Hardware

WildFire Credit-Card Sized Linux Board

Posted 1 Feb 2005 at 17:17 UTC by steve Share This

According to a LinuxDevices.com article, Intec Automation has a new credit-card sized single board computer, called the WildFire, with a 64MHz Freescale ColdFire 5282 Version 2 processor. The board includes 2 or 4MB of Flash (plus another 512KB on-chip Flash), 64KB of SRAM, and 16MB DRAM. The board is intended for use with Free Software development tools like the GNU GCC tool chain and can run uClinux. Of particular interest to robot builders will be the extensive list of I/O. The board has 24 general purpose I/O ports, 7 interrupt or I/O ports, a 16 I/O port timer (plus 4 additional interrupt timers and watchdog timer), 8 analog inputs (10 bit, 140KHz), 1 CAN port, 3 RS-232 serial ports, an LCD/keypad connector, and a 10/100 Ethernet port. It also has a battery-backed clock and has a zero power hibernation mode. Technical documentation (PDF format) for all those ports is also available. The WildFire board is available now for $199.


Pretty Cool, But..., posted 1 Feb 2005 at 18:28 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

It looks like a fine little board, but a few details bug me.

My "Find" command didn't work with the PDF, but it appears that the I2C bus, present on the processor, is not externally available on the board.

Also, I couldn't determine what type (aside from 2 or 4 x 16) of LCD could be used.

There's a note for the LCD contrast that says something like (regarding the contrast) "This adjustment is touchy". This raises a flag to me that the contrast-adjustment voltage is not ranged well.

The photograph shows no routing on the top layer - it looks to me like a mechanical-only sample.

Does anyone have one of these working now, or is it a little on the "Beta" side?

photo of the board, posted 2 Feb 2005 at 19:28 UTC by steve » (Master)

I exchanged some email with them and learned that the photo on the website is, in fact, an older photo of a beta-version of the board. But they do have real, shipping boards now. They also hope to ship the board with a version of uClinux that will run right out of the box soon. Right now, it apparently takes a little tweaking to get Linux running - much like it does on some of the other Coldfire and ARM boards.

I2C, posted 2 Feb 2005 at 20:10 UTC by steve » (Master)

I hadn't noticed the lack of a direct I2C connector. I assumed they were just calling the I2C connector the CAN port. Isn't CAN just a protocol that runs on top of I2C? (I may have no idea what I'm talking about here!) On the Mini-ITX board, there's a header for the I2C port and you just run the Linux CAN protocol stack if you want CAN vs raw I2C. So, does this mean you can't use non-CAN I2C devices with this board? That would be too bad as there are begining to be a lot of I2C bus robot parts around. Ron Grant is running his new sonar array over an I2C interface.

Hmmm...I wonder about that "Debug Port" - is it a JTAG port or one of the BDM style things like the older Motorolas used?

A few clarifications are in order, posted 3 Feb 2005 at 03:10 UTC by steroidmicros » (Journeyer)

"jeffkoenig" is pretty sharp: The web images were indeed of a Beta version. We have updated our website to show the "real thing" which is available and is in stock.

The "Technical documentation" links to the Programmers Reference Manual. The WildFrire Users Manual may be a more interesting first look (www.steroidmicros.com/downloads/WildFireUM.pdf).

The WildFire LCD/Kpd port hooks up to a standard up to 2 line x 40 character or 4 line x 20 LCD, as well as a 4 x 4 matrix keypad.

LCD contrast is controlled by a 1 turn pot with less than a 1/4 turn "sweet spot", depending on LCD. A multi-turn pot would have been nicer and a tempertature compensation circuit, nicer yet ..at the cost of more realestate and money.

Jeff is correct: the I2C bus is not externally available on the WildFire SBC. We were not aware that this was important for robotics (Duh!). Now that we are aware, we will ensure that this bus is made available on the WildFire's successor.

BDM (Background Debug Mode) Debugging, posted 3 Feb 2005 at 04:47 UTC by steroidmicros » (Journeyer)

Yes, BDM debugging has been used for quite a while by Motorola and now, Freescale, and it keeps getting better. For instance, BDM support built into the ColdFire chip now allows breakpoints in Flash and real time tracing.

But, most users will find that serial debugging with the dBUG monitor burned in the WildFires flash, is more than adequate for most applications.

However, BDM debugging does offer some advantages (for a price):
 - Simplicity resulting from only one program running at a time: the user program.
 - Registers and memory can always be inspected, remaining unchanged, even after a program crash.
 - Interrupts are normally halted in BDM mode and therefore interfere less in the debugging process.
 - The program can be stopped at any time without any alteration of registers or memory.
 - It is completely un-intrusive. It is handled by an on-chip module that is separate from the CPU.
 - All serial ports remain available to the user. No serial port is encumbered for debug service.

Wow, talk about a responsive company!, posted 3 Feb 2005 at 15:30 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

A kudos to Intec! I can certainly envision laying out a carrier board for this module - all it would need is an H-Bridge, some power conditioning, and connectors for sensors. Perhaps an analog mux for more A/D ports.

The serial ports and I/O make this board a real standout, IMHO.

(Oh, and my apologies for getting the LCD part wrong. Should have read the docs better...)

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