Getting Over the HIL of Embedded Systems Software Testing

In recent years Hardware-In-The-Loop (HIL) testing has become a standard part of the embedded software development process. Two trends in the embedded software development world, reduced time to market and an increase in complexity has created the need for better, more dynamic test platforms. HIL platforms provide a way to test the embedded software of a microcontroller in a real time, accurate way prior to integration on the final system.

Book Report: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

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

Who wouldn’t like a 4-hour workweek? Sounds appealing to me. From reading the cover, I thought there had to be some gimmick. There are many products advertising something too good to be true and I thought that this book would be one of them. Judging this book by its cover would have been a mistake.

This book provides ideas on how a person can spend less time working, but still accomplish their goals. I feel the book is better suited for a reader who is or wants to be an entrepreneur but also offers valuable ideas to those who don’t work for themselves. The key points I took note of include:

How well do you sleep at night?

What are the nightmares that cause software engineers to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat? Is it a bad dream about finding their prized toy collection with all of the action figures out of the box? Maybe it’s a mythical sink hole that swallows up the town of Riverside, IA (the future birthplace of Captain James Kirk)? Or, could it be something work related?

Industry Survey Results

DISTek recently surveyed engineers, engineering managers, and engineering executives from companies that manufacture off-highway equipment on the technical outlook for the industry. In the survey we asked respondents about their largest concerns with future on-vehicle technology. The largest concern, selected by 3 out of every 4 respondents, was reliability.

Wanted: A new corn-growing catch phrase

Young corn soaks up the sun.

The “Knee-high by the fourth of July” phrase needs to go. It is long overdue for a new phrase because this one has not been a good measuring stick for corn for decades. The only grass (corn is a grass, for those who did not learn that tidbit of info as a farm kid) that should be knee-high on the fourth of July is the grass on the edges of my yard when I do not get out the string-trimmer. These days, waist high is probably the minimum acceptable height for most areas of the country,

Debugging: The Little Things

Not the offending USB drive

Recently I was working on some embedded software that someone else wrote. I needed to add some new functionality to the code, and I was working through how the existing code was working. In particular, the software was parsing a file, and the previous developer had done a good job of sending out diagnostic messages to the terminal, and the code was parsing a line of the file as a bad record.

Well as a good little developer, the first thing I did was

LabVIEW with Mobile Devices

LabVIEW is a great fit for tablets

The growing use of mobile technology in people’s personal lives has started to influence how they want to approach their work. Individuals have immediate information at their fingertips and now are looking for the same immediate access in their work environment. Documents, e-mail messages, calendars and meeting reminders are already available, but how do users get real-time access to the applications being used around them? Some existing applications send out text messages and email, but just as personal mobile usage has moved beyond these simple communication methods so can the business world.

AEF ISOBUS Conformance Testing

Logo for the AEF

The new AEF ISOBUS Conformance Test was officially unveiled in September 2013. It is closely tied to the AEF concepts of ISOBUS Functionalities and the AEF Database. These 3 new concepts were created to address a lack of clarity with the previous AEF certification from DLG. The DLG stamp of approval indicated that a device was ISOBUS certified, but it only tested for the Virtual Terminal capability and gave no indication about other capabilities.

Riding the LIN Bus

The LIN bus is a low cost alternative to CAN

Recently, we were asked to work on a customer project involving LIN(Local Interconnect Network) communication. Our team has have quite a bit of experience working with CAN (Controller Area Network)systems, so it was interesting to learn the intricacies of LIN as a lower cost alternative to CAN.

What’s it like to sell Engineers

This is the first in a series of posts by the folks that keep this place on track as a business – giving a non-engineer perspective on the culture of engineering.

Selling helium would be easier, but not as much fun as selling engineering services

Lost In Translation-The Bill Murray movie-That’s working with engineers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my career has been headed down the wrong path for a long time. I know sales people who sell commodities, specialty products, medical devices, and they all tell me the same thing: It was easy once I learned my product. Well to heck with you guys, my product has no owner’s manual, has vacation days, and such a range of skills that I can’t simply say “That’s on page 38 of your product manual ma’am.”

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.