Is it a Bug or an Error?

Michael Barr January 31, 20184 comments

Probably you’ve heard the story of how Adm. Grace Hopper attached a moth that was dislodged from a relay in the Harvard Mark II mainframe to an engineering notebook and labeled it the “First actual case of bug being found.”

Designers of electronics, including Thomas Edison, had been using the term bug for decades. But it was mostly after this amusing 1947 event hat the use of words like “bugs” and “debugging” took off in the emerging software realm.

So why is it that if a...

A Wish for Things That Work

Jason Sachs January 1, 20182 comments

As the end of the year approaches, I become introspective. This year I am frustrated by bad user interfaces in software.

Actually, every year, throughout the year, I am frustrated by bad user interfaces in software. And yet here it is, the end of 2017, and things aren’t getting much better! Argh!

I wrote about this sort of thing a bit back in 2011 (“Complexity in Consumer Electronics Considered Harmful”) but I think it’s time to revisit the topic. So I’m...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XII: Spread-Spectrum Fundamentals

Jason Sachs December 29, 20171 comment

Last time we looked at the use of LFSRs for pseudorandom number generation, or PRNG, and saw two things:

  • the use of LFSR state for PRNG has undesirable serial correlation and frequency-domain properties
  • the use of single bits of LFSR output has good frequency-domain properties, and its autocorrelation values are so close to zero that they are actually better than a statistically random bit stream

The unusually-good correlation properties...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XI: Pseudorandom Number Generation

Jason Sachs December 20, 2017

Last time we looked at the use of LFSRs in counters and position encoders.

This time we’re going to look at pseudorandom number generation, and why you may — or may not — want to use LFSRs for this purpose.

But first — an aside:

Science Fair 1983

When I was in fourth grade, my father bought a Timex/Sinclair 1000. This was one of several personal computers introduced in 1982, along with the Commodore 64. The...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part X: Counters and Encoders

Jason Sachs December 9, 2017

Last time we looked at LFSR output decimation and the computation of trace parity.

Today we are starting to look in detail at some applications of LFSRs, namely counters and encoders.


I mentioned counters briefly in the article on easy discrete logarithms. The idea here is that the propagation delay in an LFSR is smaller than in a counter, since the logic to compute the next LFSR state is simpler than in an ordinary counter. All you need to construct an LFSR is

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part IX: Decimation, Trace Parity, and Cyclotomic Cosets

Jason Sachs December 3, 2017

Last time we looked at matrix methods and how they can be used to analyze two important aspects of LFSRs:

  • time shifts
  • state recovery from LFSR output

In both cases we were able to use a finite field or bitwise approach to arrive at the same result as a matrix-based approach. The matrix approach is more expensive in terms of execution time and memory storage, but in some cases is conceptually simpler.

This article will be covering some concepts that are useful for studying the...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part VIII: Matrix Methods and State Recovery

Jason Sachs November 21, 2017

Last time we looked at a dsPIC implementation of LFSR updates. Now we’re going to go back to basics and look at some matrix methods, which is the third approach to represent LFSRs that I mentioned in Part I. And we’re going to explore the problem of converting from LFSR output to LFSR state.

Matrices: Beloved Historical Dregs

Elwyn Berlekamp’s 1966 paper Non-Binary BCH Encoding covers some work on

Obsolete? Yes. Still in use? Yes. How do you use it? Ummm...

Ed Nutter November 14, 20175 comments

In today's world of constantly changing technology, quick parts availability, and seemingly endless options, some things can't change.  It isn't a big deal to wait a day or less for a computer upgrade to arrive.  It seems program size increases proportionally to hard drive size.  The old is discarded and replaced with the new.  Hard drives can hold terrabytes and even SD cards can hold gigabytes of information.

