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...

Embedded Programming Video Course Shows How OOP Works Under the Hood

Miro Samek September 29, 2019

If you'd like to understand how Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) really works under the hood, here is a free video course for you:

OOP part-1: Encapsulation: This first lesson on Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) introduces the concept of Encapsulation, which is the ability to package data and functions together into classes. You'll see how you can emulate Encapsulation in C, what kind of code is generated, and how to debug such code. Next, you will translate the C design into C++ using...

Round-robin or RTOS for my embedded system

Manuel Herrera June 9, 20198 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...

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.

From Baremetal to RTOS: A review of scheduling techniques

Jacob Beningo June 8, 201617 comments

Transitioning from bare-metal embedded software development to a real-time operating system (RTOS) can be a difficult endeavor. Many developers struggle with the question of whether they should use an RTOS or simply use a bare-metal scheduler. One of the goals of this series is to walk developers through the transition and decision making process of abandoning bare-metal thinking and getting up to speed quickly with RTOSes. Before diving into the details of RTOSes, the appropriate first step...

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...

Which MOSFET topology?

Jason Sachs September 1, 20119 comments

A recent electronics.StackExchange question brings up a good topic for discussion. Let's say you have a power supply and a 2-wire load you want to be able to switch on and off from the power supply using a MOSFET. How do you choose which circuit topology to choose? You basically have four options, shown below:

From left to right, these are:

High-side switch, N-channel MOSFET High-side switch, P-channel MOSFET Low-side switch, N-channel...

BGA and QFP at Home 1 - A Practical Guide.

Victor Yurkovsky October 13, 20134 comments

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...

Round Round Get Around: Why Fixed-Point Right-Shifts Are Just Fine

Jason Sachs November 22, 20163 comments

Today’s topic is rounding in embedded systems, or more specifically, why you don’t need to worry about it in many cases.

One of the issues faced in computer arithmetic is that exact arithmetic requires an ever-increasing bit length to avoid overflow. Adding or subtracting two 16-bit integers produces a 17-bit result; multiplying two 16-bit integers produces a 32-bit result. In fixed-point arithmetic we typically multiply and shift right; for example, if we wanted to multiply some...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Button Matrix & Auto Repeating

Mike Silva November 12, 2013

Too Many Buttons, Not Enough Inputs

Assigning one GPIO input to each button can use up a lot of GPIO pins.  Numeric input requires at least 10 buttons, plus however many additional control or function buttons.  This can quickly get expensive, GPIO pin-wise, and also connector-wise if the keypad is off the uC PCB as it often would be.  A very common response to this expense is to wire buttons (keys, etc) in a matrix.  By connecting our buttons in an...

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part IV: Singletons

Jason Sachs November 11, 20142 comments

Other articles in this series:

Today’s topic is the singleton. This article is unique (pun intended) in that unlike the others in this series, I tried to figure out a word to use that would be a positive concept to encourage, as an alternative to singletons, but

Already 3000+ Attendees Registered for the Upcoming Embedded Online Conference

Stephane Boucher February 14, 2020

Chances are you already know, through the newsletter or banners on the Related sites, about the upcoming Embedded Online Conference.

Chances are you also already know that you have until the end of the month of February to register for free. 

And chances are that you are one of the more than 3000 pro-active engineers who have already registered.

But If you are like me and have a tendency to do tomorrow what can be done today, maybe you haven't registered yet.  You may...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - 7-segment displays & Multiplexing

Mike Silva August 14, 20141 comment

Doing the 7 Segment Shuffle

The 7 segment display is ubiquitous in the modern world.  Just about every digital clock, calculator and movie bomb has one.  The treadmills at my gym have 6 or 7, each one displaying 3 or 4 digits.  What makes the 7-seg interesting is that it presents an opportunity to make a trade off between GPIO (output pins) for time.  Every 7-seg display requires 8 outputs (the 7 segments and usually either a decimal point or a...

Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part III: Practical Issues of Inductor and Capacitor Ripple Current

Jason Sachs August 24, 20133 comments

We've been analyzing the ripple current in an H-bridge, both in an inductive load and the DC link capacitor. Here's a really quick recap; if you want to get into more details, go back and read part I and part II until you've got equations coming out of your ears. I promise there will be a lot less grungy math in this post. So let's get most of it out of the way:

Switches QAH and QAL are being turned on and off with pulse-width modulation (PWM), to produce an average voltage DaVdc on...