Huge fan of 8bit mirocontrollers but ¿Why XMOS?

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Heater
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Re: Huge fan of 8bit mirocontrollers but ¿Why XMOS?

Postby Heater » Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:24 am

mikef, Very interesting to hear from an Arduino user.

I have to ask have you, have you ever heard of the Propeller micro-controller from Parallax Inc.?

That MCU has 8 independent 32 bit processors. The philosophy with the Propeller is similar to that of XMOS, use general purpose processors to implement functionality in software that would otherwise be done in hardware peripherals, e.g. UARTS, SPI, I2C, PWM motor controls etc. Doing things that way means no need for a complicated operating system or any worries about interrupt processing and gets you deterministic timing of your code execution.

The Propeller was exactly designed for the kind of application you are describing, is incredibly easy to use, and has a very enthusiastic support system from Parallax and a similarly enthusiastic following on it's forum. There is a lot of software available for those UARTS, PWM's etc. As a bonus it can output VGA and NTSC video very easily!

Prior to the arrival of the XMOS the Propeller was the only device of this nature generally available for a few dollars.

As a Propeller user for some time I have always wondered, along with many others, what the draw was to the Arduino when there was a much simpler solution at hand. I am curious to hear why the Arduino is so popular in the face of more suitable alternatives. The Atmel is after all just another traditional MCU.

My apologies for bring up a competitors product on this forum. I have been already chastised for mentioning XMOS else where:). By way of mitigation I currently working on a Propeller implementation of the XMOS serial xlink so that these devices can work together each offering what they are best at.
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mikef
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Postby mikef » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:30 pm

RE: Propeller vs. XMOS
I've heard of it, even looked at it briefly. I've never been a fan of Parallax stuff, so I'm a bit biased from the get go. I'm not a fan of the Windows-only development environment, or the fact that it is only supported by a custom, proprietary language. With the XMOS, I've got a cross-platform C environment that I can pull code into from previous projects, no relearning languages, just have to learn the few XC keywords and a few rules. It's a much more industrial/professional toolchain, of the type I'm used to.

RE: Why the Arduino is popular?
The AVR chips are simple and easy. Free, open-source cross-platform toolchain, with lots of support. From an EE standpoint, the chips are super simple to interface to, fairly high drain/push on the I/O, just need a simple 5V supply (and are very noise tolerant on the VIN).

However, I think the biggest reason you've seen so many Arduinos sold, is that MAKE magazine and several others are lined up behind the project, forcing it down people's throats with every month's new magazine release. There are some people doing amazing things with Arduino, of course, but you've probably noticed most don't do much more than blink a few LEDs.

-Fergs
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Postby leon_heller » Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:34 pm

The Arduino is very popular with design students at the Royal College of Art in London. When I visited someone there a couple of years ago I saw lots of Arduinos incorporated into student projects.
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mikef
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Postby mikef » Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:50 pm

leon_heller wrote:The Arduino is very popular with design students at the Royal College of Art in London. When I visited someone there a couple of years ago I saw lots of Arduinos incorporated into student projects.
Yep, the project initially started in the art/design community, and that's definitely where it is still strongest. Just starting to see a larger number of hobby roboticists using the Arduino (mostly clones with lots of extra headers, the default Arduino can be a bit of a pain to connect things to)

-Fergs
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Postby nagmier » Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:49 pm

Arduinos have their uses, In my opinion they aren't even in the same class as a prop or xmos... its and apples to oranges comparison, Arduino is EASY for a user to get into trust me I know I am an Arduino user however that being said I use it for simple projects nothing too complicated. Interrupt programming has its own difficulties where XC isn't as easy as I would like it... My main issue is I learn by looking at code and dissecting it trying to figure out how it works and there isn't nearly the amount of code out there like there are with Arduinos. Now don't get me wrong I don't find that a fault of XMOS or the tech its just new! There aren't nearly as many users out there and a lot of users from what I see are serious users, the "hobby user" base is still relatively small compared. Personally I love the technology and what it means for robotics and microelectronics I think its just a matter of time before its much more widespread, Remember Arduino and Propeller weren't instant successes.
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mikef
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Postby mikef » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:12 pm

nagmier wrote:Arduinos have their uses, In my opinion they aren't even in the same class as a prop or xmos... its and apples to oranges comparison
I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying "apples and oranges". An XMOS has much more in common with an AVR than, say, an ARM9. The XMOS is more comparable to probably an ARM7, falling in between the AVR and the ARM9. It of course kills an ARM7 or ARM9 in clock cycles, but even most of the ARM7 offerings match the XMOS in that ever important RAM (there's an entirely different thread running about RAM, or lack thereof, so I won't digress into that too much here).

-Fergs
nagmier
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Postby nagmier » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:23 am

Ok I will revise Gala Apples and Fuji Apples ;) I see your point though

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