I am new to this group and new to embedded software engineering. Can anyone recommend ways to network with others who are embedded sw engineers? What conferences and publications do you find most useful and attend/read the most? Anyone else go from being a HW engineer to SW engineering? How did that go?
If you are good at what you doing, then people will like you.
The only useful publications are the original documents, datasheets and specifications. Conferences are a form of paid vacation provided to you by your employer; in any other sense conferences are useless.
Engineering is a type of personality. A person could either be an engineer, or not. It doesn't matter if it is HW, SW, civil, electrical or anything else.
Many processors have specific forums (AVRfreaks, etc.) that will provide you with more detailed information on those processors and their application. Most such forums are frequented by embedded system folk -- whether they be professional or hobbyist.
Conferences, IMO, are just a boondoggle. You can learn as much by chatting with peers and keeping up with new product releases. Your disti's rep is a contact worth cultivating (samples, datasheets, gossip about what others are using/doing, etc.).
"Embedded Systems Programming" was marginally useful many years ago. It quickly deteriorated (new editor, etc.) into a collection of columns and lightweight articles. To be honest, I've not seen an issue in at least 5 (probably much more!) years so no idea as to whether it is still in print *or* its actual current quality.
Some hobbyist magazines might be worth perusing -- though the caliber of their work is more likely, "Wow, that's cool!" instead of "Gee, that's clever and worth remembering".
There are *lots* of research papers, theses, and ongoing projects in academia that can be *very* interesting and informative. It depends where your personal and professional interests lie.
Digikey has recently started mailing out a "magazine" called "TechZone". Obviously, a sales instrument (this latest issue is probably half "catalog" -- though of MCU type parts, only -- while the front half is a series of technical articles supplied by
*vendors* (each, obviously, using this vehicle as a means of pushing their products).
My sheepskin claims I'm an EE. Though we had three different EE curricula -- "classic" EE, "computer" EE and I think the third was bioelectronic or something (never knew anyone to go that route). So, while we all had a core EE base, we opted to concentrate in specific areas -- CS in my case.
Having said that, my original goal on graduation was digital design -- with a bit of software on the side (i4004 and i8080 back then). Of course, you can design a piece of hardware in a month that will take you a *year* to code. :-/ So, the tide tends to move you in that direction, inevitably.
Adjusting to serial thinking can be frustrating. E.g., I design a bit of logic and I rely on being able to do everything at once. Writing code forces you to do one thing before another.
Then, once you've become accustomed to serial thinking, you have to readjust to pseudo-parallel thinking as you work with multiple threads of execution (in all but the most trivial applications).
And, if you can work in a rich enough environment, you end up having to layer *this* thinking on a true parallel execution environment (e.g., multiprocessors, NoW, etc.)
The single biggest *problem* is software is never "done". Even when it "works perfectly". People (management, customers, etc.) can't resist the urge to tweak it: "Can we add this little feature? It's *just* software, right? ..."
Coming from the other direction (D.P. and O/S support to embedded,) I'll say that there's a Hardware Mindset in software that I've seen more than once. Summed up in a sentence it might be that addresses and bit numbers contain the TRUTH about the device and are all anyone needs. From there, names and naming conventions are poor, unreliable things. Saw this from a fellow who was a very good EE, created fine designs and followed them up with is own firmware. The firmware worked, but only he knew why or how. When he left we wrote a small software package just to unwrap the programs he'd created so that we, even the other EEs, could understand them.
If the OP is tempted in that direction, the sooner turned around, the better.
Agreed. And the same can be said about "programmers" -- i.e., those without formal training who stumble upon bits of The REAL Truth along the way.
I would hasten to add that, nowadays, a bit of an MBA-mindset is also helpful to all of the above. As "engineers", we often loose sight of the real issue -- making *product* (e.g., Clarke's "Superiority" is a worthwhile read).
Sadly, it seems to be suffering from Shrinking Magazine Syndrome and I suspect that the magazine itself will soon disappear altogether in favor of an online-only presence. They've even stopped using the embedded.com domain, pushing it underneath eetimes.com.
I still enjoy some of the columns, though, esp ol' Jack Crenshaw. And some of the folks around here did used to have an occasional article with them. What's his name, Tom Weskit or Jim Weston or something, wrote about piddles or poodles or something like that. ;-)
Actually, if you're not cursed by being smarter than absolutely everyone else on earth then they can be quite educational. It's certainly been worth my time to go to the Embedded Systems conferences, and even to pay for the travel. I don't think I'd want to pony up the entrance fee if I weren't either presenting or getting it paid for by my employer -- but that's never been an issue: I've always been accepted to present at ESC.
When I last saw an issue (long after I dropped my subscription), it was about as thin as the local "free want-ads" -- though still ~8.5 x 11" (whereas the want-ads is perhaps 6x8"). I can't recall the mix of ads to articles but, regardless of which way the balance tipped (articles vs. ads), it Didn't Look Good.
(can anyone spell "Byte"?)
From a business standpoint, online makes far more sense. Lower cost to produce *and* you get feedback as to what readers are actually reading -- as well as which *ads* to target them with! :-/ (sure would be nice if there *was* such a thing as the Free Lunch!)
I'm just not interested in reading a publication on-line. So, not being able to take it outside and sit under a tree -- or to the doctor's office waiting room (etc.) -- kills that medium for me (no, I have no desire to carry a phone or a tablet around just to read someone's advertisements!)
