Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blogging in the Shadows

A while back I set out to find some embedded systems/firmware bloggers. I had hoped to find something as thought provoking, clever, and interesting as Joel on Software, or Stevey's Drunken blog rants. I didn't find anything that great at the time, but with a nod in my direction (thanks!!), Benoit has posted a whole slew of interesting blog entries in the past few weeks.

I haven't had time to read them all, let alone respond, but I wanted to say something. I had no idea that Canada had a ring ceremony for engineers. How cool is that? The awesome Kipling poem made me all misty eyed. I loved the song about the bubble too. I have a cousin from the Bay area who has started two companies and, though not really anything like what's described in this song, ever since his first company I've talked to him and read about that whole world with interest. Hilarious song.

I also totally agree that for some reason, even though I love the low-level stuff that I work on, there just isn't that much exciting to talk or read about in the field for some reason. So what would I like to read about? I'll have to think about it.

Off the top of my head, I think a lot of the buzz in the non-embedded world comes from the fact that you can easily try a lot of the cool stuff out at home for free. Is there any substance behind all this talk about Ubuntu Linux? Download it and try it out. Interested in this Ruby on Rails thing? Download it and run through the tutorial. Python? Java? Haskell? Ocaml? All free, with extensive tutorials included. The latest web-based gizmo from Google, or Yahoo!, it's free too. Anyone can try it and write their 2 cents on the matter. The conversation thrives.

In the embedded world, not so much. A commenter gave some examples of exciting things in the embedded world, but they kind of sit there as meaningless marketing speak or vaporware if I can't test drive them myself. How about it Greenhills? Your website still looks like it was designed in the '90s. Have you ever heard of a free download? Maybe even just a screencast?

One other difficulty in getting a good conversation about embedded development going is that we all work on very different systems. Where everyone else in the world develops for Intel processors running either Windows or Linux, we embedded people are all working on custom-made, one-off systems, writing very customized software. Not many general purpose application frameworks that excite a large crowd of energetic geek bloggers are going to fall out of what we do. Will they?

1 comment:

Nolan said...

There is a magazine called Make that is a hobbyist magazine that focuses a lot on electronics. One thing they feature often are a few different micro controllers. They focus on building things with them (robot controllers, etc) but it might be a common place for embedded developers to start. One kit they sell for $150 has a 48 MIPS processor on it with a bunch of I/O some memory and an ethernet port on it. I don't have one, but there are probably a lot of things that could be done with one.

They have other lower cost, lower feature micro kits as well.

You nailed the problem, which is a common place for developers, and maybe if a few developers get these, a useful community could form.

Here's the link to the
page selling
the microcontroller kit mentioned above.