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10 free analysis and design tools engineers need

24 Jun 2014  | Cabe Atwell

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GDB: The GNU Project Debugger—diagnose busted software.

 GNU Project Debugger

All software crashes, it's inevitable and only a matter of time before it happens. To get a better understanding of what went wrong, software engineers and coders routinely use debugging software to get a handle on conflicts and other errors across multiple platforms. One of the better free debuggers—and one that needs no introduction—is GDB's easy-to-use GNU Debugger.

GNU Debugger enables users to see what's going on inside a program as its running or what happened the moment it crashed. The software has four main tools to help diagnose issues, including program specifications when it's started, stop on specified conditions, examine what's happened when it stopped running, and program editing for experimentation and correction of bugs found. GDB can be used in a myriad of program languages, including Ada, C, C++, Objective-C, and Pascal. It also has the benefit of running on most Linux and Windows-based platforms.

Cypress Perform's PSoC Creator3.0 SP1—design an SoC.

 PSoC Creator3.0 SP1

Where is design engineering headed? All in one chip.

Today's world is all about mobile devices and SBCs that feature self-contained SoCs, which allows everything from the CPU to the GPU to be housed on a single piece of silicon (or other material). SoC design is no longer limited to tech companies with sophisticated manufacturing centres, as technology advancements have made it possible of makers and home-based engineers to design their own PSoCs at their leisure.

As you could have guessed there are free software development tools for those as well, such as Cypress Perform's PSoC Creator3.0 SP1, which allows users to design their own Programmable System on a Chip and have it manufactured (that part costs). The software suite comes with everything needed in an integrated design platform, including PSoC Creator for hardware/firmware application design centred on PSoC 3, PSoC 4, and PSoC 5LP systems. It also includes PSoC Components that let users drag and drop virtual analogue and digital customisable components to suit their needs with a full set of API libraries. Lastly, the software platform features a built in C source-code compiler/editor complete with a debugging tool to root out any unwanted glitches in their creations.

There is also a full communications library for I2C, USB, UART, and SPI interfaces. There's a lot that can be done using the PSoC creator and that might be an indication of what the future of circuit design will become, as more makers, hobbyists and engineers are able to produce their own SoCs from the comfort of their own homes. With 3D printers and outsourcing manufacturing becoming more affordable over time, it makes it easy for people to produce their own SoCs fairly easy.

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