Embedded Systems Conference – Day 3 – Tuesday

Lots of pictures here.

Started the day at the show press conference. LynuxWorks announced that its OS LynxOS-178 will be used by the European Space Agency for core communications between Ground and Space Operations for the Galileo Satellite Navigation System. Their OS is the only FAA certified OS available at this time.

Stopped by Al Gore’s keynote address. Mr Gore gave a passionate talk, quite familiar to anyone who’s seen his movie, but added a couple of twists to make the geeky embedded engineer crowd happy. For instance, he mentioned that when you drive a car from one place to another, 90% of the energy used is wasted – and it goes up to 99% if you consider actually moving only the person from one place to another – not the car.  He tried to revitalize some of JFK’s passion – bringing up the race to the moon – trying to parallel that with the sort of effort that is required now to fix the climate crisis.

One highlight of the show was a Prius teardown – they pulled the car apart to analyze the technology for function and cost. For fun, they set off the airbag – that camera image is a bit shaky. It’s loud!

Saw some really cool technology from Eridon. They’ve developed a system whereby you can actually snap together boards to build a prototype. The system detects the boards you have added to the system, automatically loads drivers and allocates bus space to communicate, then lets you program the components by simply referencing them in code. For instance, if you’ve snapped on a VGA board, you might then type “vga.print(“hello”)  or similar and your text will show up on the display. Once you are happy with your design, you can then simply lay out a board with all the components you’ve used, and your product is done. The demo was really slick and looks very worthwhile if you are considering low volume projects, or need to get a demo going quickly. The dev system was about $5k.

Parallax was showing their propeller system – a tiny single chip with 8 32 bit CPUs arranged in a unique fashion. Chip Gracey, the company founder, spent quite a bit of time with me, going over the architecture, and how you develop code in this environment. Each of the 8 CPU’s operates independently – they can wait on a pin change, do calculations, drive pins, do calculations. And each is given access to a central store of memory in discrete time slices – and this central memory is used to manage shared data for interprocess communication.

The idea is that you break up your system into tasks that you drop onto a CPU, then let that CPU go to work, just doing its part. The end result is much simpler and cleaner designs. They have developed a simple language called SPIN for coding the processes on the 8 CPUs – the language looks a bit like Basic and Python and is easy to learn. There are a lot of libraries of code available, with more being added all the time. Chip himself has put together some really cool demos including a speech synthesis module that actually simulates a human throat. It sounded pretty cool.

The highlight of the day was the Intel keynote given by Doug Davis, Intel VP and General Manager for Embedded and Communications Group. Doug’s talk covered the wide ranging use of Intel chips, culminating in the announcement of a quad-core chip for embedded use, the Xeon 5300.

Then, the fun really began.

With a roar, and a cloud of smoke, Paul Teutul Sr. arrived atop the Intel Chopper, the latest creation of Orange County Choppers. He roared right up on stage in the 250 horsepower, 4 cylinder chopper, and the Orange County team showed off the high-tech controls – of course built using Intel chips.

Paul Junior’s thumb was bandaged – I asked why, and he really didn’t want to answer – but then said it was a gun accident, but not as exciting as it sounds. I didn’t ask more.

Mikey, a fashion coneseur if there ever was one, commented a couple of times that he liked my Hawaiian shirt. I’m not sure how to take that one.


One response to “Embedded Systems Conference – Day 3 – Tuesday”

  1. Chuck Wolber says :

    Just a small point of correction, there is no such thing as an FAA certified OS. The 178 in LynxOS-178 refers to the ARCIN DO-178B standard. My boss was one of the people who helped develop that standard.

    LynxOS-178 is an operating system that can demonstrate proper partitioning between applications (app A cannot hurt app B, etc) to conform to the intent of DO-178B. It’s entirely possible that you can put an application on LynxOS-178 that destroys that partitioning and therefore makes it impossible to certify the vehicle for flight. Thus when testing, the OS and applications are approved as an integrated package.

    The FAA and EAA certifies vehicles such as a Boeing 777 or a satellite, not stuff inside of those vehicles. To get that certification, you have to show that the stuff inside the vehicles conforms to the various standards. Software has to conform to the Arinc DO-178B standard.


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