A PlayBook wallpaper for the winter weary

I love cold, bright January days when the sun shines on new-fallen snow, creating a blaze of winter light. I'm not so happy, however, when the sun decides to hole up for days on end, and all I see is dreary gray skies that fade to black by 5:00 pm. Blech!

So, for anyone who hates those dull gray days as much as me, here's a little wallpaper to perk you up, and to remind you that Spring will indeed come again. I shot this years ago with a 35mm SLR. You know, one of those cameras you see on eBay that use — wait for it — film.

To download the wallpaper to your PlayBook:
  1. Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulleroux
  2. Tap the wallpaper.
  3. A larger image will appear. Tap Actions, then tap View all sizes.
  4. An even larger image will appear! Tap Download the Large size of this photo.
  5. Your PlayBook will ask you to enter a file name. Type something meaningful, such as daisies.jpg, and tap Save.
  6. From the PlayBook home screen, tap Pictures, then tap Downloads.
  7. Tap the wallpaper you want, swipe from the top of the screen and tap Set as Wallpaper. You're done!


HTML5 in the car: Just for the high end?

Not so, claims Matthew Staikos, who's been doing HTML and Webkit development for a decade. In this video interview with Andy Gryc — the second in a series produced by QNX — Matthew discusses how HTML5 can work in both higher- and lower-end infotainment systems. He also makes some interesting comments on how HTML5 apps can augment the app store experience.

And did I mention? Like the previous HTML5 video, this one's got bloopers!



CNN airs video of Solar Impulse solar-powered plane

It has the wingspan of a Boeing 777, but weighs only as much as a family car. It has four propellers, but doesn’t consume an ounce of fuel. It's called the Solar Impulse, and it's the first plane designed to fly round the clock using only solar power.

I've already posted several articles on the Solar Impulse, which uses the QNX OS for a variety of control and data management functions. But this CNN video has some particularly nice shots of the plane. Enjoy!



Meet a true "Hiro" of robotic research

If developing next-gen robotics is your thing, Hiro's your man.

A couple of years ago, I introduced you to Hiro, a QNX-based robot designed for research and teaching programs in university labs. Even if you didn't read about Hiro here, he may still seem familiar, what with his appearances on Engadget, übergizmo, and other über-popular sites.

Kawada Industries, the company that created Hiro, describes him as a starter set for research into humanoid robots. To that end, Hiro comes equipped with a stereo vision camera, speech recognition, hands with 15 degrees of freedom, hand-mounted cameras, and a repeat positioning accuracy of less than 20 micrometers — that's 20 one-thousandths of a millimeter.

Since my last post, Kawada has uploaded some videos to demonstrate Hiro's chops. For instance, here's a clip showing how he has all the right moves:

And here's a clip showing how he can listen to voice commands:

If Hiro's role is to serve as a platform for next-gen robotics, he is succeeding. Recently, Osamu Hasegawa, a professor at the Tokyo Insitute of Technology, used Hiro as the basis for a new "thinking" robot. The robot, also dubbed Hiro (confusing, I know), employs a Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network algorithm to adapt to its environment and learn new tasks.

For instance, in this video, a researcher asks Hiro to pour a cup of water. Hiro has never done this before, but figures out how to do it. That's some algorithm!

For more information on Hiro and his manufacturer, Kawada industries, click here.


What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see:

  • Paul discovers a navigation system with an Aussie accent. Fair dinkum!
  • Andrew gives us a further taste of augmented reality
  • Paul thinks that an electric fan is the coolest part of a new QNX video
  • Linda discovers a QNX logo inches away from a pair of go-go boots
  • Paul is impressed by how many people are impressed by OnStar FMV
  • Nancy isn't impressed by having to go off the grid whenever she gets behind the wheel



Sorry for shouting, but I wanted you to hear me above the racket. Mind you, if I were using a handsfree system based on QNX's acoustic processing suite, I wouldn't have to shout for you to hear me.

Confused yet? Just check out this video, which pits sonic mayhem against QNX technology, and all will be revealed:

In case you're wondering, the suite doesn't prevent you from hearing sirens and other important sounds. Rather, it helps ensure that the person on the other end of the call hears you clearly, and vice versa. This clarity can help lighten your cognitive load, so, if anything, you are more, not less, aware of what's happening around you. How cool is that?


New BlackBerry PlayBook Wallpaper — QNX Concept Car

I can't believe I haven't uploaded this one already. It's a shot of the QNX concept car, taken outside QNX headquarters.

At first, I thought the image might be too busy to serve as wallpaper, but I've grown to like it — I hope you do, too.

BTW, the car wasn't moving at the time, so I used some PhotoShop magic to evoke a feeling of movement.

To download the wallpaper to your PlayBook:
  1. Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulleroux
  2. Tap the wallpaper.
  3. A larger image will appear. Tap Actions, then tap View all sizes.
  4. An even larger image will appear! Tap Download the Large size of this photo.
  5. Your PlayBook will ask you to enter a file name. Type something meaningful, such as qnx_concept_car_wallpaper.jpg, and tap Save.
  6. From the PlayBook home screen, tap Pictures, then tap Downloads.
  7. Tap the wallpaper you want, swipe from the top of the screen and tap Set as Wallpaper. You're done!

LDRA, QNX help medical device developers gear up on IEC 62304 standard

Image courtesy LDRA
Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of LDRA.

My bad. LDRA has been in business for more than 35 years, developing tools that automate code analysis and software testing for safety-, mission-, security- and business- critical systems. (A lot of hyphens, I know, but did you really want me to say "critical" four times? :-)  In other words, LDRA has been helping systems work reliably for even longer than QNX.

