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We've recently come across a fantastic article in Keil's latest newsletter that we'd like to share.  This article discusses the benefits of Cortex-M3 for real-time applications, the modifications done to RTX to support Cortex-M3 and how this results in twice the performance over RTX running on ARM7TDMI. Have a read and let us know what you think! RTX Article

The Atom was the reason why Intel had to sell the XScale division. Unfortunately the XScale CPU wasn't all it should have been, lacking debug capability or the performance leap promised by its StrongARM heritage. While Intel sold a few chips to people for WinCE PDAs, and even a few Motorola cellphones, the market was small compared to that available to TI and the like. Free from its ownership of a competing architecture, one which has wiped the floor with Intel, its execs obviously feel comfortable letting rip at ARM. Intel is no-doubt hugely frustrated at its inability to compete in the fast-growing cellphone market, and the Apple iPhone is just another sign of ARM's dominance in this sector. So here is the I'm referring to:

Kedia didn't just stop at the iPhone, claiming ARM was a malaise afflicting smartphones in general. "The smartphone of today is not very smart," he said. "The problem they have today is they use ARM." Wall believed the situation was unlikely to change anytime soon, saying Intel was two years ahead of the rival company. He didn't believe fast, full internet would receive a début with ARM-based devices in the near future. "Even if they do have full capability, the performance will be so poor," he said.
Of course this guy is just venting, during a trip to Taiwan. Perhaps he met with a number of potential customers there who all told him they were using ARM and very happy with it.
But also, it simply isn't true. Tom's Hardware shows Atom's power consumption (for CPU alone) of about 2.5W, with 5W including the required companion chip. We should point out, though, that the two chipsets to be used with the Atom N200s are power users: the Atom 230s use an i945GC that consumes 22W (4W for the CPU) and the Atom N270s ship with an i945GSE that burns 5.5W (2.4W for the CPU).
This is for a 1.6GHz CPU. By comparison the OMAP3530, a dual core 600MHz CPU with integrated video DSP, 3D graphics, NEON SIMD machine, DDR interface (i.e. Atom + support chip) consumes under 2W total (and that's the maximum from the datasheet and the - with power management OFF!). It is a mystery why Intel chips consume so much power. Some say it is the Byzantine x86 instruction set. Others say that Intel aims for speed rather than power. Who knows... So in terms of power consumption, Intel isn't even able to play the game yet. It is perhaps 3-5 years behind ARM on this one. The claim that the Internet isn't usable on an ARM CPU is also bogus. From what little I have seen of the iPhone it seems usable enough. My Nokia E90 certainly runs ok on the web, although I agree it could do with more speed (it is an ARM11 design). I think Intel will be shocked at the capability of the Cortex-A8 devices when they come out in the new year. Of course Intel needs to attack ARM - ARM owns the lower power market space and it is the only way that Intel can make inroads into it. But Intel needs to get its products in order first. Perhaps Intel should swallow its pride, take an ARM architectural license and put its A team on the project. The C team didn't do a great job, but everyone knows Intel has great chip engineers - just look at the Pentium range. Take away the x86 baggage and who knows what might be achieved?

In preparation for manufacturing a large number of Snapper CL15 modules, we have been developing an automated test system for quickly and accurately finding assembly faults in Snapper CL15 modules.  The test system will be sent to the manufacturer so that the modules can be tested and, if necessary, repaired at the point of assembly. In the past we have used our Autotester software, combined with a Rig 200 baseboard for testing Snapper modules.  While this approach works reasonably well, it has a number of limitations which make in unsuitable for this task:

  • It is too interactive.  Many of the tests require user interaction or confirmation. For example, the audio test requires the user to confirm that a sound was played correctly, and the USB tests require the user to insert and remove a USB device.  For large builds this interaction becomes both tedious and error prone.
  • It cannot accurately find faults.  A failed test in the Autotester only tells the user which sub-system is faulty, but not where the specific problem is. For example, the video sub-system of the Snapper CL15 comprises of more than 20 pins, but a failed video test in the Autotester does not give any information about which of these may be faulty.
  • The Rig 200 baseboard does not expose all of the features of the Snapper CL15 in an easy to test way.  While the major features of the Snapper CL15 are accessible on the Rig 200 baseboard, many of them require some additional hardware to actually test the functionality.
To solve these problems, we have developed the Snapper CL15 test jig.  The test jig is a standard Snapper CL15 baseboard which has been designed to fully automate the testing of all of the Snapper CL15 features. In the event of a failure, very specific information about the nature of the fault, often referencing a single pin, is given. The problem of requiring external hardware for testing some peripherals is solved by having an FPGA which can monitor and drive pins on the Snapper CL15. The FPGA enables tests which previously required user interaction, such as video test, to be fully automated. For the video testing, the Snapper CL15 runs an application which configures a video mode and displays a test pattern.  The FPGA has registers which contain information such as the number of clocks per line and the sum of the pixel data in the frame. The software running on the Snapper CL15 can verify that this information is correct. Many of the test procedures use loop-backs so that no user interaction is required. For example, the audio tests, which in the Autotester setup required a user confirmation that sound played correctly, loop the line-out to the line-in via an analogue switch. After initially testing that the left and right capture channels are working correctly by feeding a 1kHz (generated by the baseboard) to them, the line-out and high-power out are tested by looping them back to the line-in and comparing the captured audio with what was played. The test jig system will be able to fully test a Snapper CL15 module in around 2-3 minutes, with no user interaction other than insterting the Snapper CL15 module and checking the result of the test. Because the information about failures is highly specific, it enables the manufacturer to quickly find and correct any assembly faults with the modules.

As you know, Bluewater recently participated in Sky Challenge, having contributed by developing the heads-up display system which the pilot used for flying the course , and co-development of a microwave communication link which sends the positional data for the aircraft to the ground. Here are a few more links that we like that show you what Sky Challenge is all about. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7633110.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7651327.stm http://www.astrofiammante.net/blog/sky-challenge-better-than-the-nintendo-wii-post279/

Bluewater is hosting our first ARM Tools Seminar in Christchurch on Thursday 27th November 2008 and we'd like for you to join us! The seminar will cover topics such as the sales of ARM Development Tools, the benefits and any new features of those tools, as well as new features that have been added to the existing line of available ARM chips. As part of the afternoon's discussions, Simon will be presenting information on the current state of ARM technology. If you would like to attend our Christchurch seminar, please RSVP your full name, as well as the names of all staff members who would like to attend, and your company name by the 14th November 2008. Date: Thursday 27th November 2008 Time: 9:00am - 2:00pm, lunch and refreshments will be provided Venue: To be determined (details will follow on location information) RSVP: Friday 14th November 2008 Contact: Amanda Gardner on x202 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it In addition, further ARM Tools seminars will be held in Auckland and Wellington, dates to be determined. If you would like any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me on the details provided above.  Also, please reach out and register your interest if you would like to attend a seminar that is to be held in Auckland or Wellington.