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  • Hardware Will Cut You

    Posted on November 8th, 2010 EEVblog 46 comments

    An interesting fast paced video presentation about the hardware design process by Amanda Wozniak. Primarily targeted to software oriented people.

    (Warning, contains strong language, for those who care about such things)

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    • Steve

      She is condescending and annoying to say the least. I couldn’t make it through the whole video. Thanks any way!

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        People say the same thing about me!
        Dave.

        • http://www.hackersbench.com JohnS_AZ

          I’ve never heard you be condescending, Dave. Irreverent? Absolutely, and that’s a good thing. The girl in the video is just crass. Decent information, just not enjoyable to listen to.

          • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

            I guess it’s a matter of personal opinion. I’ve been told many times that I’m condescending. I don’t see, but when you are teaching/presenting stuff with passion I guess some people are always going to take it in a way you don’t intend.

            • Steve

              Dave, you are definitely not in this ….hrmmmph….lady’s…league!

              There is a certain humbleness, yet quite cavlier confidence about your presentation style. Plus you are funny, she just seems like Brizzy Mike says, “Maybe she hasn

    • http://electronicsdesigner.blogspot.com/ Mike

      Not sure if she has a chip on her shoulder about something or what, its like she REALLY didn’t want to be there. Also, whatever she was in in that video, count me out! Jeez, not a good advert for electronics design. Doubly so for women in electronics.

    • John

      Wow. Talking about fast paced. I kind of like her style, not as much as Dave’s though. ;-)

    • Brizzy Mike

      I found the same as everyone else said. But no one mentioned she talked like the band camp girl from American Pie. Heheh. Maybe she hasn’t had a flute for a while.

    • Michael Thompson

      The message kinda gets slammed by the somewhat angry sounding presentation.

      She sounds like she’s been endlessly harassed over every talking point by a group of 11-year-olds as she was walking up to the dias.

    • Jan-A

      I’ll put her more in the “passionate about it” department. And she is in some “I could talk about it for a day or two, but they only gave me 30 minutes” hurry.

      Her speed stretches my English knowledge, but I have attended much worse presentations. She has something to say, and the presentation is at least not boring.

      Would I like to live together with her? Ah well … :-)

    • Matt

      I don’t think she sounds angry or condescending or anything. Just like she’s really fricken excited about it. You see a lot of people speak like this a bit, i guess to try and add some humor and lightness to the things we do in engineering that are a little stupid or obvious. Never seen someone actually make a presentation in this kind of manner before though. The actual format of presenting, like how she’s speaking, I like. I find it easy to listen to and interesting. However, she speaks as though the people don’t know much about hardware.. Like it’s an introduction to hardware design, but then she doesn’t really explain some things very well. You can pick up what she’s talking about if you already know about it but I feel like I would have a hard time understanding if I didn’t.

    • Martin

      Hmm, have to say, that was incredibly hard to get through.

      I’m not offended by bad language, and enjoying cursing as much as the next person; but to swear so gratuitously in a presentation is just not professional. It’s just bad presentation style; it adds nothing to the presentation and detracts from the real information that you’re trying to convey.

      It does calm down after the first few minutes, so here’s hoping that it was just down to nerves…

    • Martin

      Also, she’s a little ignorant of real software development to think that people just sit down and write software without planning. You can get away with it for small programs, just like you can get away with building an LED blinker without planning. Real software takes real planning; as much so as hardware.

      I guess this is why she seems condescending: SOFTWARE SUXS, HARDWARE R0XS

      • http://caladan.nanosoft.ca/ Jennifer Elaan

        I noticed that. Her generalizations of software seem to be, as someone else said here, based on hacking up a quick shell script, not writing a large application.

        The software and hardware lifecycles aren’t really that different. It’s just as possible to hack up quick and dirty prototypes in both, and they’re no more production-ready in software either.

    • Evan Foss

      I have watched two of the other talks from this series and I have to say all the speakers have the same annoying style. So, my verdict is that it is the CON not the W0z. She is basically giving her audience what they want. It was a talk at a hacker CON who expects professionalism in that environment?

      I agree with Michael Thompson’s comment a room full of hackers is likely not to different from a room full of 11 year olds. I imagine she was like one of only 3 women there. http://xkcd.com/67/

    • http://n/a John

      Wow.. Not very nice to listen to at all. Speed talking apart.. If somebody hasn’t got the time or patients to explain something clearly and precisely, & in a decent manner, then I’ve not got the time to listen.

      • Karl (not that Karl, the other Karl)

        Sou you are one of these people who think the whole word has to spoon feed them?

        • John

          The comment was meant in response to the video blog. I must have missed the bit were it said leave a comment on other peoples comments.

        • Brad

          Yeah Karl. That ‘reply’ button is just there for decoration.

