Ever get stuck, not knowing how to fix a hand-held calculator or cell phone? Then check out a new book by Lisa Simone, PhD, of Bridgewater, an assistant professor, at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

If I Only Changed the Software, Why Is the Phone on Fire? (Elsevier, 2007) offers step-by-step, easy-to-understand information about how to debug small and large electronic products ranging from pocket calculators to cell phones.

“Debugging is the process of removing bugs and problems from software and devices,” said Simone. “It is a valuable skill for anyone working in a technical field like engineering. Unfortunately, it is difficult to teach debugging, and most people have to learn through experience, which can be time consuming and frustrating.”

The book introduces readers to real-world technical mysteries of progressive complexity, guiding them toward successful solutions. Simone hopes the audience will be for the general public as well as engineers. “I’ve created a fictional company with a cast of engineers. The engineers tackle real-life software and hardware technical problems while upper management and customers hover nervously.

The book shows engineers faced with technical mysteries and products behaving badly. In one instance, a new software engineer uses a newly-developed monitor to measure her own heart-rate. To her surprise, her heart-rate has mysteriously doubled. She and a senior colleague brainstorm to find the bug. Eventually, by eliminating hardware and software parts, they fix the monitor. The book’s final chapter offers a summary of smart debugging techniques introduced throughout the text.

Simone’s idea for the book grew from realizing while working in industry that students, developers, computer scientists and engineers often don’t know how to solve problems.

At NJIT, Simone is developing a portable low-cost glove for functional hand measures that can be worn by victims of stroke or traumatic brain injury. The National Institutes of Health is funding the research. The device will help researchers, physicians and therapists assess the degree of injury and methods that might help patients regain mobility. Other current projects also focus on using wearable embedded systems and technology to help rehabilitate people with physical disabilities. Simone’s research has been published in six peer-reviewed journals and she has presented at 13 prominent conferences. She received her PhD in biomedical engineering from Rutgers University.

The Press Release can be found here.