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.

29 January, 2015

When I was in my early teens, I was an avid science fiction reader – I still dabble in the genre today. My two favorite authors were Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Asimov was an incredibly prolific author, publishing well over 300 books in his lifetime on a variety of subjects. He actually wrote more science fact books than science fiction. His writing style and very clear way of explaining complex ideas was a fine example.

Asimov also fancied himself as a futurologist … Read the rest of this entry »

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26 January, 2015

I have almost completed the job of cataloging my articles that have been published at embedded.com Here are another four, which address some key development topics: the sharing of code between multiple threads of execution; accessing low level device registers in C; selecting an operating system; making use of non-volatile memory … Read the rest of this entry »

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22 January, 2015

Like most people nowadays, I use a computer for lots of purposes. Using a computer is all about using software. If a particular program does the job for you, to a large extent it does not matter what kind of computer you have, so long as it supports the chosen software. Along with the operating system, which, in my case, is Windows, there are a number of “standard issue” business programs that most people use – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc. – and we may or may not have an opinion about these, but they are a given.

Other software we get to choose and that is what I am pondering today … Read the rest of this entry »

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19 January, 2015

I am not a great fan of video, as a medium. If I want to learn something, I am more likely to turn to the printed word. It is only when something is intrinsically visual that I turn to YouTube. Like the time I unexpectedly needed to gut some fish – there I was, working in the sink with two slippery fish and a sharp knife, with my wife holding an iPad showing a video of a rugged looking man doing the job more proficiently than I aspired to.

I think, however, that video may feature more strongly in my life this year … Read the rest of this entry »

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15 January, 2015

I am sure that you, like me, make extensive use of the Web [otherwise you probably would not be reading this – doh!]. I access numerous websites on a given day, but there are, of course, a handful that I utilize all the time – maybe multiple times a day. As I have been using the Web for just about 20 years now, I have observed some interesting changes in what is available, how it is used and what I access myself … Read the rest of this entry »


13 January, 2015

I always welcome contributions – guest blog posts – from my colleagues and associates. After all, that reduces the amount of work that I need to do – how could I refuse? But seriously, I think that a different “voice” from time to time is refreshing. My colleague Richard Vlamynck has appeared here before. He has an interesting perspective, sitting right on the cusp of hardware and software – definitely an embedded “Renaissance” man. Today Richard is musing on what actually constitutes a microcontroller … Read the rest of this entry »

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8 January, 2015

My Christmas present to my wife was a long weekend away in a luxury hotel. I had got what seemed to be a good package of the hotel and flights, and the travel company threw in a rental car too. I decided to keep the destination a secret, as my wife quite likes surprises. I told her enough about the climate etc. so that she could pack sensibly. We took the trip a few weeks before Christmas – I thought that it would enable us to brace ourselves for the holiday season. The destination remained a mystery up to and including the point that we were sitting in the departures lounge watching the list of flights for a gate announcement. I had even had to remind Libby not to look at her boarding pass as she waved it about on the entry to security. Finally, the destination was revealed: Jersey … Read the rest of this entry »


5 January, 2015

Although I regard the New Year as a time to look forward, I am continuing my catch-up process of cataloging embedded software articles that I have had published on embedded.com in the recent past. This time they cover medical systems, C function parameters, the basics of multitasking and the Forth language… Read the rest of this entry »

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23 December, 2014

For most of my adult life, I have been a regular visitor to the United States. Even though I have never lived there, I generally feel that I know a lot about the place – the people, the culture, the language … I often joke that I am bilingual: I speak English and American. But I still get caught out. The other day I used the term “off piste” in a metaphorical sense and was not understood. I am reminded of the famous description of the relationship between the UK and the US: “Two great nations divided by a common language.”

When it comes to holiday customs in general and celebrating Christmas in particular, I thought that I really understood matters … Read the rest of this entry »


18 December, 2014

I am sure that most people, like me, enjoy doing Good Things – helping others in one way or another. I am not sure that such activity is true altruism, which would imply no reward, because the pleasure one can gain is immense and unique. However, I have often felt that I do not really make a difference in the world; maybe the odd person’s life is changed a little, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Once in a while I come across somebody who really does change lives. That is interesting when I read about it, but much more exciting when it is someone that I know in person.

Today, the person whom I have in mind is Martine. Her husband, Roger, is my wife’s mother’s cousin, so I can just about claim to be related! Martine and Roger live in Vancouver in Canada – a country I really must get around to visiting. I have met them quite a few times and enjoy their company. In numerical terms, they are not young people – they are in their 70s, but they are living examples of the philosophy that age is a state of mind and I find them quite inspiring. I would have said that before Martine’s latest venture, but now words almost fail me … Read the rest of this entry »


16 December, 2014

As embedded systems become even more ubiquitous and complex, there is an increasing concern about security. The term means different things to different people, but I am thinking of the requirement for systems to be less vulnerable to tampering. Security measures are aimed at preventing, deterring or delaying the work of a hacker, who is trying to change the functionality of the device in some way. This might be to extract data from it or change its operation. In any case, the goal is likely to be theft or malevolence of some kind.

