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Killer Apps: Embedded Software's Greatest Hit Jobs

Between 1985 and 1987, there were at least 6 distinct accidents where the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine delivered up to 100 times the prescribed radiation dose, resulting in injury and death. These high-profile accidents demonstrated that embedded software can be dangerous, even lethal. In the decades since, and despite increasing regulation, safety-critical system failures have continued to kill people.

As embedded software's size and complexity continue to rapidly progress, user safety increasingly relies upon safe and reliable firmware implementations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the automotive industry, where self-driving vehicles are a much-hyped and potentially invaluable part of our future.

Barr Group co-founder and CTO Michael Barr presents an engaging discussion of the past, present, and future of embedded software safety. 

The Perils of Preemptive Multitasking

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Every commercial RTOS employs a priority-based preemptive scheduler. This despite the fact that real-time systems vary in their requirements and real-time scheduling doesn't have to be so uniform. Multitasking and meeting deadlines is certainly not a one-size-fits-all problem.

Portable Fixed-Width Integers in C

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For embedded software developers, the most significant improvements to the C programming language made in the ISO C99 standard update are in the new <stdint.h> header file. Learn the typedef names for the new fixed width integer data types, to make hardware interfacing in C easier. And there are other benefits as well

Introduction to Preemptive Multitasking

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Most real-time operating systems employ preemptive schedulers. This primer on preemption also looks at the kind of multitasking it enables.

Introduction to On-Chip Debug

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Motorola's Background Debug Mode is one of a variety of on-chip debug technologies. Collectively, they offer some of the best features of debug monitors and in-circuit emulators—with far less headache and cost.

How to Choose a Real-Time Operating System

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In the market for a commercial RTOS? This article provides an overview of RTOSes and how you can select the best one for your project. It ends with a list of vendors and their products.

Introduction to Finite Impulse Response Filters for DSP

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Finite impulse response (FIR) filters are the most popular type of filters implemented in software. This introduction will help you understand them both on a theoretical and a practical level.

Introduction to Counter/Timer Hardware

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Counter units (aka, timer units) are crucial components of most embedded systems and included in many microcontrollers. Here's a primer on the hardware.

Introduction to Closed-Loop Control and PID

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Most control systems utilize feedback in some manner. Here's a look at several fundamental feedback mechanisms, culminating in a description of a basic PID controller.

Embedded Linux and Copyright Law

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The rising popularity of Linux has spurred many embedded developers to consider it as an RTOS alternative. Here's the straight scoop on the legal implications for the proprietary parts of your firmware.

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