The Colin Walls Blog

This blog is a discussion of embedded software matters - news, comment, technical issues and ideas, along with other passing thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind.

17 April, 2014

Even though the UK is very much a secular country, we seem to go all out to celebrate Easter. Maybe it is because Passover is at a similar time; maybe it is because we actually like to mark the fact that Spring has sprung; or perhaps we just like chocolate. In any case, I am busy tidying up ready for a 4-day weekend, so only a quick post today.

I would like to set you a challenge … Read the rest of this entry »

10 April, 2014

When I first visited California, in March 1986, I was looking forward to the sunshine. I was there for 4 weeks and, for the first 7 days, that was what I got. For the remainder on my time, it either rained or drizzled. As a Brit, I am somewhat obsessed with weather, which I partially explained here some time ago.

Visiting California again last week, the talk was all about the recent drought … Read the rest of this entry »

6 April, 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my involvement in a program to connect schools with industry, with a particular focus on technology. Part of this activity supports a UK government initiative [there are two words that I rarely seem to use next to one another] to teach every child to program computers. In the US, I believe the plan is for everyone to know how to program, which is rather ambitious.

I am wondering about the sense in this … Read the rest of this entry »

31 March, 2014

It is that time of year again! For many folks in the embedded software business, the arrival of Spring means that it must be time for the Embedded Systems Conference [ESC]. Over the years it has spawned a number of variants across the US [Chicago and Boston at least] and abroad [Brazil, India and UK come to mind]. But I think that most people regard the West coast event [in San Jose, then San Francisco, then back to San Jose] as “the original”. In recent years it has had other names and is now known as EE Live! [must nor forget the "!"], where ESC is just a part.

ESC is this week at the San Jose Convention Center. I will be there, as usual, and look forward to seeing what is new in the business, meeting old friends and colleagues and, I hope, meeting a few blog readers face to face. So, if you are in town, please stop by the Mentor Embedded booth [#1812 - just think of Tchaikovsky] and look out for me. I will be around the earlier part of the day on Wednesday and throughout the show hours on Thursday. Apart from meeting me, there’s a chance to win a GoPro HERO 3+ Camera!

I have two conference presentations:

  • Self-testing in Embedded Systems
  • USB 3 – An Introduction for Embedded Software Developers

If you would like a copy of my slides, please email. See you there!

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27 March, 2014

In broad terms, there are two kinds of people in the world: there are those who can accept technology or phenomena without questioning it or having to understand how it operates; and there are those who are afflicted with the Need to Know. I am a sufferer of this affliction.

There are many things that I do satisfactorily understand, but a particular one eludes me … Read the rest of this entry »

24 March, 2014

This week I am crossing to the Dark Side. I am a software engineer, but I work for an EDA company, which, although committed to supporting embedded software development, is dominated by hardware design knowledge and culture. There is always a kind of tension between hardware and software designers and I feel it is likely to be for ever thus. This week I am attending an event which is entirely focused on EDA – DATE 2014 in Dresden, Germany.

For those not familiar with this conference, it is essentially the European version of DAC, but on a smaller scale. I have not “changed sides”, but I was invited to participate in a panel session looking at virtual prototyping. I am the “token software guy” and hope to bring a slightly different perspective. We shall see.

If you are going to DATE, you might like to stop by and say “guten tag”. Otherwise, if you wanted a copy of the [few] slides that I get to present – “Virtual Prototyping: The Software Perspective” – please email.

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20 March, 2014

When I was [much] younger – maybe until my early 20s – I thought that there was something very wrong with the world. It was something that I thought that I might have been able to fix, if I were to be persuasive and influential enough. As it turned out, I never did fix the “problem”, but came to realize that it was not an issue after all. In fact, what I had seen as a problem, was really a good thing.

My issue was that there were many people who did not think like me … Read the rest of this entry »

17 March, 2014

You might question why, in a blog that is supposed to be about embedded software, I am considering the selection of an embedded CPU, which is clearly a hardware matter. It would be a fair question, except that, in embedded system design, the development of hardware and software are inextricably entwined, each having an influence on the other.

So, how do software considerations affect the selection of a CPU? … Read the rest of this entry »


13 March, 2014

Technological progress is a curious thing and brings out strange reactions in people. Some people adopt a new technology just because it is new; others eschew it for the exact same reason. I aspire to take the middle ground – appreciating technology when it is useful and somewhat proven, instead of being an early adopter.

At the weekend, I found myself in a discussion about books and their future … Read the rest of this entry »

10 March, 2014

I am always interested in receiving feedback and comment on my blog posts and, when I recently wrote about embedded software engineering priorities, I did receive some interesting responses. When I get some useful input, I commonly ask permission to publish it. Sometimes this is refused, but usually I am given leave to post the comments.

In this case, the comments are, IMHO, quite controversial … Read the rest of this entry »


6 March, 2014

At a certain age, one arrives at the conclusion that it is time to try things – essentially before it is too late. As I have written before, there are many new things that I have been sampling. Part of this philosophy is to think about stuff that I might want to do, but also it is a matter of being aware of and responsive to opportunities. This in turn means that a default answer to a question might be “yes”.

So, when someone suggested that I might like to be on a TV quiz show … Read the rest of this entry »


3 March, 2014

Last week, as I previously previewed, was Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany. Now that I am back home, footsore and tired [and still harboring the symptoms of a head cold that makes traveling even less fun than normal], I can reflect on my experiences.

