Galago, the latest in a series of awesome ARM boards

Long time Hackaday reader [Kuy] sent in a project he’s been working on for the last year and a half. It’s called Galago, and it wraps up all the features we’d like to see in the current crop of ARM microcontroller dev boards into one neat package.

The Galago features an AMR Cortex-M3 microcontroller running at72 MHz. Included on its pinout are 25 digital IO pins, 6 analog input pins, 10 PWM pins, and an I2C and SPI port.

The Galago isn’t simply an exercise in hardware development, though. [Kuy] spent a great deal of time writing proper libraries for his board, allowing you to get started with the Galago very quickly without having to rely on crippled tools.

A proper library isn’t Galago’s only significant developer feature: [Kuy] went as far as to create a browser-based IDE (no Internet connection required, thankfully) that has the ability to upload code directly to the board via a USB cable. Add in a hardware debugger, and the Galago might just be the perfect ARM board for tinkerers weaning themselves off the Arduino.

[Kuy] has released the Galago on a Kickstarter, with a single board costing $25. It’s a cool device, and something we’d really like to come to market.

Comments

  1. Kemp says:

    It looks the same as the mbed, has a microcontroller from the same family, and has a browser-based IDE… He really needs to set himself apart from the mbed devices or it’s going to look like a clone.

    • daid303 says:

      A browser based IDE which is not running on the cloud is a HUGE difference. A welcome different in my eyes.

      Anyone who uses mbed and thinks their online compiler is a positive point needs a kick in the nutsack. (or, eventually they will, because mbed’s compiler does that eventually)

    • Kuy says:

      If there’s one feature that sets it apart from most prototyping boards, it’s got to be the built-in debugger and its cross-platform GDB compatibility. Using an instruction/source-level debugger as a development tool is an important (and underrated) concept in the hobby electronics world. There’s no external debugger to buy, no weird tools to use and no complicated concepts to master – while we may have no difficultly connecting a JTAG adapter and using OpenOCD, Galago puts this advanced technology squarely into the comfort zone of Arduino users, in a way that’s not tied to a Windows-only and/or crippleware IDE. For this reason I think that soon it will be as ubiquitous as pushing a button to bootload.

  2. Mike says:

    Looks a lot like the Forebrain: http://www.universalair.co.uk/control/forebrain

    • Mike says:

      Same specs and same chip and everything, Forebrain has its own Libraries as well. What’s different about this, even the cost is about the same (Universal Air does discounts to hackspaces and academia if you ask)

  3. jaromirs says:

    Am I the only one who is sick of all those Kickstarter projects?

  4. Willaim says:

    I’d rather support the individual than the corporation in most instances that is the difference but in this situationall other variables being the same it would be a bit harder decision, due to technical support differences or the lack therof.

  5. Riley says:

    The debugger is a very nice addition! Awesome job. Backing it up.

  6. paryl says:

    Not sure what’s up with all the negativity so far… There are others that are similar, yes, but that doesn’t mean anything. The integrated debugger is a pretty nice addition.

    The KS price points are lower than the prices on their site. I think I’m going to give it a try.

    My biggest concern is whether they’ll get the ‘mindshare’ of the Arduino. With the number of shields out there, it seems like the Arduino has the momentum that no one else can match. I mean, I can buy it at Fry’s and Radio Shack now… that’s awesome. I do find myself wishing for better hardware though, and this Galago looks like a nice upgrade.

    The one thing I don’t get… how is it that an 8-bit AVR in Arduino’s case, or a 32-bit ARM chip for the Galago, bring the price up to ~$30, when the Ras Pi folks can build a mini-PC for the same price? I’m tempted to just switch all of my projects over to the Pi (if actually GETTING one weren’t such a problem still) and forget all of the microcontrollers…

  7. Nick says:

    Hmmm, the LPC1313 doesn’t have USB support, so that port has to connect to something they’re not showing, and the hardware debugger might actually be quite interesting in itself. But they’re not really saying anything about it, aside from it existing and supporting GDB.

    Which seems a bit silly since as far as I can tell, the hardware debugger is the big “unique” thing about this board. The teensy 3.0 has a similar size, a proven IDE (though how well they translate it to ARM remains to be seen) and promises of well-known libraries. The TI Stellaris Launchpad is cheaper. And there are a ton of NXP LPC boards out there, usually with fancier chips from the same family.

    The major thing about comparing this to any of the other ARM Cortex-M dev boards for me is that almost all the others have USB support, some even with Host mode (Teensy) or OTG (TI, most other NXP boards). Personally, I find USB support really exciting. Since this board trades USB support for a hardware debugger, I hope it gets explored more because I can see it being a reason to be excited about this board.

    But they aren’t really talking about it yet, so I may need to wait for it to be released and the open-source hardware promise to kick in. Unless the bits on kickstarter about it being OSHW only apply to the app boards and not the Galago itself.

