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Embedded Systems September 2000 Vol13_10

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ALLAN G. FOLZ Configuration Management Tips Whether you're just getting started with version control techniques or an old pro, this article has some good suggestions for you to improve your overall plan. any o rgani zatio ns have ad opted th e use of source config- ura tio n manage- ment (SCM) tools. While having th e right tool for the job is the mantra of professional mecha ni cs eve rywhere, knowing how to use th e tool is equal- ly important. Hamme rs, screw- drive rs, and wrenches a re la rgely self-explanato ry; such is not th e case with SCM tools. This a rticl e will review how SCM d elive rs highe r quali ty software and aids develope rs workin g togethe r ; show how it hould be used to gain maximum advantage; and how it fits into the bigger CM picture. SCM and the development effort When used properly, SCM tools are great aids in debugging software and delivering quality pmducts that inspi re confidence. SCM provides a mecha- nism whereby every product can be characterized as a collection of known inputs. The ramifications of that mech- anism are two-fold. First, it provides the concept of a control set when debugging. econd, it provides the ability to know, with 100% confidence, which products are affected by a newly di covered bug. In science, the fundamental neces- sity for performing any test or experi- ment is a control group. Through the use of a control group, scientists are 166 SEPTEMBER 2ooo Embedded Systems Programming able to isolate a single variable from the set of all va riables that could cause an observable change, and then mea- sure the change that said variable actu- ally causes. As an embedded engineer, I have had countless experiences whe re a new bug is d iscovered when trying out some feature that is in the process of minor tweakin g. Often, the ques- tion asked is, "did some thing on the hardware break or has my software introduced a new bug?" Pre-develop- ment (or p rototype) hardware is error-prone and very sensitive . When things go wrong or new bugs are d is- covered, you can 't be sure if the hard- ware is somehow to blame or the soft- ware is at fa ul t. This is particularly

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