Embedded Software Developers Need Their Space
By John Blyler
Improvements to several IDEs should make life a bit easier for time-constrained, globally separated, and processor-centric embedded-software developers.
At this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) event, software-development environments took center stage for both a prominent electronic-design-automation (EDA) tool and an integrated-circuit (IC) hardware company. In fact, the EDA-systems tool vendor, Mentor Graphics, won an award for its efforts to improve integrated development environments (IDEs) for embedded designers.
During ESC 2011, VDC Research Group, Inc. (VDC) gave the annual best-in-show “Embeddy” software award to Mentor Graphics’ Embedded Sourcery System Analyzer. The Embeddy is given to the company that’s announcing the most cutting-edge product or service for embedded-software developers and system engineers.
According to Mentor, the System Analyzer tool is designed to help embedded-software developers “visualize and analyze system data to identify and debug or decode problem areas easily and improve design performance.” System Analyzer is part of the Embedded Sourcery Codebench suite, an IDE based upon the open-source GNU tool chain. The IDE supports the embedded development of specific processors including NetLogic Microsystems’ XLP multicore processor, Freescale’s Kinetis, and Xilinx’s Zynq.
The traditional approach to debugging software code relies on breakpoints. They’re used to set aside troublesome code blocks and printf() statements in order to examine the data stored up to the breakpoints. System Analyzer improves this process by collecting trace and profile data from a variety of sources within the system. This information is plotted against a timeline as well as in relationship to other system activity. As a result, embedded developers should be able to debug code problems with greater ease and efficiency.
Although Microchip didn’t win an award at ESC for improving its software-development environment, the company was given the 2010 EDN Innovation Award for its human-machine-interface technology—specifically, the mTouch Metal-Over-Capacitive touch-sensing technology.
The company’s open-source MPLAB X IDE improvements are noteworthy because of the addition of several features including the following:
- Team-collaboration tools for bug tracking and source-code control
- Support for multiple, simultaneous compiler versions
- Code completion and context menus via advanced editor
MPLAB X is based on the Oracle-sponsored, open-source NetBeans platform, which has a wide range of third-party plug-ins. The company’s IDE platform supports all of its 8-, 16-, and 32-bit microcontrollers and related digital signal controllers and memory devices.
Today’s software developers rely on IDEs to do their jobs. Thanks to EDA and IC companies, those workspaces just got an improved view.