Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Testing Software Radios

In my visit to the SDR Forum Test Workshop, I observed something interesting. The presentations given by instrumentation vendors focused on verifying the analog and digital performance of the RF subsystem. These vendors all have very nice equipment, such as spectrum analyzers, to do this testing.

However, some of the questions from the audience during the round-table discussion asked about issues that had nothing to do with the RF subsystem. Those questions were about frustrations in testing the software in a software-based electronic system. One question was on how to get a PC to talk to the radio over the Ethernet interface. JTRS radios are typically controlled via SNMP and a user was looking for a toolkit (I found one here) to talk to their radio.

Two other attendees needed to trace a device failure to a software condition such as a stack overflow or a priority inversion, both software bugs that expose themselves as if they are hardware failures. The worst part about these bugs is that they are typically hard to reproduce and can take a long time to track down. This makes them expensive to track down because in test, time is money.

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