Review: Making Embedded Systems (Elecia White)

This title takes a traditional software programmer into the world of embedded system. It covers the process of designing and implementing an embedded system from a sketch through to optimising performance and power consumption.

As an interesting addition, at the end of each chapter, there is a potential interview question for an embedded developer position. It’s an unusual idea but is a way of tying up the topics covered in the chapter. Because the book is written for developers it applies patterns and techniques which the reader will already be familiar with and how they apply to embedded systems.

It emphasises the need to be aware of the limited resources available and how to pare down operations to a minimum to make best use of them. It also talks about various options for input and output for a variety of peripherals and sensors.

The book offers a useful introduction to the world of embedded development to a developer with existing C (or similar) experience. More experienced embedded developers will probably want to delve into more detail on the specific areas, but this is a great starting point.


Review: .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Data Driven Applications

0102_MockupCover_0 Like Peter Nowak I was asked to review this recent release. Unfortunately due to other commitments it has taken the best part of a month to finish it. To avoid repeating the same points I recommend you read Peter’s review. While the current focus at Microsoft is on the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform, we should not forget that there is still a demand for line of business applications for custom Windows CE platforms and Windows Mobile (and its Windows Embedded Handheld offspring) for enterprise devices.

I think the format of following a real-world application through the book provides a nice thread to tie together the various concepts described but often with this kind of approach you find features are shoe-horned in to show off a particular technology – a good example in this case is the IrDA/Bluetooth transfer of accounts between agents in a Sales application. Peter noted that the book does not describe the current situation with Visual Studio 2010 and why 2008 is needed for .NETCF 3.5 development but I think this is excusable based on the timescales involved in writing a book and how clearly this message was communicated by Microsoft.

The application design focuses exclusively on Windows Mobile and doesn’t cover issues when targeting other Windows CE platforms (such as Windows Mobiles enforced single-instance versus Windows CE default support for multiple instances of an application or just difference between the shells and screen layout). It also doesn’t cover form rotation and design for different DPI screens or implemented a locked-down kiosk mode. A personal gripe is the use of a SerialPort to do a Bluetooth transfer which is not the nicest solution, but then I suppose I’m biased.

Ultimately there is some good content in the book but it is unfortunately let down by being late to the party and the application scenarios try too hard to be all things to all people and ultimately not always 100% believable. It provides a starting point to work from and introduces a lot of functional areas from data synchronisation through to automatic update.

.NET Micro Framework Book on special offer

Rob Miles has just blogged that his book “Embedded Programming with the Microsoft .NET Micro Framework” is currently on special offer at Computer Manuals through the MSDN Flash email newsletter. So if you have a wobbly table, or a door you want to prop open now is the time to buy (just kidding) 🙂

For exactly the same reasons you might want to grab the Mobile Development Handbook at 32% off. Alternatively if you just want some fun browsing the site then why not enter “Windows CE” into the quick search box. The only result is “The Johns Hopkins Manual of Gynecology and Obstetrics” an ideal addition to any mobile developers toolbox!

Finally on a related note I spotted that Doug Boling is working on an update of his Windows CE book due out in October – “Programming Windows® Embedded CE 6.0 Developer Reference“. Definitely worth adding to your wish list, even if you are primarily a managed code developer as it is important to know your way around the underlying OS.

Microsoft Mobile Development Handbook at DevDays 2007

Rob Miles, a fellow MVP who wrote one of the chapters for our book has grabbed a copy at DevDays in Amsterdam, you can see a picture of him proudly clutching the book in his latest blog post. In case you need any further encouragement to purchase the book beyond the 600+ pages of technical stuff, you’ll notice from Rob’s picture that carrying the book is also great for attracting a posse of female admirers 🙂

I travelled home yesterday to pick up my first copy of the book, it’s such a great feeling seeing the finished book after all this time. This was actually the first opportunity I got to read Rob’s chapter properly. As a guru of graphics and games development it’s no surprise that Rob does a great job of explaining Direct 3D Mobile.