January News

Processor Choice

Every year we revisit past projects and quickly evaluate various processors. The past year was mainly Freescale (Kinetis K40 and K60), and Texas Instruments (Luminary Micro, some OMAP, and Concerto). In late 2012, we made a decision to start mechanical designs with small embedded controllers. This is low volume similar to Industrial Automation. Each factory is different, and within them, processes differ as well.

What would end-users need in an embedded target? Our guess is low-cost, or even better — free tools. JTAG debugging is a must for anyone in embedded work, not just end-users, so a reasonable debugger will help as well. Ball grid array packages, if used, must have test points that do not require the hand of a neurosurgeon to probe. Connectors must be multi-sourced, with 0,1” spacing being popular.

Which vendors have decent free tools? Atmel, Infineon, Silicon Laboratories, and possibly others. For low-cost evaluation boards with JTAG debuggers built-in, or external JTAG debugger at reasonable prices, the Texas Instruments Launchpad series, or the Freescale's Freedom platform and K40-KwikStick are hard to beat. However, their software development tools are not free. Atmel, ST Micro, Infineon and SiLabs also have low-cost boards with JTAG debuggers.

For digital power supplies, LED lighting and small switch interfaces (with touch optional), the Infineon Cortex-M0 and Atmel XPlained Pro Kits look attractive. We will take a closer look when some of the dust settles towards April.

Tales from the Woods

Most informative sign for 2012

The votes are in for the most informative sign we saw in 2012. It was on top of a grand piano covered in black padding in Chichester Cathedral in October, 2012. Above the height that a child could read, plus well beyond the “20 kg bend your knees” limit, it read — This piano must be moved slowly under supervision of an adult. Take your time lads!

Piano to be moved under adult supervision

Bankers cough up small change

The banks apparently paid over $20 billion in fines in 2012. As the banks' thievery details are no longer news, we will not mention them again either.

Farewell to 2012

We had ambitious plans for 2012. Not all of them were completed, plus an unexpected task arrived in the form of digging a large hole...

Septic tank lid

Over four feet down (sounds more impressive in imperial units). The septic tank lids are exposed for emptying, but to build a riser, much more digging was required.

Septic tanks are emptied every four years in McLaren Vale. From the age of the house, this was not the first time this hole the size of a grave has been dug, and then filled in again! We will try not to mention it again.