Fortunately, my colleague Bob Monkman isn't as clued out as I am. In fact, he recently got together with LDRA to develop a new webinar, "Optimizing the Development of Certified Medical Devices".

The webinar, which happens this Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. EST, covers several topics, including:
  • Using IEC 62304 development templates
  • Specifying requirements to ensure requirements traceability through all phases of development
  • Leveraging safe design training courses and pre-audit consulting
  • Securing code — 70% of security vulnerabilities rise from programming errors
  • Scheduling code inspections — early inspections eliminate errors
  • Gaining IEC 62304 compliance using qualifiable and certified products from LDRA and QNX
Unified tooling
Don't go just yet. I also want to mention that LDRA recently ported their tool suite — which includes tools for lifecycle software testing for all phases of development — to the QNX Momentics Tool Suite and QNX Neutrino RTOS.

This makes for nice integration between LDRA tools and QNX tools. For instance, if the LDRA tool suite identifies a code violation, you can view the error interactively from within the QNX Momentics IDE — no need to switch tooling environment. Good, that.

Using the QNX Momentics IDE to inspect a violation caught by the LDRA tool suite.

To view two full-size screen captures showing LDRA-QNX integration, visit the Hughes Communications website.

And for more details on the LDRA suite for QNX, check out the press release.


HTML5 in the car: Hello cross-platform, goodbye vendor lock-in

Is HTML5 the next big thing in car infotainment? Hear what Andy Gryc of QNX has to say in this new video, which explains why the HTML5 standard may leave proprietary solutions in the dust. (Don't have time to watch the whole thing? Then at least watch the bloopers at the end. If nothing else, you'll find out why Andy is such a gas to work with.)

My QNX friends tell me this is the first installment in a new video series on HTML5 and the car. So stay tuned.


QNX-based nav system helps Ford SUVs stay on course down under

This just in: SWSA, a leading electronics supplier to the Australian automotive industry, and NNG, the developer of the award-winning iGO navigation software, have created a QNX-based navigation system for Ford Australia. The new system has been deployed in Ford Territory SUVs since June of this year.

To reduce driver distraction, the system offers a simplified user interface and feature set. And, to provide accurate route guidance, the system uses data from an internal gyroscope and an external traffic message channel, as well as standard GPS signals. Taking the conditions of local roads into account, the software provides a variety of alerts and speed-camera warnings; it also offers route guidance in Australian English.

The navigation system is based on the iGO My way Engine, which runs in millions of navigation devices worldwide. To read NNG's press release, click here.

SWSA's new nav system for the Ford Territory is based on the Freescale
i.MX31L processor, QNX Neutrino RTOS, and iGO My way Engine.

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.

Qt developers can now target QNX Neutrino RTOS with commercial licensing and support from Digia

QNX medical demo equipped
with a Qt-based user interface
(see video, below)
This just in: Digia and QNX Software Systems have announced that Digia will provide developers who target the QNX Neutrino RTOS with licensing, support, and services for the Qt Commercial development framework. This is welcome news for anyone who wants to use Qt and the QNX Neutrino RTOS in a commercial device or application.

If you're new to Qt, it's a popular framework for writing applications and graphical user interfaces. More to the point, it's a cross-platform framework: You can write your applications once and deploy them across multiple desktop and embedded operating systems, without having to rewrite your source code.

This "write once, deploy across" feature helps explain why a number of QNX customers — particularly those in the medical industry — have been asking for commercial Qt support. In fact, both Qt and QNX Neutrino have a proven history in FDA-approved devices. It's no surprise, then, that the QNX concept team used Qt to build the user interface for their medical device demo, pictured above.

To get a feel for how the concept team integrated the Qt UI with QNX Neutrino, check out the whitepaper, "Persistent Publish/Subscribe Messaging in Medical Devices". And to see the Qt-equipped medical demo in action, check out this video filmed at the Embedded World Conference in Nuremburg. Among other things, the video showcases some nifty BlackBerry PlayBook integration.



QNX-powered OnStar FMV drives home with CES innovation award

This just in: The OnStar FMV aftermarket mirror, which brings the safety and security features of OnStar to non-GM vehicles, has won a coveted CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award.

To clinch this award, a product must impress an independent panel of industrial designers, engineers, and trade journalists. Speaking of impressions, it seems that OnStar FMV also made a hit with the folks at CNET, because they've chosen it as one of their Top Holiday Shopping Picks for 2011.

If you haven't already guessed, OnStar FMV uses QNX Neutrino as its OS platform. It also uses the QNX acoustic processing suite, which filters out noise and echo to make hands-free conversations clear and easy to follow. The suite includes cool features like bandwidth extension, which extends the narrow-band hands-free signal frequency range to deliver speech that is warm and natural, as well as intelligible.

Have time for a video? If so, here's a fun look at FMV's features, including stolen vehicle recovery, automatic crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, and one-touch emergency calling:

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see:



Green cars need to learn the fast-boot boogie

It's funny how things happen in three's... or at least two's.

Earlier this morning, I came across photos of the ESB Sundancer, a concept electric vehicle showcased at the first Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development, in 1973. The symposium aimed to promote greener vehicles, especially those that didn't rely on gasoline or diesel oil. Unfortunately, gas was dirt cheap, so the Sundancer and other vehicles shown at the event never gained traction.

A few minutes later, I visited the QNX auto blog, only to discover that my colleague Nancy Young had just posted an article on — wait for it — the need for green in automotive. Holy Synchronicity, Batman!

