Back from ESC Boston

NOT going to ESC Boston would have allowed me to stay home, in my comfort zone.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from driving in the absolutely horrible & stressful Boston traffic1.

NOT going to ESC Boston would have saved me from having to go through a full search & questioning session at the Canada Customs on my return2.

2017/06/06 update: Videos are now up!

So two days before the conference, I was still on the fence; to go or not to go? Would the trip be worth yet another significant investment in money and time? In the previous weeks, I had tried to contact several vendors that were to be present at the show to ask if they would be interested in having a highlight video of their booth produced for a modest fee. To my surprise (I have this tendency to be overly optimistic), no-one replied. The universe was testing my commitment to the video thing and I almost failed the test by giving up.

But I knew that Jacob Beningo3 would be there. I have considered Jacob a friend since we've met at last year's edition of ESC Boston.

And I knew that Adam Taylor4 would be there too. Chris Felton introduced Adam to me at ESC Sillicon Valley a couple of years ago and I was left with a very positive impression, looking forward to meet again.

I also knew that there would be a 'get together' on the first night and I love get-togethers. Maybe I would make new friends? The night was organized by someone I knew at the time only by name and good reputation; the world famous Clive 'Max the Magnificient' Maxfield.

I finally decided to go for it and drive to Boston and this ended up being a fantastic decision.

Day 0

After about 9 hours of driving, I made it to 'The Whiskey Priest' where the get together was just starting.

I followed the instructions and located the guy with the Hawaiian shirt (Clive 'Max' Maxfield). I introduced myself and in less than a minute, I had a beer in my hand, offered by Max. Now, to offer me a beer is a very good way to quickly gain my affection! ;)

On this picture, some of you will recognize Mike Anderson (first one on the left), CTO of The PTR Group and engineer extraordinaire. It is not everyday that you meet someone who has worked on the Mars Rover, among hundreds of other 'wow' projects. I wish I had my camera filming Mike as he told us stories after stories of engineering prowess. At least, I was able to convince him on the following day to share some of his insights in front of my camera and I hope to have this video posted on the youtube channel sometime next week.

Second person from the left, directly from England, is Adam Taylor, FPGA expert and father to be (this coming August!). If you know Adam, please feel free to congratulate him with a comment down bellow. Fun fact: Adam's beer of choice at the pub was .. Coors! We couldn't help but tease him about this. Despite the teasing, Adam didn't hold a grudge and agreed to share some FPGA insights in front of my camera on the following day. Stay tuned for the Youtube upload.

Third from the left, you will certainly recognize Jacob Beningo. At some point during the night, as I was sharing a Louis C.K. joke with the group, Jacob mentioned in confidence that sometimes, people actually confuse him with Louis C.K.!   I wonder if sometimes, it is the other way around and people confuse Louis C.K. with Jacob Beningo?  Someone, please ask Louis C.K. about this?

Obviously, the beard and the hair color must have something to do with it. What do you think?  Check out Louis C.K. for a few good laughs (sensitive people should abstain) and check out Jacob Beningo for Embedded Systems insights (sensitive people don't need to abstain).

Fourth from the left, with his trademark Hawaiian shirt, is Clive 'Max' Maxfield, editor in chief of Embedded.com and EEWeb.com. Meeting Max for the first time was truly a pleasure. I suspect that Max is one of the reasons why highly qualified engineers like Mike, Jacob, Adam and many others are going to these UBM shows to give talks - he seems to genuinely care for them and to be very much respected by everyone around. Although I don't know Max a lot yet, my instinct tells me that the respect is well deserved.

Max gave a few talks at the show and they were all very interesting and fully packed. I was able to film the one on building an artificial brain. I will try to post it in the Youtube channel as soon as possible.

Next person on the picture (still referring to the group photo at the Whiskey Priest if you are following) is Mark Dobrosielski, a nice guy and engineer working for a company involved with military projects. I didn't ask too many questions to make sure I would not end up on some NSA list!  

The last person, to the very right, is Jonathan Torkelson, President and Principal Engineer at Embeddetech and another very nice guy. Check out this cool video that presents the Virtuoso product offered by his company:

Day 1

On day 1, my goal was to capture with my camera some clips of the conference and of the show in general. As ESC Boston is much smaller than Embedded World, there were no impressive demos or robots or cars to film and the booths were much smaller. I still managed to shoot several minutes of footage here and there, I'll see in the next few days if I can make a fun to watch montage with what I have.

