Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Death and Embedded Systems

The queer thing about death is that you die only once. And by then its too late. You of all people cannot participate in your own death. Why am I talking about death and whats it got to do with Embedded Systems?

Something happened today, about which I wrote on another blogsite. My mind has been thinking about death in general since then.

With nuclear families being the norm these days, the chances are that your death would go un-noticed. I for one would like my friends and family to know about my death, as and when it happens. So that they dont have to worry about me there after. Dont get me wrong. I am in no hurry for that to happen.

But what I see here, is a possible business opportunity. Most other things are already in place. Almost every one carries a mobile phone. Even if you dont, no worries. Just get a lil piece of sensor silicon, with a valid SIM card on it, implanted in your body. This sensor monitors your heart. Once your heart stops working, you are dead. The sensor detects that and triggers a series of events. Prior to your death, you must compose a letter and a access database of family and friends that you would want to be notified in the event of your death. The letter could read as follows:

Dear _(Name picked from the Access Database)_

With profound sorrow, I wish to inform you of my untimely death. The end was obviously unexpected. I died at (coordinates of the location when your heart stopped working as detected by the sensor chip) on (time and date, again as detected by the sensor chip).

Given your busy schedule, please do not bother to visit my home to offer your condolences. As you wont have to drive to my residence, It will also save the already fragile environment (less emissions etc.), unless ofocurse, you plan to walk to my home.

Yours Truely, although, not any more


All the above would be managed through the network of an Event Organizer. The sensor chip either signals your death to your mobile phone, which in turn sends out a text message to the Event Organizer, with whom you have registered yourself with, or sends out a text message on its own (with its embedded SIM card) to the event organizer's network. The Event Organizer's network, in turns mails out the above mentioned letter to your friends and family.

This sensor chip has yet to be developed and there in lies the business opportunity and big bucks.

Dhananjay Gadre

PS: Please make it a point to die where there is cell phone coverage.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I know there is no Free Lunch...

I am a little annoyed. Annoyed at not getting the promised 'free' programmer kit from TI. I was made to believe that a programmer and chips of my choice can be sent to me; I just needed to say which ones I wanted. Turns out that the gentleman wanted me to fill out a form with zillion types of information about my department and all other statistics. I simply dont have that kind of time to gather that information. And further, just filling out this form wasnt the end of the story. The gentleman said and I quote "I will let you know if we have granted your request". Holy Moly.

I have quietly expressed my inability to take time out to fill out the form. Although what I meant was, Thanks but no, thanks. I dont wish to be judged. Not for something that costs as little as $100.

I have thrived on 'free' stuff. But please understand there is no free stuff. Never has been. Its always a give and take situation. Big companies give out 'free' samples, so that the customer can avoid the hassle of going through the entire drill of making an invoice, getting approval etc etc. just to evaluate a component. This saves a lot of time on the customer's end. If he does get to evaluate the sample there is a good chance that he would place order for larger quantities. One of the best sample offering companies is Maxim. You simply fill out a few details, end application etc and samples are on the way. To be fair, TI also offers free samples in a similar fashion.

So why am I complaining?

When you expect something more than free chip samples (say an evaluation board), you must do something to compensate the company in other ways. What can that be? How about some publicity? How about an article in a well read magazine/journal etc? Remember, 2"X1" advertisement in a reasonably popular magazine costs in the range of US$1000. I know, since I pushed the publisher of my first book to insert a small ad in Circuit Cellar a few years ago and they said it cost them $1000.

This arrangement of mutual benefit has worked reasonably well for me. I have contacted numerous companies across the world, with requests for 'free' whatever they had that interested me and most have responded favorably. And its not because I cant afford to buy it. Its because of all the red tape that exists in India. More so with importing stuff. I am currently trying to get a (free) shipment from Atmel released from the local customs.

In most cases I have managed to do something useful with their 'free' stuff and eventually managed to publish it in various journals.

The upshot of all this is, that the beginning of my affair with MSP430 is going to get postponed. Although I am not going to let this little irritant come between me and MSP430, as it turns out that MSP430 has a built-in bootloader that allows you to quickly download your program from the PC using a standard RS-232 port, into the flash memory of the MSP430 and test it as quickly.


Dhananjay V. Gadre

AVR Butterfly can indeed be used as a component for AVR2006

I just heard from Steve Ciarcia, and he says Yes! The Butterfly can indeed be used as a component as part of the AVR2006 design contest.

Dhananjay Gadre