But here's the thing: Nancy doesn't talk about battery technology, or fuel efficiency, or any of the other topics you expect to find in a "green automotive" article. Instead, she discusses why infotainment systems need to boot quickly.

What's the connection? Well, I'm not going to spoil the ending for you. Read the post and find out.


30 years of QNX: Celebrating a decade of Eclipse

Correct me if I'm wrong, but until Eclipse came along, the software industry didn't have a standard platform for developing applications in C and C++. This was certainly true in the embedded market, where almost every OS vendor offered their own proprietary development environment.

As a wise man once said, what a dumb approach. Vendors wasted time reinventing the wheel, when they could have focused on innovative tools that offered real value. Meanwhile, developers had to learn a new toolset every time they worked with a different OS. Doh!

Folks at QNX knew this situation had to change. Which explains why Dan Dodge, the company's CEO, became a founding steward of Eclipse.org, the consortium responsible for creating the Eclipse open-source tooling platform. It also explains why Sebastien Marineau, the company's VP of engineering, became the first project lead of CDT, the C and C++ development environment for Eclipse.

QNX's contribution didn't stop there. The company also donated a large amount of source code and developer time to the CDT project. As a result of these and other community efforts, Eclipse CDT subsequently became the C/C++ platform of choice for IBM, Ericsson, Texas Instruments, and other multi-billion dollar organizations.

Eclipse CDT also formed the basis of a major new QNX product, the QNX Momentics Tool Suite. More importantly, the platform gave QNX more freedom to innovate, particularly when it came to tools for debugging and optimizing multi-core systems. In fact, these multi-core tools garnered several awards, including:
  • Eclipse community awards, best developer tool, 2007
  • EDN China innovation award, 2007
  • Embedded World embedded AWARD, 2006
Here, for example, is a screen capture of the system profiler for the QNX Momentics Suite. The profiler is displaying CPU activity for the 4 cores of a quad-core processor:

Eclipse is ten years old this month. If you're interested in its history, or in crashing an Eclipse birthday party, check out out the Eclipse website.


Can HTML5 keep car infotainment on track?

True story: When a train on the Trans-Mongolian Railway crosses from Mongolia into China, it must stop and have all of its wheel assemblies replaced. Why? Because the track gauge (distance between the rails) is 1520 mm in Mongolia and 1435 mm in China. Oops!

The rail industry realized long ago that, unless it settled on a standard, costly scenarios like this would repeat themselves ad infinitum. As a result, some 60% of railways worldwide, including those in China, now use standard gauge, ensuring greater interoperability and efficiency.

The in-car infotainment market should take note. It has yet to embrace a standard that would allow in-car systems to interoperate seamlessly with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Nor has it embraced a standard environment for creating in-car apps and user interfaces.

Of course, there are existing solutions for addressing these issues. But that's the problem: multiple solutions, and no accepted standard. And without one, how will cars and mobile devices ever leverage one another out of the box, without a lot of workarounds? And how will automakers ever tap into a (really) large developer community?

No standard means more market fragmentation — and more fragmentation means less efficiency, less interoperability, and less progress overall. Who wants that?

Is HTML5, which is already transforming app development in the desktop, server, and mobile worlds, the standard the car infotainment industry needs? That is one of the questions my colleague, Andy Gryc, will address in his seminar, HTML5 for automotive infotainment: What, why, and how?. The webinar happens tomorrow, November 15. I invite you to check it out.

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see:



Using persistent publish/subscribe (PPS) messaging in medical devices

A QNX-based medical demo
equipped with PPS messaging
and a Qt user interface.
In early 2010, I published two posts (here and here) on persistent publish/subscribe messaging, aka PPS. The posts explored the advantages of PPS over other forms of interprocess communications (IPC) and why it makes automotive instrument clusters, smart energy panels, and other devices easier to develop, maintain, and upgrade.

In a nutshell, PPS lets you create loosely coupled designs based on asynchronous publications and notifications. This “decoupling” offers a great deal of flexibility, allowing you to delay final decisions on module connection points and data flow until runtime. Because such decisions don’t have to be hardcoded, they can be adapted as requirements evolve; they can even change dynamically as the system runs.

It's almost 18 months later, and the two posts remain in the top 10 of my most popular articles. Just one problem: Neither post discusses how PPS could be applied to medical devices — Quelle horreur!

Fortunately, my QNX colleague Justin Moon has filled the gap with the article "Persistent Publish/ Subscribe Alleviates Development Pains in Medical Devices." Read it here in Medical Electronic Device Solutions (MEDS) magazine.


Some people drive me to distraction

Hey, have you ever panned your camera? It's really easy: You just track a moving subject with your camera and then squeeze the shutter while both you and the subject are in motion. It's a great technique for creating images that evoke a sense of speed, which makes it popular among photographers for Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and other automotive magazines.

When you pan, you never really know what kind of image you're going to get. Often, the results are interesting. And sometimes, they're downright interesting. Take this shot, for example:

Now, holding a cellphone while rocketing down the highway is just plain wrong. To anyone who does it, I have one thing to say: "You're endangering other people's lives for the sake of a f***ing phone call. Where the hell do you get off doing that?"

But look at this guy. He's isn't holding a phone, but a coffee — even worse. Just imagine if he gets into a situation that demands quick, evasive action. He will, in all likelihood, hold on to the cup for fear of burning himself. Whereas if he had a phone, he would simply drop it and put his hand back on the wheel.

