Programming Ada: Records And Containers For Organized Code

Writing code without having some way to easily organize sets of variables or data would be a real bother. Even if in the end you could totally do all of the shuffling of bits and allocating in memory by yourself, it’s much easier when the programming language abstracts all of that housekeeping away. In Ada you generally use a few standard types, ranging from records (equivalent to structs in C) to a series of containers like vectors and maps. As with any language, there are some subtle details about how all of these work, which is where the usage of these types in the Sarge project will act as an illustrative example.

In this project’s Ada code, a record is used for information about command line arguments (flag names, values, etc.) with these argument records stored in a vector. In addition, a map is created that links the names of these arguments, using a string as the key, to the index of the corresponding record in the vector. Finally, a second vector is used to store any text fragments that follow the list of arguments provided on the command line. This then provides a number of ways to access the record information, either sequentially in the arguments vector, or by argument (flag) name via the map.

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Programming Ada: Packages And Command Line Applications

In the previous installment in this series we looked at how to set up an Ada development environment, and how to compile and run a simple Ada application. Building upon this foundation, we will now look at how to create more complex applications, along with how to parse and use arguments passed to Ada applications on the command line (CLI). After all, passing flags and strings to CLI applications when we launch them is a crucial part of user interaction, as well as when automating systems as is the case with system services.

The way that a program is built-up is also essential, as well-organized code eases maintenance and promotes code reusability through e.g. modularity. In Ada you can organize subprograms (i.e. functions and procedures) in a declarative fashion as stand-alone units, as well as embed subprograms in other subprograms. Another option is packages, which roughly correspond to C++ namespaces, while tagged types are the equivalent of classes. In the previous article we already saw the use of a package, when we used the Ada.Text_IO package to output text to the CLI. In this article we’ll look at how to write our own alongside handling command line input, after a word about the role of the binding phase during the building of an Ada application.

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Programming Ada: First Steps On The Desktop

Who doesn’t want to use a programming language that is designed to be reliable, straightforward to learn and also happens to be certified for everything from avionics to rockets and ICBMs? Despite Ada’s strong roots and impressive legacy, it has the reputation among the average hobbyist of being ‘complicated’ and ‘obscure’, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth, as previously explained. In fact, anyone who has some or even no programming experience can learn Ada, as the very premise of Ada is that it removes complexity and ambiguity from programming.

In this first part of a series, we will be looking at getting up and running with a basic desktop development environment on Windows and Linux, and run through some Ada code that gets one familiarized with the syntax and basic principles of the Ada syntax. As for the used Ada version, we will be targeting Ada 2012, as the newer Ada 2022 standard was only just approved in 2023 and doesn’t change anything significant for our purposes.

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The I960: When Intel Almost Went RISC

The i960 KA/KB/MC/XA with the main functional blocks labeled. Click this image (or any other) for a larger version. Die image courtesy of Antoine Bercovici. Floorplan from The 80960 microprocessor architecture.
The i960 KA/KB/MC/XA with the main functional blocks labeled. Click this image (or any other) for a larger version. Die image courtesy of Antoine Bercovici. Floorplan from The 80960 microprocessor architecture.

From the consumer space it often would appear as if Intel’s CPU making history is pretty much a straight line from the 4004 to the 8080, 8088 and straight into the era of Pentiums and Cores. Yet this could not be further from the truth, with Intel having churned through many alternate architectures. One of the more successful of these was the Intel i960, which is also the topic of a recent article by [Ken Shirriff].

Remarkably, the i960 as a solid RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture has its roots in Intel’s ill-fated extreme CISC architecture, the iAPX 432. As [Ken] describes in his comparison between the i960 and 432, both architectures are remarkably similar in terms of their instruction set, essentially taking what it could from the 432 project and putting it into a RISC-y shape. This meant that although the i960 could be mistaken as yet another RISC CPU, as was common in the 1980s, but integrated higher-level features as well, such as additional memory protection and inter-process communication. Continue reading “The I960: When Intel Almost Went RISC”

Civilian RC Car Uses Lego NXT And Ada

Back in the last century, the US Department of Defense declared that Ada was going to be used everywhere and for everything. Books were published, schools build curriculum. Working programmers, however, filled out waivers to continue working in their languages of choice. As a result, only a little bit of safety-critical software really used Ada. However, we’ve noticed a bit of a resurgence lately. Case in point: an RC car using Ada for the brains. You can watch it tool around in the video below.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Ada in the past few months. Partially, this could be because of the availability of the GNU compiler, although that’s been around since 1995, so maybe there’s another explanation. Ada’s strong typing does tend to plug holes that hackers exploit, so while we would hate to say it is hack proof, it certainly is hack resistant compared to many popular languages.

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Hackaday Podcast 035: LED Cubes Taking Over, Ada Vanquishes C Bugs, Rad Monitoring Is Hot, And 3D Printing Goes Full 3D

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams get caught up on the most interesting hacks of the past week. On this episode we take a deep dive into radiation-monitor projects, both Geiger tube and scintillator based, as well as LED cube projects that pack pixels onto six PCBs with parts counts reaching into the tens of thousands. In the 3D printing world we want non-planar printing to be the next big thing. Padauk microcontrollers are small, cheap, and do things in really interesting ways if you don’t mind embracing the ecosystem. And what’s the best way to read a water meter with a microcontroller?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 035: LED Cubes Taking Over, Ada Vanquishes C Bugs, Rad Monitoring Is Hot, And 3D Printing Goes Full 3D”

Why Ada Is The Language You Want To Be Programming Your Systems With

The Ada programming language was born in the mid-1970s, when the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the UK’s Ministry Of Defence sought to replace the hundreds of specialized programming languages used for the embedded computer systems that increasingly made up essential parts of military projects.  Instead, Ada was designed to be be a single language, capable of running on all of those embedded systems, that offered the same or better level of performance and reliability.

With the 1995 revision, the language also targeted general purpose systems  and added support for object-oriented programming (OOP) while not losing sight of the core values of reliability, maintainability and efficiency. Today, software written in Ada forms the backbone of not only military hardware, but also commercial projects like avionics and air-traffic control systems. Ada code controls rockets like the Ariane 4 and 5, many satellites, and countless other systems where small glitches can have major consequences.

Ada might also be the right choice for your next embedded project. Continue reading “Why Ada Is The Language You Want To Be Programming Your Systems With”