Now, suppose a system can't be changed.  It is still...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part VII: LFSR Implementations, Idiomatic C, and Compiler Explorer

Jason Sachs November 13, 2017

The last four articles were on algorithms used to compute with finite fields and shift registers:

Today we’re going to come back down to earth and show how to implement LFSR updates on a microcontroller. We’ll also talk a little bit about something called “idiomatic C” and a neat online tool for experimenting with the C compiler.

Lazy Properties in Python Using Descriptors

Jason Sachs November 7, 2017

This is a bit of a side tangent from my normal at-least-vaguely-embedded-related articles, but I wanted to share a moment of enlightenment I had recently about descriptors in Python. The easiest way to explain a descriptor is a way to outsource attribute lookup and modification.

Python has a bunch of “magic” methods that are hooks into various object-oriented mechanisms that let you do all sorts of ridiculously clever things. Whether or not they’re a good idea is another...

Boot sequence for an ARM based embedded system -2

DM April 6, 201213 comments

In the last post, we discussed about the startup execution sequence on an ARM based embedded system in broader terms. In this post, we are going to cover the details of a startup code.These details are also available through various ARM resources , however for the sake of completion of our discussion , here is - the flow the startup code for an  ARM based embedded system.

 Step 1: The reset

On startup, the processor will jump to fixed location ,(most ARM cores support two vector...

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

Jason Sachs January 5, 20158 comments

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...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 1: Russian Peasant Multiplication

Jason Sachs March 21, 20156 comments

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:

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Timers

Mike Silva September 27, 20132 comments

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,...

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...

Embedded Toolbox: Programmer's Calculator

Miro Samek June 27, 20178 comments

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.

I'm sure that you already have your favorite calculator online or on your smartphone. But can your calculator accept...

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...

Endianness and Serial Communication

Stephen Friederichs May 20, 20131 comment

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...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Buttons and Bouncing

Mike Silva October 26, 20133 comments

What Is A Button?

To your hardware, that is.  As discussed in Introduction to Microcontrollers - More On GPIO, a button (or key, or switch, or any form of mechanical contact) is generally hooked up to a microcontroller so as to generate a certain logic level when pushed or closed or "active," and the opposite logic level when unpushed or open or "inactive."  The active logic level can be either '0' or '1', but for reasons both historical and electrical, an...

Unit Tests for Embedded Code

Stephen Friederichs March 5, 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...

Best Embedded Systems pdf Documents Out There

Stephane Boucher September 11, 20128 comments

There are thousands of pdf documents related to Embedded Systems available online.  In fact, when I do a search in Google for:

embedded systems filetype:pdf

I get 4,340,000 results! A huge mix of articles, promotional documents, theses, etc.

Out of these 4 millions+ documents, I suspect that there must be at least a few hundreds jewels that deserve to be given more visibility.

Today, I am asking for your help (again!) to build a directory of some of the most useful pdf files out...

New Discussion Group for Users of TI ARM based MCUs

Stephane Boucher June 14, 2010

If you are a user of an ARM based TI Microcontroller, please feel free to join the new "TI ARM processors MCUs" discussion group by sending a blank email to: This discussion group will be moderated, so you don't have to worry about receiving more spam than you probably already get. It usually takes a few weeks for a group to gain momentum, so don't worry if the activity level is low for a little while, but make sure to join so you don't miss the good...

New TI MCU Resource Center

Stephane Boucher April 1, 2010

I am happy to announce the publication of the new "TI MCU Resource Center" on, where TI will regularly add videos and articles to keep you informed on their latest and greatest MCU related products.

To access the new section, you'll find a link in the main menu of the site at the top of the page.

Blogs Section Now Online!

Stephane Boucher September 18, 2007

I am happy to announce that the blog section is now online.

Last week, I sent an email to all the members of to ask for embedded systems experts who would be interested in blogging on the site. The response was very positive and I have selected 10 highly qualified individuals who will soon be writing here about all sorts of embedded systems related subjects. I am currently in the process of receiving their info (bio, photo, username, etc) and creating their bloggers'...