Tenderfoot: Embedded Software and Firmware Specialties

Once upon a time (seven years ago) I answered a question on Stack Overflow. Then Stephane suggested I turn that answer into a blog post. Great idea! This post dives deeper into the original question: “Is it possible to fragment this field (embedded software and firmware) into sub-fields?”

This post represents a detailed and updated response to my original Stack Overflow answer. I hope this post provides guidance and useful information to the “tenderfoots” in the...

Embedded Toolbox: Source Code Whitespace Cleanup

August 5, 2017

In this installment of my "Embedded Toolbox" series, I would like to share with you the free source code cleanup utility called QClean for cleaning whitespace in your source files, header files, makefiles, linker scripts, etc.

You probably wonder why you might need such a utility? In fact, the common thinking is that compilers (C, C++, etc.) ignore whitespace anyway, so why bother? But, as a professional software developer you should not ignore whitespace, because it can cause all sorts...

SEGGER's 25th Anniversary Video

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?...

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

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 on bitbucket called...

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

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.

Embedded Toolbox: Windows GUI Prototyping Toolkit

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...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part I: Ex-Pralite Monks and Finite Fields

Later there will be, I hope, some people who will find it to their advantage to decipher all this mess.

— Évariste Galois, May 29, 1832

I was going to call this short series of articles “LFSRs for Dummies”, but thought better of it. What is a linear feedback shift register? If you want the short answer, the Wikipedia article is a decent introduction. But these articles are aimed at those of you who want a little bit deeper mathematical understanding,...

June 28, 20171 comment

Twenty years ago I read Code Complete by Steve McConnell. And then read it again. And again. And again. Of all the books I have read during my career, I believe this was the book that catapulted me from a young electrical engineer to a young and aspiring embedded software engineer. So to all the ‘tenderfoots’ embarking upon an embedded systems and especially embedded software and firmware career, this entry is for you.

Embedded Toolbox: Programmer's Calculator

Like any craftsman, I have accumulated quite a few tools during my embedded software development career. Some of them proved to me more useful than others. And these generally useful tools ended up in my Embedded Toolbox. In this blog, I'd like to share some of my tools with you. Today, I'd like to start with my cross-platform Programmer's Calculator called QCalc.

VERY Fast Japanese Sumo Robots

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?

Help, My Serial Data Has Been Framed: How To Handle Packets When All You Have Are Streams

Today we're going to talk about data framing and something called COBS, which will make your life easier the next time you use serial communications on an embedded system -- but first, here's a quiz:

Quick Diversion, Part I: Which of the following is the toughest area of electrical engineering? analog circuit design digital circuit design power electronics communications radiofrequency (RF) circuit design electromagnetic...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 1: Russian Peasant Multiplication

This blog needs some short posts to balance out the long ones, so I thought I’d cover some of the algorithms I’ve used over the years. Like the Euclidean algorithm and Extended Euclidean algorithm and Newton’s method — except those you should know already, and if not, you should be locked in a room until you do. Someday one of them may save your life. Well, you never know.

Other articles in this series:

• Part 1:

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part V: State Machines

Other articles in this series:

Oh, hell, this article just had to be about state machines, didn’t it? State machines! Those damned little circles and arrows and q’s.

Yeah, I know you don’t like them. They bring back bad memories from University, those Mealy and Moore machines with their state transition tables, the ones you had to write up...

Embedded Toolbox: Programmer's Calculator

Like any craftsman, I have accumulated quite a few tools during my embedded software development career. Some of them proved to me more useful than others. And these generally useful tools ended up in my Embedded Toolbox. In this blog, I'd like to share some of my tools with you. Today, I'd like to start with my cross-platform Programmer's Calculator called QCalc.

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

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...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - More On GPIO

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...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Timers

Timers - Because "When" Matters

Computer programs are odd things, for one reason because they have no concept of time.  They may have the concept of sequential execution, but the time between instructions can be essentially any number and the program won't notice or care (unless assumptions about time have been built into the program by the programmer).  But the real world is not like this.  In the real world, especially the real embedded world,...

BGA and QFP at Home 1 - A Practical Guide.

It is almost universally accepted by the hobbyists that you can't work with high-density packages at home.  That is entirely incorrect.  I've been assembling and reflowing BGA circuit boards at home for a few years now.  BGAs and 0.5mm-pitch QFPs are well within the realm of a determined amateur.

This series of articles presents practical information on designing and assembling boards with high-density packages at home.  While the focus is on FPGA packages, most of...

Endianness and Serial Communication

May 20, 2013

Endianness is a consideration that is easily overlooked in the design of embedded systems. I myself am amply guilty of this oversight. It’s something you don’t ever have to worry about if you’re only working with a single processor or two processors that have the same endianness.  You can even avoid it if you have two processors that have different endianness but never transmit data between themselves that consists of more than one byte.  It’s easy to lull...