Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dan Saks three day C++ Seminar comes to Cleveland in May

If you missed the evening with Dan Saks earlier this month, you have a second chance to meet Dan and partake of his Embedded C++ Wisdom, in his first ever three day course, on May 21st through the 23rd, 2012.

USA Firmware and DeVore Technologies, are bringing Dan Saks into the Cleveland area, in the suburb of Beachwood, minutes from downtown Cleveland, famous for the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame, to give a three day long course in using C++ for Embedded Systems designes.

Dan Saks is one of the world's leading experts on the C and C++ programming languages and their use in developing Embedded Systems. Dan publishes his monthly column Programming Pointers, on

Advanced registration is required. Until April 23rd the price for the three days is $1650, after which time the price goes up.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RoboBots Battle 2012 and the 40 hour STEM week

Yesterday, March/24/2012, I went to the regional Robot Battle RoboBots: Battle Your Bot Off! 2012. This yearly event is the regions attempt to get young people interested in doing hands-on Embedded type work. This year there were 17 schools of 33 teams. You may see some pathetically poor quality videos of the event I took on my YouTube Channel (The crummy AT&T cell phone service in the area limits the length of video uploads to about eight seconds max, when it worked at all).

RoboBots is patterned after the BattleBots [TM] Competitions. The basic idea is two Bots go into the glass cage, one comes own functioning as the winner of the round and the looser comes out in pieces. While some might say this is promoting violence, most say it is promoting an understanding of the laws of physics in the Real World, and not the dry abstract texts of a physics book.

Do you remember such things as calculating the coefficient-of-rebound, or the transfer-of-momentum when two rotating objects touch from your Physics Class? BORING! Lets actually see what happens when metal collides with metal, and rotating drum meets rotating saw blade! Of course there are stringent rules under strict supervision so that no one is injured. These events are the type needed to attract the hands-on Kinesthetic Learners (the ones born with The Knack), into vocational fields.

"The shortage of people who know how to build, program, maintain, and repair robots has gotten so severe that, in some parts of the country, qualified candidates can practically write their own ticket." - Revenge of the robotics nerds: They're in demand By Anne Fisher in CNN Fortune & Money.

Sounds like a great and growing field to get into doesn't it? Maybe not, as a couple of the following quotes show:

"[The Automotive Industry] ... laid off thousands of workers, large numbers of robotics experts left the industry ... those people aren't coming back." - [IDem.]

"So, after a lifetime of watching older members [Like one or both of their parents] of the science and engineering community get outsourced, downsized, run ragged, and generally mistreated by their employers, young people don't want to sign up for the same thing?

Good for them. Maybe the kids today are smarter than we thought." - commenter on; Science and Engineering Workforce Has Stalled In the US.

I frequently see articles by The Establishment (the mythical 'Them') trying to push youth into in the categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The purveyors of such articles seem at a loss wondering why no one is interested. It is as simple as the work is hard (no mater how rewarding it might be), undervalued by management (frequently seen as an expendable easy to replace commodity) and society in general. Under paid compared to those frequently seen in the media of athletes, celebrates, politicians and banksters (if you or I did what Wall Street did/does we'd be in jail). Also there is a constant fear the job will be outsourced to a foreign country, or that someone willing to work for less than a livable wage on a H-1B visa will take their job. Then there is my personal pet peeve of the long hours demanded by management. What is there not to get when it comes to lack of interest in these fields?

As far back as 150 years ago during the Industrial Revolution it was found that tired workers make more mistakes and have more injuries. As fatigue and burnout mount productivity starts to go backwards compared to a standard forty hour week. For some more modern statistics take a look at the following articles:

Then there is also the lack of vacation time. American workers have become so fearful of losing their job if they take any vacation, at companies that at least claim to offer it on paper, that they take none and further increase their burnout and lowering the company's bottom-line in the process.

So are you now ready to sign up for a STEM based career?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Object Oriented C 'old-school' or the best way to attack hardware?

This comment by Igor Soumenkov of Kaspersky Lab on the Security List struck me as odd in the discussion of the Duqu Worm:

"All the conclusions above indicate a rather professional team of developers, which appear to be reusing older code written by top "old school" developers. Such techniques are normally seen in professional software and almost never in today's malware. Once again, these indicate that Duqu, just like Stuxnet, is a "one of a kind" piece of malware which stands out like a gem from the large mass of "dumb" malicious program we normally see."

What Mr. Soumenkov is commenting on is the use of Object Oriented C (OOC) techniques in the Duqu Worm. The Duqu Worm looks for information that could be useful in attacking industrial control systems. The part I find odd is the comment makes me think the people working to decode Duqu have no experience in the Embedded System space, where OOC techniques are common (they did not recognize the technique, and to their credit asked the Internet Community for help in identifying the technique). To me it just makes sense that to attack hardware you'd have people with hardware experience writing the attack. Why does that make such code 'old-school'? Continuing Mr. Soumenkov comment:

Having spoken to some of the people who prefer such techniques, they gave two main reasons for it:

  1. They don't trust C++ compilers; these are usually people who started programming in the old days, when assembler was the top choice. C was a direct evolutionary step over assembler and quickly became a standard. When C++ was published, many old school programmers referred to stay away from it because of distrust in memory allocation and other obscure language features which cause indirect execution of code (for instance, constructors).
  2. Extreme portability. Once again, in the old days (10-12 years ago) C++ was not entirely standardized and it was possible to have C++ code that would compile with MSVC but would not compile with (say) Watcom C++. If you wanted to go for extreme portability and target every existing platform out there, you'd go with C.