    • http://dp-engineering.net dave-o

      I dunno…she’s pretty much 100% right on everything she mentioned. She definitely had the attitude that there was something the audience didn’t know about hardware design, but honestly, being the only hardware guy in a company full of software engineers (at several companies now), I know exactly where she’s coming from, and I agree 110%. This is the battle I fight EVERY. FUCKING. DAY. It’s hard. And explaining to people why it’s harder than software is WAY harder. I dig it.

      • Richard

        Dave-o, Of course it’s hard to convince others that what you do is harder than what they do. And if you tell them that in so many words, they’ll probably get defensive and maybe even think you’re an arrogant SOB who doesn’t understand the details of the difficulties of their job. And maybe they’ll be right.

        Instead of saying “what I do is harder than what you do”, try saying something like “these are the problem areas I have to deal with”. There’s no need to compare someone else’s hardship to your hardship.

        Can’t we all just get along?

    • http://www.elproducts.com elproducts

      Interesting but missing a whole lot.
      She talks about production but even her production is still prototype.
      No validation testing, no temperature testing.
      A board with blue wire jumpers is not production.

      This was more about how to become a hardware hacker than a hardware designer. Big difference.

    • Bob

      The scope of her talk was a mile wide but only a inch deep. She was kinda annoying.

      P.s dave your the best.

    • Daz

      At first I felt like an old 80’s computer struggling like mad to synchronise with a 3Ghz PC, but I suppose I settled in to her style after a while and started to enjoy the pace. Some interesting stuff in there but the swearing came across as angry rather than humourous, and kinda spoilt it for me.

      • Hypernova

        I’m surprised at people complaining she talks too fast as I kept up just fine and found the talk fun.

    • http://twitter.com/jpwack @jpwack

      Great talk, I do enjoy swearing and fast-talk, but it’s like a cautionary tale for hardware newbies everywere, there was every mistake I did in the past few months (first job).

    • http://www.n5ebw.com Eric

      And remember the most important lesson here kids, “DON’T DO CRACK!”. Or speed, or whatever the hell else she took before she did this :-)

      • http://twitter.com/jpwack @jpwack

        looks like is just ye olde redbull

        • http://www.n5ebw.com Eric

          I wonder if this was before or after the ninja networks party…..that would likely facilitate the need for redbull. I wouldn’t ever touch that crap. If I need energy, B-complex vitamins are cheaper and a tad safer without the side effects.

    • George Graves

      Loved it!

    • trentland

      Jeebus! She talks fucking exactly like I fucking talk!

    • Gary

      She said “Open Source” Hardware! It’s not just you Dave! hahaha

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Of course it’s not just me, it’s “Open Source Hardware” in the legal license definition!

    • Richard C

      As a person who has made a career in fairly “big” software (I get paid for software, but only do hardware as a hobby), I can certainly relate to her examples of why hardware is hard, because I’ve seen analogs of most of those problems in software. Software turnaround time isn’t always fast — I’ve worked on software packages where it took over two weeks to do a full compile, with over a hundred programmers working on a single product, and in such an environment, a little mistake in planning can cost big money. And in software, there can be a big difference between the prototype (getting the stuff to compile and run on one programmer’s machine) and the production environment (making a set of DVDs with a setup program that will make the software run reliably on any customer’s machine).

      By contrast, the limited toy hardware I’ve worked on was really easy, because with a single PIC, I controlled the entire environment. When I write every single instruction the microprocessor is writing, I don’t have to worry about operating system gotchas. If I want to make a change to hardware, I can grab my soldering iron and fix it in minutes, not days like the software I work on.

      Based on my own experience, software is hard, and hardware is easy. But I know that I have a distorted view, because I work on very heavyweight software, and I only play with a little bit of lightweight hardware. I don’t pretend that my experience is representative of the world as a whole. I know there are smart people who work on difficult and complex hardware problems, and I admire them greatly.

      In EVERY area of engineering there are challenges, and opportunities for really smart people to work hard, make mistakes, and learn. A good engineer can explain a discipline’s issues in a way that makes you appreciate the magnitude of the effort required in the discipline, but there’s no need to belittle other disciplines in the process.

      I guess I really didn’t like the attitude much. If the content were something novel and useful, I’d put up with it, but the content was pretty basic and I was already familiar with the issues presented.

    • http://www.brianhoskins.co.uk Brian Hoskins

      I call it “open source hardware” as well. I don’t see the problem. In a software context, source refers to the code. In a hardware context, source refers to the schematic. What’s the problem?

      Re bad language:

      Yeah call me old fashioned but really bad language does annoy me. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to tolerate a manufacturing environment for so long where everybody F’s and blinds all the time, to the point where it’s just normal to drop the ‘F’ word in regular conversation. Personally that just really gets to me.

      …and, for some reason, I find it worse when I hear a woman do it. Sexist? Ummm… nah I don’t think so. I just have higher expectations of women than men I suppose! If any women are reading this, you should take that as a compliment rather than sexism!

      Brian.

    • Eugene

      I very much enjoyed her presentation. As a professional systems-software developer (OS/device drivers) I thought her presentation was interesting, insightful and accurate. When developing hardware, I have experienced just about every issue she warns you about.

