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.

28 August, 2014

I like food. I am not a great enthusiast for restaurants, in general, but I do like to eat. I enjoy cooking and, at the time of writing, I am planning for a supper with friends on Friday evening – I think a French theme is in order. I watch very little TV and I am certainly not an avid viewer of cooking shows. However, a few times recently, I have been persuaded by other members of my family to watch The Great British Bake Off.

On one of these shows the other day, I learned something surprisingly interesting … Read the rest of this entry »


18 August, 2014

Although I enjoy writing articles and blogs and giving presentations – I am always hoping that I can impart some useful information and help engineers with their projects – the Q&A session after a presentation is often the moist interesting part. If I am doing a Web seminar, for example, I normally have a one hour slot; I try to talk for no more than 20-25 minutes, leaving plenty of time for Q&A. I find that so often it is the questions that trigger ideas for articles, blogs and further presentations. So, please keep them coming – comment here or email are always options.

I attended a recent Web seminar at which there were lots of interesting questions … Read the rest of this entry »

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14 August, 2014

As I write this, I am a week away from a short vacation [so there will be a temporary radio silence around here next week] and, somehow, this puts me into a philosophical mood – pondering the meaning of life and all that. I wrote a while ago about learning to swim – a journey which continues – and I have made plenty of progress, but I am still not quite where I want to be.

I have realized that progress is not always simple forward movement … Read the rest of this entry »


11 August, 2014

I have always liked writing. From an early age, I had an ambition to write a book. My first attempt, in my mid-teens, was a science fiction novel. It was not a success. I wrote about 100 pages and I may even still have the typescript. I remember being embarrassed last time I looked at it. One of the best days of my life was back in 1986, when a jiffy bag arrived in the mail containing a book with my name on the cover.

Since then, I have never really stopped writing … Read the rest of this entry »

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7 August, 2014

I do not do diets in the sense of weight loss programs. We all have a “diet” – the combination of foods that we eat – and I have always advocated as much variation as possible. Although I do eat things that are less good for me, I am conscious of what constitutes a healthy diet. I like to avoid food with additives, which can be challenging, as I wrote about a while back. When I was younger, I might have been described as “skinny”, but time has taken its toll and, although I am far from being fat, I could do with rearranging my weight a little.

I recently encountered the 5:2 diet … Read the rest of this entry »

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4 August, 2014

I started a couple of weeks ago, when I received an email from Sandeep Vasant from Ahmedabad University in India. For reasons that he has yet to reveal, he was having trouble with some code like this:

int a=10, b=20, c=0;
c = a++ + a++ + b++ + b++ + ++a + ++b;

He tried this with one compiler and the resulting values of a, b and c were 13, 23 and 96 respectively. He was satisfied with this result. Then he tried a different compiler, which yielded a final value for c of 98, which he found confusing.

I started looking into this, certain that the explanation was simple … Read the rest of this entry »

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31 July, 2014

Most of us are blessed with five fully functional senses, but I guess the two that most people consider critical are sight and hearing. Indeed it is a common discussion question: would you rather go blind or deaf? For me, the answer is simple: I would rather not lose either sense! I have always been interested in sight issues. I guess that is because I have less than 100% vision – I have worn glasses all my life. I have supported a couple of blindness-related charitable organizations [like the one that I mentioned here] – particularly in connection with my photography.

I know very few people with severe sight problems, but deafness seems to be far more common … Read the rest of this entry »


28 July, 2014

I often need to do a bit of programming – normally C or C++. I am not generally writing a real software application, as that is not my job, but I often need to produce chunks of code to illustrate a point in an article, presentation or blog post. This code can be anything from a single line to a few dozen. Obviously, all I need to do is create a text file for the code and build it using a suitable toolchain for execution on my PC or for inspection of the resulting assembly language output.

Recently, I was introduced to an interesting alternative … Read the rest of this entry »

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24 July, 2014

Some time ago, I wrote about my view on the future of music. In a nutshell, I was saying that live performance was what it was all about. Time has moved on and I have further thoughts on the topic. Also, over that time, e-books have become quite mainstream and I question where that technology is taking us.

It seems that David Bowie has been having the same kind of thoughts … Read the rest of this entry »

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21 July, 2014

Multicore continues to be a hot topic, as an ever-increasing number of embedded systems are designed with multiple CPUs – most commonly multiple cores on a chip. One of the challenges with understanding multicore is that the term actually covers a number of architectures and approaches to design. This is a topic that I have discussed somewhat before, but the increasing popularity of multicore and additional technology options make it a topic worth revisiting.

Figuring out the terminology is the first challenge … Read the rest of this entry »

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16 July, 2014

Words matter to all of us, as it is arguably our ability to communicate that enabled the human race to progress as far as we have. I am very much a words person. Even though I do photography, spoken/written communication is very important in my life, particularly professionally. One of my treasured possessions is a 2-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which I received as a gift nearly 30 years ago. I like word games. Scrabble is the benchmark; Bananagrams is a new favorite.

