Posts Tagged ‘netrino’

Baltimore, Technology, and Startups

Monday, February 7th, 2011 Michael Barr

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be expanding the range of subjects that I blog–and tweet–about. For the last five years I have been focusing my writing in these venues almost exclusively on the development of embedded software. Although embedded systems is my first and foremost passion, I maintain several other interests worthy of attention. Three of these subjects are Baltimore, technology, and startups. For me, these subjects are intertwined with embedded.


I was born and raised in Charm City and have lived and worked within about 35 miles of downtown Baltimore in all of the years since; I’m writing this from about 10 miles out. I’m thus a proud Baltimoron (er, Baltimorean?). Though the whole Old Bay seasoning/Maryland crab cakes thing never caught on with me (I’m a vegetarian, hon) I maintain many ties to The City That Reads and, as a result, struggle to this day with the proper pronunciation of words like museum, wash, and sink.

Now, Baltimore is not particularly known for its embedded software jobs. Yet Jack Ganssle and Nigel Jones as well as many top-notch embedded system designers are located right here. Unfortunately, most of the local embedded developers would have to kill you if they told you what kinds of systems they design. (Suffice it to say that the folks over at nearby NSA and their many subcontractors make a heck of a lot more receivers than they do transmitters.)

You’ll be hearing more from me about what’s going on locally here in Baltimore, because that’s my community. Local is the new global, after all.


As much as I truly love working in the field of embedded systems, I recognize that what we do is typically everything but state of the art. At a very high level, our specialty is putting decades old processor technology and trusted reliable software languages and libraries into previously unthinkable applications–in a diverse set of domains, from medical devices to automobiles. That’s why we mostly still use the C programming language.

However, like most good technologists, I maintain an active interest in what’s going on in the state of the art in my field. On the software side, what seems to be hottest right now is cloud computing, smartphone apps, and big data.

I read and think a lot about all of this. And from now on I’ll be passing along bits and pieces that I hope you’ll find interesting too.


Finally, though I am principally an engineer, I also have an MBA. And for over 12 years I have run a successful small business (i.e., Netrino). I’ve also been involved in a few technology startups that didn’t go so far. And I really enjoy interacting with other entrepreneurs, helping them refine their ideas, and sharing what I’ve learned as a businessman. (Over the years, Netrino has also helped a number of startups develop prototype embedded systems.)

This year all of this stuff seems to be coming together in my world. That’s partly because Baltimore has a rapidly expanding technology startup community. The heart of this community is at the Emerging Technology Center in downtown Baltimore, where I’ll be increasingly making time to get involved. There’s also the wonderful Baltimore Node Hackerspace, where Baltimore, technology, and startups actually intersect with embedded systems design.

I think these additions to the topics covered here and in my twitter feed will make for an even more interesting read. I hope you agree and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Embedded Software Boot Camp in a Box

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 Michael Barr

Whether you are new to embedded software development in C or looking for ways to improve your skills, the Embedded Software Boot Camp in a Box will provide you the hands-on education you need. Exercises are based around an ARM processor board (shown below), the MicroC/OS-II real-time operating system, and the IAR Embedded Workbench compiler/debugger, all of which are included in the box.


Learn Embedded Programming on an ARM Processor

Netrino’s popular Embedded Software Boot Camp (see upcoming dates), on which this kit is based, is an intense in-person training experience that requires attendees to be able to check out of normal work and life routines for a week—sometimes also travelling a great distance. The Embedded Software Boot Camp in a Box is a way to learn the same skills at your own pace. You’ll do the same exercises and have access to the same materials, just won’t have a “drill instructor” or the clock to prod you.

Here’s how you’ll use the Embedded Software Boot Camp in a Box to learn embedded programming:

  • Read the 350 page “Field Manual” book, which contains the slides from the in-person Boot Camps, in order.
  • If you want to dig deeper, watch the video of Michael Barr‘s acclaimed “How to Prioritize RTOS Tasks and Why it Matters” lecture on DVD, or read the three books and numerous articles provided as PDFs on the USB drive.
  • As you read, you will come to slides titled “Exercise: …”. These slides mark the best points to attempt each exercise.
  • In all there are ten programming exercises: one to test your compiler/debugger/board setup; two concerning hardware interfacing in C; six concerning multithreaded programming with uC/OS-II; and one capstone project to build a scuba dive computer. These involve hardware interactions such as blinking LEDs, debouncing pushbuttons, reading A/D converters, working with programmable timer/counters, and generating audio tones via PWM signals.
  • Detailed instructions for each exercise can be found in the printed “Exercise Manual”.
  • Solutions for each of the exercises are provided on the USB drive.
  • After you finish with the included exercises, you’ll know your way around most of your ARM processor board and be ready to explore the rest of its hardware (RS-232, CAN, Ethernet, USB, etc.) on your own.