One thing I need to find the courage to do at future shows is to ask some attendees if they would say a few words about the show in front of the camera. I know that personally, I tend to flee any 'reporter' that approaches me for an interview and I have the tendency to assume that everyone is the same.

As I was walking around on the show floor with my gear, I met Darren McEntee CCO of DLOGIC. I told him what I was doing; capturing footage to make a highlight video of the show. I used the opportunity to ask if he would like me to spend a little more time at their booth and do a short video highlight like I did for several vendors at Embedded World. He agreed with no hesitation and we proceeded. This gave me the opportunity to meet the whole DLOGIC team and I was genuinely charmed by these fun and easy-going people. I hope to have their video ready by the end of the coming week and I hope it turns out well.

At the end of the first day and to my delight, we had another get-together at the Whiskey Priest. On that evening, I had the opportunity to meet Dave Nadler, another guru and very nice person who was at ESC to give a talk on How NOT to do Embedded Development.  Fun fact: Dave is the owner of a parrot that I believe could be a superstar on Youtube if all the stories that Dave told us are true - we laughed so much. I wish I could tell you one of these stories here but my recollection of the details isn't good enough to do the stories justice. Sometimes, I wish I had a camera rolling all the time to compensate for my failing memory.

Day 2

On day 2 I filmed Max's full talk about his project 'Building an Artificial Brain'. Again, I will be posting this talk on Youtube in the very near future.

Wrap up and Unsolicited Advice to UBM

The easy path would have been to stay at home in my comfort zone and I am so happy I didn't. I made new friends, worked and improved on my filmmaking skills and planted the seeds for what hopefully will become new business opportunities that will help support my work on the *Related sites.

All and all, this was a great show despite its relatively small size. I wish there would be one BIG show for Embedded Systems in the US per year, something similar to Embedded World that no-one would want to miss.

And if I had one piece of unsolicited advice to give to UBM, it would be to maybe take a little better care of their speakers (and of the press ;)) simply by making sure to provide an all-day-long supply of coffee, juices, soft drinks and quality food. A small investment that would certainly contribute to making the speakers feel appreciated. These people are key to attracting the engineers that are needed to make these shows a success.

Now, LOTS of editing work to do with all the footage that I got - stay tuned for my next blog post that I will publish once the videos are online.

As always, feel free to use the comments system down below to share your thoughts with me and thanks for reading this far!


1. My hotel was located 40 miles (64km) away from the convention center so I could save about $200USD per night. I would leave the hotel at about 6am in the morning and Google Maps would predict a 48 minutes drive. As I would get closer to my destination, it actually felt like I was driving away from it as the driving time prediction would go up! I guess as the traffic in downtown Boston was getting worse by the minute, Google maps adjusted the time prediction accordingly. At the end, it took me at least 90 minutes to reach the convention center on both mornings.

2. It so happens that my name and birth date is the same as someone else with a criminal record - only the birth year is different. So since last year, every time I go through Canadian customs, they keep me around to go through my stuff and ask me questions - fun! The worse part is when they put their gloves to check if I have anything illegal hidden in my ........ luggage.

3. Jacob was going to the conference to give a couple of sessions, a four hours (!) one on bootloaders and a shorter one on going from 'baremetal' to rtos. Jacob's sessions were fully packed (as they usually are).

4. Adam is the author of (to this day) 197 (!!!) Microzed Chronicles. He also participated to the forum on FPGARelated from time to time. Adam was at the conference to give a very well received talk about Combining OpenCV and High Level Synthesis to Accelerate your FPGA / SoC EV Application

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Comment by jms_nhMay 10, 2017

If you're in a hurry in many places in Boston, take public transit... BCEC is somewhat near the Red Line. I've driven in Boston and it's a complete pain. Cambridge isn't quite as bad (except maybe near Harvard Square) + usually when I had to go to Boston I'd park at Alewife at the north end of the Red Line and take the subway into town. Not a good option if you have equipment, I suppose, but it makes life a lot easier than driving and parking in the city.

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Comment by stephanebMay 11, 2017

The problem was my equipment indeed.  Too much to carry in the subway...

I lived in Shrewsbury for three years a long time ago and we too would drive to Alewife and then take public transit when we wanted to spend a day in Boston.  Traffic was even worse at the time with the big dig still in construction.

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