Improving Contract Software Development Through Pair Programming

Pair programmers at work

Procuring software engineering services from a proven contract house has many benefits, which you already know if you’ve ever been cornered by one of their sales team members. As an engineer I know that there are always tradeoffs which must be made, and getting outside help on a project is no different. One possible way to maximize the value and effectiveness of contract software engineers is by the use of pair programming. Pair programming is an Agile software concept I was introduced to during my time working with a client, however it can be shoehorned easily into any development process. Pair programming simply means getting two engineers to sit together at the same workstation, often with two keyboards, to work together on a software solution. There are well documented benefits of increasing speed and learning while reducing mistakes and costs. In my experience, those benefits are compounded when using the services of a software contractor.

Don’t Let Technology Leave You Behind: The Pager Disaster

Don't get caught behind the technology curve

When I was a kid my parents bought my grandparents a VCR one year for the Holidays. To the best of my recollection that VCR was used a total of 5 times; each of those times was when we would visit my grandparents and my dad would pop in a video we had recorded for my grandparents to watch, or if he wanted to “tape” the game he was watching to view again later when we took the Maxwell or TDK cassette home.

Now that I’m older I am witnessing this same lack of desire to adapt to new technology with my mom who is great at so many things…except technology. She still has a 7 year old flip phone and a DVD/VCR combo player – of which she only uses the VCR portion.

My point? Technology can be scary and hard to adapt to, so at some point many people just say “No world, you go on, I’m comfortable right here.”

ISOBUS Plugfest 2014 – What we saw

ISOBUS Schematic

The 2014 Spring Plugfest in Lincoln just wrapped up last week. I did not see the final numbers, but would guess there were 180-210 total attendees and participants. The Plugfest had 16 VT stations and 13 TC stations, plus each participant went to the AEF Database station and the AEF Conformance Test station. A total of 34 different implement ECUs were being tested: 24 were testing a TC client while the others were only testing the VT client. DISTek had 2 of these ECUs for testing our VIRTEC VT-Client and TC-Client sample applications. The Plugfest also had 4 FMIS systems available and a few TECUs. In addition to these ISOBUS components formally listed at Plugfest, we also saw at least 3 File Servers active on CAN buses and a variety of Aux Inputs located at many stations.

Book Report: You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader by Mark Sanborn

Photo: © Judex | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Before reading this book, I had the belief that everyone can be a leader and that in every role within an organization, leadership skills can be demonstrated and can add value. When I first saw this book title, I was intrigued if the book would substantiate my belief. It did and more.

What is leadership? Mark Sanborn states leadership is influence. He lists six principles of leadership, which are:


Attendees at ISOBUS Plugfest in Liconln Nebraska

Rookie no more, I’m two days into my first ISOBUS AEF Plugfest experience. It’s close to what I expected but as with all things I made some assumptions that turned out to be incorrect. No description or story of an event can fully prepare you for something, and Plugfest is no exception. That’s not to say what I’m about to share of my experience thus far won’t be of any help to future would-be attendees, so keep reading.

Getting Ready for ISOBUS Plugfest

Participants at Plugfest 2013 in Lincoln, NE

On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha

Spring Plugfest is next Tuesday-Thursday … 06-08 May. It is moving this year from the east campus at UNL to a downtown hotel; the Plugfest got so big that it needed a different location. Due to the move and resultant availability, Plugfest is also later in the year than in most prior years. Unlike Bob Seger, we do not travel quite as much as a rock band so we generally look forward to travelling to the ISOBUS Plugfests. Since Spring Plugfest is in Lincoln – and has been for several years – we do spend quite a bit of time on highways east (and northeast) of Omaha, and other than Ames and Des Moines they are rather long and lonesome. But a 5-hour drive, or 7-hour drive for our Fargo office, is a rather small price to pay for the benefits provided at the event.

Advantages of Using an Agile Development Process for Embedded Software


According to Wikipedia, Agile software development is “a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams.” While there can be some variability among Agile organizations, there are a few important definitions which generally hold true. A Potentially Shippable Increment (PSI) is a 2 month period of time in which the team will commit to delivering a set of features to a customer.

Capturing Requirements as Code with Simulink

Model based software design simplifies implementation of complex control systemsWhen I was attending classes at Northern Illinois University in pursuit of a Computer Science degree, I enrolled in a class called Software Engineering. The general idea of this class was training in the ability to elicit requirements from someone without a knowledge of how software works or how it should be created. The thinking was that someone with a better understanding of how a system should work would be led into providing the guidelines for the implementation so that the software developer could create their vision. But what if there was a way for that person to directly transfer their ideas into software, leaving the developer free to work with lower levels of implementation and the real nitty-gritty of the development?

Book Report: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins

Photo: © Judex | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I have been a fan of Jim Collins since reading Built to Last while pursing my MBA. Jim Collins and his co-authors have been exploring what makes a great company that can persist over time. I most recently read How the Mighty Fall. In this book Collins discusses how what was viewed as a great company can fall to non-existence, or at a minimum, a shell of their former selves. This book especially was of interest given that I formerly worked at Motorola and Collins discussed some of the key mistakes made while I worked there that led to the fall of Motorola.

Optimizing Code for Development Time

Another way of optimizing code is to save development time

A while back I made an interesting personal discovery, and I want to share it with everyone in the hopes that it’s as useful to you as it is to me. Hi, my name is Ryan, and I like to develop software in my free time. Mostly, I like developing games.
It all started when I recently looked back over some of the work I did before I went to college. I was actually very impressed with my past work, too impressed. The games I developed before school were really putting my current work to shame. I started to think about why that might be. I figured I was busier now that I have marketable skills and, let’s be honest here, you can never play enough Dwarf Fortress.

2014 Corn and Soybean Planting Season

A tractor prepares a farm field for planting

The USDA released its 2014 report on prospective planting for the upcoming farming season a little over a week ago. Being a numbers person, I like to dig through these types of reports to see what interesting facts I can find. I will focus on corn and soybeans since I am in Iowa and that is about all we grow around here so those are the crops with which I am most familiar. Plus, those two crops comprise 40% of the total farmed acres in the United States.

Attending EE Live! In San Jose, California

The EE Live! Conference is on

Upon arrival in San Jose I headed down to baggage claim to retrieve my suitcase that I was forced to check due to just being on a completely full plane. I then headed outside and was struck with what felt like a heat wave after being in the Midwest for one of our coldest winters. Granted it was only around 60°F, but when I left North Dakota it was around 35°F.

Attending EE Live! in San Jose allowed me to attend numerous sessions and learn about many different technologies and ideas…