November News

 

Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame
Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in

   Jokerman, Bob Dylan, 1983,
Infidels album
Lyrics at Bob Dylan Lyrics


Our least favourite pasttime

November had its share of admin — year-end for me and the wife, BAS returns, preparation for a depreciation audit for the McLaren Vale property, balance sheets for purchasing land in Queensland, offers, searches, paperwork and more paperwork. What a poorly designed system — multiple searches for a single property. Not that the IT capability does not exist in 2015 to centralise all this, but the legal fraternity and estate agents are doing their utmost to keep it in the dark ages and stay on papyrus, parchment, scrolls or vellum. Stamp duty, GST, the list just goes on and on.... Apparently, it is part of the “services industry where jobs are created out of nothing”.

Datalogger

At last we managed to do some work on the Atmel V71 board. First things first — run many of the Atmel samples under Atmel Studio 7 before moving over to Rowley Associates CrossWorks. The V71Q21 is a pretty impressive device.

We will write documentation as web pages rather than our prior route of PDF via LaTeX. Adobe has promised Comet in the new year, which will make for more interesting websites for lone developers. We will also get the full Adobe suite next year (currently use Lightroom, Photoshop and Illustrator). For now, see Datalogger which will have many broken links, and does not have a link from the main pages yet.

We are programming peripherals as part of the board support package. Although there are various demonstrations, there does not seem to be a complete project (say like a small Linux kernel or real-time system running with all peripherals enabled).

We checked out the FreeRTOS sample from Atmel for the board, and also ported our simple tick interupt handler with a table of tasks to run. Our goals are the SPI, CAN, SDRAM and SD card. The SDRAM test will be expanded on next month so that we can get a better feels for it compared to the Pass/Fail example. The instrumentation (Atmel Studio 7 console debug and CrossWorks console) work, so at least we have “printf” style debugging.

The pin assignments will mostly follow the evaluation kit, however, we loose trace by opting for Ethernet, and have chosen the SDRAM component rather than the LCD. The boring stuff like setting up the peripherals and clocks is going to be completed before any instrumentation or real-time stuff.

What are the chances of a peripheral block that maintains address decoding and initialisation across devices? Freescale made some attempt at this in the Kinetis family, but there are still so many conditional compilation lines in the source that is a real pain to follow. We follow the initialisation in the Atmel examples by stepping through the code, then rewrite it for our eventual board.

A bit of advance notice — this datalogger relies on permanent power and full speed operation, so we are not going to worry about power saving or sleeping between tasks. The initialisation will assume the fastest clock rate, execution out of Flash (although we are testing code out of RAM to try and save the Flash wearout), and SDRAM for the data capture storage prior to being written to SD card or over Ethernet. Our instrumentation and stacks will all use internal RAM.

Furniture

When we relocated from McLaren Vale, the previous desk had to be dismantled and dumped. It was built into the office and too big to take through the doorway, or to put into the van. It seems that everytime we move offices, some furniture has to be left behind, particularly built-in units.

In its heyday, we wrote most of our software there.

New office desk with glass top

The dismantling happened earlier this year, and shown here as a bit of justification for taking a new look at high-tech furniture. An engineering desk, build and dismantle.

The new modular series has started, with the first one in Mobile Furniture. It is a good exercise for CAD.

A link from Onshape.com pointed to klevr furniture. The interesting part for us was the retractable power chargers and building some electronics into furniture. In warm locations like Australia, temperature sensing would be advisable for any custom electronics inside wooden furniture — whenever there is a fire, it spreads out far and wide, plus very quickly. In November, South Australia hit the news, and you can be sure that every insurance claim will find its way to the investigation department for the cause of the fire. Hopefully, it is not your design that overheated in a flammable enclosure.

The klevr furniture website (follow links in Products to WELD table) has some very good ideas for movable furniture and no tools for assembly. By the way, WELD is a company that rents out office space to coworkers who might want to come together for a quick meeting or to thrash out some design. See the WELD table at Ben Larzabal — WELD table.

This furniture was designed for a nomadic workforce, but what about a fixed workforce who need to move equipment around? Remember the days of extracting a logic analyzer off someone's desk and disconnecting almost forty probe clips? Soon your turn comes just as you are about to test and someone else has higher priority. This one is for semi-nomadic in that we are in a rental, swap stuff around rooms depending on air-conditioning requirements for the computers, plus keep the peace without taking over the lounge permanently.

We made a mobile unit for mounting test equipment to make life easier when shifting around during summer in Queensland. The computers need to be near an air conditioner, so a spare room as an office was rather short-lived.

With the multitude of charges around the bed for tablets, phones, GPS, cameras (No, we are not making interesting movies. The only plugs in the bedroom are next to the bed), there could be an opportunity to make some furniture. Maybe even a plug for a coffee machine? None of this will be IoT aware. What about a magazine pouch?


Atollic free toolchain

Atollic have removed code-size limitations from their TrueStudio Lite free toolchain for ARM devices. A quick look at their website gave the news a prominent spot on their home page. For the news post, see Atollic TrueSTUDIO v5.4 is released, with unlimited code-size for the free Lite version, and a cost-effective subscription model starting at only €49 / US$59 a month for the Pro version!, dated 10th Nov, 2015. The local agent, Glyn High-Tech Distribution, sent an email with the Pro version priced at AU$75 per month based on an exchange rate of AU$1 = €0,65. The price is for a 12 month subscription prepaid. It is a marked change from the previous pricing model.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

It is a quad-core 64-bit processor (not ARM), but not much is available on the architecture yet. Specs look good, but they also denied heat problems on earlier Snapdragon devices. We will let this one slide off our radar.

ARM DS-5 eval

ARM had some evaluation licenses which we tried. The download was almost a GByte, and we wrote a small program, then fished around to see where to change the processor to the A53 or A57, but it was only 32-bit. Some emails and calls, then more offers for another eval (this time it is 64-bit!), but their marketing is poor. Maybe we can deal with Altera if they ever ship the 64-bit ARM device, but we won't be looking at doing any 64-bit stuff for the next couple of months.