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If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?: Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed: Technical Mysteries for Engineers Paperback – March 23, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0750682183 ISBN-10: 0750682183

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Newnes (April 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750682183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750682183
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Great title and a good read too, especially if you like stories from the trenches. Simone does more than just revive old ghosts. She brings out the debugging techniques in context." - William Wong, Electronic Design

From the Back Cover

This new book manages the unthinkable- it conveys crucial technical information to engineers without boring them to tears! In this unique reference, expert embedded designer Lisa Simone provides the solutions to typical embedded software debugging problems from a fresh new perspective. She introduces a team of engineers who readers will recognize from their own workplaces, and then confronts them with real-world debugging scenarios of progressive complexity, drawing the reader into the "mysteries” with their new fictional colleagues, and guiding them step-by-step toward successful solutions.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
70%
4 star
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10%
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See all 10 customer reviews
This is the first book I read that reflects the real life of an embedded software engineering.
Howard
I HIGHLY recommend this book and feel it should be required reading either during school or as new employees in relevant positions.
David Taylor
This book reveals the brain patterns you need to solve these and anything else you'll run across.
Christopher Fries

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Riley Cooper on January 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
"...Phone on Fire" is a refreshing and welcome departure from how embedded systems are treated in other books. The author brilliantly creates a team of real-world characters, warts and all, caught in a whirlwind of enormous technical challenges, impossible schedules, inadequate funding, questionable management, internal strife, avoidance of responsibility, harassment, and irate customers. This is the kind of stuff not taught in school. With all this melodrama, you may think this is not a technical book. But it is; the author weaves into the story numerous technical problems the team must solve. She builds suspense by also inviting the reader to try solving them. It's all about finding and fixing bugs.

This book is a must-read not only by embedded systems engineers, but also by their managers and other groups in an organization responsible to design, develop, test, produce, and support embedded system products. It's one of those "couldn't put it down" books. It's an easy read; the author knows how to reach her audience in a thoroughly understandable way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Embedded development isn't like other kinds of programming. Tight memory restrictions (a few dozen to a few hundred bytes for stack and variables) are the least of it. Really, it's the intimate integration of hardware and software that makes the difference. For example, I once made software changes that got the system 3 dB closer to the FCC RF emissions standard - that kind of thing. Add in real-time constraints, a user interface possibly consisting of one LED and a pushbutton, and little to no OS, and it becomes a whole new world.

Lots of your old debugging techniques just won't work in that world. Some will, but you'll need lots of new ones, too, and not just the ICE or logic analyzer. That's where this book comes in. Nine chapters present different debugging scenarios, fictional but based on real-world experience. In each Simone walks the reader through the problem, the debug sessions, some source code, and an eventual solution. As always, your brain is your best debugging tool, and Simone offers plenty of ways to use it many programmers won't have seen before.

For all the good in this book, I'm really not nuts about it. Each debug session has been scripted into a brief play between the four characters introduced. This mechanism allows Simone to walk through the debug reasoning in a realistic way and also lets her expose some of the human issues in system development. Still, it's a bit too "user friendly" for me - a notoriously unfriendly user. All that he-said/she-said interaction comes across as fluff; I prefer a higher density of technical content, others will prefer this book's chatty, conversational style.

That's just me, though.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Taylor on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent book! Real-to-life, creative thinking, lessons build upon themselves as you go through the book. It mirrored some of the things I've been through during 20+ years of HW/SW debug and Customer Support roles. I HIGHLY recommend this book and feel it
should be required reading either during school or as new employees in relevant positions.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Carlos X. Rosado on August 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Very intriguing book that reveals some of the experiences of young engineers in the field. It is a good guidance that takes you by the hand walks you through struggles, and shares some of the common frustration feelings that the engineering carrier exposes you to. It ought to be read by students who are hesitating about studying engineering and recently graduates that do not know what to expect from the field. The book itself is more than a text book and should be considered as an alternative to write engineering books. I really enjoyed trying to solve the mysteries while I was reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. Lewis on August 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
I loved reading this book. I learned a lot about debugging and thought the "novel" (in both senses of the word) format was great. In addition to being a good engineer, the author handled the characterization and plot lines very well. As an E.E. and also a big fan of reading mystery novels, I thought it was a satisfying and unique experience to do both at once! It's so rare that the insider view of what being an engineer is like is presented like this--the emotional content of being an engineer and being faced with the kinds of problems that come up every day. My hat's off to the author!
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More About the Author

Lisa is an engineer, researcher and educator who enjoys exploring the world of embedded systems and sharing it with others.

She wrote her first program on an Atari 800 in 1983, and then cobbled together enough money assembling embedded systems to buy her first 'modern day' computer (part by part) several years later. Since then, she has developed a wide range of products including medical diagnostic instruments, industrial automation and robotics, scientific measurement devices, and mobile phones and wireless sensor systems.

Lisa's experience includes pure research through product deployment. As a senior engineer at International Technidyne Corporation, she designed and developed hardware and software for portable blood coagulation devices. At Lucent Technologies and Motorola, she became a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff for her contributions to mobile phone architecture, integration and performance, and for managing and training new embedded engineers. She designed and implemented assembly line automation for Spadix Technologies, and led bioinstrumentation research at Kessler Medical Research. She enjoys mentoring students and engineers, and volunteers as a judge and coordinator for student technology and engineering research paper and design competitions.

Lisa recently redesigned the Capstone Design program as a biomedical engineering research professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where she taught engineering design, embedded, and biomedical engineering. Through her consulting company, she designs devices and methods to understand and assess human movement disorders caused by injury or disease (brain injury, spinal cord injury, MS).

Lisa received a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She also holds a Masters in the management of technology (technical MBA) from the Wharton School and University of Pennsylvania.

Lisa currently resides in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with her husband and two high-maintenance cats, one of whom was the ever-present editor of Phone on Fire. She loves scuba diving and underwater photography, reading and writing.

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If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?: Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed: Technical Mysteries for Engineers
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