Honestly, I'm not making this up...

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), which uses QNX-controlled autonomous underwater vehicles to perform ocean research, has just posted a video of a fish with a — wait for it — transparent head.

Words fail me. So let's just watch the video:

The thing to remember is that the fish's eyes aren't those front-mounted things that look like eyes, but the bright green things inside the transparent dome. Scientists theorize that the dome serves a purpose: to shield the fish's eyes from the stinging cells of jellyfish. For the full story, check out this article.

Postscript: For a somewhat larger image of the fish, click here.


Blimey, I forgot about the screen captures...

Earlier today, I posted a link to some new videos that show how QNX is helping automakers build infotainment systems and digital instrument clusters. But if you're like me, you're probably strapped for time. So if you want the 5 second version, rather than the 5 minute version, check out the screen captures that QNX posted earlier today. I think I posted one of these a while back, but not in such high resolution.

Yet another digital instrument cluster blog post

I hope you don't mind all these posts on digital instrument clusters, because here's another one. Nice thing is, you don't have listen to me drone on about how I think digital clusters are poised to change the face of automotive computing, yadda, yadda, yadda. This time, you get to see a nice video.

Three videos, in fact. The first focuses on digital instrument clusters; the other two on a "multi-node infotainment system".

These videos show reference implementations from the new QNX CAR program, which promises to change the world of automotive computing... oh wait, I said I wouldn't go there. So, hey, click here to see the videos, crank up the audio, and let me know what you think.

Visit ESC on the cheap

I don't know if you can get similar discounts elsewhere, but the Embedded now blog has posted a code that lets you shave 25% off the registration price for ESC Silicon Valley. Most companies are imposing strict travel restrictions this year, so chances are, the ESC organizers will offer embedded developers even more carrots as the conference date approaches.

If you don't know what ESC is, then you're probably not interested in the offer. But if you're curious, click here.


Can digital speedometers make you a better driver?

I find North American society a little schizoid. Well, maybe a lot schizoid. On the one hand, we obsess so much about safety that even a cup of coffee comes with a warning label. But at the same time, we bring every possible personal gadget into our cars -- cellphones, iPods, you name it -- and magically believe that we won't get distracted and drive straight into the nearest cement truck. I mean, really.

Weirdly enough, this schizoid worldview provides an opportunity for car makers. By applying the right technology, they can let drivers bring electronic distractions into the car while minimizing the distracting part. Take an iPod, for instance. Playing with its clickwheel while attempting to steer your way through traffic is pretty dumb. But having a car that lets you control the iPod with voice commands -- now, that's pretty cool. And perhaps a wee bit safer.

Which brings me to a recent Automotive Designline article by QNX's Andy Gryc. He talks about how car makers can use LCD displays, touchscreens, voice recognition, audio feedback, and human factors engineering to help gadget-obsessed drivers stay focused on important stuff. Like avoiding that cement truck.

I especially liked the suggestion that digital instrument clusters could discreetly encourage drivers to drive safely. For instance, by displaying the current speed limit (acquired from the navigation database), a digital speedometer could help the driver notice excessive speeding and slow down to safer speeds:

Of course, you could argue this is just another unnecessary warning label, albeit a flashy technical one.

But hey, judge for yourself. Check out Andy's article, which is published in two parts, here and here.


Happy birthday, Mr. Darwin

It's February 12, 1859 -- Charles Darwin's 50th birtday. Mr. Darwin opens the front door to get the morning paper, and what does he see but 50 pink iguanas scattered across his lawn.


Embedded trends and (gasp) buggy compilers

Last week, Jack Ganssle of Embedded.com posted some interesting stats from a recent study carried out by Embedded Market Forecasters (EMF). EMF interviewed about 500 embedded developers and asked them questions on everything from which DSPs they use to the size of their software projects.

Some highlights:

  • Most popular operating systems -- Various flavors of Windows, followed by Linux, VxWorks, and QNX Neutrino. According to Ganssle, all other commercial OSs are "in the noise."
  • Most popular language -- C, followed by C++ and Assembly. Suprisingly enough, Visual Basic also makes a strong showing.
  • Most popular 32-bit embedded processors -- ARM, followed by Intel and Freescale.
  • Most popular DSPs -- Texas Instruments
  • Average team size -- 7 members
  • Code size of average project -- 100+ K lines of new code

As with any study of this kind, you have to take the findings with a grain of salt. There is always a chance of sampling error, especially in the embedded market, which encompasses such a huge variety of companies, developers, and products.

Also, it's important to remember that these numbers are aggregates; you'd probably see very different results if you looked only at the responses from a specific market segment. For instance, if you sampled engineers designing in-car telematics systems, you'd probably find QNX at the top of the OS list. And if you sampled designers of networking equipment, you'd probably see a lot of Linux projects.

To me, though, some of the more telling stats involve management issues. For instance, two thirds of respondents stated that they get no training on development tools. This finding reminds me of stories about developers who can't even get the budget clearance to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a static analysis tool. You would think, given the cost of wasted developer hours, that companies would want to maximize productivity at every reasonable turn.

Speaking of turns, Ganssle's article takes an unexpected and somewhat disconcerting turn in the final paragraphs when it refers to a study that found "compilers sometimes miscompile code using the volatile keyword." For the full story on this issue, click here.