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goto fail and embedded C Compilers

February 27th, 2014

I can’t imagine anyone reading this posting hasn’t already read about the Apple “goto fail” bug in SSL. My reaction was one of incredulity; I really couldn’t believe this code could have got into the wild on so many levels.

First we’ve got to consider the testing (or lack thereof) for this codebase. The side effect of the bug was that all SSL certificates passed, even malformed ones. This implies positive testing (i.e. we can demonstrate it works), but no negative testing (i.e. a malformed SSL certificate), or even no dynamic SSL certificate testing at all?

What I haven’t established* is whether the bug came about through code removal (e.g. there was another ‘if’ statement before the second goto) or, due to trial-and-error programming, the extra goto got added (with other code) that then didn’t get removed on a clean-up. There are, of course, some schools of thought that believe it was deliberately put in as part of prism!

Then you have to query regression testing; have they never tested for malformed SSL certificates (I can’t believe that; mind you I didn’t believe Lance was doping!) or did they use a regression-subset for this release which happened to miss this bug? Regression testing vs. product release is always a massive pressure. Automation of regression testing through continuous integration is key, but even so, for very large code bases it is simplistic to say “rerun all tests”; we live in a world of compromises.

Next, if we actually analyse the code then I can imagine the MISRA-C group jumping around saying “look, look, if only they’d followed MISRA-C this couldn’t of happened” (yes Chris, it’s you I’m envisaging) and of course they’re correct. This code breaks a number of MISRA-c:2012 rules, but most notably:

15.6 (Required) The body of an iteration-statement or selection-statement shall be a compound-statement

Which boils down to all if-statements must use a block structure, so the code would go from (ignoring the glaring coding error of two gotos):
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Can existing embedded applications benefit from Multicore Technology?

June 15th, 2012

It feels that not a day goes by without a new announcement regarding a major development in multicore technology. With so much press surrounding multicore, you have to ask the question “Is it for me?” i.e. can I utilise multicore technology in my embedded application?

However, from a software developer’s perspective, all the code examples seem to demonstrate the (same) massive performance improvements to “rendering fractals” or “ray tracing programs”. The examples always refer to Amdahl’s Law, showing gains when using, say, 16- or 128-cores. This is all very interesting, but not what I would imagine most embedded developers would consider “embedded”.  These types of programs are sometimes referred to as “embarrassingly parallel” as it is so obvious they would benefit from parallel processing. In addition the examples use proprietary solutions, such as TBB from Intel, or language extensions with limited platform support, e.g. OpenMP. In addition, this area of parallelisation is being addressed more and more by using multicore General Purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPGPU), such as PowerVR from Imagination Technologies and Mali from ARM, using OpenCL; however this is getting off-topic.

So taking “fractals”, OpenMP and GPGPUs out of the equation, is multicore really useful for embedded systems? Read more »

Artisan – Aonix merger

February 1st, 2010

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Late last month the merger of Artisan and Aonix was announced. This is yet another interesting move in the supply of tools to the embedded systems community.

The tool market has seen a number of significant changes over the last year. It started just over a year ago with the acquisition of Telelogic by IBM.  At that time Telelogic were starting to become the dominant player in the embedded design tool market (predominately UML), based primarily around their Rhapsody tool (which of course came in to their stable from their acquisition of I-Logix back in 2006).  A lot of people, me included, were concerned that Telelogic would be swallowed up into IBM and loose their focus and support for the embedded community.

Much of this concern was based on IBM’s previous acquisition of Rational back in 2003.  At that time Rational were certainly a player in the embedded UML market, but slowly fewer and fewer resources were given over, and no real investment to tools such as Rational Rose Real-Time. Sure enough, within a year the Telelogic name has disappeared to be replaced by IBM Rational. As an embedded developer you would be hard pressed to find what support IBM offer unless you know what to look for (try, for example, typing “embedded” into the IBM search box, you won’t find much of use to the embedded developer).

This has meant that a void has been developing for anyone looking to use UML in real-time embedded projects. Obviously there are a number of generic tools around, such as Enterprise Architect from Sparx Systems and MaigicDraw from Magic Draw, but neither is focused on to real-time embedded projects.

The merger of Artisan and Aonix makes a lot of sense to both companies. First, for Artisan it gives them a much better presence in the US and thus better positioned to exploit the void left by Telelogic. Also Aonix’s strength has historically been around safety-related software systems, which aligns with where Artisan has been having success.  The merger may also help Artisan address some of the areas they have been perceived as weak in compared to Telelogic, most notability code generation and simulation. Finally, if the code generation is addressed, then it may prove a good platform for gaining acceptance of Aonix’s really interesting, but still relatively niche, Java PERC offering.

So expect to see the name Atego much more in 2010.
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