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2015 is well under way (Easter is almost here!) and we are approaching the UK conference season, such as it is.  I find that a day at a conference or trade show is extremely rewarding as many things simply don't make it onto the internet.  (nor my luggage to embedded world! :-) However it seems that many things are being monitored when we least expect it.  and things that were science fiction yesterday are fact today.
One reality is the Percepio trace and monitoring tool for RTOS including the Segger emboss..
PhaedruS SystemS
Who is listening to you?
The privacy debate continues? Some Samsung Internet-connected TVs have voice control, so you don't even have to find the remote control. Someone in Samsung thought it would be a good idea to pass the commands back to a server to build an understanding of viewing habits. (Why?) However it appears that it is not just command that are feeding back, but also conversation in the room. While there is apparently no evidence that this information has been used for anything, it is still disturbing.
Barbie's lesteningNow it appears that Barbie, in her latest incarnation, can do the same thing. A feature added to allow little girls to have two way conversations with Barbie is also forwarding the conversations, plus, possibly, other overheard material, to a server so that it can feed things back into conversation. After an internet fuss, the people developing the software and running the analysis server are reported as saying ""The data is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all." Mandy Rice Davis' response springs to mind here. However, how far is this different from the voice commands on your cell-phones complete with location tracking?
Some people I know, with teenage children, will just be grateful that some one or something at home is listening to them!
Science Fiction being overtaken?
Spok LivesEaves-dropping televisions were forecast in George Orwell's 1984. And the recent death of Leonard Nimoy, Mr Spock of the Starship Enterprise reminds us that Star Trek (1966-1969 on TV) had mobile phones (Communicator) and tablets (Tri-corder).
The faster catch-up of technology to science fiction is going to be pushing authors' imaginations. In one episode they went back in time to 1960's USA: the Engineering Officer spoke to a computer and wondered why it did not respond. See item above about voice control of TV's (and telephones) now voice control is becoming common.
The Star Trek TV series and then the movies, is reported to have aroused interest in engineering and science in many teenagers. LLAP
Terry Pratchett RIP
Terry PratchettAnother recent loss is Terry Pratchett.
While his fantasies covered a great deal of ground, one thread was satirising technology development, His last work, Raising Steam echoes many of the arguments about HS2 in the UK and the California high speed railway, but with added Dwarves and Golems.
Terry will be greatly missed.
Terry Pratchett lives on!
Technology is paying tribute to Terry Pratchett. It is said
 'A man's not dead while his name is still spoken'?"
Many websites will now contain "GNU Terry Pratchett". It is a very nerdy in-joke, that will ensure the name of Terry Pratchett's name will still be "spoken" on the  internet for years to come and you can read about it here:
You can get the required code from here
Stimulating thinking (1)
Jack Ganssle again has some stimulating thoughts. Firstly he quoted Djkstra's comment that starts "We could, for instance, begin with cleaning up our language by no longer calling a bug "a bug" but by calling it an error." Just think of the project plan that instead of having several moths for debugging it has several months for removing errors. How do you sell that to management? Sadly the reaction in Ganssle's newsletter was negative. One commentator said that calling them errors would make programmers feel bad, while another said that "Most programs are put together with very little up-front thought (design?), and are then exercised while incrementally fixing the bugs in the code." So as we do things badly we should use euphemisms to cover up our bad habits?
Stimulating thinking (2)
JackJack recently used a very non-euphemistic word, "Discipline" He said, "Only engineers who are highly disciplined can consistently construct software of beauty that's well-behaved. Discipline means using the right approaches even when a dangerous shortcut is calling us like Jason's sirens." Unlike replacing bugs with errors, the responses were uniformly positive. And so they should have been. All engineering requires discipline, and in some ways, as Jack pointed out, software engineering possibly more than most as often there is no way to judge whether the engineer has produced a kludge, or an elegant solution. Jack's Embedded Muse Newsletter is available here:
Coding standards
While I yield to no one in my belief in the importance of MISRA C as the basis for coding standards, there are others. PRQA, which is also active in MISRA, recently released a new edition of their High Integrity C++ Coding Standard (HIC++). HICPP is a mature and comprehensive system that has been tracking the C++ standard. In version 4.0, 202 rules were condensed into 155, 80 rules retired, 44 merged into 16 and 61 new rules added mostly related to modern C++. According to Chris Rommel, VP M2M Embedded Technology at VDC, HIC++has become one of the most widely adopted coding standard for the C++ languages. A white paper by the authors, which: • summarizes the rationale behind version 4.0 • explains how HIC++ fits with other popular C++ coding standards such as MISRA C++, JSF AV C++ and CERT C++ • highlights the changes from the previous version Is available here.
See inside your RTOS (new version for Segger emboss)
We have recently been appointed to distribute Percepio's Tracelyser RTOS visualisation tools. These let you see continuous trace streaming of runtime events, such as scheduling, interrupt handlers, kernel calls and application events.
Percepio has just launched a version for Segger's embOS which, instead of storing information on RAM, uses J-Trace to stream the information to a PC for real time analysis and an informative graphic display of the results. for more information click here
Significant stuff from ew?
As usual "everyone" was at embedded world. About 30,000 of us plus around 1000 exhibiting companies. Whilst all the Big Name companies were there, so were many smaller ones with new and novel things. This is the place to see new things demonstrated, usually by the developers. Not to mention the huge technical conference that runs and the smaller press briefing sessions along-side it. I go because I get to meet all my suppliers, even the American ones! Also I meet many other people from companies to individuals and we swap the industry gossip. I can tell you that there is a vast amount that does not get on to the internet! And what does has a time delay and passes through lawyers and marketing first. You may think you are not interested in "gossip" but you might change your mind when you hear about a hardware bug in new silicon, who is doing compiler workarounds, and what the accurate timescales for these are. Knowing which silicon company is buying/merging with another might have a significant impact on your company let alone on your current project. A good exhibition and technical conference is well worth its weight in gold.
Device Developer Conference
Whilst not quite as big as ew this year's Device Developer Conference is well worth attending and is again free. It will take place on the 12th & 14th of May, and the 2nd and 4th of June, in Reading, Cambridge, Manchester and Uphall (Scotland). We will be exhibiting and presenting, a paper. Is it supposed to do that? We are also once again promoting the Programming Research's Developers' Challenge, with a prize of Kindle Paperwhite. More details and booking information is on the website
Just a few things to think about: Bugs or errors? What are you missing at trade shows even if it is only the networking and conversation? You should think about attending one of the DDC dates. One will be close enough to you to make it easy to attend. You can have a go at the coding challenge if you think you are good enough; although so far no one has ever caught more than 30% of the bugs/errors. Of course, the discipline is not getting them in there in the first place.
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