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Need some help finding a microcontroller
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.

Need some help finding a microcontroller

by Amberjack on Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:43 am

Hi everyone!
I've been working with BX24 for quite some time.
Here, at AmberjackSolutions, we are now looking for another kind of micro controller...
We are looking for one with multiple counters, ADCs, I/O pins, memory and an Ethernet card included with TCP/IP stack and http support.
The best would be a supplier of several different microcontrollers, thast we could choose depending on the project in hand...
Any suggestions or comments on this topic are greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Daniel Antunes
Amberjack
 
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Re: Need some help finding a microcontroller

by cstratton on Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:23 am

In today's work I'd probably recommend the Arm architecture, but that barely narrows things down as there are a world of choices from numerous manufacturers. Amongst other architectures MIPS is still a factor in some markets like wifi routers, atmel has their AVR32 core in addition to arm offerings. When I faced this choice 3 years ago I went with a blackfin in part for its dsp capability, but that's a 16 bit core without mmu that's starting to show its architectural age even though they make faster and dual versions.

I/O offerings tend to be fairly comparable, with differentiators being things like ethernet, usb host, etc. Often the same chip is available in a large or small pin count package with all or only some of the possible peripherals. There is also a difference between having onchip ethernet MAC+PHY needing only the external transformer and passives, or having only the MAC onboard and needing an external PHY chip.

More key to your selection will be what you need in the way of memory and horesepower. The chips with included memory tend to have half a meg or less of flash, and 32-64K of ram, and be clocked at under 100 MHz - which is suitable for compact applications running on bare metal or a small rtos (if you are used to the microsoft world, there are now some that run an embedded version of .NET). These are also typically PQFP packages which makes doing two layer boards plausible. If this is insufficient, you can get chips clocked at several hundred MHz which use external SDRAM and flash and would normally be equipped with 32-128mb of ram and run a full operating system such as embedded linux or a commercial licensed alternative. These are more likely to be BGA packages. A few such as TI are stacking the ram and flash chips on the processor in a single package.

So probably your first step is to look at your application and decide on memory requirements, speed, and things like if you need a berkely sockets interface to the network stack as on a "real computer" or if you can deal with something more unique to a particular embedded implementation. That will get you the onchip/external memory decision, then you can go shopping for particular chips.

I would also mention that I'm heavily in favor of chips which feature an un-erasable uart or even USB bootloader. It's very nice to be able to work on your product with nothing but a commodity cable and laptop as required equipment, and it's nice to be able to email a firmware update to your customer and know that they can't mess up the process in an unrecoverable way. If your software team is skilled in the use of debug printf's and analytic thinking you may never need to set up jtag, though it's probably worth putting the connector on the board (and arm jtag adapters are not expensive)

cstratton
 
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Re: Need some help finding a microcontroller

by westfw on Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:38 pm

I've been working with BX24 for quite some time.
Here, at AmberjackSolutions, we are now looking for another kind of micro controller...
We are looking for one with multiple counters, ADCs, I/O pins, memory and an Ethernet card included with TCP/IP stack and http support.

So are you looking for a chip, or a module that includes a complete software/operating environment?

It sounds like you should consider jumping all the way to one of the small linux-based solutions.
(Chumby Hacker Board, Beagleboard, hawkboard, gumstix, etc.) Yeah, they may seem to have a ridiculous amount of RAM/etc for the application you had in mind, but ... its essentially free. (Lets see: BS2PX24 with 16K flash and about 150bytes of RAM for $79 vs CHB with 512M flash and 64M RAM for $89 ...)

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Re: Need some help finding a microcontroller

by chatham on Fri Oct 08, 2010 2:34 pm

I'm sure you've done this already, but looking around on Mouser, it seems like there's a couple of microcontrollers that have hardware Ethernet. What sort of libraries they have for using it, I don't know, but the cheapest ones are only like $5, so if you're looking at making more than one or two, it may make the most sense.
OpenChord.org - Open Source kits to let you play Guitar Hero with a real guitar, or build your own Wii/PS3/USB controllers.

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