Admittedly, I have no data to prove that coffee cups pose a greater evil than cellphones. But the core issue remains: Cellphone use is just one of many factors that contribute to driver distraction. In fact, research suggests that cellphones account for only 5% of distraction-related accidents that end in injury.

So, even if every cellphone on the planet disappeared tomorrow, we would still have a massive problem on our hands. To that end, my colleagues Scott Pennock and Andy Gryc suggest a new approach to designing vehicle cockpit systems in their paper, "Situational Awareness: a Holistic Approach to the Driver Distraction Problem."

The paper explores how system designers can use the concept of situational awareness to develop a vehicle cockpit that helps the driver become more aware of objects and events on the road, and that adapts in-vehicle user interfaces to manage the driver’s cognitive load.

It's worth a read. And who knows, perhaps someone, someday, will develop a cockpit system that detects if you are sipping something and tells you what you need to hear: "Dammit Jack, put that cup down. It's not worth endangering other people's lives for the sake of a f***ing latté."

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


Video: QNX Hits the Airwaves with NTP Audio Routers

Imagine running a multinational radio service that broadcasts 1,500 hours of programs a day, in almost 60 languages, with transmitters that reach every nook and cranny of the globe — from Tirana, Albania to Houston, Texas.

That, in a nutshell, describes China Radio International, one of many international broadcasters that rely on QNX-powered audio routers from Danish company NTP Technology A/S.

Serving an audience of millions calls for seriously reliable equipment. It's no surprise, then, that NTP's audio routers are engineered for 24/7 operation, with self-monitoring capabilities, module hot-swapping, redundant power supplies, and, of course, the QNX Neutrino OS.

Why QNX? Because it offers the fault-tolerant software architecture that NTP needs to achieve nonstop operation. It also provides the realtime performance to handle multiple feeds and signals simultaneously, and the dynamic upgradeability to support new features without service interruptions.

Enough from me. Grab the popcorn, dim the lights, and listen NTP's Mikael Vest describe the challenges of modern broadcasting, and how QNX technology helps address them:

Before I go, I have to mention how much we enjoyed working with Mikael. When I cold-called him about doing a video, he immediately said yes. No hesitation, no maybe's, just a let's-do-it attitude. And when it came time to shoot the video, Mikael came through with flying colors, despite suffering from a flu to end all flus. A real trooper and a great guy.

For previous posts on NTP, click here and here.



Sneak preview of Eclipse tips and tricks webinar

I’m totally addicted to PhotoShop. But, like every other PhotoShop user, I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never really master the program. It simply has too many tools, any of which can be used in a thousand different ways.

Eclipse CDT is a lot like that. This tooling environment, which forms the basis of products such as the QNX Momentics Tool Suite, is so feature rich that you can take years to become a true power user.

My colleague Andy Gryc, who has helped customers with Eclipse issues, has seen this problem first hand. And it gave him an idea: What if he canvassed a number of advanced Eclipse users and collected their favorite productivity tips?

He did just that, and the result is a webinar called “Hot Tips and Tricks for the Eclipse IDE.” Andy will cover automatic code formatting, code folding, advanced search, automatic refactoring, call hierarchy navigation, plug-ins, keyboard shortcuts, custom breakpoint actions, and many other techniques for boosting productivity.

Sample techniques
To give you a taste, here are a few techniques that Andy will cover. Keep in mind that I've chosen some of the simpler examples — the webinar will also explore more advanced topics.

Viewing definitions and prototypes
If you press <Ctrl> and hover your pointer over an identifier, it transforms into a hyperlink. Simply click the link to view the identifier’s definition or prototype:

Prompting for command-line arguments
To prompt for command-line arguments when launching an executable, go to the program’s Launch Configuration, click the C/C++ Program Arguments tab, and insert the ${string_prompt} literal:

Detaching views
If you use multiple monitors, detaching a view from the main window can come in really handy. Simply right-click on the header and select Detach:

Again, this is just a sample — Andy will also cover template proposals, variable directory paths, automated header file include, function completion, automatic structure completion, expansion of #define’s, version compare, and other techniques.

The webinar occurs Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm EST. For more information or to register, click here.


QNX, Freescale talk future of in-car infotainment

QNX and Freescale enjoy one of the longest technology partnerships in the field of automotive infotainment. The roots of their relationship reach back to 1999, when QNX became a founding member of MobileGT, an industry alliance formed by Motorola, Freescale's parent company, to drive the development of infotainment systems.

If you've read any of my blog posts on the QNX concept car (see here, here, and here), you've seen how mixing QNX and Freescale technologies can yield some very cool results.

So it's no surprise that when Jennifer Hesse of Embedded Computing Design wanted to publish an article on the challenges of in-car infotainment, she approached both companies. The resulting interview, which features Andy Gryc of QNX and Paul Sykes of Freescale, runs the gamut — from mobile-device integration and multicore processors to graphical user interfaces and upgradeable architectures. You can read it here.


Is multicore a viable choice for medical devices?

Will even relatively simple devices
eventually require multicore?
Multicore processors, and the software required to run on them, can increase the complexity of any embedded system. Some industries, notably networking, have long embraced this added complexity. The medical device market isn't one of them.

It's easy to see why, as this same complexity could potentially hinder or prolong the process of securing FDA approval for a medical device. Getting approval is already hard enough and long enough; any new technology that might further extend the ordeal is rightly looked upon with skepticism.

And yet, multicore is the way of the future for medical devices, save for relatively simple products. We've seen this trend in other markets, including automotive, and the medical device market will, in all likelihood, follow suit.

