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Comment UK perspective (Score 2, Interesting) 1144

A UK perspective: I believe the quality of engineering graduates has declined steadily since the early 90s. It appears that higher education here is promoting knowledge without understanding, so you get guys that have passed exams but haven't a clue.

Obligatory anecdote: MSc (MSEE) qualified employee comes to me saying the main voltage rail is measuring too low on a board he is playing with. I think "it's drawing too much current, some chip is getting hot...." but when I question him about his theories, current does not get a mention. I become concerned, and - to cut a long story short - begin to wander if he understands electricity at all. So, I hold up a piece of wire and say "prove to me, without using a continuity checking meter, that this works". Employee goes off for 5 minutes, and returns with a request to use an oscilloscope. I inform him that Yes, he can, and he can use the refridgerator if he wants, but no meters are allowed. Another 40 minutes go by. He admits defeat. I ring my wife, who studied French and Italian, and who teaches younger kids, and ask the same question. She says some sensible stuff about batteries, light bulbs etc. Employee considers this and laughs - he hadn't thought of that.

This problem may be down to a reduction in the pursuit of electronics and programming as hobbies (when I got started, if you wanted to play a game on your computer you often had to write the game!). I really don't know. But it worries me. There is also much more of a tendancy now to treat work (in engineering) as a necessary evil rather than with enthusiasm. My younger engineers seem to be more pessimistic than I remember being, and most are doing nothing to plan for the future.

Comment Re:aargh (Score 1) 141

Heard about EFI in the context of Apple Intel h/w. My extensive research (Wikipedia) suggests that it is substantially closed source, with a small portion available with a BSD license - and rhe FSF don't seem to like it. I like U-Boot because it's open source, with lively community based support. Low cost of entry and all that.

Anyway, am I missing something? Is EFI opening up?

Of course I've failed to mention in all this that in my line of work VGA BIOSes are often as much of an issue as the primary boot firmware...

Comment Re:ARM Cortex not high end? (Score 1) 141

By "high end" I mean 400MHz+, double precision floating point in hardware, AltiVec or equivalent SIMD unit. For example, something like the PA Semi dual core 2GHz 25W masterpiece that Apple has IMO treated the same way that the Taliban treated the statues of the Buddha.

The G2, G3, G4 and higher PowerPCs were always good in terms of performance from compiled C code, much better in terms of TDP than equivalents. You can buy industrial temp parts and cool them with a low profile heatsink. Their manufacturing lifetimes are good - 5-7 years (from Freescale).

You are right to mention AMD. I am getting more interested in them by the day - looking at the SB600 South Bridge for a new project right now. Not sure how well they will match Atom and/or Tolopai but their docs and Linux support are absolutely excellent.

Comment aargh (Score 2, Informative) 141

VxWorks seems to have been around forever in the high performance embedded computing scene, with solid VME support. (Amazing how VME keeps going, it was "on the way out" when I started life as a junior hardware engineer 20 years ago.) The software engineers I work with hate it, though. Extremely late "proper" support for PCI and likewise for SMP are a couple of issues I recall causing much annoyance. Unfortunately our customers keep using and re-using it, so we accept it as a necessary evil.

The problem for my business is that we (like many embedded folks) are still doing good business with the PowerPC architecture, despite the frustrations of PA Semi's disappearance, and something of standstill on high end devices at Freescale and IBM. Surely the perception will develop that yet another roadblock to using PowerPC in embedded systems is going to develop.

So I guess we high end embedded folks will have to jump on the Intel bandwagon. I just hope something positive happens on the BIOS front - that's one area where PowerPC is really great (U-Boot, CFE etc.) Having looked at Intel for ATCA products in the past, the BIOS issue was IIRC an outrageously expensive nightmare if you wanted source code, and plain expensive if not...

I would be very tempted by Atom and Tolapai if I could get U-Boot (or something as good) for Intel. How helpful are Intel to open source BIOS efforts?


Submission + - DRM for Cats

amb5l writes: My new home has a small, natural pond in the back garden, which is home to numerous fish, Great Crested Newts and a small waterfowl community (mainly Moor Hens). Unfortunately, my cat has a well developed hunting instinct, and when I move there is going to be a massacre unless I come up with something to deter the cat from visiting the wildlife around the pond. An early grave for the moggy is not an acceptable option (my daughter will defend her to the death), neither is a 30ft wall. Do Slashdotters have any useful suggestions? I need something subtle and effective to enable the wildlife and the cat to coexist without bloodshed. While I'm at it, where do you guys stand on the cats vs dogs issue?

Comment Re:Govt work anyone? (Score 1) 327

Nick Baker studied at Imperial College in London between 1986 and 1990. I know this because I studied with him - he was my lab partner for much of the time, and a good friend. Nick is one of those people who is so good at so many things that it's ridiculous. I consider myself pretty good at hardware design, but... etc etc. Trust me, the problems with the other projects he has been involved with will have been in areas of business and strategy that he was not involved in. Anytime anyone has ever asked this man to produce a chunk of hardware to do X, he got it done, and done well. Which is his job.

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