EmbeddedRelated.com

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, 20191 comment

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...


New Comments System (please help me test it)

Stephane Boucher October 4, 201617 comments

I thought it would take me a day or two to implement, it took almost two weeks...

But here it is, the new comments systems for blogs, heavily inspired by the forum system I developed earlier this year.  

Which means that:

  • You can easily add images, either by drag and drop or through the 'Insert Image' button
  • You can add MathML, TeX and ASCIImath equations and they will be rendered with Mathjax
  • You can add code snippets and they will be highlighted with highlights.js
  • You can edit...

Sensors Expo - Trip Report & My Best Video Yet!

Stephane Boucher August 3, 20183 comments

This was my first time at Sensors Expo and my second time in Silicon Valley and I must say I had a great time.  

Before I share with you what I find to be, by far, my best 'highlights' video yet for a conference/trade show, let me try to entertain you with a few anecdotes from this trip.  If you are not interested by my stories or maybe don't have the extra minutes needed to read them, please feel free to skip to the end of this blog post to watch the...


Ada 2012 for ARM M3/M4 Released for Download

Mike Silva August 4, 201412 comments
Previous Ada Tutorials

Ada 2012 Comes to ARM Cortex M3/M4

It's Here!

Great news - AdaCore now has their initial ARM Ada port available on their download site.  You can get it by going to http://libre.adacore.com/download/ and working your way to the page titled "Download GNAT GPL and SPARK GPL Editions".  There, under "Select Configurations" you will see ARM ELF for Linux and for Windows.  Those are the ones you want.

Porting the Ada...


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...


You Will Make Mistakes

Jason Sachs September 28, 20141 comment
</scorpion>: FAIL

Anyone out there see the TV pilot of Scorpion? Genius hacker squad meets Homeland Security in a fast-paced thriller to save hundreds of airplanes from crashing after LAX air traffic control software upgrade fails and they didn’t save a backup of the old version (ZOMG!!!) so thousands of people are going to die because the planes… well, they just can’t land! They just can’t. Even if the weather is sunny and calm and there could quite possibly...


Wye Delta Tee Pi: Observations on Three-Terminal Networks

Jason Sachs December 23, 2018

Today I’m going to talk a little bit about three-terminal linear passive networks. These generally come in two flavors, wye and delta.

Why Wye?

The town of Why, Arizona has a strange name that comes from the shape of the original road junction of Arizona State Highways 85 and 86, which was shaped like the letter Y. This is no longer the case, because the state highway department reconfigured the intersection


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part II: libgf2 and Primitive Polynomials

Jason Sachs July 17, 2017

Last time, we looked at the basics of LFSRs and finite fields formed by the quotient ring \( GF(2)[x]/p(x) \).

LFSRs can be described by a list of binary coefficients, sometimes referred as the polynomial, since they correspond directly to the characteristic polynomial of the quotient ring.

Today we’re going to look at how to perform certain practical calculations in these finite fields. I maintain a Python library called libgf2,...


Trust, but Verify: Examining the Output of an Embedded Compiler

Jason Sachs September 27, 2015

I work with motor control firmware on the Microchip dsPIC33 series of microcontrollers. The vast majority of that firmware is written in C, with only a few percent in assembly. And I got to thinking recently: I programmed in C and C++ on an Intel PC from roughly 1991 to 2009. But I don’t remember ever working with x86 assembly code. Not once. Not even reading it. Which seems odd. I do that all the time with embedded firmware. And I think you should too. Before I say why, here are...


Round-robin or RTOS for my embedded system

Manuel Herrera June 9, 20197 comments

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am Manuel Herrera. I am starting to write blogs about the situations that I have faced over the years of my career and discussed with colleagues.

To begin, I would like to open a conversation with a dilemma that is present when starting a project ... must I use or not any operating system?

I hope it helps you to form your own criteria and above all that you enjoy it.

Does my embedded system need an...


How to Analyze a Differential Amplifier

Jason Sachs April 13, 2014

There are a handful of things that you just have to know if you do any decent amount of electronic circuit design work. One of them is a voltage divider. Another is the behavior of an RC filter. I'm not going to explain these two things or even link to a good reference on them — either you already know how they work, or you're smart enough to look it up yourself.

The handful of things also includes some others that are a little more interesting to discuss. One of them is this...