      I particularly liked her analogy that the compile-time for hardware is measured in days or weeks.

      As to her style, one must recognize that she is succeeding in a frequently juvenile, male-dominated field (is that redundant?). Her shtick, is to be profane, a little flippant, and to talk fast. But there was real substance behind what she had to say.

      Thanks for sharing this with us Dave.

    • magicmushroom666

      Well i thought she was awesome, i’d live with her!

      Agree that swearing in a presentation is a bit out of place though.

    • djsb

      Maybe she was trying to get over stage fright. She covered a lot of the important points but a bit too quickly. Swearing isn’t attractive in anyone but some things drive you to it and it has a time and a place. I’m sure her bark is worse than her bite.

    • http://arbitrary.name/ sgf

      I’m pretty sure the presentation style is just par for the course hacker conference style. Let’s see:

      * Most of the audience will be used to writing sloppy software (hack it up as you go along – the style which doesn’t work with hardware).
      * They’ll be mostly ignorant about hardware.
      * A swearing-free presentation will probably get you marked as a suit.
      * The audience wants as much information as possible crammed into these short slots.
      * There’s probably a certain level of subliminal sexism in a conference with a massively distorted gender bias

      In terms of targeting your talk to the audience, and making you be taken seriously by them, it’s a masterpiece. Introductory, but fast, angry and sweary is just right!

    • Karl-Wilhelm

      I’m the Karl with the long name.

      Yes, she talks a bit crude – but if she talked as “ladylike” as some of you think she should, we’d dismiss her. I have a long time friend who is a ‘rocket scientist’ and worked on the F14 wepons bus, and happens to be female – and talks like this because as she puts it “my balls are too high” and had trouble at times getting her co-workers to respect her input, so she got them to pay attention by hitting them on the head verbaly.

      For you who are more software oriented than hardware – consider how long your development cycles would be if the CPU was a 100 pin BGA device that wasn’t reprogrammable , cost $500 to replace, and you didn’t have an emulator – how quickly could you crank out a software revision?

    • CJ

      a bit crude, but had a laugh. Drawing out traces by hand, yes my dear I still do that. Press and peel, sharpe markers,transparencies and photo resist boards, WOO HOO. But really I recommend doing it by hand on small projects to get a feel for PCB design before making the jump to CAD, walk before you can run. But I’m old school I was doing circuit design and PCB design before there where computers and CAD. And yes we did use surface mount flatpacks in the late 60’s, you can design surface mount by hand.

    • Mohamed Abdinur

      I really liked this girl, she did not seem rude nor condescending matter of fact she was humbled and showed humility by being frank about how the design process involves a lot of trial and error … and has acknowledged when she made a mistake. I kept up with her pace, and time actually flew while listening to her.

      I hope some guys aren’t attributing crass, rude, and condescending just because she has confidence and knows her stuff. Maybe a bit crass because of the swearing, but looking at informal environment with which this was being presented under I think it added an entertainment factor and made it easier to relate to her message.

      Thanks Dave for sharing, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    • jsoderquist

      I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Deiniol ap Deiniol

      I enjoyed her presentation and it made a lot of sense: a lot of experience distilled into 20 minutes FFS, a lot of honesty about her errors while on the learning curve, and how she learnt from them.

      I did some stuff last century, building a valve (tube) amp on a biscuit tin (worked – maybe 1st time can’t remember) then an IC amp on a Band Aid type tin (worked) but when I tried to rebuild it properly I killed it….played with hardware..cars, woodwork bulding..could write pretty reasonable efficient COBOL, could just about manage ALGOL 60, so some experience with software, but never got to do it for a living thankfully – COBO: code was ….at a certain level both poetry and music to lay down onto paper, and then key in – I learnt to keyboard pretty efficiently doing paper tapes then Holleriyh cards (ICL 1906 – my G3 iMacs probably way more powerful – and as to my Cray – or G5 PowerMac…..(I digress – but Apple do some pretty and also ergonomic designs – love just popping the hood on my Power~macs to get inside to install boards or memory –

      ….but genuine insights that are valid for civilian thought and digestion too – hardware can be a batard/bitch/PITA wherever we are.

      Sad that so many repliants felt the need to demonstrate their inherently sexist 20th Century mindsets to the webworld – but a lot of sensible comment too – also didn’t spot a typo in there – I am glad that there are still people who can, and do ‘Spell”

      I think we all know those ‘bad’ words now and routinely use them where appropriate (for a given value of appropriate depending upon context and environment) _ I’m sure she could give that talk to teenagers without using them, but there was fine.

      Be interested to follow this thread……

      Deiniol.

      • Deiniol ap Deiniol

        apropos the spelling mistakes ROFLMAO ‘batards’ I miskeyed (dust bunnies living in this keyboard don’t help): repliants is my neologism but is OpenSource feel free!,,,,I’ve been up all night….Pob Hwyl!

    • http://okkyunglee.com luke bryan shows

      Agree on you! Nice point of view