Although I work with words all day every day, there is still the potential for confusion, annoyance and surprise … Read the rest of this entry »


14 July, 2014

As I have talked about before, I am particularly interested in programming languages, with a strong focus on embedded, of course. So, I always take a look when I see a survey that looks at what developers are using and what the trends are. When I saw that the IEEE were publishing some results, they really had my attention.

However, all was not what it seems … Read the rest of this entry »

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10 July, 2014

_DSC0022I recall reading somewhere [please do not ask me where!] that, every day, more photographs are taken than were shot on the previous day. And this has been true since the dawn of photography as a popular activity, when Kodak’s slogan was “You Press the Button, We Do the rest” in 1888. With cameras getting cheaper and phones and tablets with camera facilities becoming ubiquitous, I guess this trend is set to continue. This begs a question: what do you do with all those images? In the past, it was common to make photo albums, which often became much valued keepsakes. Indeed, I recently wrote about the return of a lost family photo album.

With digital photography, there are numerous other possibilities … Read the rest of this entry »


7 July, 2014

I have made a number of recent postings focused on C++ issues, responding to a number of questions. I have a few more planned, but I was intending to give this topic a rest for a while. However, my eye was caught by one question, which I felt had some potential:

I learned that Objective C objects are not complete copies of the class object. In other words, only the data and certain static structures are independent for each instance of a class. The methods are kept in a central location for all objects to use. Is there any C++ implementation for embedded systems that use this feature?

This sounds simple, but this question raises quite a few issues … Read the rest of this entry »

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3 July, 2014

I recently had a spiritual experience. My daughter and I went to a Place of Worship one Sunday. We were welcomed by a young follower of The Faith – I would call him a disciple. He told us about his beliefs, listened to our doubts and answered our questions. We stood at the shrine while he explained how much better life would be if we followed The Faith. We were under no pressure or obligation to part with money, but, prior to our departure, I made a substantial payment.

We headed off to meet my wife for lunch, my daughter swinging a carrier bag containing her new MacBook … Read the rest of this entry »


19 June, 2014

At some time or another, just about everyone has their IQ measured. Such a test might be an explicit IQ measurement, where you get a score afterwards – 100 is the mean result. This may be for fun or perhaps for consideration for membership of MENSA [as I dabbled with many years ago]. Often such tests are used as part of a broader assessment or have a specific application.

An example is computer programming aptitude … Read the rest of this entry »

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16 June, 2014

Following on from my recent online C++ lecture series, I found that I had a lot of interesting questions from the audience, which I had limited time to answer. It seemed logical to do so here. So this is the first of a number of posts where I will address one or more of these questions. If you have any questions about embedded software [not just C++], please email me and I will do my best to answer them.

For today, there are just 3 C++ related queries … Read the rest of this entry »

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12 June, 2014

For me, seeing live music is a passion. I take as many opportunities as I can to attend performances of all kinds of music. I have a very broad taste. I am a frequent visitor to our local jazz club. I like to go to festivals. Last week we went to see a brilliant classical guitarist.

Yesterday evening it was the turn of progressive rock – a friend and I went to see AsiaRead the rest of this entry »


9 June, 2014

A frequent question which I am asked in person or by other means is “Where can I learn about embedded software?” Although this can come from young people looking for a career [in which case their choice of college course is probably the way forward], most such inquiries come from “normal” software engineers [i.e. folks who a used to programming desktop computers etc.] or hardware developers.

There are lots of possible answers to the question – beyond “it depends” … Read the rest of this entry »

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5 June, 2014

Even though I am a guy, I do have feelings. Two things, in particular, can stir emotions for me: if someone, about whom I care, experiences loss or disappointment, I feel strong empathy along with a desire to fix the problem; when I witness, or even just hear about, selfless acts of kindness, I can be intensely moved.

Just recently, I experienced both of these situations … Read the rest of this entry »


2 June, 2014

Maybe I should apologize for going on about C++ yet again, but, following on from the recent online lecture series that I conducted, I learned that there is a lot of interest in the topic. I also found the experience a very fruitful source of ideas, inspiration and queries – much of this will appear here.

During the lectures, I would periodically pose a question, which the attendees could answer via the chat. An interesting one was: how does a struct differ from a class in C++? … Read the rest of this entry »

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27 May, 2014

Last week I conducted a series of 5 online lectures about C++ for embedded applications. [You can still access the materials and recordings from this site.] As with any such activity, although I hope that I am imparting information and advice, I also expect to get questions and ideas back. I was not disappointed. There were many smart questions that made me think [= good!]. There were no dumb questions that I know of, as the only dumb question is the one that you fail to ask.

It got particularly interesting when C++ constructors and destructors get mixed up with pointers … Read the rest of this entry »

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22 May, 2014

A common phrase, which I seem to hear with increasing frequency is: “That is a 1st World problem.” Such a challenge is normally something to do with modern technology – perhaps a smart phone not synchronizing with the cloud properly. Ultimately, a 1st World problem is a matter which seems annoying, but is actually trivial in the global scheme of things. Most of all, such problems seem totally unimportant when compared with 3rd World issues – like lack of food/water, mass genocide, stuff like that.

This week I encountered a couple of examples of new technology – one aimed at the 1st World and the other clearly intended for the 3rd World … 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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