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 |  Happy Holidays | Critical agile | Disciplined or Simple Programming? |
 | AUTOSAR C++ | Software ERROR! | Amazon RTOS  | 
| Embedded Database | Change and Decay  | Eavesdropping IoT  | 2018 |
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Welcome to the last Newsletter for 2017, at the end of what has proved an interesting year. As this is the Christmas news letter most of it is interesting reading for the holidays.  
2017 saw the industry changing. Companies are acquiring and merging, Brexit is a major cause of flux, and will be for a while yet. IoT has put IT and Security into everyone's life whether they like it or not.
As Felix Redmill said in 2015 about his 25 year editorship of the SCSC Newsletter: the only constant in life is change. a year later he stood down as editor and the SCSC moved from Newcastle to York more of which later.
Phaedrus Systems will of course be carrying on for the foreseeable future with tools, consultancy and services.
PhaedruS SystemS
Agile for high-integrity
Rod ChapmanFrom the Communications of the ACM:  "There is much interest in Agile engineering, especially for software development. Agile's proponents promote its flexibility, leanness, and ability to manage changing requirements, and deride the plan-driven or waterfall approach. Detractors criticize Agile's free-for-all.

At Altran U.K., we use disciplined and planned engineering, particularly when it comes to high-integrity systems that involve safety, security, or other critical properties. A shallow analysis is that Agile is anathema to high-integrity systems development, but this is a naïve reaction. Pertinent questions include: …"

