Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm Scared

This week I spent a couple of days at regional seminars. At the Texas Instruments Technology Days 2010 in Cleveland, the thing I found most interesting is TI's new Analog Mirror. A single, large, pixel of their already popular DLP technology. Must be something cool we can do with this mirror? Dynamic Signs maybe?

The other seminar this week was sponsored by Atmel, to drum up design wins for their AVR32 family of parts, here in the Pittsburgh market region.

Most of the seminar was showing how to use AVR32 Studio that is based on Eclipse. Alas I probably won't use these parts because the seven year old machine supplied by the IT department would never handle such a large application. Just a fresh reboot of the machine already has 230M+ of the 512Meg of memory used with cooperate bloatware mandated by IT (Makes their jobs easier).

What is relevant to us here today is a comment that the instructor made, paraphrased:

We had to switch to Eclipse because all of the people coming to the Embedded World from the Microsoft World did not know how to write their programs without such a tool.

I find that scary. We'll end up with large, and potentially unsafe, expensive products, because Management assumes any programmer that can write a business application or web app. can design a safe embedded system if they only have the right tool.

Something else I find scary is the article Think it - Draw it - Build it by Mark Saunders, at Embedded.com.

Mark introduces us to the new Cypress Semiconductor PSoC Creator embedded design tool, for Cypress's new PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 programmable system-on-chip architectures. The PSoC 5 parts are something I want to investigate for use in a board test system I'm designing. You don't know what the board under test may need in a test system so a configurable system is the way to go.

However I find the marketing of this product family to be scary:

...You will not need to know the CPU architecture we're using, or how the analog comparator or digital timer components are implemented...

...[PSoC Creator] abstracts away the hardware so you do not need to be an expert on the device you are using or the inner workings of peripherals you program it with...

For the comparator is any overdrive required, how much? Is there any hysteresis to prevent oscillation? What happens when the counter rolls over, does it do The Right Thing? Hopefully some quality time spent with a quality data sheet (sadly far to many data sheets lack any quality) would answers these questions. Would the people using Eclipse from the Microsoft world even know to ask such questions?

Now are you starting to see why I'm scared? I fear that we are heading down the path of Think it - Draw it - Build it - Ship it - So we get paid for it - Doesn't mater if it works right.

How scared are you about the quality of our future Embedded Systems?