Coding Step 4 - Design

Stephen Friederichs November 24, 2015

Articles in this series:

The last article in this series discussed how to write functional high-level requirements: specifications for what your software is supposed to do. Software design is the other side of the coin....

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...

Developing software for a safety-related embedded system for the first time

Michael J. Pont October 31, 20151 comment

I spend most of my working life with organisations that develop software for high-reliability, real-time embedded systems. Some of these systems are created in compliance with IEC 61508, ISO 26262, DO-178C or similar international standards.

When working with organisations that are developing software for their first safety-related design, I’m often asked to identify the key issues that distinguish this process from the techniques used to develop “ordinary” embedded software.


“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”)...

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...

Lessons Learned from Embedded Code Reviews (Including Some Surprises)

Jason Sachs August 16, 20152 comments

My software team recently finished a round of code reviews for some of our motor controller code. I learned a lot from the experience, most notably why you would want to have code reviews in the first place.

My background is originally from the medical device industry. In the United States, software in medical devices gets a lot of scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration, and for good reason; it’s a place for complexity to hide latent bugs. (Can you say “

Dark Corners of C - The Comma Operator

Stephen Friederichs July 23, 20158 comments

I've been programming in C for 16 years or so and the language has existed for much much longer than that. You might think that there'd be nothing left to surprise me after so long - but you'd be wrong. Imagine my surprise the first time I saw a line of code that looked something like this:

if (!dry_run && ((stdout_closed = true), close_stream (stdout) != 0))

My mind couldn't parse it - what's a comma doing in there (after...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 4: Topological Sort

Jason Sachs July 5, 20151 comment

Other articles in this series:

Today we’re going to take a break from my usual focus on signal processing or numerical algorithms, and focus on...

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part VI : Abstraction

Jason Sachs June 16, 20153 comments

Earlier articles:

We have come to the last part of the Important Programming Concepts series, on abstraction. I thought I might also talk about why there isn’t a Part VII, but decided it would distract from this article — so if you want to know the reason, along with what’s next,

Coding Step 2 - Source Control

Articles in this series:

When I first started out in programming, version control was not an introductory topic. Not in the least because it required a 'server' (ie, a computer which a teenaged me couldn't afford) but because it seemed difficult and only useful to teams rather than...

Interfacing LINUX with microcontrollers

Fabien Le Mentec May 7, 20132 comments

I am increasingly asked to work on small spare time projects where a user needs to control some device over the INTERNET. Recently, a friend needed to control heater relays and measure the temperature of its geographically distant secondary house. Another case relates to the control of a pan tilt home monitoring camera. A last one is the control of an old XY plotter DACs.

In both applications, the user wants to access the system over a web browser using HTTP. From the user...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Ada - 7 Segments and Catching Errors

Mike Silva September 22, 20145 comments

7 Segments the Ada Way

Here is the Ada version (I should say AN Ada version) of the 7 segment multiplexing code presented in the last installment.  The hardware now is the STM32F407 Discover board, which is a Cortex M4F board.  There are lots of differences in GPIO and timer setup, but if you understoold the previous code in C you should not have much trouble understanding this code in Ada.

As interesting as the Ada approach to the task is the Ada ability to detect...

How to make a heap profiler

Yossi Kreinin May 23, 20141 comment

We'll see how to make a heap profiler. Example code for this post makes up heapprof, a working 250-line heap profiler for programs using malloc/free.

It works out of the box on Linux (tested on "real" programs like gdb and python). The main point though is being easy to port and modify to suit your needs. The code, build and test scripts are at github.

Why roll your own heap profiler?

  • It's easy! And fun, if you're that sort of person. What, not reasons enough? OK, how...

Reverse engineering wireless wall outlets

Fabien Le Mentec July 19, 2014

I am improving the domotics framework that I described in a previous article://

I want to support wireless wall outlets, allowing me to switch devices power from a remote location over HTTP.

To do so, I could design my own wireless wall outlets and use a hardware similar to the previous one, based on the NRF905 chipset. The problem is that such a product would not be certified, and that would be an issue regarding the home insurance,...

Jaywalking Around the Compiler

Jason Sachs December 9, 20193 comments

Our team had another code review recently. I looked at one of the files, and bolted upright in horror when I saw a function that looked sort of like this:

void some_function(SOMEDATA_T *psomedata) { asm volatile("push CORCON"); CORCON = 0x00E2; do_some_other_stuff(psomedata); asm volatile("pop CORCON"); }

There is a serious bug here — do you see what it is?

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....

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...

Code Metrics - SLOC Count

Stephen Friederichs August 19, 2013

Many programmers will start having flashbacks at the title of this article because it contains the words 'metrics' and 'SLOC'.  Newer programmers are probably wondering what all of the fuss is about - most probably have no negative connotations with the term 'code metrics' and some may not even know what SLOC is.  While there is much baggage associated with metrics and SLOC you shouldn't be afraid to gather fundamentally useful data such as SLOC count from your programming projects...

[ C Programming Techniques: integer type optimization ]

Fabien Le Mentec May 22, 20131 comment

I am currently working on a voltage controller running on a ATMEGA328P, ATMEL AVR 8 bits microcontroller. The controller logic is implemented in the main() routine and relies on a periodical timer whose frequency is fixed at application setup. Among other things, the timer ISR handler increments some per tick counters which are then used by the main routine to implement the voltage controller timing logic.By looking at the code, one noticed that I use the uint8_t type for counters instead of...

Continuous Integration for Embedded Systems

Dr. Tayyar GUZEL September 5, 20172 comments

It is no secret that anyone who wants to streamline project management, reduce risk and improve the quality needs some form of "automation" in SW development processes. What is commonly used in most companies as a tool for such automation is called Continuous Integration (CI). It is a good practice for embedded systems as well even though it is much harder to use CI for embedded systems compared to pure software development because embedded systems mostly depend on...