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.

7 September, 2017

I enjoy reading and I always have a book on the go [at least one]. Currently I am reading a book about mathematics and its applicability in everyday life [details here, if you are interested]. The key concept is that mathematics [or most of it anyway] is really just common sense, but it is codified to make it reusable and reliable. So, frequently one can see a solution to a problem, without doing [or maybe with being able to do] the mathematical analysis to derive it. The book addresses various aspects of the topic, which are illustrated with stories.

One story particularly stuck in my mind, so I thought that I would share it … Read the rest of this entry »


31 August, 2017

The idea started to hatch a couple of years ago. Libby and I realized that 2017 was going to be a special year for us. This year we both turned 60, we both had children and we have a daughter-in-law all of whom turned [or will turn] 30, we had been together for 10 years and married for 5 years. So much to celebrate! This called for a serious party.

We started the real planning about a year ago and gradually the event took shape and seemed to have a life of its own … Read the rest of this entry »


28 August, 2017

My latest article on embedded.com has been published. This piece is the eleventh installment of the RTOS Revealed series, which will continue to appear through 2017 and beyond. The series will cover every aspect of real time operating systems.

Tasks – configuration and API introduction

In this article, I start to look at tasks, considering how they are configured and outline some API calls … Read the rest of this entry »

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24 August, 2017

It was all over the news earlier in the week. Even though I was nowhere near the path of totality, I was very aware that a total eclipse of the sun was due on Monday. Many people that I know were excited. Some taking the day off and/or traveling to an optimum viewing location. I had no good excuse to be in the US, so I was not amongst them.

This got me thinking about eclipses and their significance … Read the rest of this entry »


21 August, 2017

My latest video blog is now available. This is the first in an occasional series wheer I look at RTOS features and functionality. This time I am looking at inter-task communication. You can see the video here or here:

Future video blogs will continue to look at topics of interest to embedded software developers. Suggestions for topics are always welcome via comment, email or social networking.

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17 August, 2017

Last week we went to Stockholm, Sweden to attend a family wedding. We traveled a few days early in order to take a mini-vacation and see some friends who live in the city. Although I have been to Sweden many times on business, I have not really had a lot of recreational time in the city and this was my chance. We got a good deal on flights and accommodation and actually stayed in a hotel that I have commonly used on business trips, which felt slightly odd, but was familiar and convenient.

One aspect of the trip became more of an adventure than we had expected … Read the rest of this entry »

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14 August, 2017

This is the first of an occasional series of blog postings where I will focus on a specific feature or functionality of real time operating systems [RTOS]. These postings tie in somewhat with my RTOS Revealed series of articles on embedded.com My perspective will be as a user of Mentor’s Nucleus RTOS, from where I may draw examples, but most of the information will be much more widely applicable.

To start off with, I am going to look at how data may be passed between tasks … Read the rest of this entry »

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7 August, 2017

My latest video blog is now available. I am looking at compiler optimization and how such a tool can appear to be doing magic. You can see the video here or here:

Future video blogs will continue to look at topics of interest to embedded software developers. Suggestions for topics are always welcome via comment, email or social networking.

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3 August, 2017

I often marvel at the fact that I now live in a science fiction world. At least, a lot of things that are now everyday occurrences would have seemed very futuristic just a few years ago. This phenomenon is manifest wherever I look. Just staring at the screen, as I write this text, is an obvious example. But communication is the most amazing area of advancement. With a little box in my pocket, I can talk to just about anyone on the planet, [almost] regardless of where I and they are located. This is straight out of Star Trek.

So, with all this technology, communication should be smoother and just generally better nowadays. But that is not the whole story … Read the rest of this entry »


31 July, 2017

My latest article on embedded.com has been published. This piece is the tenth installment of the RTOS Revealed series, which will continue to appear through 2017 and beyond. The series will cover every aspect of real time operating systems.

The scheduler – options and context save

In this article, I continue looking at some of the details of how an RTOS scheduler is implemented and consider the context save and restore process … Read the rest of this entry »

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27 July, 2017

Music festivals were very big back in the 1960s, though I was too young to have much awareness. Of course, Woodstock is the most well known, but there were certainly quite a few on my side of the pond. I do not really know why they died out; I am sure there were some in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, but they were not so high profile. I equally do not know what stimulated their revival in the early years of this century, but they are certainly a big thing nowadays. Modern technology is part of the answer – the idea of a shared experience is becoming part of normal culture, both virtually and in real life.

I guess that everyone has their own reasons for going to festivals – I have a few … Read the rest of this entry »


24 July, 2017

An increasingly important factor in embedded software development is power management. Historically, this was a solely hardware issue; that has all changed in recent years. Once the software has the ability to take control of factors that affect the system’s power consumption, it is logical that it should exercise that control in an efficient way.

Much is said about the implementation of power management software, but less is said about its design … Read the rest of this entry »

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17 July, 2017

I was recently approached by a software developer, who was new to embedded programming. As is commonly the case, we had a language problem. It was not that his English was deficient – he just did not speak “embedded”. He asked a question: How do I log on to my target hardware to do debugging?

On the surface, this is a reasonable question. Having ascertained that he was not using Linux – he was using a conventional RTOS – I felt that I needed to explain his options for debugging on an embedded system … Read the rest of this entry »

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13 July, 2017

Like all modern consumers, I have a love/hate relationship with many suppliers, which can be largely driven by their products or their customer service [or, sometimes, both]. Mostly, I am aware from being on the “other side”, customers happiness is largely driven by managing their expectations, then delivering on them.

In recent days, I have had slightly irritating experiences with two very different companies, both of whom had the opportunity to have a totally satisfied customer, but failed to take it … Read the rest of this entry »


10 July, 2017

My latest video blog is now available. For a change, instead of a technical discussion, I am talking about getting into embedded software and how my career got started. You can see the video here or here:

Future video blogs will continue to look at topics of interest to embedded software developers. Suggestions for topics are always welcome via comment, email or social networking.


6 July, 2017

I have an enduring interest in the English language. I am constantly fascinated by the immense power of this communications tool. I am not a subscriber to the view that English should be carefully preserved; I feel strongly that one of its great virtues is the ability to evolve to meet the needs of the time. A language is a living thing and must be allowed its freedom.

Sometimes, however, things go a little awry or get confusing … Read the rest of this entry »


3 July, 2017

My latest article on embedded.com has been published. This piece is the ninth installment of the RTOS Revealed series, which will continue to appear through 2017 and beyond. The series will cover every aspect of real time operating systems.

The scheduler – implementation

In this article, I start looking at some of the details of how an RTOS scheduler is implemented … Read the rest of this entry »

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29 June, 2017

Last week, we were on vacation. We went to a place in the North of mainland Greece. Although we have been to the island of Kefalonia a few times, which we enjoy, we had never been to the mainland. A friend recommended a particular area and we thought that we would give it a try. Last year, we used a Greece-based travel company and I was very impressed by their local knowledge, attention to detail and overall customer service. As they offered an appropriate package, I booked with them.

Although I would definitely say that we had a good vacation, I did learn an interesting lesson … Read the rest of this entry »


26 June, 2017

All C/C++ functions have a single point of entry and it is widely thought that a single point of exit is logical. Indeed, a number of programming standards [MISRA C for example] insist on this approach. The logic is that a single return statement makes for clearer, easier to read code. Additionally, a single exit point means that there is less chance of failing to execute function exit code, which may deallocate resources etc. Such an error leads to memory leaks and the like. The contrary argument is that an early return might avoid the need for some convoluted logic to direct the execution flow to the end of the function – a nest of if … else constructs can be hard to read.

I have been pondering an alternative approach that might deliver the best of both worlds … Read the rest of this entry »

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15 June, 2017

I am not an aviation geek, but, as I travel on planes quite a lot [and I am an engineer], I do take an interest in the features and operation of aircraft. As I have a daughter who works for an airline, my wife often rolls her eyes when listening to our aviation-oriented conversations. [She also takes exception with the first few words of this post – she was reading over my shoulder. 🙂 ]

Last week I had a new experience: I got to ride on an Airbus A380 … Read the rest of this entry »


12 June, 2017

Some months ago, I received an email asking me whether I would be willing and able to conduct a 3-day embedded software masterclass in Bangalore, India. An events management company was planning such an event and had located me via the magic of social media. I was, of course, flattered to be asked, but also both daunted and intrigued by the prospect of doing it … Read the rest of this entry »


8 June, 2017

There is a well-know cartoonist, who is very intelligent, observant and outspoken. On many occasions, I have seen his writing, in which he talks about financial matters. He generally wraps up with a warning about the foolishness of taking financial advice from a cartoonist. I might suggest similar caution when listening to an embedded software engineer … Read the rest of this entry »


5 June, 2017

My latest video blog is now available. I am talking about multicore systems and the various software architectures that are available. You can see the video here or here:

Future video blogs will continue to look at topics of interest to embedded software developers. Suggestions for topics are always welcome via comment, email or social networking.

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25 May, 2017

As in all walks of life, the high-tech world has its icons – key people who have been pivotal in getting us where we are today. It is easy to list some of the big names: Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs … the list goes on. Then there is Marc Andreessen. Who? I hear you ask – as I did myself when I stumbled across an interview with him. It would appear that, without Mr. A, the world might be different from the way it is … Read the rest of this entry »

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