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Useless whinging about rude/clueless requests for help...

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by Grant Edwards, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. I don't know why I let it annoy me, but it does. I regularly
    get emails requesting help (some in a very demanding tone) from
    people who are apparently utterly clueless and incompetent.
    They're almost always from India, Korea, or occasionally
    somewhere else in South/East Asia or even more occasionally
    Eastern Europe.

    The emails always read something like this:

    Hi, I am <name here>,

    I am working on project using <X cpu or Y board>. I have
    <doubts|problems|confusion>. Plz help me. Plz send me
    <code|step-by-step-instructions> urgently.

    No problem description at all. It's not "I'm trying to do X
    with Y, and when I to Z here's what happens and heres what I
    expected/wanted to happen". These people seem to have
    absolutely no idea where to start or what to do.

    They apparently google a processor type or OS name and find my
    name. Today's example: I spent a few weeks about 5 years ago
    playing with Linux on an Intel IXP425 eval board. I apparently
    posted a question about JFFS somewhere. Now I get an email
    from some guy in India that says "I am trying to use IXP425 and
    have problem. Plz help me."

    Are these some sort of weird internet-scam/phishing
    expeditions, or are they really embedded systems engineers and
    students who know absolutely nothing about embedded systems and
    even less about how/where to get technical information and

    Some of them have state quite clearly that they are design
    engineers who have been assigned a project by their employers,
    and yet they appear to have absolutely no idea what to do. So,
    they send e-mails to almost randomly selected strangers asking
    for step-by-step instructions on how to do their work.

    Sometimes I ignore them, sometime I send a link to ESR's "How
    To Ask Questions The Smart Way" page. Maybe I should send them
    a consulting quote at $150 an hour, pre-pay only, paypal

    There. I know that's not going to change anything, but I feel
    Grant Edwards, Mar 29, 2007
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  2. Grant Edwards

    Tim Wescott Guest

    I get those -- and some that are stated much better.

    I think the worst ones are the same people who post the same stuff to
    newsgroups, and who perhaps don't have a clue about the difference
    between email and a newsgroup posting.

    The best of them make me think, and I answer them. Often I'll suggest
    that the correspondent post the question on a newsgroup so that _you_
    can fill in any gaps where _I_ left stuff out...


    Tim Wescott
    Wescott Design Services

    Posting from Google? See http://cfaj.freeshell.org/google/

    Do you need to implement control loops in software?
    "Applied Control Theory for Embedded Systems" gives you just what it says.
    See details at http://www.wescottdesign.com/actfes/actfes.html
    Tim Wescott, Mar 29, 2007
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  3. Grant Edwards

    larwe Guest

    The best of them make me think, and I answer them. Often I'll suggest
    As a matter of policy I no longer waste time answering such questions.
    If I am in a particularly good mood I will send a one-liner saying
    "post in comp.arch.embedded" - if it does appear there, I may or may
    not answer.
    larwe, Mar 29, 2007
  4. I typically use a template with a polite answer that the cost of this
    question is such and such.

    Vladimir Vassilevsky, Mar 29, 2007
  5. I do also get detailed questions about topics where I have
    particular knowledge. If it's something which is not likely to
    be of interest to anybody else, I usually answer them. For
    reasoably researched questions of more general interest I
    usually suggest that they post to the appropriate usenet group
    or mailing list (which is obviously where they found my name).

    Of course private consultation is always available for a fee. ;)
    That's one of the reasons I prefer to answer questions in a
    public forum -- if I'm wrong, someobody is there to correct me.
    Grant Edwards, Mar 29, 2007
  6. Grant Edwards

    Aly Guest


    I think what has to be said is that if they're meant to be engineers then
    they will have that *spark* and *snap* to engineer.

    Most of what I've learnt has taken years, of sometimes expense, and alot of
    time. For the most part I'm self sufficient.

    What maybe annoys me (and certainly has in the IT sector) is that I'm good.
    Yes, I make mistakes now and then and have dropped a few clangers. Yet my
    market, has become so highly competitive. And it's because of like this who
    frankly know bugger all, yet have the mickey mouse paper qualifications.

    They don't actually know anything. God knows what they would be doing with
    their paper qualifications in the event of a nuclear war. They certainly
    wouldn't be building RF transmitters and wind turbines from old car

    My view is that these OPs aren't engineers. And they shouldn't be either.
    They're just a product of this easy-get-qualifications-quick world we live

    "Become an embedded software developer in 1-week, earn $$$'s."

    Sod em. Unless they stand out, or their posts cover relatively sensible
    topics which can't be researched in a matter of hours by searching. Sod em.

    And I never thought I'd take that approach with people. But I'd be helping
    them all the time; to get their 1-week qualifications. And with them
    becoming competition.

    Look at my mail address here. It's deliberate. Out of necessity.

    *rambles* over.
    Aly, Mar 29, 2007
  7. Grant Edwards

    Thomas Magma Guest

    I don't know why I let it annoy me, but it does. I regularly
    Is this an accurate summarization of your question?:

    What part of the human psyche thinks that it is acceptable to ask a total
    stranger a vague question and expect an immediate detailed answer ?

    I say we corner one, interrogate, and make'em cry.

    Thomas Magma, Mar 29, 2007
  8. Grant Edwards

    rickman Guest

    I'm glad you feel better. I know what you mean, I get them too. They
    are not always quite so rude, but it can be odd that they write such
    vague descriptions and often are asking for code!

