Hardware - Software Debate - Embedded.com

Hardware – Software Debate

When you start describing digital hardware in terms of code rather than gates, doesn't it blur the distinction between hardware and software? That's the topic of the Tuesday evening panel discussion at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco. You can find out more about this and other special events here.

One of the special events will be the Wednesday keynote address delivered by Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. Broadcom CTO Henry Samueli will deliver the Thursday keynote.

One of the hot new technologies that may shape the next few years is that Radio Frequency Identification. Cheap smart tags can be implanted in products and people; a scanner then uniquely identifies the goody or the body. Surprisingly, privacy issues may be the smallest of the threats this and similar technologies will bring, says Jack Ganssle in “Over Optimizing.” We may also be eliminating job opportunities for unskilled workers.

Be sure to take the poll that asks if technology is creating a world of haves and have nots.

In “iAppliances and the Net-Centric View”, Bernie Cole revisits the issue of naming embedded-networked-ubiquitous-computing systems. He says we are entering an era more of collision than convergence and since the resulting devices are not strictly for either computing or communicating, they need a new name.

The March issue of Embedded Systems Programming is on the streets, just in time for the Embedded Systems Conference. Here's what you'll find in it.You know your code will have bugs, but how many? “Bug Fishing” by Mark Lambuth offers a statistical sampling method used in biological studies to estimate programming bugs.

One of the big drawbacks to implementing Java in embedded systems has always been the overhead that garbage collection takes. In “Taking Out the Garbage” Kelvin Nilsen shows how you can take advantage of the early demise of heap objects to improve the real-time performance of garbage collection.

In another Java-related piece, “Making Java Real,” Michael Barr offers a status report on the real-time specification for Java.

The Beginner's Corner addresses scheduling issues this month in an introduction to Rate Monotonic Scheduling by David B. Stewart and Michael Barr. If you've got a lot of tasks to do, and tight deadlines to meet, rate monotonic analysis allows you to analyze and predict timing in real-time software systems.

Technology is making information available everywhere, everything from our private records to copyrighted music. Bill Gatliff questions where we should draw the line between the people's right to know and the individual's right to privacy — and a company's right to protect its intellectual property.

Before you can plug memory leaks, you have to find them. Memory management expert Niall Murphy presents a simple technique he has found useful in detecting and eliminating memory leaks in his programs.

Jack Crenshaw is seeing some trends in the industry that he's not sure he's ready for. He begins by defining “real time” and “embedded system” and then asks whether an RTOS is even worth the trouble.

Interpolation, prediction, extrapolation, approximation: these are just names we give to guesswork. Engineers can't know everything, but with the approximation techniques that our resident DSP expert Don Morgan describes, you can fill in the blanks.

In “The Death of Hardware Engineering,” Jim Turley scratches his head over the difference between hardware and software. When all hardware becomes just more software, where will the hardware engineers go — to programming school? Jim, who is on a roll in this hardware vs. software thing, moderates the panel at the Embedded Systems Conference.

In the communications age, language has never been more important, says Jack Ganssle. Better English means better code: there's nothing so valuable as a good comment. Too bad they're so rare.

Now I'm off to the Embedded Systems Conference.

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