April News

Apples in McLaren Vale garden

Apples in our garden, McLaren Vale. We get a fair bit of wind in McLaren Vale, so the trees with too much fruit (apple and pear tree) often have broken branches. By now we are concentrating on the renovation, so earlier plans for apple cider have been shelved.


Two trips, no software

We did another two trips to Brisbane during April. The smaller towns have scrap metal guardians at each end of town. They seem to spend all their energy collecting rusting metal — even as the iron ore price tumbles. As part of our relocation, many prototype welded frames were cut up and taken to the local scrap metal merchant. Although roughly 100 kg, the $8 received was better than paying $75 to the dump for an equivalent trailer load.

Scrap collectors
Scrap collectors

An impressive pile of junk similar to this at each side of small towns along the trip begs the question — Can it be moved for less than the scrap value?


Along the New England Highway, Uralla is a good place to stop for coffee. Out of the range of the thieving petrol merchants of Tamworth, the main road passes many old buildings. The town has maintained its buildings well, however, there is a decided lack of public toilets. The hotel shown has a prominent notice not to use their toilets. The coffee shop across the road has no toilets (closed down a few months later), and the walk to the public toilets is to the other side of town.

Uralla hotel

Atmel V71 evaluation board

Last month we ordered two Atmel boards and the external debugger. They are based on the new Cortex-M7 core, run at 300 MHz, and have plenty of memory. The SAM V71 Xplained Ultra boards have an on-board debugger, but we prefer to use a debugger that will also work with our own boards should we choose to manufacture a few. The Freescale K64 Freedom boards used the ‘mbed’ debugger. After an Apple upgrade to the server, the ‘mbed’ disk could not be mounted and we could not get the external debugger to work after cutting different combinations of tracks (on more than one board). The Atmel V71Q21 part has impressive specs, the usual 1,876 page datasheet to get through, but most importantly for us going forward — decent free software so that our clients do not have to purchase expensive toolchains or evaluation boards. The other microcontroller vendors could learn a thing or two from Atmel's impressive offerings.

We downloaded an updated version of Atmel's Studio 6 software to support the Cortex-M7 devices. We compiled some software, but have not connected up to the target. There are many pages to read before we brick the target. The aim is to connect two back-to-back over CAN and also Ethernet. We still have boards that can plug into the connectors from prior Atmel evaluation efforts.

Atmel evaluation boards




Tales from the Woods

AMD with ARMv8

We periodically look at their website hoping to see the low-cost ARMv8 motherboards shipping, but still little evidence of that. The webpage looks decidedly like it was when first launched almost a year ago. In an interesting article, AMD shuttered Seamicro and went silent on their ARM development. See Applied Micro carrying the flag for dense server ARM data centers.

For more info on the SeaMicro side, see AMD Sheds SeaMicro Microserver Business from eWeek, dated 16th April, 2015.

Not that long ago, AMD paid $334 million for SeaMicro. For the interested, see AMD Completes Acquisition of SeaMicro, dated 23rd Mar, 2012.

US blocks Intel supplying chips to some Chinese institutions

In U.S. Blocks Intel From Supplying Chips for Chinese Supercomputers, from eWeek, dated 11th April, 2015, the US Department of Commerce is blocking Intel from supplying chips to several Chinese institutions. This is bound to accelerate an alternative architecture, or even a home-grown one. When there is the whiff of money, chips will find their way there, much like the drug trade continuing to flourish, so too will the diversion of chips bound for PCs. Perhaps it is better to simulate an explosion rather than actually detonate a real device, and in any case, I recall that they detonated a hydrogen bomb way back in the mid 1960s. There must be something else which we will never understand, but Intel has certainly invested heavily in China (and who does not want to be part of a very large market?).