Halt and Catch Fire- As We Move Through a Career

This past week has been a whirlwind of ESC and the Amiga 30 year anniversary.

One of the things I love best about AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire are the stories behind these story lines. This is especially true when faced with the early computing of the 70’s and 80’s. I have been blessed with a father that took advantage of it while we lived in Europe as well as in the US. I got to learn to code on a Sinclair but still handled a VIC20, C64, and Amiga. This weekend was meeting many people my age and most older, trading stories about these machines and the lengths we went through to do and learn more. In many ways, I am lucky to be that archetype of a youngin’ primed to be a computer geek. We’ll just ignore all the sports, music and dance that I did.

We will also ignore all that time between now and then.

What I identify in HaCF are the tech women. Both smart and accomplished but in two very different places in their careers. The first season, it was Cameron I was cheering on as she brashly created a vision for the future. From her punk music (check!) to cloistering herself into focus (check) to annoyance when she has to do cookie cutter work (check), she reminds me when I was first starting out except I wish I was more incorrigible and bold. Donna is the consummate fabled superhero that we all search for in our Valley startup but never find. She’s understated but walked over with always doing the right thing. Still, they are both these brilliant examples of engineers in the 80’s and certainly what I had in mind when a younger me was typing on my C64.

With the second season, I find myself seeing the magic of Donna as continuing to be the older, wiser, business savvy person in Mxxxxxy(spoilers) keeping everyone afloat by literally doing every job. For a lot of Silicon Valley, we want to be the Cowboy/Rockstar/Ninja/TechGod but also know the truth is that responsibility, accountability, teamwork, and a stoic brave face  sometimes are the most valuable skills you can have. However, they are often the last ones you obtain in your  career; some never get them.

Meanwhile, Cameron is on a steep learning curve but I cannot help but cheer her  on as she learns to lead as obstacles after obstacles is placed in front of her. It’s all part of the new role she’s in, one she did not expect to be like this. Who cannot appreciate the struggle of a freshly minted XXX(no spoilers)? It reminds you that startups are not glamorous but instead the result of doing amazing things with literally nothing except scrappy ingenuity.  Scrappy ingenuity is the most precious resource in any startup moreso than money in many cases.

This second season has left me reliving some of my tough startup times but with more wincing and less drama (shocking, I know). However, this show is for tech types, they way “Mad Men” was marketing types: Retro, dramatic, reminiscent. How will it end? Who will I think I am by the end of this season? Who knows… but let’s keep watching and hope they influence others to strike out on this path.


Getting Your Bitmaps Converted for Simple Display in Your Firmware

Perhaps you finally got a snazzy display for your latest project. I highly recommend the AdafruitGFX library as well as GIMP, and for making your own fonts, MikroElcktronika GLCD Font Creator (optional and not covered here).

If you are looking for a project to get you started, AdaFruit has a lovely wearable project.


  • GIMP
  • Access to your lovely bitmaps


  1. Open the target bitmap into GIMP.
  2. Assume it is trimmed to the size you desire.
  3. Take note of the dimensions of the bitmap
  4. From the GIMP menu, select Colors->Rearrange colormap so it is appears a below (BLACK = 1; WHITE = 0) and click OK.


  1. Select from the menu Image->Mode->Indexed. Choose 1-bit palette and click “ Dithering is optional.


  1. Save the file by selecting File->Export As. Choose c header file (.h) and name appropriately. Now use this however needed in your required firmware infrastructure. Personally, I make sure everything is “const” and indexable with sizes and offsets.Here is an example(rebelbot_bw.h).

Movies That Turned Me Geeky (or at least reminded me how much I love engineering)

At the end of 2014, I did a podcast with the Embedded.fm team. We covered a lot and I had a lot of things on my list. We didn’t get to everything.

  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original version)
  • Tron (How did we miss this?)
  • Virtuosity (cheesy but a good cautionary tale)
  •  Moog

I love the Moog movie. For any synthhead, it’s a chance to learn a lot about Bob Moog. For me, it is reminds my why I became an engineer and how I approach engineering. As he sits in his home garden you experience how he draws upon everything around him in his approach to engineering.

It’s how I try to approach cross-functional engineering. You have to draw upon more than just CS, EE, and SW know-how. Sometimes, I need to remember optics, audio,  mechanics, even bio mechanics (yes, and a lot of physics) to make things work or just understand why they won’t.

If you are thin on inspiration, check this one out.