Embedded software development

Found in an Ivan Krstic post about Sugar and the OLPC:

In truth, the XO ships a pretty shitty operating system, and this fact has very little to do with Sugar the GUI. It has a lot to do with the choice of incompetent hardware vendors that provided half-assedly built, unsupported and unsupportable components with broken closed-source firmware blobs that OLPC could neither examine nor fix. […]

We had an embedded controller that blocks keyboard events and stops machine suspend, and to which we — after a long battle — received the source, under strict NDA, only to find a jungle of nested if statements, twelve levels deep, and no code history. (The company that wrote the code doesn’t use version control, see. They put dates into code comments when they make changes, and the developers mail each other zip files with new versions.)

Haha. Been there, done that. Sometimes it’s great not to have to work with custom hardware anymore…

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3 Comments

  1. tgape
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 12:50 | Permalink

    That would explain a lot of why my XO hasn’t really gotten any lovin’ in over a year. Every time I tried to do anything with it – for example, booting it from a USB stick – I ran into inconsistencies with what was documented to work on the XO Wiki and how my XO actually behaved.

    I remember the last time I worked in a group that had no version control. I ‘secretly’ started putting all the versions I got my little mitts on into SCCS (Sun servers, so it was there), and after a while, called a few people out on changes that they tried to sneak in to other sections of the code. After I revealed to the manager he had a little passive-aggressive code kludge war on his hands, version control was quickly mandated in an attempt to quash it. I’m not sure how it all turned out, but before I left, one of the worst coders left in frustration, because his code depended upon bugs that he was no longer able to re-insert into his coworkers’ code, and he wasn’t able to fix his code to work without it. Worse, I had.

  2. Posted July 23, 2009 at 16:09 | Permalink

    Haven’t read it fully yet but it is worrying there are these issues when Mary Lou Jepsen, one of the heads of OLPC, has spun-out into Pixel Qi, a commercial company profiting on some of the screen-tech done in the OLPC project.

  3. Craig Hughes
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 17:48 | Permalink

    I wonder why there’s suddenly all this “It was the other guy’s fault” finger pointing going on with OLPC the last few days? I just saw something about how Negroponte was saying that the biggest problem with the OLPC was that they tried adding Sugar to it or something. No dude, the biggest fucking problem is that deploying 1e6 computers without any support infrastructure is the decision of a retard. Claiming $100 (or even $250) per laptop, and assuming that distribution, maintenance, INTERNET BACKBONE ACCESS, etc all come magically for free is really completely nuts.

    Spending $100 or $250 per laptop for some little village in the middle of Africa without putting a few $1 mosquito nets and bulk packs of condoms and anti-biotics in the shipping crate borders on malicious hatred.