Should medical developers be concerned? Yes, but not too much. As my colleague Justin Moon argues, the techniques needed to validate multi-core medical systems are, in fact, the same proven techniques that developers already apply to single-core systems. These techniques include testing, statistical analysis, fault tree analysis, and design verification. Meanwhile, the tools and OS technology needed to create, analyze, and optimize multicore-capable applications are, in many cases, quite mature.

And, of course, let's not forget a key benefit of multicore: significantly increased performance (through concurrency) without an attendant increase in power consumption and heat dissipation.

But enough from me. To get the argument straight from the horse's mouth, read Justin's article, Smart OS strategy makes multicore viable for medical devices, which EE Times published earlier this month.

Testing, statistical analysis, and design validation complement one another to validate a software system, whether it is running on one or multiple cores. (Click image to magnify.)


PlayBook videos from BlackBerry DevCon

Here's a passel of PlayBook videos from BlackBerry Devcon, held last week in San Francisco. Videos on new games and the über-cool Cascades platform bookend the set. In between you'll find interviews on three new apps: Box (cloud storage), Citrix Receiver (remote desktop access), and Evernote (note-taking).

Gaming on the PlayBook

Box (cloud storage app)

Citrix Receiver (remote desktop app)

Evernote for PlayBook (notetaking and archiving app)

And last but not least, a demo of the Cascades rich UI development platform:

For more videos from BlackBerry Devcon, including a replay of the general session, click here.



Quantum levitation: How cool is that?

I'm linking to this video for one simple reason: It is absolutely the coolest thing I've ever seen — pun fully intended. For an explanation of this phenomenon, known as the Meisner effect, check out the article on Scientific American.

Be sure to view the whole video; the more you see, the more your jaw will drop.


No SOUP for you? Using off-the-shelf software in medical devices

A three-part video that explores the role of SOUP in safety-critical products.

Would you put this
in a medical device?
You can build a perfectly safe railway braking system if you never allow the train to move. And you can build a perfectly safe drug infusion system if you never allow it to infuse anything. But what's the use of that?

In the real world, designers of medical devices and other critical systems have to create products that are both safe and functional. They also have to satisfy time-to-market pressures: A safe system is no good to anyone if you take too long to build it.

To cut development time, manufacturers in many industries use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software in their products. But medical manufacturers have been reluctant to follow suit. They worry that COTS means SOUP — software of uncertain provenance. And SOUP can make a mess of safety claims, not to mention approvals by the FDA and other agencies.

Or perhaps not. When it comes to SOUP, my colleague Chris Hobbs argues for a nuanced approach. He states that if manufacturers distinguish between opaque SOUP (which should be avoided) and clear SOUP (for which source code, fault histories, and long in-use histories are available), they will discover that COTS software is, in many cases, the optimal choice for safety-related medical devices.

Chris isn't a lone voice crying in the wilderness. He notes, for example, that IEC 62304, which is becoming the de facto standard for medical software life-cycle processes, assumes manufacturers will use SOUP.

Enough from me. Check out this three-part video in which Chris explores the ingredients that can make SOUP the right choice for a medical software design:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Webinar alert
Yesterday, Chris and his colleague Justin Moon presented a webinar on this very topic. If you missed it, no worries: It should soon be available for download through the QNX webinar page.

New software release from QNX means less noise, less tuning for hands-free systems

This just in: QNX has released version 2.0 of its acoustic processing suite, a modular software library designed to maximize the quality and clarity of automotive hands-free systems.

The suite, used by 18 automakers on over 100 vehicle platforms, provides modules for both the receive side and the send side of hands-free calls. The modules include acoustic echo cancellation, noise reduction, wind blocking, dynamic parametric equalization, bandwidth extension, high frequency encoding, and many others. Together, they enable high-quality voice communication, even in a noisy automotive interior.

Highlights of version 2.0 include:

Enhanced noise reduction — Minimizes audio distortions and significantly improves call clarity. Can also reconstruct speech masked by low-frequency road and engine noise.

Automatic delay calculation and compensation — Eliminates almost all product tuning, enabling automakers to save significant deployment time and expense.

Off-Axis noise rejection — Rejects sound not directly in front of a microphone or speaker, allowing dual-microphone solutions to hone in on the person speaking for greater intelligibility.

To read the press release, click here. To learn more about the acoustic processing suite, visit the QNX website.

The QNX Aviage Acoustic Processing Suite can run on the general purpose processor, saving the cost of a DSP.



Tridium greens up with QNX

The folks at Boeing's largest manufacturing facility (over 1 million square feet) faced a challenge. On the one hand, they wanted to reduce the high energy costs of lighting such a huge area. But at the same time, they needed a solution that would maintain a safe working environment and provide flexible, easy-to-configure lighting zones.

To address this challenge, Boeing turned to Tridium, a global supplier of energy management and device-to-enterprise integration systems. Tridium's solution not only slashed power consumption — up to 30% during peak periods and up to 50% on weekends — but also provided real-time alarming and allowed operators to program the system remotely, from any web browser.

Boeing is one of many customers to benefit from Tridium's solutions, and for more than a decade, many of those solutions have run on the QNX OS. Case in point: The Tridium Niagara Framework, a software platform used in factories, schools, universities, and office buildings to control a host of applications, including energy management, building automation, security, lighting control, and convergence retailing. More than 250,000 instances of the Niagara Framework operate in 50 countries.

So why I mentioning all this? Because QNX and Tridium announced today that Tridium has optimized the latest version of its Niagara Framework, NiagaraAX 3.6, for the QNX Neutrino RTOS.

