toggle some leds based on the result of the conversion. 

We start as usual with the inclusion of the header file for the MSP430G2231, the leds stuff and with the definition of a variable that will store the result of the conversion. We also declare a function that will initialize the ADC...


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: ...

Crowdfunding Articles?

Stephane Boucher April 12, 201828 comments

Many of you have the knowledge and talent to write technical articles that would benefit the EE community.  What is missing for most of you though, and very understandably so, is the time and motivation to do it.   

But what if you could make some money to compensate for your time spent on writing the article(s)?  Would some of you find the motivation and make the time?

I am thinking of implementing a system/mechanism that would allow the EE community to...


Embedded World 2018 - More Videos!

Stephane Boucher March 27, 20181 comment

After the interview videos last week, this week I am very happy to release two more videos taken at Embedded World 2018 and that I am proud of.  

For both videos, I made extensive use of my two new toys, a Zhiyun Crane Gimbal and a Sony a6300 camera.

The use of a gimbal like the Zhiyun makes a big difference in terms of making the footage look much more stable and cinematographic.

As for the Sony camera, it takes fantastic slow-motion footage and...


Embedded World 2018 - The Interviews

Stephane Boucher March 21, 2018

Once again this year, I had the chance to go to Embedded World in Nuremberg Germany.  And once again this year, I brought my video equipment to try and capture some of the most interesting things at the show.  

Something new this year, I asked Jacob Beningo if he would partner with me in doing interviews with a few vendors.  I would operate the camera while Jacob would ask the right questions to the vendors to make them talk about the key products/features that...


Finally got a drone!

Stephane Boucher August 28, 20172 comments

As a reader of my blog, you already know that I have been making videos lately and thoroughly enjoying the process.  When I was in Germany early this summer (and went 280 km/h in a porsche!) to produce SEGGER's 25th anniversary video, the company bought a drone so we could get an aerial shot of the party (at about the 1:35 mark in this video).  Since then, I have been obsessing on buying a drone for myself and finally made the move a few weeks ago - I acquired a used DJI...


SEGGER's 25th Anniversary Video

Stephane Boucher July 18, 20172 comments

Chances are you will find this video more interesting to watch if you take five minutes to first read the story of the week I spent at SEGGER's headquarters at the end of June.  

The video is only a little more than 2 minutes long.  If you decide to watch it, make sure to go full screen and I would really love to read your thoughts about it in the comments down bellow.  Do you think a video like this succeeds in making the viewer want to learn more about the company?...


Went 280km/h (174mph) in a Porsche Panamera in Germany!

Stephane Boucher July 10, 201712 comments

Those of you who've been following my blog lately already know that I am going through some sort of mid-life crisis that involves going out there to meet people and make videos.  It all started with Embedded World early this year, then continued at ESC Boston a couple of months ago and the latest chapter just concluded as I returned from Germany after spending a week at SEGGER's headquarters to produce a video to highlight their 25th anniversary.  


VERY Fast Japanese Sumo Robots

Stephane Boucher June 20, 20171 comment

For some reasons, I could not stop watching.  I would love to have the maker of one of these robots to blog about the project here on EmbeddedRelated.com, the sensors, microcontroller, algorithms and the challenges...  This would make for a very interesting read!  Do you know someone?


Going back to Germany!

Stephane Boucher June 13, 20176 comments

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote that the decision to go to ESC Boston ended up being a great one for many different reasons.  I came back from the conference energized and really happy that I went.  

These feelings were amplified a few days after my return when I received an email from Rolf Segger, the founder of SEGGER Microcontroller (check out their very new website), asking if I would be interested in visiting their headquarters...


ESC Boston's Videos are Now Up

Stephane Boucher June 5, 2017

In my last blog, I told you about my experience at ESC Boston and the few videos that I was planning to produce and publish.  Here they are, please have a look and any feedback (positive or negative) is appreciated. 

Short Highlight

This is a very short (one minute) montage of some of the footage that I shot at the show & conference.  In future shows, I absolutely need to insert clips here and there of engineers saying a few words about the conference (why they...


Back from ESC Boston

Stephane Boucher May 6, 20172 comments

NOT going to ESC Boston would have allowed me to stay home, in my comfort zone.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from driving in the absolutely horrible & stressful Boston traffic1.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from having to go through a full search & questioning session at the Canada Customs on my return2.

2017/06/06 update: Videos are now up!

So two days...