    • Kuy says:

      I can tell you all about it if you’re curious, in fact I’m planning, writing and filming a small series about all the cool innovations on the device.

      The microUSB port connects directly to the debugger system which resides on the underside of the board. It’s the world’s smallest and simplest ARM hardware debugger that enables us to put it on every device. The debugger connects to the ARM via its debugging port. A lot of things a normal microcontroller-to-computer connection offer can be done over that same debugging link.

      It’s true that the LPC1313 does not support USB device mode, but the LPC1343 is a pin-compatible alternative that does. Obviously USB on the ARM would not let us do what we’re doing (there’s no substitute for a real debugger!) but that chip could be swapped in to provide USB device support, and we aim to offer that variation soon.

      In fact, you can see the schematics and design files right now at http://outbreak.co/galago/#open

      I designed the Galago primarily for the readership of Hack a Day, so please tell me how I can improve it! :-)

      • DanJ says:

        Hey Kuy, Your board looks very sweet. Another step in replacing 8-bit processors with 32. Built-in debugging is a killer addition. I have a couple of questions:

        1. How does the dev environment work? Is it browser based or stand-alone? What does it depend on if it is browser based? (One always has to worry that the service provider may — and probably will — someday cease to exist).

        2. Is there a hard limitation to 256 Kbs for the serial port? Often it’s nice to xfer data a 1 Mbs (for example from the HacroCam).

        3. What libraries have been ported? Is the C-source available?

        As far as product feedback. This is one man’s opinion but always more RAM and another serial port.

        Cheers!

        • Kuy says:

          Dan,

          Excellent questions! We elected to use a browser-based IDE that communicates with a locally-running HTTP server (on a random, high-numbered port) which bridges to GCC to compile and GDB to debug. GDB links to the hardware through a low-level driver written in C++, while the rest is all JavaScript. So this makes the IDE both browser-based /and/ standalone. You can even use the tools at the command-line or integrate them with e.g. Eclipse or other IDEs. Cool, huh?

          Regarding the UART, it’s actually a USART and should support far higher bit rates – I just wanted to quote the highest practical UART for interfacing with other equipment. Check the datasheet! (tech specs)

          We’re writing libraries and porting them from other platforms, but it will take the community to implement everything. We’re working on a package-manager system for libraries that keeps your project up-to-date with community-supplied libraries. The source is available for all of them, and will be licensed such that you can use it in commercial products.

          It seems that everyone is moving to ARM right now so libraries, support and development tools are easy to find. This is also good because there’s almost no limit to how powerful an ARM chip you can squeeze onto a small board – this bodes particularly well for Galago’s future!

          Thanks for your feedback!

  8. cosmocrazy says:

    This chip does not seem to have a DMA or a DAC for the audio reward on Kickstarter. It also seems to lose out to the Teensy 3.0 in every way except for the debugger. If I add a JTAG debugger to the Teensy 3.0, would the Galago have anything else unique to boast? Size yes, what about price?

    Even comparing this to the 8-bit Teensy 2.0, this LPC1313 does not seem to have any peripherals that the ATMEGA32U4 does not already have but I understand the LPC’s peripherals are much faster. Will the Galago IDE and libraries really be worth the lack of features over the Cortex M4 Teensy 3.0?

    • Kuy says:

      Thanks for your comments! The DAC for our audio app board is on the app board itself, just like you would find on an Arduino shield.

      Compared to Teensy 3.0, which is an excellent board, our debugger and tools are the big advantage. You may be able to attach a debugger to the Teensy, but Paul has specifically said that:
      “the JTAG pins are not brought out. I have thought quite a bit about debugging, but it’s far too early to comment at this time.

      We’re absolutely planning to building bigger, better Galago models in the future and we’re committed to always include easy-to-use debugging capabilities. After all, power is nothing without control.

  9. Ralph says:

    It looks interesting I like that it is breadboard friendly. I use the modern devices arduino clone for this feature. I have a feeling the browser based development will just get in the way or not be usable by me, but we’ll see. I use both Linux and BSD desktops, and I have not figured ou if the board will be fully usable in either environment. I am more of a software person and I don’t like soldering. I use breadboards for my circuits. Will the board be available with the male pins already attached on the bottom?
    Good luck

    • Kuy says:

      You can develop for Galago using an alternate IDE or command-line tools if you prefer – it’s flexible! Our development tools support Mac, Linux and Windows.

      Luckily, we’re software people too, and we designed Galago for software people. Male pins can be optionally installed by us for a totally solder-free experience.

      • Ralph says:

        Good luck,
        Thank you for the reply. You addressed my concerns perfectly. I am really tempted by your project and went to kickstarter to sign up. I have never used kickstarter before. The legal agreements they want me to sign are just too long. Why do these sites expect people to enjoy studying legal agreements? I want the tech and to help a project. I may revisit this, but I am not up to it tonight.
        Bye

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