For details, read the press release. But in the meantime, check out this video, which describes what happens when you integrate various systems — HVAC, lighting, elevators, and so on — with the QNX-powered Niagara framework:



Can the car, cloud, and smartphone be integrated more successfully?

Lots of people use the phrase "connected car," but what does it really mean? What, exactly, is connected, and what is it connected to?

In the past, my QNX colleagues referred to four types of automotive connectivity:

  • Connectivity to phones and other mobile devices — for handsfree calling and for accessing music and other media
  • Connectivity to the cloud — for accessing off-board navigation, voice recognition, etc
  • Connectivity within the car — for sharing information and applications between systems, such as the instrument cluster and the head unit
  • Connectivity around the car — for providing the driver with feedback about the surrounding environment

Problem is, the distinction between the first two categories is becoming progressively softer. As my colleague Kerry Johnson argues, if your car connects to a smartphone that draws information from the cloud, can you really distinguish between mobile-device connectivity and cloud connectivity?

Mind you, making such distinctions is of secondary importance. The real issue is whether we can integrate the car, cloud, and smartphone much more successfully. Can we, using widely accessible technologies, harness their combined power to deliver a significantly better driving experience?

This is just one of the issues that Kerry addresses in his new blog post, which you can read here. If you're interested in the future of the connected car, check it out.

QNX OS aces performance benchmarks

If you've ever wondered why the QNX Neutrino OS is popular in applications that demand fast, predictable performance, have I got some benchmarks for you.

Recently, Dedicated Systems Experts, a professional services company that specializes in real-time systems, performed independent evaluations of the QNX Neutrino OS on three different platforms: ARM Cortex A8, Intel Atom, and Pentium.

After putting QNX Neutrino through its paces, they determined that it offers:

  • Excellent architecture
  • Very fast and predictable performance
  • User-friendly development environment
  • Above average documentation
  • Support for many embedded platforms

    In fact, QNX scored 9 out of 10 on the dimensions of architecture, documentation, tools, and performance.

    The performance benchmarks, which are especially rigorous, gauge whether an OS has what it takes for applications that have zero tolerance for missed deadlines. These tests include thread-switch latency and interrupt latency.

    To download the reports, visit the Dedicated Systems website. Registration is required.
  • 9/26/2011

    Three new PlayBook wallpapers: Timber wolf, sunrise, and fence

    Yeah, I know what you're thinking: He's posted a wallpaper of a fence? Actually, it's one my favorites — a pleasant, symmetrical design that doesn't wear out its welcome.

    In any case, here are my three latest PlayBook wallpapers, all posted on Flickr. See below for download instructions.

    Timber wolf

    Sunrise on the Bonnechere

    My neighbour's fence

    To download the wallpapers to your PlayBook:
    1. Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulleroux
    2. Tap on any wallpaper.
    3. A larger image will appear. Tap Actions, then tap View all sizes.
    4. An even larger image will appear! Tap Download the Large size of this photo.
    5. Your PlayBook will ask you to enter a file name. Type something meaningful, such as cat_wallpaper.jpg, and tap Save.
    6. From the PlayBook home screen, tap Pictures, then tap Downloads.
    7. Tap the wallpaper you want, swipe from the top of the screen and tap Set as Wallpaper. You're done!


    QNX-powered flight simulators help airline pilots earn their wings

    As a pilot, how do you learn to handle a critical problem, such as a hydraulic failure in mid-flight, when that problem may occur only once (if ever) in your career? And how do you practice difficult maneuvers until you get them right, without endangering yourself or anyone else? In a flight simulator, of course!

    Mechtronix is one of the biggest, and fastest growing, flight simulator vendors in the world. And to get there, they've taken the road (or should I say flight path) less traveled. Rather than equip their simulators with all the hardware deployed on actual planes — the traditional method — they use software to replicate most of an airplane's behavior.

    Eliminating hardware offers numerous benefits. It cuts costs dramatically. It makes the simulators lighter and easier to transport. And it makes them easier to maintain, since the customer no longer needs a specialized avionics engineer. But enough from me — let's hear Thomas Allen, VP of Technology at Mechtronix, describe the company's approach and how the QNX OS helps make it possible:

    Two things stand out for me. The first is QNX's talent for juggling many concurrent tasks and gazillions of I/O points. This ability to support intense multitasking, while delivering fast and predictable response times, is essential to replicating the experience of flying a real plane.

    Second, I was fascinated to hear how the system design adopted by Mechtronix parallels the architecture of the QNX OS. Years, ago, someone explained to me how the QNX OS isn't simply a well-designed, modular OS; it also encourages well-designed, modular systems. In Mechtronix, we have an example.

    QNX OS powers OnStar FMV aftermarket mirror

    This just in: QNX Software Systems has announced that Onstar's aftermarket rearview mirror, dubbed the OnStar FMV, is based on the QNX OS.

    The premise of the FMV of simple: Bring the safety and security features of OnStar to non-GM vehicles. These features include automatic crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, stolen vehicle recovery, and one-touch emergency calling.

    The FMV also uses the QNX acoustic processing suite, which filters out noise and echo to improve the quality of hands-free calls. The suite eliminates the lengthy tuning process required by conventional solutions, as well as the need for dedicated acoustic processing hardware. Or as my marketing friends would say, it saves time and money.

    To read the press release, click here.

    If you have time for a video, here's a commercial promoting the FMV's stolen vehicle recovery feature. It's a clever piece of advertising: You never actually see the FMV or the car it helped recover. The focus is strictly on the user and how the FMW saves her day (and, apparently, a pair of shoes):



    Download my latest PlayBook wallpapers!