To find out what these questions are, and understand how, with good engineering discipline, Agile can be used in the most demanding environments, if you are a member of the ACM it is Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 10, Pages 38-41. If you are not, Rod Chapman will happily send you a pdf if you email him at mentioning that you saw the link in our newsletter, please.
Disciplined programming
Despite the frequent use of the word coding, we have recently come across some interesting pieces on good software implementation NASA's JPL uses guidelines called "The Power of Ten–Rules for Developing Safety Critical Code". While obviously a lot smaller than the full MISRA C guidelines they make an excellent starting point.
Interestingly, apparently NASA says, "The rules act like the seatbelt in your car: initially they are perhaps a little uncomfortable, but after a while their use becomes second-nature and not using them becomes unimaginable."
Simplistic programming
Another piece that resonated well is Simplistic programming is underrated
Daniel Lemire summarises the argument as "If you can write a program using nothing but the simplest syntax, it is a net win." This resonated because, years ago I had to maintain code written by a "genius" It was so complex and convoluted almost impossible to debug. When we found the bug we uncovered a couple more hidden in the code. We re-wrote it with simple C.
This cartoon (The Internet is a massive system so that people can share images of cats) is apposite
I said something similar some years ago, but it wasn't so cute
The AUTOSAR adaptive platform provides a basis for developing electronic components for automotive applications. It includes C++14 Coding guidelines and PRQA has published a white paper overviewing the guidelines with guidance on how to comply with them (
The company has also launched a compliance module for the guidelines as an extension to the QA·C++ 4.2 automated static code analysis tool.  
Bug or error
Jack Ganssle's The Embedded Muse  regularly looks at definitions of error, failure and so, so I make no apologies for returning to the bug vs error debate, this time quoting a software master
"We could, for instance, begin with cleaning up our language by no longer calling a bug a bug but by calling it an error. It is much more honest because it squarely puts the blame where it belongs, viz. with the programmer who made the error. The animistic metaphor of the bug that maliciously sneaked in while the programmer was not looking is intellectually dishonest as it disguises that the error is the programmer's own creation. The nice thing of this simple change of vocabulary is that it has such a profound effect: while, before, a program with only one bug used to be 'almost correct', afterwards a program with an error is just 'wrong' (because in error)."
  E. W. Dijkstra, On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computing Science
I said something similar about bug/error some years ago, but it wasn't so cute
A decade ago Phaedrus systems was referring to "errors" rather than "bugs" . Make it a New Year's Resolution for 2018 to refer to "errors" not bugs for errors/bugs in software. It should help to change attitudes in software development.
IoT ecosystem (order from Amazon!)
What at first looked like a surprising announcement was that FreeRTOS was now owned by Amazon. see
In fact, it is owned by Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS are the biggest global supplier of public cloud storage and processing and they clearly see a market for supporting the developers of the edge devices – the Things for the Internet of Things.
What was interesting is that the announcement not just Free RTOS, but also covered the first elements of an ecosystem including Percepio's Tracealyzer, the trace visualisation tool for RTOS.
Percepio lets you see, through 25 different views, exactly what is happening in your system when the RTOS is running (Link to Percepio page here!!!! ) The current version (3.3) supports AWS FreeRTOS, but 4.0 is due in Q1 next year and there are a series of pre-view videos on the web site the first is at  and some more information at
Embedded Databases on Rails
An interesting article on software for railway systems has quite long quotes from Steve Graves, of McObject on the value of databases specifically designed for embedded systems, such as extremeDB
Note: McObject don't just "do databases" but only do databases for embedded and high integrity systems. With the advent of IoT and distributed systems the McObject system has several novel ways of working with thousands of nodes where high integrity, high speed and small footprint are essential. Places where SQL isn't really the answer.
Change and decay
We are familiar with the problem that you have difficulty retrieving information stored on obsolete media, but what is the situation when you can't run the program that you used to create a file, and there is nothing else that will read it. An article in Scientific American,   looks at how the Library of Congress is approaching preserving information 
Spend a day or two on the run up to the Christmas break, or the first week back in January, looking out some of your old archived files and make sure they are not corrupt and indeed readable. The two are not the same… the file may not be corrupt but do you have anything that will actually read it? Even if you do it might be a Good Idea™ to convert some documents to a newer format whilst you can. .
Stuckness and Flying
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig discussion of mental vs physical stuckness. I came close to forgetting this when, to cope with massive video files I decided to upgrade my NAS storage. I made the mistake of starting when I was tired on a Sunday, and by Sunday night I gave up with a dead set of drives. Fortunately when I returned the next day, just as Pirsig suggests, I realised what was happening and remembered that I had the foresight to have backed up onto a USB stick, all the configuration details I needed to get things back up and running.
This was a very different experience to that I found on The Register, when an attempt to maintain multi-platter disk drives in the 1980s resulted in the platters, spinning well beyond the designed maximum and hurling across the computer room. 
Note: Before you laugh at the antique disk systems mentioned. These removable disk packs were still in use it the early 1990's! Does anyone know of any that made it in to this millennium?  
Segger activities
Segger has made a series of interesting announcements. The workhorse J-Trace streaming trace probe has a new top-end system, J-Trace PRO Cortex. This adds USB 3.0 Superspeed to the Gigabit Ethernet interface for Cortex-A, Cortex-R, and Cortex-M targets.
They are also supporting the AWS FreeRTOS, and have added RISC-V, the open source CPU architecture, support to embOS
Open Source: Avoid or Embrace?
Jacob Benigo at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose last month gave a paper 7 Reasons Open Source Software Should Be Avoided.
He says, in summary, "As much potential as open source software can provide, there are several reasons why embedded software developers should avoid it like the plague." I agree with a great deal that he says, but, like many generalisations, there are often exceptions, for example his Reason #1 – Lacks a traceable software development life cycle.  this is normally true but there are open source products that can provide full traceability. I would be interested in your views on this, and if there is enough response we will return to this in another newsletter.
Eavesdropping watches
We have referred in the past to issues of safety and security for the IoT, but it was still rather a surprise to see this headline Germany bans smartwatches for kids and asks parents to destroy them
The grounds on which the ban is applied is that they are "prohibited listening devices" allowing people, including parents, to eavesdrop on conversations etc. In parallel with this the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)has warned that the watches can be used to track the movement of children, and this might be done by people who are not nice.
Children's Coding Challenge
If you want to encourage your child to become a skilled hacker, then buy them the Furby Connect, and encourage them to explore how to corrupt it. A good starting point is this article from cyber security specialists, Context
Though this might be fun you might want to think what havoc these things could cause in side your home network… A less than funny thought.
2018 What to look forward to?
2018 What to look forward to? Well there is always embedded world in Nuremberg at the end of February. If you can't get there in 2018 start planning for 2019 especially if you are British. You may need Visa's!
Before ew in February is the Safety Critical Systems Club annual Symposium in it's 26th year and in York for the first time. See   this three day event is the UK's leading event for Safety Critical Systems and attracts the leading experts from across the world.
Christmas Blues
I got an email in from the IET's Benevolent Fund That is worth a wider audience whilst in this connected world we have many hundreds of virtual friends around the world it is possible to end up with a lot fewer physical friends.  Especially in todays high speed compartmentalised world. 
The IET say: "This can be the happiest time of the year for many, but a lonely time for some. We've put together a few ideas on how to cope with loneliness during the festive season. Try and reach out to others at this time."
Broadband over Wet String
No, it's not  April the first!

This is something to muse over, may be even try out with the family: Internet over wet string, Yes! Really, wet string! Something to win a Christmas bet with?
Though to be fair they do say that despite string being inexpensive it is not going to replace Cat5/6 cable any time soon.
Well that's it for another year.
You still have time to order a gift wrapped TCP/IP stack for a loved one or a gift compiler validation for the more romantic.
Otherwise take a break and relax for a week. We all need a bit of down time to recharge.
The 2018 Resolution of "It's not a bug it's an error!" time for a sea change in attitudes to software development before a "bug" kills you or otherwise ruins your life now software is in every part of it.
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