Put WiFi in all the things

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2014 - 09:43 AM |
Tagged: texas instruments, CC3000, CC3200, wifi

The new Ti C3200 SimpleLink is an ARM Cortex-M4 based SoC with inbuilt WiFi capability, essentially Internet on a Chip for the Internet of things.  Paired with the CC3200 LaunchPad which includes sensors you can use a PC and the SDK with 40 pre-exisiting WiFi apps to enable almost any device to communicate wirelessly.  The inclusion of AES, DES, MD5 and other security and encryption protocols is a welcome inclusion for anyone aware of even basic security.  The power requirements range from mA in operation to µA in the various sleep modes, making remote use with battery power a definite option.  Check out the links at Hack a Day for the spec sheets.

SimpleLink_CC3200.jpg

"Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip is the darling of everyone producing the latest and greatest Internet of Thing, and it’s not much of a surprise: In quantity, these chips are only $10 a piece. That’s a lot less expensive than the WiFi options a year ago. Now, TI is coming out with a few new modules to their WiFi module family, including one that includes an ARM micro."

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Source: Hack a Day

Arduino and Intel bring you the Galileo, straight from Ireland

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2013 - 09:44 AM |
Tagged: arduino, Intel, texas instruments, galileo, TRE

A telling quote to describe the Arduino community can be found in MAKE:Blog's talk with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich who relates a conversation with a developer who preferred to use Arduino boards for prototyping even when offered Intel boards for free.  Today Intel has officially joined the Arduino team with the release of the Galileo which features a new 400MHz Intel Quark SoC with 256 MB of DRAM and Mini-PCIe slot, 100Mb Ethernet port, Micro SD slot, RS-232, and USB host and client ports for interfacing with the device.  That puts it on even footing with the popular Raspberry Pi but with the ability to use Arduino shields and a mini-PCIe slot to open up some new possibilities which you will likely be reading about on Hack a Day after it is released.

That was not the only interesting bit of Arduino news out of the Maker Faire, Texas Instruments is also releasing the TRE which is essentially two Arduinos in one.  The 1GHz Sitara AM335x processor is described as performing 100 times better than either the Arduino Leonardo or Uno and there is also a full AVR based Arduino present on the board to help process some tasks and to offer a more familiar environment to start playing with the Sitara from.   According to The Inquirer you will be able to pick up a TRE sometime in the spring of next year.

galileo.jpg

"Krzanich’s own interest in Arduino was piqued when an outside developer told him about his product development project, and Krzanich asked him why he was using Arduino instead of an Intel board. Even when Kryzanich offered to make Intel products available to him at low cost or no cost, the developer said he valued the Maker community and the Arduino platform and he wasn’t willing to switch. Members of Krzanich’s team reached out to Massimo Banzi and they forged a partnership to develop the Galileo board and work together on future projects. Banzi said that he’s glad to have more resources and the scale of Intel to help the Arduino platform continue to develop new capabilities and reach new audiences."

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Source: MAKE:Blog

AFDS 2012: HSA Foundation Joins AMD, ARM, Ti, Imagination and MediaTek with Open Architecture

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | June 12, 2012 - 10:31 AM |
Tagged: texas instruments, mediatek, imagination, hsa foundation, hsa, arm, amd, AFDS

Today is a big day for AMD as they, along with four other major players in the world of processors and SoCs, announced the formation of the HSA Foundation.  The HSA Foundation is a non-profit consortium created to define and promote an open approach to heterogeneous computing.  The primary goal is to make it easier for software developers to write and program for the parallel power of GPUs.  This encompasses both integrated and discrete of which the HSA (heterogeneous systems architecture) Foundation wants to enable users to take full advantage of all the processing resources available to them.

On stage at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in Bellevue, WA, AMD announced the formation of the consortium in partnership with ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments; some of the biggest names in computing. 

The companies will work together to drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model to help software developers take greater advantage of the capabilities found in modern central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and unlock the performance and power efficiency of the parallel computing engines found in heterogeneous processors.

