• How could easing restrictions for in-flight electronics affect designs?

    The FAA has given permission some airlines permission for their pilots to use electronic devices (iPad) in lieu of paper charts and manuals during a flight. This may mark the beginning of a process to allow more devices to be used – possibly even by passengers. Is this wishful thinking or a real possibility as product designers examine the incentives of providing devices that gain permission for unrestricted use on aircraft…

  • When is running warm – too hot?

    As mobile devices deliver more capabilities, including better graphics, in small form factors, the design challenges of keeping a warming system from becoming too hot become more visible to the end user. When is running warm – too hot?

  • Are random numbers a solved function?

    Random number generators have been used by developers for many decades with varying levels of success and lessons learned about what constitutes a suitable nature of random numbers (think music players selecting random tracks). Are creating and using random numbers a solved function for system developers?

  • Do you refactor embedded software?

    Software refactoring involves modifying the internal structure of software without changing its external behavior. Because embedded software typically has a tighter level of coupling with the target hardware than application software, do you perform software refactoring on embedded software?

  • Are you looking at USB 3.0?

    Does the recent SuperSpeed USB certification of Intel processors mean that more consumer devices will begin to support higher data rates? Will this cause a trickle down into other devices that are increasingly connected to the network and other devices within the shop and home environments? Are you looking at USB 3.0 for any of your upcoming projects?

  • Are you using Built-in Self Tests?

    The opportunity to avoid catastrophic operation of safety critical or high costs systems via use of built-in self tests makes a lot of sense. Is a built-in self test a luxury or necessity for other types of less critical designs? Are you using Built-in Self tests in your designs?

  • Do you ever think about endianess?

    I remember when knowing your machine’s endianess was important – especially when implement assembly language programs. With efficient compilers and supplied drivers from tool providers, do software developers have common reason to be aware of endianess anymore?

  • Are software development tools affecting your choice of 8-bit vs. 32-bit processors?

    8-bit processors are still represented in a significant number of embedded designs. Is there a capability gap growing in the software development tools for 8- versus 32-bit processors that are affecting your choice of when to use either size architecture?

  • Do you employ “Brown M&Ms” in your designs?

    A rock band used a contract requirement using a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones removed as a nearly costless cost way to see how well a contractor followed their large list of requirements. Do you employ any nearly costless methods to verify the environmental conditions that your systems are asked to operate on to improve quality and reliability?

  • Are you using accelerometers and/or gyroscopes?

    The Nintendo 3DS provides a unique 3D feel by combining a 3D display with an inertial sensing capability. Inertial sensing has been used to help protect equipment from the impact of a fall, and it has found use in binoculars and cameras to provide superior image quality. Are you using or aware of accelerometers and/or gyroscopes being used in similarly innovative ways?

  • Is College necessary for embedded developers?

    A recent bill mandates that high school students must apply for college. Does college prepare students for embedded development, or does the amount of on-the-job learning that is required dwarf the contribution that college could provide?

  • Are you using Arduino?

    The Gingerbreadtron is a recent example of an Arduino project. Is this open source electronics prototyping platform finding its way into your projects or does it squarely target casual or hobby projects?

  • Is the rate of innovation stagnating?

    An article suggests that the rate of innovation is stagnating and that large companies might be holding back their innovations. Do these observations have merit?

  • How long should testing changes take?

    When marketing/management request changes to a system, it is not uncommon for the engineering team to push back because there was not enough time to properly perform the change and testing before the delivery date. How long should implementing and testing changes take?

  • What embedded development tool do you want?

    Embedded development keep delivering more capability at lower cost each year. What tool do you find indispensable? What capability would you like to see delivered by future development tools?

  • Have you experienced a “bad luck” test failure?

    The accidental shooting of a cannonball through a house by the Mythbusters team is a recent example of a “bad luck” test failure. These are failures that go beyond the pure technical and usually involve miscommunication. Have you experienced a “bad luck” test failure?
  • How should embedded systems handle battery failures?

    We use batteries in more devices than ever before. Recent events of burning electric cars and exploding cell phones (still!) raise the question: how should embedded systems handle battery failures?
  • What embedded device/tool/technology are you thankful for?

    In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday being celebrated in the United States this week, what device, tool, or technology are you thankful for making your life as an embedded developer better?
  • Do you use hardware-in-the-loop simulation?

    Hardware-in-the-loop simulation has been used for years in high-end and complex systems such as automotive and aerospace designs. As consumer level products incorporate more sensors and are able to detect more complex conditions, will/are HIL simulation concepts finding their way into a new class of design projects?
  • Do you receive too much email?

    It seems like almost everyone receives on the order of 100 emails a day, and this affects how much time we spend reading email each day. Is the “good” thing about receiving emailed newsletters that it is easy to block delete them without even reading them? How do you handle receiving too much information in your inbox?
  • What tips do you have for estimating/budgeting?

    Project and year-end budgeting can be a stressful, especially when you are trying to be as accurate in your projections as possible. Do you know any tips for how to be more effective at estimating projects and performing planning and budgeting activities?
  • What makes a conference worth attending?

    Gone are the “grand-ole-days” of huge conferences for developers. The hopeful news is that it appears the design activities are increasing and attendance to conferences is slowly improving, but the attendance is decidedly local. What makes a conference worth attending, especially one that requires you to travel?
  • What advice would you give to an embedded newcomer?

    Building embedded systems is different from building typical end applications, and it requires a slightly different perspective when designing, building, and maintaining them. What advice would you give to someone learning the ropes of engineering and/or embedded design?
  • Does only one person dominate your designs?

    If Steve Jobs acted correctly as a CEO, he did not allow himself to be a single point of failure for Apple when he left the company. What are some of the strategies your group uses to ensure that the loss of a single person becomes such a large risk to the completion of that project?
  • Is the collider closure cause for concern?

    The closure of the Tevatron collider marks the end of a 28 year legacy. The closure proceeds even as scientists are grappling with the possible discovery of neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. Is this closure, along with the recent closure of the Space Shuttle program cause for concern?