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...


Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part I: Idempotence

Jason Sachs August 26, 20145 comments

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of subtle concepts that contribute to high quality software design. Many of them are well-known, and can be found in books or the Internet. I’m going to highlight a few of the ones I think are important and often overlooked.

But first let’s start with a short diversion. I’m going to make a bold statement: unless you’re a novice, there’s at least one thing in computer programming about which you’ve picked up...


Practical protection against dust and water (i.e. IP protection)

Dr Cagri Tanriover July 5, 2014

Recently, I was faced with a challenge to provide IP65 compliance in a product that had to have humidity and pressure sensors on it. The tricky part was to keep the cost of the unit under $15 while meeting this requirement.

Under normal circumstances, one can put all the electronics within an IP65 enclosure that is affordable and readily available off-the-shelf most of the time such as the ones shown in this link. However, given the humidity and the pressure sensor need to be exposed to...


Efficiency Through the Looking-Glass

Jason Sachs December 8, 20134 comments

If you've ever designed or purchased a power supply, chances are you have had to work with efficiency calculations. I can remember in my beginning electronic circuits course in college, in the last lecture when the professor was talking about switching power converters, and saying how all of a sudden you could take a linear regulator that was 40% efficient and turn it into a switching regulator that was 80% efficient. I think that was the nail in the coffin for any plans I had to pursue a...


Data Validity in Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 5, 20131 comment

If you take a high-level view of software systems you might say that the overall goal of software is to generate outputs from inputs. It’s a gross simplification of a nuanced and complex field but the truth of the statement is unarguable: data goes in, is manipulated and then is spat out again.That’s what software does. The simplicity of the statement contributes to the joy of Computer Science majors who take an abstract view of everything from software to love but infuriates...


Implementation Complexity, Part II: Catastrophe, Dear Liza, and the M Word

Jason Sachs June 16, 2013

In my last post, I talked about the Tower of Babel as a warning against implementation complexity, and I mentioned a number of issues that can occur at the time of design or construction of a project.

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563 (from Wikipedia)

Success and throwing it over the wall

OK, so let's say that the right people get together into a well-functioning team, and build our Tower of Babel, whether it's the Empire State Building, or the electrical grid, or...


Implementation Complexity, Part I: The Tower of Babel, Gremlins, and The Mythical Man-Month

Jason Sachs June 9, 2013

I thought I'd post a follow-up, in a sense, to an older post about complexity in consumer electronics I wrote a year and a half ago. That was kind of a rant against overly complex user interfaces. I am a huge opponent of unnecessary complexity in almost any kind of interface, whether a user interface or a programming interface or an electrical interface. Interfaces should be clean and simple.

Now, instead of interface complexity, I'll be talking about implementation complexity, with a...


The three laws of safe embedded systems

Michael J. Pont November 12, 20151 comment

This short article is part of an ongoing series in which I aim to explore some techniques that may be useful for developers and organisations that are beginning their first safety-related embedded project.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the contents of my previous article on this site with a group of very smart and enthusiastic engineers in Cairo (Egypt). As part of this discussion, it has become clear that I should add a few more details to explain the work...


Shibboleths: The Perils of Voiceless Sibilant Fricatives, Idiot Lights, and Other Binary-Outcome Tests

Jason Sachs September 29, 2019

AS-SALT, JORDAN — Dr. Reza Al-Faisal once had a job offer from Google to work on cutting-edge voice recognition projects. He turned it down. The 37-year-old Stanford-trained professor of engineering at Al-Balqa’ Applied University now leads a small cadre of graduate students in a government-sponsored program to keep Jordanian society secure from what has now become an overwhelming influx of refugees from the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. “Sometimes they visit relatives...


Practical protection against dust and water (i.e. IP protection)

Dr Cagri Tanriover July 5, 2014

Recently, I was faced with a challenge to provide IP65 compliance in a product that had to have humidity and pressure sensors on it. The tricky part was to keep the cost of the unit under $15 while meeting this requirement.

Under normal circumstances, one can put all the electronics within an IP65 enclosure that is affordable and readily available off-the-shelf most of the time such as the ones shown in this link. However, given the humidity and the pressure sensor need to be exposed to...


Data Validity in Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 5, 20131 comment

If you take a high-level view of software systems you might say that the overall goal of software is to generate outputs from inputs. It’s a gross simplification of a nuanced and complex field but the truth of the statement is unarguable: data goes in, is manipulated and then is spat out again.That’s what software does. The simplicity of the statement contributes to the joy of Computer Science majors who take an abstract view of everything from software to love but infuriates...


Unmanned Ground Vehicles - Design Considerations for Snow and Cold Environments

Ed Nutter December 27, 2016

It's that time of year when the white stuff falls from the sky across the US, and with it comes lower temperatures. These conditions must be taken into consideration when designing a vehicle for outdoor use.

A few definitions from wikipedia:

Flurry: light, brief snowfall

Snow shower: intermittent snowfall

Light snow: over 1km visibility

Moderate snow: 0.5 to 1km visibility

Heavy snow: less than 0.5km visibility

Blizzard: lasts 3 hours or longer, sustained wind to 35mph, visibility...


“Smarter” cars, unintended acceleration – and unintended consequences

Michael J. Pont October 20, 20151 comment

In this article, I consider some recent press reports relating to embedded software in the automotive sector.

In The Times newspaper (London, 2015-10-16) the imminent arrival of Tesla cars that “use autopilot technology to park themselves and change lane without intervention from the driver” was noted.

By most definitions, the Tesla design incorporates what is sometimes called “Artificial Intelligence” (AI).Others might label it a “Smart” (or at least “Smarter”)...


Autonomous vehicle - design questions to ponder

Ed Nutter January 27, 2016

When designing an autonomous or remotely-controlled vehicle, there are a few factors to take into consideration. Three of these are purpose, environment, and terrain.

What is the purpose of the vehicle?

Will it be used in an industrial setting with people moving around it that it must not run over?

Will it be used in a hazardous environment, like Fukushima or Chernobyl, where it would be exposed to high levels of radiation and must be cleaned or left behind? If it must be left behind, any...