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Sherlock Ohms

Bad Address Baffles the Software

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Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Keep telling stories
Nancy Golden   9/28/2013 12:31:34 AM
It usually takes one event of long and painful troubleshooting for a particular failure mode to stick in one's mind forever. I was building a hall effect tester for high gauss devices and needed an IEEE current source to drive a coil. I have been GPIB programming for years - should not have been a problem to establish communication, although this particular piece of equipment was not by a well known manufacturer and the electronics seemed rather antiquated (which was fine for this particular application) with dip switches that needed to be set manually. I spent hours trying to get my program to talk to the current source but it would not respond. I went through their manual with a fine tooth comb, triple checking all of the dip switch settings. On a whim, I decided to invert the switch settings - ones to zeroes and zeroes to ones. The system started communicating. The company reps wound up taking us out for a steak dinner after I told them about the error in the manual. I learned never to trust documentation when troubleshooting - learn to look outside of the box even if it doesn't necessarily make sense. This is a great article because it reminds us to share these stories - you never know what you might run across.

BrainiacV
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Platinum
Re: Keep telling stories
BrainiacV   9/27/2013 9:10:30 AM
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Minor edit to the story,

I had to WRITE the program without the OS or hardware.

And what fun it was with only a two page description of the interface card.

Onsite, I didn't have access to any debuggers since it was a realtime environment.  I was really happy that I had taken the time to write all the status results to a ring buffer instead of the more usual read and forget, otherwise I wouldn't have had a clue as to why it was failing, nor documentation to beat over the head of the hardware guy.

I never understood why people couldn't 'fess up to their mistakes. Over the years I've had to figuratively press people up against a wall to get them to admit the fault could have been theirs.  I wasn't looking to place blame, call me silly, I expect problems, but I needed solutions and they would be hiding information which made the problems much harder to fix.

a.saji
User Rank
Silver
Re: Keep telling stories
a.saji   9/27/2013 7:02:19 AM
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@TJ: Even though you remember the stories, it will vanish with you once you leave the organization. So documenting or transferring the knowledge is something which should take place if it has to go from one mind to another

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Keep telling stories
TJ McDermott   9/27/2013 12:49:35 AM
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The trick though, is to remember the stories.  That's why they retire engineers - their hard drives get full.

naperlou
User Rank
Blogger
Keep telling stories
naperlou   9/26/2013 10:13:26 AM
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Curt, I liked your article and your approach to solving the problem.  What really helps to debug hardware, especially in the field, is that knowledge base of actual experiences.  So, my suggestion is, keep exchanging those stories.  This column in Desing News is a great place to get such information as well.

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More Blogs from Sherlock Ohms
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
Sherlock Ohms highlights stories told by engineers who have used their deductive reasoning and technical prowess to troubleshoot and solve the most perplexing engineering mysteries.
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