HSA Foundation_Logo.png

There are a lot of implications in this simple statement and there are many questions that are left open ended to which we hope to get answered this week while at AFDS.  The idea of a "single architecture specification" set a lot of things in motion and makes us question the direction of both AMD and the traditionally ARM-based companies of the HSA Foundation will be moving in.  AMD has had the APU, and the eventual complete fusion of the CPU and GPU, on its roadmap for quite a few years and has publicly stated that in 2014 they will have their first fully HSA-capable part.  We are still assuming that this is an x86 + Radeon based part, but that may or may not be the long term goal; ideas of ARM-based AMD processors with Radeon graphics technology AND of Radeon based ARM-processors built by other companies still swirl amongst the show.  There are even rumors of Frankenstein-like combinations of x86 and ARM based products for niche applications.

hsa01.jpg

Looks like there is room for a few more founding partners...

Obviously ARM and others have their own graphics IP (ARM has Mali, Imagination Technology has Power VR) and those GPUs can be used for parallel processing in much the same way that we think of GPU processing on discrete GPUs and APUs today.  ARM processor designers are well aware of the power and efficiency benefits of utilizing all of the available transistors and processing power correctly and the emphasis on an HSA-style system design makes a lot of sense moving forward.  

My main question for the HSA Foundation is its goals: obviously they want to promote the simplistic approach for programmers, but what does that actually translate to on the hardware side?  It is possible that both x86 and ARM-based ISAs can continue to exist with libraries and compilers built to correctly handle applications for each architecture, but that would seem to me to be against the goals of such a partnership of technology leaders.

amdarmcombo.jpg

In a meeting with AMD personnel, the most powerful and inspiring idea from the HSA Foundation is summed up with this:

"This is bigger than AMD.  This is bigger than the PC ecosystem."

The end game is to make sure that all software developers can EASILY take advantage of both traditional and parallel processing cores without ever having to know what is going on under the hood.  AMD and the other HSA Foundation members continue to tell us that this optimization can be completely ISA-agnostic – though the technical blockages for that to take place are severe. 

AMD will benefit from the success of the HSA Foundation by finally getting more partners involved in promoting the idea of heterogeneous computing, and powerful ones at that.  ARM is the biggest player in the low power processor market responsible for the Cortex and Mali architectures found in the vast majority of mobile processors.  As those partners trumpet the same cause as AMD, more software will be developed to take advantage of parallel computing and AMD believes their GPU architecture gives them a definite performance advantage once that takes hold.  

What I find most interesting is the unknown – how will this affect the roadmaps for all the hardware companies involved?  Are we going to see the AMD APU roadmap shift to an ARM-IP system?  Will we see companies like Texas Instruments fully integrate the OMAP and Power VR cores into a single memory space (or ARM with Cortex and Mali)?  Will we eventually see NVIDIA jump onboard and lend their weight towards true heterogenous computing?

hsa02.jpg

We have much more the learn about the HSA Foundation and its direction for the industry but we can easily say that this is probably the most important processor company collaboration announcement in many years – and it does so without the 800 pound gorilla that is Intel in attendance.  By going after the ARM-based markets where Intel is already struggling to compete in, AMD can hope to create a foothold with technological and partnership advantages and return to a seat of prominence.  This harkens back to the late 1990s when AMD famously put together the "virtual gorilla" with many partners to take on Intel.

Check out the full press release after the break!

MWC 12: TI OMAP5 will beat your A9 with its own two cores

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 25, 2012 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: texas instruments, MWC 12, arm, A9, A15

Texas Instruments could not wait until Mobile World Congress to start throwing punches. Despite their recent financial problems resulting in the closure of two fabrication plants TI believes that their product should speak for itself. Texas Instruments recently released a video showing their dual-core OMAP5 processor based on the ARM Cortex-A15 besting a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 in rendering websites.

Chuck Norris joke.

