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Susan Rambo
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Re: Detective Novels
Susan Rambo   7/29/2013 9:43:34 PM
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@betajet, while I find debugging a (usually) satisfying challenge, it's not the part of engineering I like best and I try to design hardware and software that won't need debugging.

Good point. If you practice your craft well, you can maybe reduce the time you spend debugging. 

betajet
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CEO
Re: Detective Novels
betajet   7/29/2013 7:16:41 PM
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Debugging a difficult problem is mentally exhausting (at least for me) because you have to concentrate hard on the likely causes while at the same time keeping your mind relaxed so that you can think of unlikely causes.  Then you have to find test cases to reproduce the bug reliably and instrument the hardware or code to figure out when and where it's happening.  I do get a thrill when I've figured out what subtle or stupid error caused the bug, but it's combined with anxiety that maybe it's really something else, especially if it's not completely obvious how the bug is causing the observed misbehavior.  So the high-five is tentative.

So while I find debugging a (usually) satisfying challenge, it's not the part of engineering I like best and I try to design hardware and software that won't need debugging.  I think of engineering as an art form: creating beautiful, elegant hardware and software and user interfaces that are a joy to work with rather than just hacking together something that seems to function properly.  Many engineers share this view: Steve Wozniak talked about being an artist-engineer at his 2011 Embedded Systems Conference "fireside chat", and at a 2012 Design West forum Raspberry Pi engineer Gert van Loo said that engineering is the best way to make a good living doing art.

There's a story about the artisan who made the beaten copper doors for the Tsar of Russia.  He would take a large plate of copper, and pound it with a hammer, over and over and over, creating beautiful swirling patterns.  Someone asked him: "How do you know when it's finished?"  He answered: "It's never finished -- I keep pounding until they take it away from me."  Engineering is like that: we'd always like to make it better, but at some point they take it away so they can ship it.

Susan Rambo
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Blogger
Re: Detective Novels
Susan Rambo   7/29/2013 3:50:59 PM
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@betajet, A student once asked me how I learned how to debug.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but after considering the question a bit I told him it was probably the many detective novels I read as a teenager.  

It makes a lot of sense that a love of detective work (as manifested by your love of the detective novel) -- and not just a love of "problem solving" -- would help explain what keeps an engineer in engineering. It must take a huge amount of patience to be an engineer. I've heard airline pilots describe their jobs as "hours of pure boredom, seconds of sheer terror." What is the electrical engineers equivalent? Hours of frustration and hard thinking, followed by seconds of high fives, then on to the next problem? I'm sure you can say it better. 

Tom Murphy
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Blogger
Re: PDP-11
Tom Murphy   7/29/2013 2:23:26 PM
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Good observation about the cars in an intersection, Martin. I've also noticed that high-priced sports cars will often yield before low-cost beaters, and that they go out of their way not to park too close other cars in parking lots. 

MeasurementBlues
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Re: PDP-11
MeasurementBlues   7/29/2013 1:31:36 PM
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>My observation in Boston is that the car with the least value has the advantage.

Generally true.

Larry Desjardin
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Blogger
Re: PDP-11
Larry Desjardin   7/29/2013 1:25:25 PM
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if car A goes through the intersection first, no problem.  If car B goes first, no problem. The ties are problematic. 

My observation in Boston is that the car with the least value has the advantage.

MeasurementBlues
User Rank
Blogger
Ace reliever
MeasurementBlues   7/29/2013 1:13:19 PM
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In baseball, if a relief pitcher makes a mistake, he is remembered. If not, he is forgotten.

I still remember the relief pitcher who gave up the hit that went through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986.

MeasurementBlues
User Rank
Blogger
Re: PDP-11
MeasurementBlues   7/29/2013 1:10:43 PM
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>Two cars entering an intersection at the same time.

In Boston, we chall that a game of chicken. The more aggressive driver, usually the one with the older car, usually wins.

Caleb Kraft
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Blogger
Re: Debugging book
Caleb Kraft   7/29/2013 12:58:22 PM
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I've heard good things about Pease's book. I'll have to check that one out. People always ask me this question all the time and I'd love a good document to point them to. 

sdbowen
User Rank
Rookie
Troubleshooting basics
sdbowen   7/29/2013 12:44:19 PM
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The author is correct that troubleshooting is an art.

As far as skills for a good troubleshooter for electronic circuits
  • Understanding there may be a mistake in the circuit design
  • Understanding there may be a mistake during circuit assembly
  • Debugging individual circuit segments
  • Knowing the problem may be in the components and not the circuit design
  • Attacking the problem from different angles
  • Experience knowing when your knowledge isn't enough and to call in help
  • Not being afraid to start over from scratch

I am a manufacturing engineer and not a circuit designer but have plenty of experience in electronics.  Solving a difficult problem is about how knowledge and experience are used to create a solution.  Sometimes troubleshooting is fun.  The joy in solving the problem can make having the problem worth it.

When I troubleshoot, I am never afraid to make a mistake or go the wrong direction.  Learning what doesn't works is just as good as learning what does.

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