When you consider how easy it is to "go looking" for the information you want -- instead of the information "they" want to *provide* -- then its easy to see how things like that can go away and not be missed. ("The Bingo Card is dead. Long live the Bingo Card!" ;> ) The local librarians always give me puzzled looks each time I present a request for them to chase down (inter-library loan) some odd paper or publication. I think if anyone was actively keeping track of these titles, they'd be hard pressed to see what they all "have in common" :>
I've found it quite possible to learn stuff. Not everything I need, by any means. But I go to the class, I get a nice overview, and I leave knowing what titles of books to buy, and what items I want to see in their tables of contents.
I am sorry but what you described is an employee mindset. In the essence, this is laziness, unwillingness to accept the different practices and an attempt to minimize the personal part of work. To the contrary, engineer finds beauty in the doing, and is often acting for the sake of action.
Agreed. Especially when a "class" may be little more than 2-3 *hours* (when you discount the Q&A periods, etc.) All you can hope to do is get exposed to things.
The conferences that I found most worthwhile were application specific -- where you could hope to get some insight into a *particular* aspect of an application domain that was of interest to you.
E.g., PID control loops are old-hat. *But*, how their shortcomings are overcome in *specific* applications can be very interesting. And, not the sort of thing you can easily pick up in a text (as most texts just deal with the theory -- even those that claim to be
When I was doing graphics, I found many of the "classes" (seminars?) I took at SIGGRAPH to be very enlightening as they showed me where the state of the art was in that field (and, the "show" in the evening was well worth the trip to the convention! :> Amazing to see what all that raw computing power could put together visually!)
But, I didn't expect to learn anything about temperature measurement techniques or 6 axis manipulators there.
For most other things -- "general" issues -- you are better off with a book or a knowledgeable peer (to show you where the book "lies").
But, hey, if you don't mind losing a day -- or three -- and your boss wants to pick up the tab... ;-) (I sure enjoyed beating on that little rent-a-car on Lombard street!)
I don't agree with that assessment. I think it's just ignorance on the part of the employee in question. It's like some lay person replacing a 5A fuse with a 10A one -- "If 5A is *good*, then 10A must be BETTER!"
The fault lies with not making the person aware of their shortcomings and accepting their work, as is, because that is the *expedient*.
[off-color material follows]
Three women were sharing coffee. The conversation eventually turned to lovemaking.
The first woman said, "My husband is a pro wrestler. When we make love, he tosses me around like a rag doll and then pins me to the mattress."
The second woman replied, "*My* husband is an *artist*. When we make love, he caresses my body as if painting a living canvas."
The third woman remained quiet. After enduring the stares of her friends for a few minutes, she set down her coffee with an audible sigh and said, "My husband is an engineer. All he does is sit at the end of the bed telling me how GREAT it's going to be when I finally *get* it..."
[apologies if this offended anyone's sensibilities :< But, I think it speaks directly to the last point Vladimir made! If you can't identify with the sentiment, then you probably don't have The Engineer Spirit (whether that is A Good Thing or not is beside the point) :-/ ]
Well, you have already stumbled into one of the best places already. This newsgroup. You might like to add a language group to the list as well.
The Embedded Systems Conferences (UK and USA) would be very good to visit for some of the newtorking, but the professional societies also have various fora for networking.
The IET and BCS in the UK and IEEE in the USA will have some sub-group discussing all things embedded. Being in the UK I find that the EC3 group of the IET run very interesting talks during the wintery half of the year.
Paul E. Bennett...............
Well, no .. there are people like that, too, but ... The OP asked about a transition from hardware to software, and I think the people I'm talking about just haven't fully transited yet. It has yet to occur to them that software is mostly a symbolic activity, and there are a whole lot of symbolic requirements that have to be met. The guy I mentioned wasn't lazy: he created a unimagined product all by himself, and cajoled it through to production -- brought a big pile of new business to the company. But he was trying things he'd never done before.
An engineer, a mathematician, and a physicist are each presented with a beautiful woman and the stipulation that at each time interval, they may move half of the remaining distance towards her.
The mathematician concludes that after N iterations there will be 8 divided by 2^N feet remaining which will never equal zero so he gives up on the spot.
The physicist opines that if each iteration requires a finite amount of energy then the energy expended in the approach will be inversely proportional to the distance remaining and gives up on the spot.
The engineer says "8 feet, 4 feet, 2 feet, 1 foot, 6 inches, good enough for practical purposes".
An engineer, a doctor and a pastor went to play golf. When they came to the golf course, they noticed strange group of people slowly walking around the field. The golf club guy apologized and explained that those people are blind; so engineer, pastor and doctor have to wait till the blind people will finish with the game.
- "I will pray for those poor people; so may be the God will make a miracle and cure them..."
- "My friend is famous ophthalmologist; may be we can try the latest advanced medical methods to restore vision..."
Since I've been self-employed, I've never been able to justify $800 to $1000 fees for conferences. That's a steep price to pay for one or two 1-hour presentations which I could find on line for free.
I have gone to a few ESCs just for the exhibits (free) when I can justify the travel expense for some other reason.
To some extent, I think the ESC has priced itself out of the small-business/self-employed market. Alas, the same has happened at some of the oceanographic conferences I would like to attend. The scientific conferences do a better job of providing the material on line afterwards, though. In addition, I have a few friends that will loan me the proceedings DVD.
Conventions/trade-shows are even more expensive from the exhibitors point of view. I know of many firms in various different industries that simply refuse to participate in their respective shows (in one case, a behind-the-scenes effort to convince *peers* to skip alternate years, etc.)
Between travel, lodgings, exhibit space, hospitality suites, promotional items, etc. -- plus the cost of your labor (as those folks are tied up for the duration of the show) -- make many shows just ego-stroking (i.e., don't generate enough
*added* business to offset the cost of the show).
[they're also not really "fun" to "work", IME :< ]