If a system really needs to be bullet proof, industrial grade encryption is called for. This normally requires specific hardware support, which, whilst readily available, might be considered overkill for an application where such high security is not necessary. In such cases, there are other options … Read the rest of this entry »

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8 December, 2014

I am often asked where to get in-depth information about embedded software development. Commonly, the query comes from a student who thinks that it sounds like an interesting career option. Typically they ask how I got started, but, although I am willing to share my story, I am not at all sure that the details are still relevant – that was then, this is now. Maybe they are after advice on which college course to take; perhaps they want to know about helpful websites; but, more often than not, they are after a reading list. Which books should they read? … Read the rest of this entry »


4 December, 2014

Sometimes I have an idea for a product, technology or business, which I think is really compelling, but is outside of my area of expertise to progress. In some cases, the idea is fanciful and just makes for a good conversation topic; others actually have potential. The other day, inspiration hit me. I have a killer idea, but no real means to implement it. So, if you want to pick it up, go ahead. If you make a fortune, please remember that you heard it here first … Read the rest of this entry »


1 December, 2014

I am continuing my catch-up process of cataloging embedded software articles that I have had published on embedded.com This time they cover the influence of software on power management, using a memory management unit, all about the C/C++ keyword static and the basics of multicore … Read the rest of this entry »

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27 November, 2014

If I am at an event where they are serving beer, I commonly make the joke that it is my favorite kind. People often question that statement and I have to explain that my favorite kind of beer is free beer. Everyone likes free stuff. But I am a firm believer in the TANSTAAFL principle – there is always a cost somewhere.

In the world of computer software, free stuff is definitely popular, but may not always be the best choice … Read the rest of this entry »


24 November, 2014

The Internet of Things [IoT] is a topic that appears in almost every news story or article in the world of embedded software right now. And it goes far beyond our immediate business – right across the electronics industry – as it is very much an encapsulation of hardware and software technologies. I wrote about IoT on this blog recently and someone suggested that I was rather dismissive of the whole IoT concept. That was not really the case – I am excited about IoT, but realistic at the same time … Read the rest of this entry »

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20 November, 2014

It is now four and a half years since I first got an iPad. With my first one, it was love at first swipe and I used the device for two years solid – all day, every day. The iPad 2 did not seem to offer enough to make me upgrade, but, the iPad 3 with significantly improved performance and the wonderful retina display won me over. My old iPad went to my mother-in-law (who never wanted computer, so we did not tell her that this is just what an iPad is!), who has been happily using it ever since … Read the rest of this entry »

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6 November, 2014

Although I know that it is a very un-manly thing to say – a bit like not being a sports fan – but I am not very interested in cars. I regard them as (expensive) tin boxes for going from A to B. Too many people (mainly, but not exclusively, men) are overly influenced by the image of cars. They judge people by their choice and drive like it is a competitive sport. This is all wrong on so many levels. I guess that I need to get back to my knitting …

Contrary to these comments, cars have been on my mind just lately … Read the rest of this entry »


3 November, 2014

The Fall is a big time for conferences and this week will see me clocking up some more air miles as I visit two events in Europe.

The first conference is in Stockholm, Sweden – Embedded Conference Scandinavia [ECS]. I attended this lively event last year and on several previous occasions. This year, I have two presentations, both on Tuesday:

At 10:00: Self-testing in Embedded Systems

At 14:00: Dynamic Memory Allocation & Fragmentation in C & C++

These are both technical sessions of 30 minutes duration.

On Thursday, I will be at IP-SOC in Grenoble, France. As has become something of a tradition, I will lead the embedded software track with a keynote:

At 09:00: IoT and Embedded Software: No Change or All Change?

If you are attending either of these events, please stop by and say hello. If you would like a copy of any of my slides, please drop me an email.

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30 October, 2014

It is rather ironic. I am not very interested in video and TV. Although I do go to see the odd movie, I am much more interested in still photography. I have a very nice TV, which I enjoy when I do want to watch something. I just hope that my family can help me get value for money. I mostly regard YouTube as a waste of bandwidth – many videos have almost no useful visual content.

Yet, I seem to have a habit of getting involved in these things … Read the rest of this entry »

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28 October, 2014

When I made the very first posting  to this blog, more than five years ago, I made the observation that the world of embedded software is very fashion conscious. I certainly do not mean that embedded software developers are renowned for their dress sense! I am talking about the way that a particular technology is really “hot” at any one time … Read the rest of this entry »

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16 October, 2014

I am a big advocate of public transportation. Although I have a car, of course, and recognize the convenience of personal vehicles, I see them as a luxury that we can decreasingly afford. I needed to drive to another city yesterday and a I found all the traffic snarl-ups so demoralizing, stressful and just a waste of time. Unfortunately, my timing and that of the train service did not correspond.

So, I use trains a lot and buses when appropriate. However, there are often times when something more personalized is needed, so I take a taxi … Read the rest of this entry »

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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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