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Real Life Debugged » Book Info

Tag-Archive for ◊ Book Info ◊

“Phone on Fire” Foreword by Jack Ganssle
Sunday, December 14th, 2008 | Author: lisaksimone

Foreword by Jack Ganssle

The oldest known book about engineering is the 2000-year-old work De Architectura by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. One historian said of Vitruvius and his book, “He writes in atrocious Latin, but he knows his business.” Another commented, “He has all the marks of one unused to composition, to whom writing is a painful task.”

Does that sound like the last ten technical books you’ve read?

Engineers are famous for being very bright but also for lacking basic writing skills. Yet writing is still our primary means of communication, so we buy heavy tomes created without the benefit of basic grammar and often bereft of a coherent structure. Storyline? Character development? Forget it.

Welcome to a very different kind of technical book. Lisa Simone’s work isn’t the usual dreary tome stuffed with arcane wisdom buried beneath paragraph-length sentences seemingly written by someone just learning English as a second language. This is certainly the first embedded book with characters. The first with action, and with interesting and cool stories.

Bad code that makes a phone burst into flames?

What fun!

This is a James Patterson-style fast-paced book with dialog as close to gripping as one can imagine for a computer book. Its uniquely embedded focus twists together elements of hardware and software just as we engineers do in our daily design activities. One can’t be understood without the other. Code makes the hardware smoke. That’s unheard of anywhere but in the embedded industry.


Should you read at your desk at work, or under the covers before bed?

This book can be enjoyed in a number of ways - it was written for folks of all experience levels from students and new engineers to seasoned technologists. Each mystery is a window into technical team dynamics and provides a “Day In The Life” for folks curious about the field. Each mystery stands alone, although the Hudson team is the thread that weaves the stories together.

I invite you to grab a pencil and work through the examples to solve the mysteries before the team at Hudson Technologies does. Write in the margins. Think of other solutions. If you get stuck, work through the symptoms and the evidence side-by-side with Oscar’s team and verify what they conclude. Or, just glide along with the team as they tackle one technical mystery after another. (I’ll state upfront that none of the bugs are caused by minutiae like missing semicolons or misspelled variable names!)

While you get caught up in the mysteries, I hope some of the team’s tricks get lodged in your brain and come floating back out when you find a similar bug or symptom in your own technical travels. When that happens, check out the appendix - everything you’ve learned is nicely summarized with references back to each mystery.

It’s all about your approach to problem solving.

Make your next step a logical one instead of a random one.

Life breaks when you least expect it.

This blog shares all kinds of real life situations that need a good fixing beating. Typical stuff that goes wrong at all the wrong times. And how to have a little fun fixing them rather than running screaming into the night.

What was the impetus for these meanderings?  I wrote a collection of technical mysteries of products gone bad, and wanted to share them as humorous and interesting stories of how to solve these real life problems.

If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?
Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed
Technical Mysteries for Engineers

Through my years as an engineering technologist and product developer, I discovered we technical folks can always learn new ways to solve problems. “Phone on Fire” is a series of neat technical mysteries - like CSI-for-engineers - that reveals these skills in a fun-to-read format.

The book is both fiction and non-fiction, an interesting combination that challenges book stores to ponder which shelf it goes on. My publisher, Elsevier/Newnes, pondered the same concept. As a result, the book’s name grew somewhat unmanageably to allow Amazon and online search engines to find the book for interested folks seeking one or the other.

Authors are never completely in control of the name chosen for a book; unless, perhaps, if said author is Michael Creighton or Stephen King. So, stretch your mouth out to say the whole title, or as most of us do, refer to it fondly as Phone on Fire.

And what other interesting (and unexpected) publicity and marketing influences do authors find? I’d like to explore here as my journey continues in the Foreign Land of Book Marketing for Engineers.

Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 9
Friday, April 06th, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone


I am returning from the 2007 Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose and the official premiere of Phone on Fire! If you are in the field and have never been to an Embedded conference - you need to go. What a great collection of vendors, classes, and seminars! (Ed Note: I would include a static website for the conferences in general, but it changes every year. So, check out the Embedded Systems website, which always has great information including ALL the embedded systems conferences.)

In this newsletter -
- Highlights the Show,
- Phone on Fire Premiere,
- My Best Takeout Pizza Experience,
- Shameless Photos.


Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 8
Sunday, March 18th, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone


Welcome to Issue #8: It’s Really Happening!

After 6 weeks of silence (from me to you, and from the publisher to me!), we are shipping next week!  The premiere is coming up, and I can finally admit some of the secrets kept from my publisher.  ;-)


Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 7: Poll Results
Thursday, February 01st, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone


Welcome to Issue #7: Results of the Completely Unscientific Reader Poll

Thank you for participating in my Reader Poll. Your feedback helps me understand if my thoughts are completely out in left field or not. Well, I think I know the answer to that question without having to ask!

Here were the questions:

Question 1 asked about your personal preference - did you like the cover?

Question 2 asked about the cover’s ability to attract a potential buyer to learn more…does the cover art do it’s job?


Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 6
Friday, January 26th, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone

Hi Folks,

Welcome to Issue #6: Closure to the Cover Art Saga and a Completely Unscientific Reader Poll

Wow - only 56 days left until availability! I can’t believe this is actually happening! I’m done with the proofs and we’re in final layout. Put your orders in now before Amazon drops the price any further on me!

I have attached the almost-final-version of the cover art, which has also just shown up on (old amazon link). (Very small text changes will be made only.)


Phone on Fire Newsletter Issue 5
Sunday, January 07th, 2007 | Author: lisaksimone


Welcome to Issue #5 : The Ballbreaker Epiphany

So I had a 2-hour conversation with my editor, Tiffany, two days after I received a thick package via DHL. The raw copy-edit comments from Carol, and the proofs of the whole book with the copyedit changes already in place. Figures and fonts and everything! It is so cool that they show me every little thing they changed, so I can see it explicitly. Right up an engineer’s alley.

Read more about my stress during this time, and my discussions with the publisher that resulted in our extended forays into Urban Dictionary com.


Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 4
Saturday, December 09th, 2006 | Author: lisaksimone

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Welcome to Issue 4 of the Lisa’s Book Saga: Author Anguish

My last newsletters were full of hope and excitement, although I believe I mentioned I was riding the newbie excitement wave while knowing full well that the jaded edge was waiting somewhere. No jagged edge yet, but just the continued anxiety and “out-of-the-loop-ness” of preproduction.

But in this issue, checkout the chapter layouts, the first advertising shots from Amazon, and maybe my name in Kanji!


Phone on Fire Newsletter, Issue 3
Friday, November 17th, 2006 | Author: lisaksimone


Welcome to Issue 3 in the short-term saga of book publishing!

Last time I hinted at a fight between’s head buyer and my publisher, Elsevier / Newnes. Before I get right to that, let me tell you a little bit about the production process, and how far along we are.