    Once I was asked rather politely about 1-wire driver code. I ended up
    providing it just because I got tired of thinking that evey snippit of
    code written needs to be considered a precious gem and every penny
    needs to be extracted from it.

    It is not infrequent that I reply to these messages with some amount
    of help. But I try to distinguish the ones that seem to be looking
    for someone to do their homework rather than actual requests for

    I am also on the other end of these requests at times. Of course I
    normally do that here or in a Yahoo group, not by direct email. When
    I am starting out in a new area, I like to get some helpful advice on
    the best places to read rather than to just start reading data sheets
    and searching groups. But I guess you would prefer that to direct

    Right now I am trying to come up the learning curve on the ARM9/11
    processors so that I know them as well as I know the ARM7 parts. Not
    so much the details of the instruction sets, etc; but more about what
    is out there and what they are good for. I may prepare an ARM9/11
    compilation like the ARM7 MCU data I put up at www.gnuarm.com.
    rickman, Mar 29, 2007
  9. Grant Edwards

    Tauno Voipio Guest

    This is not the only group where clueless engineers
    and/or students from India, China and neighboring
    countries are asking us to do their homeworks /
    study projects.

    Is the tuition so bad that the students do not have
    the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to
    complete the tasks themselves?

    I just wonder whether they understand what it means
    for them after the studies. Maybe we can regard this
    phenomenon as limiting the future competition from
    those countries ...
    Tauno Voipio, Mar 29, 2007
  10. I suppose there would be some level self-serving motivation to
    actually do their homework for them so that they can graduate
    without learning to do anything useful. Presumably they won't
    be in the Engineering job market for long.
    Grant Edwards, Mar 29, 2007
  11. I get most of such requests from the U.S ;-)
    But they seems to be real engineers facing real troubles.
    At least they mostly ask me questions for which I need to
    understand the answer anyway.
    Ulf Samuelsson, Mar 29, 2007
  12. Right now I am trying to come up the learning curve on the ARM9/11

    I am working on project using <AT91SAM9260 cpu on AT91SAM9260EK board>. I
    <doubts|problems|confusion>. Error message below:
    $ bash: /usr/local/arm/gnuarm-4.0.2/bin/arm-elf-gcc: cannot execute binary
    Plz help me. Plz send me
    <code|step-by-step-instructions> urgently on how to run Linux GNUARM on my
    OpenSuse 10.1 system ;-)
    Ulf Samuelsson, Mar 29, 2007
  13. Grant Edwards

    Pete Fenelon Guest

    Worse is when you get headhunters assuming you're passionately
    interested in working in an area you mentioned in passing in one post
    five years ago ;)

    The response then is usually *very* short.

    Pete Fenelon, Mar 29, 2007
  14. Grant Edwards

    Pete Fenelon Guest

    Professor has set me halting problem solving. Plz 2 b helping. thx.

    Pete Fenelon, Mar 29, 2007
  15. Hey, he included an error message, so that's an order-of
    magnitude more specific that the e-mails I was talking about.
    Again, how to run GNUARM (whatever that is) on an OpenSuse 10.1
    system. A very specific, technical question. A question that
    can be answered (even it's not quite in the right forum or
    worded very politely).

    The emails I'm talking about are more like:

    I am to design a project using ARM processor. Please tell
    me how to start. Send what steps I need to do.

    And that's _it_.
    Grant Edwards, Mar 29, 2007
  16. martin griffith, Mar 29, 2007
  17. martin griffith, Mar 29, 2007
  18. Grant Edwards

    FreeRTOS.org Guest

    I find providing a little information the worst thing to do, once you start
    spoon feeding then the emails come in faster.

    My standard response to the question 'how I can get Linux on an 8051, plz
    send me src code' when it is really 'urgent', and from somebody purporting
    to have a 'masters in embedded engineering' is to reply saying that all the
    answers you need are on one of the following two links:


    Occasionally, if I type the same question that has been asked to me into
    Google and the first link it comes up with is a direct and simple answer, I
    simply shortcut the above and reply with the Google search URL and nothing
    else. Its amazing how many masters of embedded engineering have no clue how
    to use a search engine.

    If I'm in a particularly bad mood, and the question is full of u r, and plz
    and such I will write a full response but leave out all the vowels.

    Having said that I am always happy to provide help to considered questions
    where the author has made a bit of effort on their own first. We all have
    to start somewhere, but please make an effort!


    + http://www.FreeRTOS.org
    A free real time kernel for 8, 16 and 32bit systems.

    + http://www.SafeRTOS.com
    An IEC 61508 compliant real time kernel for safety related systems.
    FreeRTOS.org, Mar 29, 2007
  19. Just couldn't resist ...
    I remember:

    I have been told by my manager I need to design a GSM/GPRS radio
    Anyone got any VHDL code they can share?
    Ulf Samuelsson, Mar 29, 2007
  20. Grant Edwards

    CBFalconer Guest

    A worthwhile rant. It's existance may avoid some of those clueless
    incompetents. The worst are the idiots who cc the newsgroup and
    you, combined with foolish geek speek abbreviations and
    mispunctuation. Then they run it all into one massive paragraph
    challenged blob.
    CBFalconer, Mar 30, 2007
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