When I return from such events, it is always expected that I will have gained a firm impression of what the event was all about and what trends were apparent … Read the rest of this entry »

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28 February, 2014

Sometimes, I learn about an aspect of the world which astounds me to the extent that I feel compelled to share. That was the feeling that I experienced recently when I read a news story which, in a nutshell, said that the majority of young Americans believe in astrology. Actually, it is worse than that – they believe that astrology has a basis in science!

I think that this needs some careful thought … Read the rest of this entry »

22 February, 2014

Next week, the world’s largest event, dedicated to embedded systems, takes place: Embedded World is on Tuesday-Thursday 25-27 February in Nuremberg, Germany. I have attended this show for many years and talked about it here. This year is no exception.

Mentor Embedded has a strong presence at the show in Booth 4‐422 in Hall 4, with numerous demos to see and members of the team to meet. I will be around on the booth for much of the show – do come along and say hello.

Embedded World is much more than a trade show – there is a growing conference too. The sessions are strictly vetted to ensure a good technical content. A number of members of our team have papers to present. This year, I have two:

  • Tues 25 Feb 14:00-14:30 – session 05 – “Power Management in Embedded Systems”
  • Thurs 27 Feb 11:30-12:00 – session 20 – “Interprocessor Communications and MCAPI”

Do come along if you are at the conference. If you would like copies of my presentations after the event, please email.

You can see a complete run down of Mentor Embedded’s presence, which outlines all the demos and lists all the conference papers.

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17 February, 2014

Embedded systems are evolving – that is blindingly obvious. But that does not just mean that we are finding more and more uses for smart devices. It also means that embedded applications, that have been around for some years, are becoming more sophisticated. A few examples: central heating controllers, intruder alarms, kitchen appliances, scientific and medical instruments … The list goes on.

The increased sophistication commonly occurs in two areas. The first is connectivity [networking]. The second, and often more challenging, one is the user interface [UI] … Read the rest of this entry »

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13 February, 2014

Like most people nowadays, my life is littered with electronic devices. My iPad is special though, partly because I bought one without knowing why I wanted it [which is not my usual modus operandi], but also because it is my [almost] constant companion. I have written before analyzing how I use the device and like to revisit this topic from time to time.

I am currently in the horns of a dilemma, but more on that later. For the moment, I will look at how I use my iPad on a daily basis … Read the rest of this entry »

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12 February, 2014

The Internet of Things is a big issue right now, which I wrote about a few months back. Tomorrow I am moderating a Google hangout titled “Internet of Things (IoT) Connectivity for Embedded Devices” where some experts will discussing this important matter. You can register here and will have the chance to pose questions online. If you cannot attend, a recording of the session will be available afterwards.

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10 February, 2014

Apart from writing about embedded software matters, I also read widely and enjoy the perspectives offered by many of the key figures in the field. One writer, who always gets my attention, is Jim Turley. Jim is never afraid of raising contentious issues and tends to take something of a chip-centric view of embedded systems.

He seemed surprised, in a recent article, to find that engineers’ priorities might be different … Read the rest of this entry »

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6 February, 2014

Many people, that I know, have careers, or did have and are now retired and look back on them. I think of a career as being a structured progress through the years of work, which may be planned out in detail right from the beginning. There is much talk about people having multiple careers in their lifetime, as we live longer and have extended working lives.

I do not think of myself as having had a career – I have just spent 40 years or so doing stuff that interested me … Read the rest of this entry »


3 February, 2014

Complexity never, in itself, impresses me. I am impressed people’s ability to understand complex ideas and create complex machines, but a truly elegant and simple solution is always what gives me most pleasure. This might beg the question as to why I work in software – a business well known for creating incredibly complex things. I often ask myself the same question.

Systems where there are safety issues are a particular concern and a context, which is of interest to us all, is automotive systems … Read the rest of this entry »

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30 January, 2014

I read some advice the other day, which suggested that you should always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge so that, should there be the sudden need to celebrate something, you are prepared. The cause for celebration could be something insignificant – like discovering a bottle of Champagne in the fridge. A silly joke, but I like the idea that life should be punctuated by celebrations.

Although I doubt whether I will be cracking open any Champagne myself today, I feel that I do have cause to be in celebratory mood … Read the rest of this entry »

27 January, 2014

After talking about low power CPU modes last week, I make no apology for returning to the topic. Reducing power on a single core embedded system is a challenge. With a multicore design, there are many other nuances. As with most system development, there are two highly interrelated facets to the process: design and verification [which software developers commonly call debugging].

Different semiconductor vendors have different ideas on how to build such systems … Read the rest of this entry »

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23 January, 2014

Being “middle-aged” is not so bad – that is my conclusion. For a long time I resisted this description of my temporal status in life, but I have now seen the light. We talk in terms of people being “young”, “middle-aged” or “old”. I have figured out that these labels really apply to someone’s frame of mind and are not connected to specific ages. A young person is planning and dreaming – looking ahead to their life and all the things they might do. An old person [whom I think of as someone 20+ years older than me] is likely to be looking back on their life, hopefully with a sense of satisfaction about achievements and lessons learned. A middle-aged person still has plans and dreams, but they are likely to be taking action with a sense of urgency that they lacked in youth.

I have been dabbling with all kinds of new stuff: glass blowing, stained glass making, drawing, blacksmithing, archery and flying a plane are just a few examples. But I have also been learning to swim … Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Colin Walls

I have over twenty-five years experience in the electronics industry, largely dedicated to embedded software. When not working, I enjoy photography, books and music. Learn more about me, including my go-to karaoke song and the best parts of being British.

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Colin’s Upcoming Appearances

  • Embedded World
    February 25-27: Designing for Ultra-Low Energy, Multicore Processors I
  • EE Live!
    April 1-2: Self-testing in Embedded Systems, USB 3.0