Both reasons appear indicate the code was written by a team of experienced, "old-school" developers.

...The event-driven architecture was developed as a part of the Duqu Framework or its OO C extension...

There are these Object Oriented C frame works, among others I'm sure:

SOO being particularly similar to the OOC framework used in Duqu but created to late to be the one used in Duqu.

So is your Embedded System code 'old-school' because it is Event Driven Object Oriented C, or your code is that way because that makes for efficient embedded code that is easy to maintain and adapt quickly?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

From Its Birthplace: A Symposium on the Future of Nuclear Power, March 27 and 28th and the coming Grid Collapse

As you are going to be in the Cleveland area this week for Dan Saks visit, you might want to hang around until next week for the Symposium on the Future of Nuclear Power, in Pittsburgh. This symposium is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy and the Swanson School of Engineering.

The main topics of the for symposium sessions are:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

  • Nuclear Power and Energy Alternatives - 2:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
  • America's Nuclear Future - 7:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

  • Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. Fukushima Daiichi - 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • Legal and Financial Aspects of Nuclear Power - 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Registration for the event is required and there is a $300 fee to attend.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Embedded Systems or Software Safety? Westing House Nuclear is one of the largest employers for Embedded System Designers in the Pittsburgh region. Also, all of our widgets currently require to electricity to run them. Our current path of relying on 'Green' energy, and the closing of Coal based power plants is only going to lead to a failing Electric Grid as early as this summer (2012); I'll have more to say about that in a future blog.

Just this week the Utilities and the Department of Homeland Security ran a Power Hungry: Prototyping Replacement EHV Transformers test, better summarized as the Transformer Replacement Test.

As I've reported previously something like an EMP event, or a Solar Storm could put the Grid out of commission for days to months. Some of the mega-transformers have a two year lead time, when they need to be replaced. 90% of consumed power passes through a high voltage transformer at some point. If these transformers fail, especially in large numbers, therein lies a very big problem.

Small, local, Thorium Pebble-Bed Reactor buried in backyards solves the whole Grid collapse issue (there is no grid, or at least a very small one)...

Embedded C++ expert Dan Saks to speak in Cleveland this Thursday March 22nd

The Firmware Engineers of Northeast Ohio welcomes Dan Saks to the Cleveland area this Thursday March 22nd, 2012, Time: 6pm to 9pm. Dan Saks is one of the world's leading experts on the C and C++ programming languages and their use in developing Embedded Systems. Dan publishes his monthly column Programming Pointers, on

As our FENO speaker and presenter this month, Dan will share his wealth of knowledge and expertise as he takes your questions about using C++ in firmware development projects.

In order to accommodate the turn out our friends at LeanDog have made arrangement with the Airport Authority to hold our event at Burke Lakefront Airport adjacent to the LeanDog boat and office!

Finally, this event is structured similarly to past events. Expect to have a high quality catered dinner (Come hungry!), followed by some opening remarks, our speaker Mr. Saks and then an hour of networking. Register at:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vector Potential Communication System: Revolutionary change to the world's Communications Systems

I heard from Robert Zimmerman and Dr. Ted Anderson both today. They were both the subject of my blog entry, Transmission and Reception of Longitudinally-Polarized Momentum Waves By Robert K. Zimmerman. See that article on the background of this new technology, as I'm not going to repeat it here; This all comes down to things I've covered in the past, Aharanov-Bohm Effect (Physics), Poynting Vector (Mathematics), Scalar Waves (Pseudoscience), Inert Gas, J.H.Rogers etc. Wanted to get this information out to you before it is 'lost' again...

Robert said that the fee has been paid to the patent office on his Vector Potential Communication System (Do ignore that picture of a dish pointed at the sky, that is not how this technology works), and the patent is about to be issued. Robert also said there would be a follow up to the article he did last year coming out in an new issue of QEX this year.

  • Exploits untapped frequency bands for transmission
  • Significantly reduces power consumption, especially at the transmitter, saving energy
  • Increases flexibility for user and allows them to control range and power at the receiver
  • Enhances stealth capabilities as the signal cannot be detected by conventional antennas

Dr. Ted passed on information about his book on Plasma Antennas, which are also important to Vector Potential Communication Systems:

If no one slaps a national security order or some other catastrophic event happens (they have before) this is a world changing event when this technology is commercialized.

Consider that maybe no one has found 'ET' in the search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence because they, and the military, have been using this technology all along...