Open-Source Licenses Made Easy with Buildroot and Yocto for Embedded Linux

George Emad October 2, 2023

In this article I will try to explain what are the copyrights/copyleft, what are the popular opensource software licenses, and how to make sure that your Embedded Linux system complies with them using popular build systems ; Buildroot or YOCTO projec

There are 10 kinds of people in the world

Colin Walls September 27, 2023

It is useful, in embedded software, to be able to specify values in binary. The C language lacks this facility. In this blog we look at how to fix that.

Embedded Developers, Ditch Your IDEs – Here’s Why!

Amar Mahmutbegovic September 25, 2023

Ditching your Integrated Development Environment (IDE) temporarily can be a transformative learning experience in embedded development. This post invites you to explore the underpinnings of IDEs by delving into alternative tools and processes like Makefile, CMake, Vim, GDB, and OpenOCD. Understanding these tools can demystify the background operations of IDEs, revealing the intricacies of compiling, linking, and debugging. This journey into the “under the hood” aspects of development is not just about learning new tools, but also about gaining a deeper appreciation for the convenience and efficiency that IDEs provide. By stepping out of your comfort zone and experimenting with these alternatives, you can sharpen your skills, enhance your knowledge, and possibly discover a more tailored and streamlined development experience. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned developer, this exploration promises insights and revelations that can elevate your embedded development journey.

Are We Shooting Ourselves in the Foot with Stack Overflow?

Miro Samek September 8, 20234 comments

Most traditional, beaten-path memory layouts allocate the stack space above the data sections in RAM, even though the stack grows “down” (towards the lower memory addresses) in most embedded processors. This arrangement puts your program data in the path of destruction of a stack overflow. In other words, you violate the first Gun Safety Rule (ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction!) and you end up shooting yourself in the foot. This article shows how to locate the stack at the BEGINNING of RAM and thus point it in the "safe" direction.

Who needs source code?

Colin Walls August 31, 2023

Many developers feel that the supplying source code is essential for licensed software components. There are other perspectives, including the possibility of it being an actual disadvantage. Even the definition of source code has some vagueness.

New book on Elliptic Curve Cryptography

Mike August 30, 20234 comments

New book on Elliptic Curve Cryptography now online. Deep discount for early purchase. Will really appreciate comments on how to improve the book because physical printing won't happen for a few more months. Check it out here: http://mng.bz/D9NA

In the beginning, there was no code…

James Grenning August 16, 20233 comments

…and it was good.

Why is it that code starts out nice and deteriorates over time?

Getting Started With Zephyr: Devicetree Bindings

Mohammed Billoo August 16, 2023

This blog post shines some light on how devicetrees are used in The Zephyr Project. Specifically, we understand the mechanisms that enable us to use nodes in the devicetree in the C source files. We use a sample provided in the Zephyr repository itself and work our way through portions of the Zephyr codebase to get insight into the mechanisms that make this possible.

Bit-Banged Async Serial Output And Disciplined Engineering

Steve Branam August 3, 2023

This post covers implementing asynchronous serial output directly on a GPIO with bit-banging. This can be a valuable debug tool for getting information out of a system. It also covers disciplined engineering, using the bit-banging module as an example and template you can apply to other projects.

Assembly language is best - except when it isn’t

Colin Walls July 27, 20231 comment

A look at why writing in C often produces more efficient code than hand-written assembly language.

Analyzing the Linker Map file with a little help from the ELF and the DWARF

Govind Mukundan December 27, 201522 comments

When you're writing firmware, there always comes a time when you need to check the resources consumed by your efforts - perhaps because you're running out of RAM or Flash or you want to optimize something. The map file generated by your linker is a useful tool to aid in the resource analysis. I wanted to filter and sort the data generated in an interactive way so I wrote a C# WinForms application that reads the data from the map and presents it in a list view (using the awesome

Understanding and Preventing Overflow (I Had Too Much to Add Last Night)

Jason Sachs December 4, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Maybe the memory of eating too much turkey is fresh in your mind. If so, this would be a good time to talk about overflow.

In the world of floating-point arithmetic, overflow is possible but not particularly common. You can get it when numbers become too large; IEEE double-precision floating-point numbers support a range of just under 21024, and if you go beyond that you have problems:

for k in [10, 100, 1000, 1020, 1023, 1023.9, 1023.9999, 1024]: try: ...

Chebyshev Approximation and How It Can Help You Save Money, Win Friends, and Influence People

Jason Sachs September 30, 201220 comments

Well... maybe that's a stretch. I don't think I can recommend anything to help you win friends. Not my forte.

But I am going to try to convince you why you should know about Chebyshev approximation, which is a technique for figuring out how you can come as close as possible to computing the result of a mathematical function, with a minimal amount of design effort and CPU power. Let's explore two use cases:

  • Amy has a low-power 8-bit microcontroller and needs to compute \( \sqrt{x} \)...

Zebras Hate You For No Reason: Why Amdahl's Law is Misleading in a World of Cats (And Maybe in Ours Too)

Jason Sachs February 27, 20171 comment

I’ve been wasting far too much of my free time lately on this stupid addicting game called the Kittens Game. It starts so innocently. You are a kitten in a catnip forest. Gather catnip.

And you click on Gather catnip and off you go. Soon you’re hunting unicorns and building Huts and studying Mathematics and Theology and so on. AND IT’S JUST A TEXT GAME! HTML and Javascript, that’s it, no pictures. It’s an example of an

Using the Beaglebone PRU to achieve realtime at low cost

Fabien Le Mentec April 25, 20148 comments

I work as an engineer in a synchrotron facility. A few weeks ago, I helped the people in charge of the power supply developments to integrate a realtime control algorithm on a prototype platform: a BeagleBone Black (BBB) running Linux. I had already worked with this board in the past, and I found it very interesting given its excellent resources versus price ratio (around 40 euros). This time, I was impressed by its realtime capabilities. I thought it would be a good idea to...

Coroutines in one page of C

Yossi Kreinin August 20, 201316 comments

A coroutine is a function that you can jump back into after returning from it - and it remembers where it was in the code, and all the variables. This is very useful at times.

One use is generating a sequence of values. Here's how you can generate all the x,y pairs in a 2D range in Python:

def iterate(max_x, max_y): for x in range(max_x): for y in range(max_y): yield x,y for x,y in iterate(2,2): print x,y

This prints:

0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1

The yield keyword is like...

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

Jason Sachs August 26, 20146 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...

C++ on microcontrollers 1 - introduction, and an output pin class

Wouter van Ooijen October 9, 20117 comments


This blog series is about the use of C++ for modern microcontrollers. My plan is to show the gradual development of a basic I/O library. I will introduce the object-oriented C++ features that are used step by step, to provide a gentle yet practical introduction into C++ for C programmers.  Reader input is very much appreciated, you might even steer me in the direction you find most interesting.

I am lazy. I am also a programmer. Luckily, being a lazy...

10 Software Tools You Should Know

Jason Sachs May 20, 201215 comments

Unless you're designing small analog electronic circuits, it's pretty hard these days to get things done in embedded systems design without the help of computers. I thought I'd share a list of software tools that help me get my job done. Most of these are free or inexpensive. Most of them are also for working with software. If you never have to design, read, or edit any software, then you're one of a few people that won't benefit from reading this. 

Disclaimer: the "best" software...