vb.net barcode scanner source code The Process of Fixing Problems in Software

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39.2 The Process of Fixing Problems
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When given a problem to fix, most people will try to find the easiest way to resolve it and move on; the term used for this process is debugging. Looking for and implementing the quick fix often yields an effective (and sometimes optimal) repair action. It does not resolve all problems and quite often masks them. With only experience in working on the most likely cause of the problem, you will become very frustrated very quickly and unable to identify the reason for the problem as well as the most effective repair. For these cases, you will need to perform a root cause failure analysis (often shortened to just failure analysis) to determine what exactly is the problem and what is the best way to fix it. The failure analysis that is outlined in the rest of this chapter applies to all three classes of failures that you will encounter in your robots (mechanical, electrical, and programming), which may seem surprising because each class seems so different from the other. Mechanical (chassis and drivetrain design and assembly) problems do not have anything in common with electrical or programming issues. What they do have in common is the process of understanding how the structure, circuit, or program should work, characterizing the problem, developing theories regarding what is actually happening, figuring out how to repair the problem, and testing your solution before finally applying the fix to the robot. The fol-
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FAILURE ANALYSIS
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lowing set of actions may seem like a lot of work to fix a problem like a nut that has fallen off due to vibration, but if you follow it faithfully, the skills you gain by fixing the simple problems will make the more difficult ones a lot easier to solve and will prevent the simple ones from happening again.
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39.2.1 DOCUMENTING THE EXPECTED STATE
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Do you understand exactly what should be happening in your robot Chances are you have a good idea of what the robot, or a part of the robot, should be doing at a given time but you have probably not looked in detail at what is actually happening. For a robot that has a failed glued plastic joint, you may have done an analysis of the forces on the joint when the robot is stationary, but have you looked at what happens during acceleration and deceleration What about forces caused by vibration or large masses (such as batteries) shifting during operation The forces during movement as well as changes in movement must be considered when looking at a mechanical failure. Similarly, for an electrical problem, do you understand what the actual currents flowing through the circuitry are Starting and stopping robot drive motors when they are under load will require greater currents than on a bench being tested out. Have you calculated the temperatures of different components during operation as well as their effect on components close to them If the robot seems to miss detecting objects in front of it, have you put in some consideration for switch bouncing or changing fields of view during operation Electrical problems can be especially vexing when you are using third-party designs or circuitry. To predict what should be happening, you should review the basic electrical laws and make sure you fully understand the basic electrical formulas and conventions. Finally, for software, can you trace through the source code to understand what should be happening at any one particular time How is the operation of the robot controller documented for different situations with varying inputs A very important tool in understanding the operation of software is the simulator and how much time has been spent at understanding how the application should work. Many robot software applications are written quickly and debugged continuously to get the robot working as desired this makes documenting the software a difficult and confusing chore unless you are very careful to keep track of different versions of software and the changes made to them. You will often find it easier to go back over the source code and try to map out how it is supposed to work and respond to different inputs. Documenting the expected operation of the robot at the time of failure is a timeconsuming task, but one that is critical to finding and ultimately fixing the problem. In many cases when you start understanding the operation of the robot at the level of detail needed to find and fix the problem, the reason for the problem will become apparent but you should refrain from implementing the apparent fix until you have worked through the following five steps.
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