Meet An ODROIDian: Joy Cho, Hardkernel Engineer

Picture 1 - Joy with her niece

Please tell us a little about yourself. My Korean name is Jeonghwa Cho and I’m 42 years old. I have been working as an embedded software engineer for 17 years. I am especially responsible for the board support package (BSP) parts, including board bring-up and handling devices. Mainly, I create bootloaders, operating system, and kernel device drivers. System design through collaboration with the hardware and application teams is one of the big parts of my job. I have been working at Hardkernel for 3 years. I am currently responsible for developing ARM core-based single board computers based on Linux, along with their multimedia and connectivity devices. Before Hardkernel, I worked in the field of automotive Audio, Visual and Navigation (AVN) systems, ARM Linux BSP development, mobile phones, Plex Media Player (PMP) and home networking.

Picture 2 - Joy has worked on many products in her career

I live in Korea and my hometown is the city of Paju, which is located in the very northern part of South Korea. When I was a young child, it was very common to hear shouted commands by soldiers at dawn, and frequently experience heavy traffic jams caused by long lines of moving big tanks. Nowadays it’s nothing more than an old story, and I hope that Korea will become unified soon so that Korea can be a stronger country. I graduated from the engineering college of Sejong University in Korea with a Masters degree in engineering, and my major was Electronic and Communications Engineering. When I was a high school student, I used to be fascinated by MTV and radio music shows, so I chose my major to be a technical engineer who controls broadcasting and sound equipments. But, once I saw a prototype hardware board of a mobile phone with various devices connected to it at my first job, I fell in love with small computers, and got interested in controlling them. I then requested to change my department from the RF/Call team to the Device Drivers team. My family members are my father, mother, younger brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I don’t have any children, and my relationship with my brother is strong, so I feel like my niece and nephew are my own children. Everyone around me says that my niece resembles me very much, so my love for her is very special. When she entered an elementary school last year, I seriously considered quitting my job to protect her from dangerous situations as a bodyguard. My father is a pharmacist and run a small pharmacy in my hometown. He is very strict with himself and always studies in his field. I love his life and try to learn from him. When someone ask me who I respect most, I always answer that it’s my father.

How did you get started with computers? I was not actually interested in computer devices in my adolescence, even I was planning to go to an engineering college. The reason why I bought my own new computer for the first time is to play “StarCraft” with my university friends and seniors. When I just entered college, I didn’t know even how to install Windows 95. However, 6 month later, I was able to assemble computer parts by myself. Thank you, StarCraft!

Picture 3 - Joy’s first ODROID, the original ODROID-X

What kind of projects do you work on at Hardkernel? I am usually involve in topics related to boot-up sequence, system performance/stability, and the display components that ODROID users need in the early stages directly after new ODROID product releases. Since the ODROID-N1 and N2 support SPI boot mode, the new BIOS scheme based on Petitboot has become a big part of my interests.

How do you use your personal ODROIDs? I use them as media and game stations for my nephews and myself. They love ODROIDs. I also use my ODROIDs to study techniques outside of work. I’m still getting to know the Linux platform, and there are lots of interesting open source platforms and solutions that brilliant engineers have been building. In recent years, I realized the need to study media and network frameworks. It’s a high wall that makes use my ODROIDs for interesting projects from the ODROID forums. To overcome my limitation, I have plans for a personal project to make a small Machine to Machine (M2M) server and device in order to share video streaming based on gstreamer.

Picture 4 - Joy’s niece and nephew enjoy playing games on their ODROID

Which ODROID is your favorite and why? All of the ODROIDs are like my children. They are all lovely. But if I must choose one, I would pick the ODROID-C2. It was my first child at Hardkernel. It gave me many opportunities to become intimate with the Linux open source platform, and also made me encounter many difficult situations like the fake 2.0GHz CPU clock issue. Another example is that to make a single boot image regardless of booting from SD card or eMMC, I had to hack the hidden area of boot loader by parsing hex codes and designing new headers. But thankfully, many ODROID users love the 1st ARM 64-bit ODROID, and I learned a lot during the process. I hope many ODROIDIANs love the new model, ODROID-N2, too.

What innovations would you like to see in future Hardkernel products? I have no particular idea for improvement, but what I think that ODROID’s biggest strength is that it is a device with a variety of uses. I am impressed everyday when reading ODROID Forum threads because there are many brilliant engineers, and they create good standards with ODROID products. There are tons of beautiful projects. Based on those outputs, we can use an ODROID device for all sorts of things.

Picture 5 - Joy has an extensive book collection, and enjoys reading in her spare time

What hobbies and interests do you have apart from computers? I read books! I love books so much. Classic and Korean novels as well as books on history and philosophy are my favorite. Every weekend, I visit a bookstore and spend several hours there. The smell of book paper makes me comfortable, and I can be away from my busy life while I concentrate on books.

Picture 6 - Joy’s hometown of Paju in northern South Korea has changed a lot since she was young

What advice do you have for someone wanting to learn more about programming? I think a solid groundwork in Mathematics, Algorithm and hardware is very important. The more I gain experience and work on various projects, the more I feel it works. It’s the same old story but I think it’s most important.

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