embedded software boot camp

Embedded systems boot times

Monday, October 26th, 2009 by Nigel Jones

Last week saw the release of Windows 7. Looking over the new features, the one that struck me the most was the effort that Microsoft had put into decreasing the boot time of the OS. If the reports are to be believed, then Windows 7 boots dramatically faster than its predecessors – to which I say about time! Almost contemporaneously with the Windows 7 announcement I took delivery of a beautiful new Tektronix Mixed Signal Oscilloscope. It’s a model MSO2024 with four analog channels, 16 digital channels, a huge color display, great user interface, tremendous connectivity etc. Despite all this, I’m disappointed with the product. The reason – it takes 75 seconds to boot. Now if I’m preparing a major debug session, then this 75 seconds isn’t terrible. However, most of the time when I turn a scope on, I’m interested in just getting a quick look at a signal – and then I’m done. For this usage mode, the MSO2024 fails miserably.

Now I’d like to think that this scope is an oddball in this respect – but it isn’t. I purchased a big fancy flat screen TV last year – and it takes about 5 seconds to boot from standby (i.e. powered, yet ‘off’) to being ‘on’. Maybe it’s my type A personality, but I find that time unacceptable (in part because I’m never sure if I’ve actually turned the thing on, or whether the remote control signal missed its mark).

Now without a doubt, these long boot times are a function of large processors, huge memories, complex RTOS’s etc. However, I also think they are equally a result of poor design by the engineers (or maybe poor specification by the marketing department).

Thus the bottom line – think about the boot time of your product. Your end user will appreciate you doing so.

Incidentally, if there is sufficient interest, I may publish some tips on how to minimize boot times in future blog postings.

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8 Responses to “Embedded systems boot times”

  1. Denton Gentry says:

    I would appreciate a posting on reducing boot times. I mostly work with 32 bit CPUs (MIPS, PowerPC) running Linux, and really enjoy reading about perspectives from a different part of the embedded market.

  2. Kyle Bostian says:

    Does the scope have a self test? If so, how much of the 75 seconds is boot time, and how much is self test of the oscilloscope specific features? I used to have a TDS640 and it had a pretty extensive self-test. I could imagine that some of the tests may need time to settle before making a go-no go decision. In general, though, I would agree – it would be difficult to tolerate a scope sitting like a zombie for 75 seconds before showing a sign of life.

  3. Nigel Jones says:

    Good question Kyle. For the first 60 seconds or so, a pretty picture is displayed, with no other outward sign of activity. For the remainder of the time, the usual oscilloscope display is shown, but with an hourglass. Finally a message appears that says 'Power on self test passed'. What's interesting is that the scope has an additional calibration mode that may be manually invoked. Thus I'm not really sure what the scope is doing for 75 seconds (other than irritating me!).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nigel I would also appreciate to read a post about how to reduce boot times.tks,Douglas

  5. Nigel Jones says:

    OK – I'll ensure I post my thoughts on how to minimize boot times at some point in the future.

  6. K1200LT Rider says:

    >> …I'm never sure if I've actually turned the thing on, or whether the remote control signal missed its mark)Even my old CRT type television is frustrating to me, because it has no indication as to whether it is on or off other than the picture itself. When the cable box (which has a power LED) is off, it's difficult to tell if the TV is on since it is just a black screen.Whether it's hardware or software, there should always be something to indicate it's state, and also something to indicate to the user the progress if any particular state takes a significant amount of time at all.

  7. Nigel Jones says:

    Good point. Now you mention it I think this lack of timely feedback is one of the biggest irritants I have with products.

  8. Greg Kam says:

    Hello Nigel, Excellent point. High technology but We still need wait a long time to boot or use an instrument? (Even a computer /Software tool ..). Inacceptable!!! Think about this same condition on your car/vehicle ..
    Probably the design engineers know that .. there are a cost pression .. on Tektronix/instrument case .. a think is for more profits (Maketing department with its bad technical skill/interferences) due the cost of its instrumentos are increasing every year. This long boot problem are found even on higher instruments series (ex.MSO/DPO4000, 5000 series etc.)
    Digital technology and still I need wait a long time to use an instrument or a computer? My grandfather using its instruments with valve technology from the 1950´s decade are faster ..
    Great article, Go ahead, I would like to see comments about our actual PC computer´s technology/OS-Operating Systems, boot time, noise and refrigeration systems, … Tks.

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