Even with being at a two core disadvantage the 800 MHz OMAP5 processor was clocked 40 percent slower than the 1.3 GHz Cortex A9. The OMAP5 is said to be able to reach 2.5 GHz if necessary when released commercially.

Certain portions of the video did look a bit fishy however. Firstly, CNet actually loaded quicker on the A9 processor but it idled a bit before advancing to the second page. The A9 could have been stuck loading an object that the OMAP 5 did not have an issue with, but it does seem a bit weird.

About the fishiest part of the video is that the Quad-Core A9, which we assume to be a Tegra 3, is running on Honeycomb where the OMAP5 is running Ice Cream Sandwich.  Ice Cream Sandwich has been much enhanced for performance over Honeycomb.

We have no doubt that the ARM Cortex-A15 will be much improved over the current A9. The issue here is that TI cannot successfully prove that with this demonstration.

Remember the Phoenix BIOS screen?

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2011 - 09:18 AM |
Tagged: bios, phoenix, win8, qualcomm, texas instruments, windows on arm, WOA

American Megatrends Inc., aka AMI, pretty much rules the world of the PC BIOS after virtually booting Phoenix and Award from the market.  A recent post on DigiTimes shows that Phoenix is planning on making a splash with the arrival of Windows 8.  It is not just the PC market that Phoenix intends to rise again in; they are working with ARM to develop a BIOS for Windows on ARM as well as talking with Qualcomm and Texas Instruments about designing BIOS for their devices.  Could it be that they will indeed fire up a new age of competition in the BIOS market?

phoenix_bios.jpg

"BIOS player Phoenix Technologies has recently announced its latest Phoenix SCT 2.2 solution to assist its PC partners to develop systems based on Windows 8, according to the company.

Currently, American Megatrends (AMI) is dominating in the desktop BIOS market, with Insyde Software and Phoenix accounting for 55% and 45% of the notebook BIOS market, respectively.

President of Phoenix Greater China, Kelly Wu pointed out that the company's new solution has more than 60 new functions to support Windows 8 and is optimized for system performance, security, connectivity, mobility and user experience."

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Source: DigiTimes

AMD is out and ARM is in for several major notebook vendors

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 22, 2011 - 09:05 AM |
Tagged: arm, amd, texas instruments, snapdragon, amazon, tegra

It is not just AMD which is forging a new relationship with ARM, which we saw evidence of during the AMD Fusion Developer Summit, several other manufacturers are making good on previous statements made while waiting for AMD, and are going to be selling ARM based notebooks.  These companies are not on the fringe of the market, these are major vendors like ASUS which are releasing quad-core ARM based notebooks which will use SnapDragon, Tegra or TI for the graphics portion.  DigiTimes has the scoop here, as well as news on a tablet which will be released by Amazon running an unspecified TI processor which we should see by August.

Texas-Instruments-logo-design.png

"Several vendors, including Samsung Electronics, Toshiba, Acer and Asustek Computer, plan to develop ARM architecture notebooks, with products possibly to be launched as early as the end of 2011, according to industry sources.

The sources pointed out that ARM-based systems using Android were already launched under the smartbook name two years ago with Toshiba and Lenovo both launching products in the retail channel. However, due to weaker than expected demand, the related products were soon phased out of the market.

Since ARM's CPU has already been upgraded from single-core two years ago to quad-core with a significant increase in performance, while the platform's storage capacity has also seen significant improvements, and an enhanced user interface, ARM is already capable of launching notebook products that are able to run for a long period of time, and if the price is attractive, there is a great chance for the products to create a brand new market segment in the IT industry.

Asustek has already made plans to launch a 13-inch ARM-based notebook adopting Nvidia's processor with Android.

The sources pointed out that there are already several brand vendors reportedly set to launch ARM-based notebooks with prices lower than US$299 to compete for market share and the vendors' processor choices include Nvidia's Tegra, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and processors from Texas Instruments."

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Source: DigiTimes