    It's taken me forever, but I've finally started to post full-size versions of my BlackBerry PlayBook wallpapers.

    To download the wallpapers from your PlayBook:
    1. Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulleroux
    2. Tap on any wallpaper.
    3. A larger image will appear. Tap Actions, then tap View all sizes.
    4. An even larger image will appear! Tap Download the Large size of this photo.
    5. Your PlayBook will ask you to enter a file name. Type something meaningful, such as cat_wallpaper.jpg, and tap Save.
    6. From the PlayBook home screen, tap Pictures, then tap Downloads.
    7. Tap the wallpaper you want, swipe from the top of the screen and tap Set as Wallpaper. You're done!
    Here's what I've posted so far:

    Star field

    My friend's cat (actual wallpaper looks much snappier than this image)

    Blackbird at sunset

    I plan to post more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!


    Toshiba drives performance of digital instrument clusters with new Capricorn-H controller

    You may not know it, but the QNX OS powers a variety of digital instrument clusters, in vehicles such as the Jaguar XJ and the Land Rover Range Rover. To create these clusters, automotive designers need graphics silicon that can pack a lot of performance, simplify system design, and keep costs down. Not an easy combination.

    To address these requirements, Toshiba Electronics Europe has just launched Capricorn-H, a display controller for instrument clusters and other in-car displays.

    Equipped with an ARM Cortex-A9 multi-core processor, Capricorn-H is a compact, integrated device that incorporates all of the functions and peripherals needed to control TFT panels and to display high-quality 2D/3D graphics. To reduce costs, the controller features a ‘Magic Square’ algorithm for delivering 24-bit performance from lower-cost 18-bit displays. And to simplify the display of virtual speedometers and tachometers, the controller uses a 2D graphics engine with high-performance rotation, transformation, and scaling functions.

    Key features:

  • Dual output, five-plane display controller
  • 3D and 2D graphics engines
  • Dual programmable shader pipeline architecture
  • Support for displays up to 12.3"
  • 2MB embedded SRAM
  • 3-channel, full CAN bus transceiver
  • MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport) Media-LB interface
  • I2C, I2S, and USB interfaces

    If you're a QNX developer and want to test-drive Capricorn-H, you're in luck: QNX has posted a board support package (BSP) on Foundry27, the QNX community portal. To download the BSP, click here.

    For more information on the Capricorn-H, read the press release.
  • 8/17/2011

    Harman infotainment systems gear up with QNX

    When I say "Harman," what comes to mind? Like many people, you probably think of home audio systems.

    But guess what: Harman is also a major player in the automotive market. If you've ever driven an Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, or Porsche, chances are it used a Harman sound system or infotainment unit.

    Mind you, Harman isn't just about the high end. It also offers a scalable infotainment platform that can target both higher-end and lower-end vehicles. And it isn't just about posh European cars. Recently, it became the first non-Japanese supplier to supply an infotainment system (the QNX-based Entune system) to Toyota. It also supplies systems to Hyundai, Lexus, Subaru, and Ssangyong.

    Since 2003, Harman has used the QNX OS as the software platform for its infotainment products. (In fact, Harman owned QNX for about 5 years, before QNX became a subsidiary of RIM.) In this video, Rick Kreifeldt, Harman's VP of global automotive research and innovation, discusses how QNX helps Harman cut time-to-market and create greener products. Check it out:



    It's PC Day: Remember these?

    Hey, guess what: It's PC Day!

    No, not Politically Correct Day, but rather, Personal Computer Day. On this date, 30 years ago, IBM released its very first PC, the 5150.

    If you harbor warm feelings about the early days of personal computing, here's a reality check. The box of single-sided floppies pictured below (why I've kept the box, I have no idea) cost me 30 bucks. That's right, 30 bucks for 10 floppies. Which works out to what, $4000+ per gigabyte?

    Mind you, you could double the capacity of each floppy by cutting an extra notch in the side and using the flip side — this was known as creating flippies. Most people did this by hand, but if you were really keen, you could buy a dedicated disk notcher. Now if I could only do that with my external hard drives.

    Speaking of which, did you know that QNX was the first OS to support a PC hard drive? Read about it here.


    Two naughty! My favorite QNX marketing campaign

    Let me guess: You probably assume that the corporate culture at QNX is a bit geeky. And if so, I don't blame you. We are an OS company, after all. But you know, we can also be a little cheeky.

    Case in point: A few years back, we introduced some innovative tools and OS features to help developers migrate from single-core to multi-core processors. And to promote these technologies, we decided to have some fun.

    Here's the billboard we came up with:

    And here's the billboard mounted on a truck, prowling the streets of San Jose during the Embedded Systems Conference:

    In case you're wondering, here's what the other side of the truck looked like:

    If you don't get the tightly coupled reference, it's a pun on the tightly coupled multiprocessing provided by multi-core processors. Because even when we're cheeky, we're still a little geeky.



    Pimp your ride with FOTA

    If you use a device like the BlackBerry PlayBook, you're already familiar with the notion, and benefits, of FOTA. In case you're wondering, that's short for Firmware Over The Air. (Still confused? Simply insert the word "Updates" after Firmware. The meaning becomes much clearer.)

    Granted, FOTA isn't the sexiest acronym out there. But it's becoming an increasingly important one, especially in the field of automotive infotainment.

