Two New Dev Boards That Won’t Make Your Wallet Hurt-So-Good

If you’ve been keeping up with the hobbyist FPGA community, you’ll recognize the DE0 Nano as “that small form-factor FPGA” with a deep history of projects from Oldland cpu cores to synthesizable Parallax Propeller processors. After more than four years in the field though, it’s about time for a reboot.

Its successor, the DE0 Nano SoC, is a complete redesign from multiples perspectives while doing it’s best to preserve the bite-size form factor and price that made the first model so appealing. First, the dev board boasts a Cyclone V with 40,000 logical elements (up from the DE0’s 22K) and an integrated dual-core Arm Cortex A9 Processor. The PCB layout also brings us  3.3V Arduino shield compatibility via female headers, 1 Gig of external DDR3 SDRAM and gigabit ethernet support via two onboard ASICs to handle the protocol. The folks at Terasic also seem to be tipping their hats towards the “Duino-Pi” hobbyist community, given that they’ve kindly provided both Linux and Arduino images to get you started a few steps above your classic finite-state machines and everyday combinational logic.

And while the new SoC model sports a slightly larger form factor at 68.59mm x 96mm (as opposed to the original’s 49mm x 75.2mm), we’d say it’s a small price to pay in footprint for a whirlwind of new possibilities on the logic level. The board hits online shelves now at a respectable $100.

Next, as a heads-up, the aforementioned Arduino Zero finally makes it’s release on June 15. If you’ve ever considered taking the leap from an 8-bit to a 32-bit processor without having to hassle through the setup of an ARM toolchain, now might be a great time to get started.

via [the Arduino Blog]

Arduino Zero Pro Soft Release?

There’s an updated product page for the Arduino Zero, now called the Arduino Zero Pro, up on Arduino.org, one of the two dueling “Arduinos”.

We first covered the Arduino Zero in May 2014, and shortly thereafter even got to see a development prototype in the flesh. Based an Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M0+ chip, it’s built on a faster processor than the AVR Arduini, and it includes Atmel’s Embedded Debugger which serves as a USB-to-serial channel and on-chip debugging peripheral. But so far all we’ve seen is the prototype.

Now, there’s schematics and Eagle files available that are dated January 7, 2015. The Arduino.org site says that the Zero Pro is “Available now!” but we couldn’t see any in stock yet at any of our favorite online electronics distributors. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places (unlikely) or maybe it’s just a matter of time.

Anyway, two things struck us in our casual perusal of the new Zero Pro info.

First of all, compared to (pictures of) the prototype versions, there’s more and larger decoupling capacitors scattered all over the board, from the power supply to the Embedded Debugger chip, to a really beefy 4.7uF tantalum capacitor buffering the analog reference voltage level. This suggests there’s been some real-world testing and a shakedown of some of the prototype’s design bugs. That’s all good, and we hope it’s a sign that it’s really coming to market soon.

Secondly, given the ongoing trademark dispute, even the annotations to the schematic for the Zero Pro become interesting. On opening up either the PDF schematic (PDF, naturally) or any of the Eagle files, there’s the usual “Do not finalize a design with this information” boilerplate. But where it used to read “Arduino is a registered trademark. Use of the ARDUINO name must be compliant with http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Policy ” it now reads:

“Arduino” name and logo are trademarks registered by Arduino S.r.l. in Italy, in the European Union and in other countries of the world.

(After noticing this change, we went back and compared the “rev3″ Uno schematics PDF on arduino.cc to the “rev3E” schematics on arduino.org. Yup, same change in the legal notice.)

We’re not lawyers, but one of the “other countries of the world” that’s conspicuously missing from the claim is the U.S. of A. where Arduino LLC presumably holds the trademark. We’re still trying to make sense of all this, but it’s funny to see the legal battle playing itself out in annotations of Eagle schematics, no?

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Arduino vs Arduino legal battle and, of course, reviews of new hardware as it comes out.

And thanks [Marc] for the tip to the new board release.

Arduino Zero Hardware is Not Just for Beginners

We stopped by the Atmel booth at Maker Faire to gawk at the pre-production Arduino Zero boards they were showing off. [Bob] gave us a rundown of everything the new board offers, and it’s better than we imagined when we heard about it last week.

I may be an odd egg in that I don’t like to use an IDE when developing uC firmware. Generally I rock the text editor and a makefile for 8-bit, adding OpenOCD and GDB when working with ARM. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that there is already OpenOCD support (and by extension GDB support) for the Arduino Zero. In fact, that’s how the Arduino IDE flashes the board. This should have been obvious since the board is really just a breakout for the SAM D21 chip which is already supported.

Riffing on the thought of this being a breakout board, we think they did a pretty good job. There are two USB connectors; one let you access the board as a device or a host while the other connects the debugging hardware. If you’ve never used an On Chip Debugger before it’ll change your life so do give it a try. When you do move past the initial prototyping phase of your project you can still use the Zero as a debugging tool. There’s an unpopulated 10-pin header (not sure if the small pitch header comes with it or not) which can be used to interface with a target board. [Bob] also spent some time talking about the configurable 6-pin header which allows you to choose from a range of hardware protocols (SPI, TWI, etc.).

Unfortunately we still don’t have info on the availability timeframe or pricing information. There was one hiccup with this pre-production run (two signals were swapped on the PCB) and they need to spin another board, populate, and QA before they can green-light the final product.

Editorial Note: Atmel advertises on Hackaday but this video and post are not a product of that relationship. Hackaday doesn’t post paid content.

Introducing The Arduino Zero

The Arduino Uno is the old standby of the Arduino world, with the Arduino Due picking up where the Mega left off. The Arduino Tre is a pretty cool piece of kit combining a Linux system with the Arduino pinout. Care to take a guess at what the next Arduino board will be called? The Arduino Zero, obviously.

The Arduino Zero uses an Atmel ARM Cortex-M0+ for 256kB of Flash and 32k of RAM. The board supports Atmel’s Embedded Debugger, finally giving the smaller Arduino boards debugging support.

The chip powering the Zero features six communications modules, configurable as a UART, I2C, or SPI. USB device and host are also implemented on the chip, but there’s no word in the official word if USB host will be available. There are two USB connectors on the board, though.

The Arduino folk will be demoing the Zero at the Bay Area Maker Faire this weekend. Hackaday will have boots on the ground there, so we’ll try to get a more detailed report including pricing and availability then.