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Have You Ever Been Blindsided by Your Own Design?

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_hm
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Can you write about F16?
_hm   12/13/2014 1:34:44 PM
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How can you write something about F16 assembly? It may not be appropriate.

 

dvhw
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Happens all the time
dvhw   12/14/2014 12:59:47 AM
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If you have worked in Silicon Valley you can have this experience all the time.  At the computer history museum are a bunch of products I contributed to.  It's fun to see them.

But the best is at a surplus place called Weird Stuff Warehouse.  Once a former colleague and I stopped by and saw some development tools on a shelf we had worked on.  We were so excited!  Even though I had a copy on my bokshelf already we eagerly each grabbed a copy of this $1200 package (bearing a price tag of something like $5).

When we went to the cash register we were laughing and excitedly told the cashier "We are the primary authors of this package!".  He could not have been more bored.

I suppose he must hear that a dozen times a day.

GSKrasle
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Re: Happens all the time
GSKrasle   12/15/2014 2:16:45 PM
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I am in the habit of using Excel to make analysis aids (when your only tool is a spreadsheet, every problem looks like a dataset). Sometimes, I help-out co-workers by 'lending' them one I made for myself or by whipping-up something custom. Sometimes, these 'escape,' and get passed-around without my being able to track them. If they contain my name, I am in danger of sudden unexpected demands for enhancement, improvement, or adaptation to new problems (or reprimand/contrition), so I usually try to leave them anonymous if I think they'll be abused.

In one case, I was doing some analysis and visualization of very big datasets. It was a difficult problem to understand, and the project had been floundering up until I arrived. I devised a way to analyze and present the data in a straightforward 'map' that facilitated comparing runs and detecting anomalous behaviour visually; when I started using this new format in reports, it became popular and I had to share my tools around.

Eventually, other problems in data analysis came-up and I proceeded to create tools optimized for the new application. A manager-engineer confronted me with accusation that I failed to comprehend how important the preceding format was, that it had been arrived-at for Reasons and had entailed the expenditure of a great amount of expense and time and expertise; my disregard and lack of understanding of the tools was unprofessional and unacceptable. It is strange to be reprimanded for not understanding and appreciating your own work.

Another time, as a contractor, I made an Excel model to predict the optimum dimensioning of PCBs and the 'manufacturing panels' of several images of them that would proceed down the assembly line. It saved a HUGE amount of money, on several projects (once it was shared-around). Years later, I got calls from that former client (a very very big company) asking for an instruction sheet and manufacturer's address for the tool, and 'is there a three-dimensional version that can be applied to the "packages-in-cartons-in-shipping-containers" problem?' What would YOU answer? I kind of doubt they wanted to hear that a lone schmo like me had been the 'sole proprietor' of a tool that had long outlived its project.

Another one, keeping with the theme: On a contract, I was presented with executing test protocols on the prototypes of new revs of the company's flagship hardware product. On the motherboard was a critical 'home-rolled' 'almost I2C' bus, and the existing protocols called-for MANUALLY parsing traffic using a scope. There was no way I was going to sit there and log bits with a straight-edge. I debated 'Turbo C++' or Excel, and Excel won. I used it to load a scope's internal data files across the network, and process and parse the traffic on the bus. It worked perfectly, even better than the little µcontroller boxes that were commissioned as its replacement, and, besides, it was waay more portable; you didn't need to find one of the little boxes, nor sit in immediate proximity, to get the data.

I just dread that someday a big-wig will encounter someone using the parser, and, upon recognizing what it actually is, announce 'You're using a SPREADSHEET for this? That's just WRONG! Find-out who's responsible and BRING ME HIS HEAD!'

 

antedeluvian
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Re: Happens all the time
antedeluvian   12/15/2014 3:02:27 PM
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GSKrasle

'You're using a SPREADSHEET for this? That's just WRONG! Find-out who's responsible and BRING ME HIS HEAD!'


As the author of a book on Excel in Electronics, several design ideas and a series on Planet Analog all on Excel, it is not uncommon to get involved in the argument that one shouldn't be using Excel. I'm with you!

antedeluvian
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Re: Happens all the time
antedeluvian   12/15/2014 3:07:40 PM
GSKrasle

It is strange to be reprimanded for not understanding and appreciating your own work.

I think I can identify. Years back Cypress accepted outside authors for their app notes. I wrote one on how to manipulate the parity bit on the PSoC to generate a 9th (address) bit a la the 8051, (based on my EDN design idea from even further back on doing the same on the PC).

A year or two after that I contacted tech support about some issue on the UART and was referred back to my own app note!

GSKrasle
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CEO
Re: Happens all the time
GSKrasle   12/16/2014 2:30:55 AM
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ante,

I had a worse experience: On one of my first jobs, a company that made specialized key systems (inside telephone exchanges), I volunteered to make a piece of equipment for test and demo purposes, a 'ring to seizure converter' that would accumulate energy from a couple of 'ring' cycles to seize (go off-hook) another line and connect them. This allowed you to dial an extension (or another phone line) and receive a dial-tone from that other line. It seems harmless, but such a device is strictly illegal, as it effectively renders the originating call untraceable.

I cobbled-togther the first out of junk and crammed it into a little box with '3-D' wiring. Then they wanted another. Then five more. And more.

I was stuck being asked to make machines that, had they gotten out 'into the wild' would have gotten me no end of trouble. I hope they were all destroyed!

That was before I completed a degree, and was a reason to go back to school and finish that business!

 

boblespam
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CEO
speed ticket
boblespam   12/16/2014 2:52:04 AM
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While in Germany I worked on a car license plate vision system (on the electronic part, not the recognition part) "to be used on highways"

I don't know if some of the speed tickets I had after this project were related though.


I the early time of GPS navigation systems in car radios, I developped as a lone consultant for a french company a system to read MP3 from a CD-ROM in the nav system (in lieu and place of the map CD-ROM), decode them and play them on the car radio. We were only two on this project because it was qualified as risky by the managers as there was rumors that MP3 could be prohibited because there was no copy protection in it. I developed the electronic and VHDL coding for the FPGA and my colleague did the software (GUI and CD-ROM FAT decoding). When it worked I left the project as I was "only a consultant".

A manager placed a patent on the whole decoding system, without telling me. He used internally the documentation I wrote, just changed the author name. The funny thing is that he didn'nt understand anything about VHDL !

Then I was contacted because there was a lincensing issue with the MP3-decoding part !

antedeluvian
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Re: speed ticket
antedeluvian   12/16/2014 8:37:07 AM
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boblespam

Interesting.

A manager placed a patent on the whole decoding system, without telling me. He used internally the documentation I wrote, just changed the author name. The funny thing is that he didn'nt understand anything about VHDL !

I figure there is a blog or two on people who are not credited with their contribution to a design and or patent. Fortunately I am not in a position to write it. Any takers?

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Happens all the time
Max The Magnificent   12/16/2014 9:44:03 AM
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@dvhw: At the computer history museum are a bunch of products I contributed to.  It's fun to see them.

I love visiting the Computer History Museum, although I haven;t done so for a few years now -- it must be awesome seeing products there that you worked on.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Happens all the time
Max The Magnificent   12/16/2014 9:44:50 AM
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@dvhw: He could not have been more bored.

The wretch deserves to be flogged! LOL

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