    The problem, of course, is obsolescence. An in-car infotainment system might be super cool today, but can become super outdated in just 2 or 3 years. Imagine, for instance, if your infotainment system had smartphone connectivity, but could only talk to smartphones that shipped before 2010.

    FOTA, along with good system design, offers a way to avoid this problem and to keep infotainment systems fresh with new features and services.

    So why am I bringing this up? Because I just read a blog post by my colleague Andy Gryc on the growing role of FOTA in automotive. It's called Fill the Tank, Check the Oil, and Update the Software, and you can read it here.



    Driving innovation in navigation: More QNX demos from Telematics Detroit

    Recently, I shared two videos from Telematics Detroit, one showing off-board navigation from TeleNav, the other showing smartphone connectivity from RealVNC. I've got two more videos to round out the series, both recently posted on the QNXcam YouTube channel.

    First up is Steve Petilli from TCS. In this video, Steve demonstrates how TCS software allows a QNX-based head unit to interact with a 3D navigation app running on a connected smartphone. Standout feature: If your car runs into a problem, such as low fuel, a diagnostic system can alert the navigation app, which will then point you to the nearest service station:

    Next up is Rainer Holve from Elektrobit. In this video, Rainer demonstrates an Audi navigation system based on technology from Elektrobit and QNX. Standout feature: You can tell this system where you want to go simply by talking to it:



    Zebra printers make the (up)grade with QNX

    You know, I'm starting to warm up to the idea of firmware updates. Case in point: A few years ago, I bought a portable photo viewer equipped with an 80G hard drive. Just a few days ago, I downloaded a firmware update for the viewer and discovered that, in addition to adding features, the new firmware boosted performance.

    My PlayBook is another example of a device that, through updates, keeps getting better. Ditto my digital camera. Even camera lenses these days benefit from firmware updates.

    Mind you, firmware updates aren't just for consumer products.
    They're also making headway into more "industrial strength" applications, such as the QNX-based QLn mobile label printer from Zebra Technologies. Using this device, retail stores and healthcare organizations print just about every kind of label you can imagine: price labels, mark-down labels, sell-by labels, shelf-edge labels, specimen labels, pharmacy labels... you name it.

    In applications like this, firmware updates aren't just cool or convenient; they also make business sense. For instance, they can reduce downtime by eliminating the need to send the device away for servicing. And they can increase return on investment by extending the working life of a device.

    Earlier today, QNX announced that the QNX Neutrino RTOS will power Zebra's portfolio of printers, including the QLn. According to Victor Salmons at Zebra, "QNX has given us a proven platform that allows us to upgrade our printers easily in the field, and that gives us the reliability, scalability, and performance we require, given the demanding work environments our products are used in.”

    To read the press release, click here. To learn more about the QLn printer, click here.



    For Ottawa, this is hot...

    If you live in Farenheit land, 36C is equivalent to 97F. For sure, Ottawa isn't the hottest spot on the planet. But remember that, in winter, it has hit minus 36C. :-)


    BlackBerry PlayBook becomes first tablet certified for U.S. government

    This just in: RIM has revealed that the QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook has received FIPS 140-2 certification, making it the first tablet certified for deployment within U.S. federal government agencies.

    According to the press release, the PlayBook is the only tablet to achieve FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is required under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

    Yes, I know, that's a lot of acronyms. But cool news, nonetheless!

    For breaking coverage of this story, see the National Post, TheBerryFix, and CrackBerry.com.

    BlackBerry PlayBook takes home Best of Show from FOSE conference

    This just in: Government Computer News has announced that the QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook won the Best of Show award at the 2011 FOSE Conference and Exposition, an event dedicated to the government IT market.

    The PlayBook also won in the handheld devices category.

    According to the article, the panel of judges picked the PlayBook for its user interface, security, enterprise features, and government-friendly focus.

    To read the full article, click here.

    p.s. Thanks to RobertS for sharing this story with me.


    The new skin is in! Before and after shots of the Corvette head unit

    A glimpse of the Corvette's
    virtual mechanic, in the
    original skin.
    A few months ago, the QNX concept development team pimped out a stock Corvette with a multimedia head unit and a digital instrument cluster based on the QNX CAR Application Platform. Now, QNX has always claimed that automakers can easily re-skin the platform with their own look-and-feel. But how easy is it, really?

    To answer that question, we created the 30-day UI challenge. In a nutshell, we gave Lixar, a mobile UI company, a month to create new skins for the Corvette's head unit.

    But here's the thing: Lixar didn't have any experience using the QNX OS. Nor did they have any experience in the automotive market. If a small team at Lixar could pull this off, the argument went, so could any automotive customer with good UI developers on hand.

    I've already posted several articles on this project and received lots of great feedback. One reader even drew cool mockups (see here and here) to show how he would redesign the UI!

    Keep in mind, however, that we didn't ask Lixar to re-think the UI, but rather, to re-skin it — to give it a fresh look that captures the spirit of the Corvette. This is exactly the kind of thing an automaker would often want to do: Take an existing UI and tune it to match the brand image of multiple vehicle models. Re-use rather than re-invent.

    So without further ado, here are some before and after screenshots of the head unit. I've had to shrink the screenshots to fit the layout of my blog, so they aren't quite as sharp and as smooth as the originals. A fair representation, nonetheless:

    Main menu, before...

    Main menu, after:

    HVAC controls, before...

    HVAC controls, after:

    MP3 player, before...

    MP3 player, after:

    I don't know about you, but to me, the new skins seem punchier and easier to navigate, visually speaking. That said, you be the judge.

    Before I go, here's the "making of" video filmed to document the project: