February 3, 2003

A very unusual weekend ()

February 3, 2003 - Categories: life

As I was saying, it has been a very unusual weekend.

Relatives from my father’s side of the family (the one with the
convoluted family history) came over from Daet. I ended up getting
appointed official babysitter, my two sisters having escaped from the
job by some unknown means.

Saturday, of course, was quite a busy day for me. Two of my friends
are taking a multimedia class that requires the submission of a
trailer. Naturally, they chose to do the trailer for a game they’re
working on. For that, they needed a rotating video of a girl using the
computer. Guess who ended up volunteering for this no-budget
production? ;) It was a lot of fun. We managed to finish at
midnight. Although Eric and Dennison weren’t completely satisfied with
the video, they figured it would do. I was okay with doing a reshoot
(hooray for phenylethylamine!), but they decided to wrap up.

The next day found me in bed until three. After a quick
discussion and much protest (“What do I know about babysitting? I’m
the youngest in the family!”), it was decided that I would babysit the
kids. Oh joy. So much for a day of quiet e-mail and
conversation… I found out about my task while on the
phone with Eric, and he made me choose between letting him come (but
he’s working on a paper!) and letting him ask Jerome for
reinforcements. I resignedly allowed him to go and inform Jerome as
long as his message didn’t imply “Sacha insists”. It had to be more of
a “Sacha wouldn’t really mind.” Important difference! It was, after
all, Sunday, a normally off-limits day.

Jerome came while we were playing Monopoly on the roofdeck. He did
quite well – a flurry of trades helped all of us get monopolies, but
luck would have all of us landing on his properties! Then the
kids decided to start a pillowfight in the room on the
roofdeck… which of course led to my hiding under some pillows and
claiming non-combatant status. Arko (one of the young girls)
seemed to have been particularly picking on Jerome, and all of them
even ganged up on him and tickled him. =) He was a good sport, though,
even entertaining them with (of all things) soap opera
impersonations. That was probably brought on by Arko’s insistence that
I was married to someone in the States and that I had children
already…

Arko apparently decided to be my chaperone, insisting on always
interposing herself between me and Jerome. It was kinda funny,
even. She banned us from winking at each other, talking in another
language (Japanese was _very_ useful, even with my limited
vocabulary), and even talking in ‘advanced’ English (jargon was also
quite useful).

Still, I can say that I rather enjoyed taking care of the kids. We
survived, barely, although I’m not sure if the stuffed toys did.
Now it’s back to work and school and everything else.

Embedded talk

February 3, 2003 - Categories: geek, presentation, speaking
Title page

Hello, everyone! I’m Sacha Chua, and I’m here to talk about embedded
system design from the developer’s point of view.
What _is_ embedded computing, anyway? It helps to define it in
contrast to personal computers, which we’re all familiar with.

PC/embedded system comparison

General use

Personal computers are intended for general use. They can run a wide
range of applications – games, business apps, that sort of thing.

Specific function

Embedded systems, on the other hand, are typically designed for a
single purpose. Think of a calculator, for example, or the logic in
vending machines. (Of course, some embedded systems are becoming more
general now, like personal digital assistants a).

OS, apps

Personal computers

System

Keyboard/mouse/monitor

On PCs, you can usually assume that someone

Different input/output

Easy to dev or change programs

Infrequently updated

Challenges

User needs / expectations

Although crashes and data loss seem to be part of our everyday
computing experience, people expect embedded systems to be reliable.
Imagine an embedded system that crashes! What if your phone crashed
and had to be rebooted all the time? People expect features,
reliability, and all for a low price.

Tight space and memory constraints

Development tools

Development process

One of the things about embedded development is that the process is a
little bit longer. It’s not the usual edit, compile, run cycle. It’s
edit, compile, burn to flash, run.

Architectural quirks

And of course if you go into embedded development, you’ll probably
have to deal with different architectures. For example, you’ll learn
about the quirks of conditional ARM.

Why go into embedded dev’t?

It’s fun!

It’s challenging!

It’s useful!

How to get started

Courses on computer interfacing / hardware / digital logic

Experiments

Internship / work / open source

What you need: software, hardware, patience