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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....


Motion Sensor with Raspberry Pi and MPU6050 - Part 1

Shres L November 21, 2015

This blog will help you build your own, low cost 3-axis motion sensor using Raspberry Pi and Invensense MPU6050.


Practical CRCs for Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 20, 20153 comments

CRCs are a very practical tool for embedded systems: you're likely to need to use one as part of a communications protocol or to verify the integrity of a program image before writing it to flash. But CRCs can be difficult to understand and tricky to implement. The first time I attempted to write CRC code from scratch I failed once. Then twice. Then three times. Eventually I gave up and used an existing library. I consider myself intelligent: I got A's...


How to Read a Power MOSFET Datasheet

Jason Sachs September 15, 20159 comments

One of my pet peeves is when my fellow engineers misinterpret component datasheets. This happened a few times recently in separate instances, all involving power MOSFETs. So it’s time for me to get on my soapbox. Listen up!

I was going to post an article on how to read component datasheets in general. But MOSFETs are a good place to start, and are a little more specific. I’m not the first person to write something about how to read datasheets; here are some other good...


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...


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...


Coding Step 1 - Hello World and Makefiles

Stephen Friederichs February 10, 20156 comments

Articles in this series:

Step 0 discussed how to install GCC and the make utility with the expectation of writing and compiling your first C program. In this article, I discuss how to use those tools we installed last time. Specifically, how to use GCC to compile a C program and...


Coding - Step 0: Setting Up a Development Environment

Stephen Friederichs November 25, 20145 comments

Articles in this series:

You can easily find a million articles out there discussing compiler nuances, weighing the pros and cons of various data structures or discussing the  optimization of databases. Those sorts of articles are fascinating reads for advanced programmers but...


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...


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...

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...


Arduino robotics #1 - motor control

Lonnie Honeycutt October 13, 20133 comments
Arduino Robotics

Beginner robotics is a series of article chronicling my first autonomous robot build, Clusterbot.  This build is meant to be affordable, relatively easy and instructive.  The total cost of the build is around $50.  

1. Arduino robotics - motor control2. Arduino robotics - chassis, locomotion and power3. Arduino robotics - wiring, coding and a test run4. 

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...


Implementing State Machines

Stephen Friederichs January 18, 20145 comments

State machines are a great way to design software but they can be difficult to implement well.To illustrate this I’ll develop a simple state machine then increase the complexity to demonstrate some of the difficulties

We’ve all washed dishes before - it’s easy isn’t it? Scrub, rinse, dry, scrub, rinse dry. Scrub the dish until all of the gunk is off of it, rinse until the soap is off, put it in the drying rack. If you want to design software to implement this you have options. You...


Lost Secrets of the H-Bridge, Part IV: DC Link Decoupling and Why Electrolytic Capacitors Are Not Enough

Jason Sachs April 29, 20147 comments

Those of you who read my earlier articles about H-bridges, and followed them closely, have noticed there's some unfinished business. Well, here it is. Just so you know, I've been nervous about writing the fourth (and hopefully final) part of this series for a while. Fourth installments after a hiatus can bring bad vibes. I mean, look what it did to George Lucas: now we have Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and


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...


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...


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

Jason Sachs March 24, 20122 comments

In Part I we talked about some of the issues around discrete-time proportional-integral (PI) controllers:

  • various forms and whether to use the canonical form for z-transforms (don't do it!)
  • order of operation in the integral term: whether to scale and then integrate (my recommendation), or integrate and then scale.
  • saturation and anti-windup

In this part we'll talk about the issues surrounding fixed-point implementations of PI controllers. First let's recap the conceptual structure...


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...