Archive for August, 2011

Rabbit patches and embedded systems

Monday, August 29th, 2011 Nigel Jones

You may think from the title that I’m writing about Rabbit microprocessors – but no I’m actually intending to talk about bunnies. What you ask do rabbits have to do with embedded systems? Well read on and find out…

If you have ever had a vegetable garden then you will know that they are magnets for rabbits. Furthermore, you will soon find out that it takes extraordinary efforts to keep the rabbits out, as they have a tremendous ability to circumvent all sorts of fences.  When faced with such a problem, it is sometimes advisable to build a rabbit patch. The basic idea is this – you plant your garden and put a fence around it, and then on the outside of the fence you plant a second vegetable garden that is purely for the rabbits – i.e. a rabbit patch. The rabbits feed on the rabbit patch and leave your real garden alone because they would have to exert effort to get to it – and they don’t need to as their needs are satiated by the rabbit patch.

So what has this to do with embedded systems? Well let me describe a scenario to you that is almost certainly all too familiar to anyone that has been doing this for a few years.

It’s dog and pony show time and marketing is coming to pronounce judgement on your latest creation. Now if you are fortunate, the folks in marketing are a pleasure to work with. However from time to time, you run into someone who is incapable of attending a dog and pony show without offering criticisms / complaints. (I’m talking about the sort of person who would have criticized Michelangelo’s David at its unveiling). When faced with such an individual, I have found that the answer is to build the embedded system’s equivalent of a rabbit patch. It works like this. You intentionally put into the demonstration something that obviously isn’t quite right. Come time for the dog and pony show, the complainer latches on to the ‘problem’, and proceeds to explain in detail why it is wrong. You sit there and graciously accept the pearls of wisdom dispensed to you. You can then proceed to the meat of the presentation and get some useful work done.  The meeting ends and our protagonist walks away happy – and you have managed to actually have a useful and productive meeting. Naturally the fix to the ‘problem’ is a flick of a compilation switch.

So now you know what a rabbit patch is. I encourage you to use it sparingly. I also encourage you to watch out for it being used on you! I have sat in on a couple of presentations where I’m pretty sure a rabbit patch has been deployed. Fortunately I’m also pretty sure the rabbit patch wasn’t for my benefit…

On a personal note, I’m expecting to return to my normal blogging schedule. The long awaited hardware test may actually make an appearance soon.