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Recomendations for low end single board computers

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by richardlang, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. richardlang

    richardlang Guest

    Hi all,

    Looking for recomendations for low end single board computers

    I'm a professional software engineer with a mix of experience in
    Windows and embedded development currently working for "the
    corporation" on WinCE development. I've been hankering to set up at
    home to do a bit of embedded development, initially just for interests
    sake but with a possible angle towards some contracting/consulting.

    I'm looking for a family of small single board computers (thinking high
    end 8 bit through to low end 32 bit uCs) to play with, with a view to
    developing embedded web servers, data gateways, remote control widgets
    and the like.

    Things I'm keen on..

    - A simple and free RTOS

    - A development environment based on GCC

    - A S/W framework based on some flavour of open source model, with an
    enthusastic user community colaborating on components and libraries

    - A low cost development kit (this is only a hobby for now, so not
    prepared to spend thousands to get started)

    - a selection of modules available including development boards,
    encapsulated units ready to clip to a DIN rail and go and core modules
    that can be piggybacked onto simple carrier boards for custom H/W
    developments. (I'm primarily a S/W guy and quite apart from lack of
    experience I don't have the resources at home to do anything but the
    most basic of H/W)

    The Ethernut (http://www.ethernut.de/en/index.html) looks like the sort
    of toy I'm after, how do people rate it?

    Had a bit of exposure to Dallas Semiconductor TINI modules a 3-4 years
    back, which also have some of the attributes I'm after, are these still
    a live product? At the time it seemed that they did everything
    advertised, but ran out of puff just at the point we tried to pull
    everything togther to build a real product. Have they got any better?

    Quite like the modular H/W architecture of some of the Advantech ADAM
    gear, but their S/W framework just aint what I'm after.

    Anyone out there got any other suggestions of toys I should be looking
    at, or links to good online catalogs?



    richardlang, Sep 16, 2005
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  2. richardlang

    Tom Twist Guest


    Take a look at Olimex's development boards:


    They are available for AVR (8bit) and ARM (32bit), both supported by

    They have distributers around the world:


    Tom Twist, Sep 16, 2005
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  3. richardlang

    Harald Kipp Guest

    Hi Richard,

    I'm rating Ethernut on top, but as one of its developers and the
    general manager of egnite GmbH I'm most prejudiced. I'll try
    to give some neutral comments.

    For most applications 8 bit MCUs provide sufficient resources.
    However, you may think about encryption and, when standards like
    SSL are required, most of these devices simply do not have the
    power. I think Rabbit (now part of Digi) offer SSL with 8 bit
    CPUs, but no idea about the performance. Also Ubicom's MCUs may
    provide the required power. But in general a low end ARM7 is
    Nut/OS (Ethernut RTOS) isn't actually that simple. One of its
    goals is to offer a programming environment similar to desktop
    PCs. You can, for example, use (f)printf on RS232, LCDs and
    even TCP streams. That requires a lot of overhead (e.g. buffer
    copying). On the other hand you can easily create applications,
    which are running on a desktop _and_ on the target hardware.
    The ETH Zuerich created a Linux / OS X environment for their
    Nut/OS based Bluetooth stack. Though I've to admit, that
    I failed to get it up last time I tried.

    For very low end targets you may also have a look to

    If Linux is an option, the list shrinks a lot.
    seems to have an active community too. As long as you intend
    to develop for non commercial use, the GPL is fine. For
    commercial products the BSD licence typically is a better


    Harald Kipp, Sep 16, 2005
  4. richardlang

    Richard Guest

    Just to clarify - FreeRTOS.org contains an exception to the GPL.

    In summary

    + the scheduler code is GPL'ed, if you make modifications to the scheduler
    itself you must abide by the GPL.

    + however, application code that uses the scheduler through the published
    API can remain proprietary and the GPL does not apply.

    The intention is that the FreeRTOS.org community benefits from changes or
    enhancements to the actual kernel code, but users are not obliged to open
    source their own proprietary application that simply makes use of the kernel
    services. Using FreeRTOS.org in a commercial application is therefore not a



    Richard, Sep 16, 2005
  5. richardlang

    Harald Kipp Guest

    As a native German speaker, these lawyer texts are Greek to me
    anyway. But wouldn't
    exactly meet your intention? I assume, that developers of
    commercial applications feel insecure by an exception, which
    is contrary to the initial licence.

    At least the LGPL would allow me to "steal" code from FreeRTOS
    for Nut/OS, which is currently not possible.

    Harald Kipp, Sep 16, 2005
  6. Try this H8 based board from Nu-Horizons.


    The board at time I purchased it was only $125
    The H8 family is supported by GCC

    There is a free RTOS (BSD License) for the board

    There are two TCP/IP stacks that run on the board
    (http://www.sics.se/~adam/uip/ and
    john.t.taylor, Sep 16, 2005
  7. richardlang

    Art Guest

    wrote in @g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:
    try family of micros from jkmicro.com

    Arthur Kloc
    Klocworx Inc

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with them. just a happy user!!
    Art, Sep 23, 2005
  8. Richard,

    one of my 3 favorite has already been mentioned focusing on low cost
    32-bit micros, Olimex. Here are the other two New Micros
    http://www.newmicros.com/ with a very nice download site for GCC and a
    development enviroment based on Eclipse, the other one is

    You can get started for way less than $100 (or 100 Euro for that
    matter). A port of FreeRTOS is also available as well as uC-OSII and

    A good source of information is also the LPC2000 Yahoo group with lots
    of good contributions, files and links (after you sign up).

    Hope this helps. IMHO there is little reason to start with an 8-bit
    any more, today you can get ARM micros for very low prices

    An Schwob
    An Schwob in the USA, Sep 24, 2005
  9. - A simple and free RTOS
    Sounds like the Zworld/Rabbit line of "cores" and SBCs would be a good
    match for that list of requirements. See http://www.zworld.com/.

    Note that they are currently running a special on a complete development
    environment for their EtherNet-capable 3720 core for $99. Considering
    what's in the bundle, they're giving them away.

    Daniel Birket
    Daniel Birket, Sep 28, 2005
  10. Except that there is no gcc toolchain as far as I can see!

    It does not seem a good fit to me, given the OP's preference for free
    tools and the open source community. There are plenty of processors
    that ARE supported by gcc.

    John Devereux, Sep 28, 2005
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