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Margin Call: Fermi Problems, Highway Horrors, Black Swans, and Why You Should Worry About When You Should Worry

Jason Sachs December 6, 20152 comments

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — there are things we do not know we don’t know.” — Donald Rumsfeld, February 2002

Today’s topic is engineering margin.

XKCD had a what-if column involving Fermi...


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.


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, 2015

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”)...


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...


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


The CRC Wild Goose Chase: PPP Does What?!?!?!

Jason Sachs October 23, 20142 comments

I got a bad feeling yesterday when I had to include reference information about a 16-bit CRC in a serial protocol document I was writing. And I knew it wasn’t going to end well.

The last time I looked into CRC algorithms was about five years ago. And the time before that… sometime back in 2004 or 2005? It seems like it comes up periodically, like the seventeen-year locust or sunspots or El Niño,...


Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part III: Volatility

Jason Sachs October 10, 2014

1vol·a·tile adjective \ˈvä-lə-təl, especially British -ˌtī(-ə)l\ : likely to change in a very sudden or extreme way : having or showing extreme or sudden changes of emotion : likely to become dangerous or out of control

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Other articles in this series:


Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part II: Immutability

Jason Sachs September 14, 2014

Other articles in this series:

This article will discuss immutability, and some of its variations in the topic of functional programming.

There are a whole series of benefits to using program variables that… well, that aren’t actually variable, but instead are immutable. The impact of...


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....


Six Software Design Tools

Steve Branam November 5, 20211 comment
Contents: Introduction

Here are six tools to help you with software design. The first two are very simple, almost deceptively trivial, while the last four are more involved. They apply universally, to all types of software, all types of systems, and all languages. This is part of good engineering discipline.

At face value, this is just a bunch of acronyms,...


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...


Metal detection: building the detector

Fabien Le Mentec February 6, 20164 comments
IntroductionBefore starting, you may want to read this post describing the BFO stage:

//www.embeddedrelated.com/showarticle/911.php

I have detailed the implementation of a BFO stage for detecting metal. Now it has been validated on the bench, the next step is to integrate it in a stand alone instrument for testing on the field. A few things have to be done to reach this goal:

  • make a PCB for the electronics,
  • house the PCB in a box,
  • add a power supply,
  • make a frame to hold...

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.


Definite Article: Notes on Traceability

Jason Sachs September 6, 2021

Electronic component distibutor Digi-Key recently announced part tracing for surface-mount components purchased in cut-tape form. This is a big deal, and it’s a feature that is a good example of traceability. Some thing or process that has traceability basically just means that it’s possible to determine an object’s history or provenance: where it came from and what has happened to it since its creation. There are a...


Practical protection against dust and water (i.e. IP protection)

Dr Cagri Tanriover July 5, 2014

Recently, I was faced with a challenge to provide IP65 compliance in a product that had to have humidity and pressure sensors on it. The tricky part was to keep the cost of the unit under $15 while meeting this requirement.

Under normal circumstances, one can put all the electronics within an IP65 enclosure that is affordable and readily available off-the-shelf most of the time such as the ones shown in this link. However, given the humidity and the pressure sensor need to be exposed to...


Data Validity in Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 5, 20131 comment

If you take a high-level view of software systems you might say that the overall goal of software is to generate outputs from inputs. It’s a gross simplification of a nuanced and complex field but the truth of the statement is unarguable: data goes in, is manipulated and then is spat out again.That’s what software does. The simplicity of the statement contributes to the joy of Computer Science majors who take an abstract view of everything from software to love but infuriates...


Unmanned Ground Vehicles - Design Considerations for Snow and Cold Environments

Ed Nutter December 27, 2016

It's that time of year when the white stuff falls from the sky across the US, and with it comes lower temperatures. These conditions must be taken into consideration when designing a vehicle for outdoor use.

A few definitions from wikipedia:

Flurry: light, brief snowfall

Snow shower: intermittent snowfall

Light snow: over 1km visibility

Moderate snow: 0.5 to 1km visibility

Heavy snow: less than 0.5km visibility

Blizzard: lasts 3 hours or longer, sustained wind to 35mph, visibility...


More than just a pretty face - a good UI is essential

Colin Walls November 30, 20231 comment

A user interface can make or break a device - determining its success in the marketplace. With careful design, the UI can make the product compelling and result in a high level of satisfaction from new and experienced users.


The 2024 Embedded Online Conference