For more details or to order your kit now, browse on over to

Help Bring the Embedded Software Boot Camp to Your City

Friday, October 30th, 2009 Michael Barr

When Netrino announced the first public offering of the Embedded Software Boot Camp a year and a half ago, I had no idea how popular it would be. Or just how much I could love teaching the intensive hands-on week-long version of the training we had developed over many years.

At this point, we have educated hundreds of engineers about embedded software architecture and related best practices through the topics of Hardware Interfacing in C, Multithreaded RTOS Programming, and RTOS Alternatives and ARM-based programming exercises.

Here’s just a small sampling of feedback from recent attendees:

“I would like to thank you again for the Embedded Software Boot Camp. I brought all the books back to the company and showed my boss the slides and all the handouts and all that good stuff and he was very impressed. Needless to say he was happy with the investment he made in Netrino.” — Garrett

“A better use of time and money than the Wind River VxWorks training course I took last month!” — David, IBM

“Hands on exercises are well thought out.” — Mahesh

“This is one of the best trainings I have ever attended.” — H., Hughes Network Systems

“Fabulous, pertinent, comprehensive and articulate collection of the most important things needed practically. Awesome!” — Sourabh

“Complete and correct embedded software training.” — P. Sipika

For 2010, we are planning a multi-city worldwide road-show for this popular event. I plan to teach as many of them personally as I can. I’d love to have you join us, but we first need your input to select the best cities and dates. If you’ve got a minute, please take our quick 5-question online survey at:

No personally identifying information is gathered in the survey. Thus if you want to be the first to know what cities and dates we choose, be sure to sign up for our mailing list or bookmark our public training calendar.

Trac and RSS

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 Michael Barr

At Netrino, we absolutely adore Trac. All of our engineering teams use Trac (along with Subversion) to manage projects and track changes to their schematics, source code, and other documents.

In fact, we have a lot of simultaneous projects–each with a separate Trac home. Since we’re hosting on the Internet rather than internally and have a different mix of engineers on each project, though, we must use authentication. In a nutshell, it’s first necessary to login with a username and password before you can view or edit any of Trac’s wiki, milestones, tickets, etc.

We love RSS too at Netrino. So it’s nifty that Trac supports RSS and can spit out a Timeline view of events via RSS. Ideally, those of us with roles in multiple projects could just track events via per-project RSS feeds.

Unfortunately, we’ve found no RSS reader that can perform the necessary login step, via for example the /login URL, prior to accessing the feed. For Mac there’s even one RSS client (Rss Growler) that claims to have been written specifically for use with Trac–but it can’t login first either.

Digging for hours for an answer to this riddle, I discovered that the issue has been known in the Trac community for more than three years. Despite a long series of discussions, Ticket #540 remains open with no end in sight! Is this the best the open source community can do? (The very first comment, dating to June 2004, offers a reasonable-sounding solution that would work for most TracRSS users.)


Wednesday, March 1st, 2006 Michael Barr

I’m often asked where the name Netrino came from. The Netrino name and NETRINO.COM domain registration actually predated Netrino, LLC. Back then I was living with two friends and fellow engineers post-college. The three of us wanted to share one Internet pipe (dial-up, mind you, as this was 1996) into the house, then split it off from there. For whatever reason, we also wanted to host our own mailserver and webserver on the 386 Linux box that was going to serve as the gateway.

We chose the name Netrino after some brainstorming, probably because we liked the sense of “little network” and allusion to small particles called neutrinos. The name stuck, and when we moved apart I took it for my business in trade for free e-mail and webhosting for the others for as long as I continue to operate it.

After escaping a trademark infringement complaint from QNX’s Neutrino RTOS in the early days of my firm, I’ve noticed several other Netrino’s on the Internet. For example, there’s the Greek movie Netrino (1999), about which I know nothing. There’s also a British webdesign firm called; given their origins as an ISP, I bet they noticed the “little network” connotation too.