Tag Archives: programming

Episode 77 — Remote Host Toast

toastWe chat with software engineer Elecia White about embedded programming, self-driving cars, and why internet appliances must connect to the web more quickly and easily if they are to find commercial success.

  • Carmen is looking forward to burning images of Darth Vader or Fry from Futurama into his morning slice of toast.
  • Rather than looking at pre-programmed images when he butters up his toast each day, Jeff envisions reading the day’s weather forecast, or reviewing the best route to work.
  • Despite a multitude of promises that the Internet of Things will improve our lives, there seem to be a lot of technical and social details that have yet to be sorted out.
  • We continue to look for listeners willing to share their engineering stories with us. Please use the Contact page to let us know of your interest!
  • Our guest for this episode is software engineer Elecia White, co-founder of Logical Elegance, an embedded systems consulting company based in San Jose, California.
  • We determine Brian was the only co-host to play Command and Conquer, as he seems to be the only person knowledgeable about the proper use of engineers in that video game.
  • Although not taught as frequently in engineering universities as it once was, the Fortran programming language is still widely used for numerical analysis.
  • There are a variety of definitions for an embedded system. Our guest notes that an embedded system needs software (thus requiring it to include a programmable computer), but is not itself a general-purpose computing device.
  • Brian asks about the relative importance of being familiar with more general concepts and protocols, such as I2C and SPI, versus understanding vendor specific commands and methods.
  • Sam Feller’s analog clock is mentioned by Carmen as an example of a hardware product requiring a great deal of engineering effort.
  • Embedded system programmers usually come from either a computer science or electrical engineering background.
  • Elecia’s first interview question for embedded system engineers is “Were you in the robotics club?”
  • While many employers want to hire “full-stack” developers that can handle all types of programming needs, our guest points out that it is virtually impossible to be equally proficient in all areas of programming.
  • Elecia recently served as a judge for the 2014 Hack-a-Day Prize.
  • A least one internet toaster actually exists, as it reportedly attempts to find a new home if you don’t use it frequently enough.
  • It is also possible to remotely determine how many eggs are in your refrigerator.
  • Our guest identifies the rapidly dropping cost of processing power, sensors, and radio transceivers as driving the current fascination over the “Internet of Things.”
  • As explained in an xkcd comic, many of our existing problems can be cured be developing yet another standard.
  • An Electric Imp developer was interviewed last summer in Episode 202 of The Amp Hour podcast.
  • Brian asks Elecia about the challenges of writing software code under the guidelines of DO-178B, “Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification.”
  • In a previous job, our guest worked for ShotSpotter, a company that produces a gunfire detection system.
  • Elecia discussed various aspects of interviewing in Episode 51 of her podcast, Embedded.fm.
  • Listeners can learn more about embedded systems from Elecia’s book, “Making Embedded Systems: Design Patterns for Great Software.”
  • The EggBot from Evil Mad Scientist is mentioned as potentially providing inspiration for a new type of toaster.
  • Brian raves about the Embedded.fm episode with guest Jack Ganssle, titled “Being a Grownup Engineer.”
  • Elecia recommends the episode about test-driven development with guest James Grenning, titled “Eventually Lightning Strikes.”
  • Our guest can be found on Twitter as @logicalelegance, and can be reached via the contact page on her Embedded.fm website.

Thanks to Windell Oskay for use of the image titled “hello, world.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 64 — Reddit Questions

questionsignWe answer nine questions about the engineering profession, gathered from a quaint little website called Reddit, in this episode of The Engineering Commons. You may notice a common thread in our responses, as there is rarely a clear-cut solution, and the answer often depends on the situation!

Thanks to Colin Kinner for the photo titled “Question mark sign.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 51 — Product Development

Saturn V ConstructionIn this episode we talk about product development with electrical engineer Dave Young, who is an author, educator, and small business owner.

  • Brian has been fortunate enough to be involved in new product development for much of his career.
  • Many firms try to avoid a technology push, in which a novel technology is introduced to the market. However, some authors claim that technology push can be a winning market strategy.
  • An alternate marketing approach, known as “market pull” or “product pull,” is to wait for consumers to request a particular product and allow that demand to “pull” the product into the marketplace.
  • Our guest is Dave Young, who previously joined us on The Engineering Commons for an episode about STEM Education.
  • Dave’s interest in engineering deepened as he tinkered with “X10” home automation modules as a teenager.
  • We learn from Dave why it is always important to turn off one’s soldering iron when suspending work for the evening.
  • Carmen and Dave share a common view on writing code; they would prefer if someone else was doing it!
  • Dave is a co-founder of Blue Stamp Engineering, a summer program which encourages high school students to build projects about which they are truly passionate. Programs are currently active in New York, Houston, San Fransisco and Denver.
  • Our guest is also a frequent contributor of articles to the electronics community known as Element 14.
  • In addition to articles about entrepreneurship, Dave likes to write about Cadsoft Eagle, an electronic design automation program.
  • According to Dave, element 14 is the place to go to ask questions about the credit card-sized computer board known as Raspberry Pi.
  • First-time engineering entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of believing that building a “better mousetrap” will automatically lead to economic success.
  • The term complex sales refers to the process of dealing with the many requirements of selling to a large enterprise.
  • Dave has been running his consulting business, Young Circuit Designs, since 2010.
  • To get product development started, Dave enjoys sitting down with a client and having a “fun conversation,” in which all manner of product ideas are considered, without regard to practicality.
  • Dave will return to the client with a “menu” of between 2 and 10 product concepts that he thinks merit further consideration.
  • It’s hard to guess which ideas will take off in the marketplace; Dave says he would have never guessed that the Snuggie would become a great success.
  • Clients of our guest’s consultancy are located across the United States, and have come from as far away as Nairobi.
  • In Dave’s work, the intellectual property (IP) typically belongs to the client.
  • One of Dave’s clients is BrewJacket, the company bringing the Kickstarter-funded Lager Jacket product to market for home-brewers who can’t keep their lagers cool enough during the fermentation process.
  • The Peltier effect can be used to move heat across an electrified junction of two dissimilar conductors.
  • Carmen expresses his concern over worts being put to waste while testing the Lager Jacket product.
  • Dave has developed a double-kettle brewing system where he and a friend can boil worts at the same time.
  • Carmen is thinking about one day entering a beer recipe in an annual contest held by the Raleigh Brewing Company.
  • Dave recently posted an article about making custom Arduino boards.
  • Our guest’s advice: “Always do awesome stuff!”
  • Dave can be reached on the web at Blue Stamp Engineering and Young Circuit Designs. He posts on Twitter as @DaveYoungEE and @BlueStampEng. Additionally, there is a Facebook page for Blue Stamp Engineering.

Thanks to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for the photo titled “Manufacturing the Saturn V Instrument Unit (Archive: NASA, Marshall).” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson.