Intel Buys Altera For $16.7 Billion

Intel, CPU manufacturer we all know and love, will buy Altera, makers of fine FPGAs, for $16.7 Billion.

While most of the news about this deal focuses on the future of FPGAs in the datacenter, getting Altera IP into Intel fab houses is equally interesting. Intel is the current king of putting transistors on a piece of silicon, and Intel’s ability to put a massive amount of transistors on a chip means FPGAs will become even more capable – more gates, more blocks, and more memory. The most capable Altera FPGAs are being made with a 28nm process; Intel could theoretically double the number of gates with the 14nm process used on the new Broadwell CPUs. There is most likely someone at Xilinx tearing their hair out right now, chain-smoking next to a pot of coffee.

News of this buy out comes about a week after Avago bought Broadcom in the biggest semiconductor deal ever, and a few months after NXP and Freescale merged. Cash Rules Everything Around Semiconductors, it seems.

Altair 8800 Front Panel For An 8080 Emulator

It appears a very important anniversary passed by recently without anyone realizing. The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured the Altair 8800 on the cover, otherwise known as the blinky box that launched a revolution, the machine that made Microsoft a software powerhouse, and the progenitor of the S-100 bus. The 40-year anniversary of the Altair wasn’t forgotten by [dankar], who built a front panel emulator with the help of some much more modern components.

The build unofficially began with an Intel 8080 emulator written for an Arduino. The 8080 is the brains of the Altair, and while emulators are cool, they don’t have the nerd cred of a panel of switches and LEDs. The hardware began as a bunch of perfboard, but [dankar] wired himself into a corner and decided to make a real schematic and PCB in KiCAD.

Despite the banks of LEDs and switches, there really isn’t much to this front panel. Everything is controlled by shift registers, but there is a small amount of SRAM in the form of an SPI-capable 23LC1024. This comes in handy, because [dankar] is running CP/M 2.2 on this front panel emulator from disk images saved on an SD card. Everything you would want from a computer from 1975 is there; an OS, BASIC, and enough I/O to attach some peripherals.

EddiePlus, the Edison based balancing robot

[Renee] dropped a tip to let us know about EddiePlus, her balancing robot creation. As its name might imply, EddiePlus is controlled by an Intel Edison processor. More specifically, [Renee] is using several of Sparkfun’s Edison Blocks to create Eddie’s brain. EddiePlus’ body is 3D printed, while his movement comes from two Pololu DC motors with wheels and encoders. The full build instructions are available as a PDF from [Renee’s] Google drive.

Eddie is able to balance and drive around on two wheels, much like a Segway. Sensor data for balance comes from Sparkfun’s LSM9DS0 based Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) block. In this new “plus” version of Eddie, [Renee] has added encoders to the robot’s wheels. This makes it easier for him to adapt to changing loads – such as pumping iron (or banana plugs as the case may be). The encoders also help with varying terrain, as [Renee] demonstrates by tilting a board as Eddie drives on it. Eddie’s code is written in C, and available on Github.  Controlling Eddie is as easy as sending simple commands via UDP.

As you might imagine, the Intel Edison still has plenty of cycles left over after computing Eddie’s balance. [Renee] uses some of these with a webcam based teleoperation mode.

Click past the break to see Eddie in action!

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Hackaday Links: October 19, 2014

Introducing the Hayes Smartmodem 1200. The era of the single station microcomputer…. is over. The Hayes Smartmodem offers advanced features like auto answer and auto dial. Now if we could only find an ‘RS-232 Computer.’

Have a 3D printer and an old router? How about controlling your printer with Octoprint? For some cases, it might be better than using a Raspberry Pi and OctoPi, but you won’t get a camera for streaming pics of your builds to the web.

Last year, [CNLohr] built a microscope slide Minecraft thing and in the process created the smallest Minecraft server ever. The record has now been bested with the Intel Edison. There’s a bit of work to install Java, but the performance is pretty good for one player. Bonus: Minecraft is a single threaded app, so you have another core for garbage collection.

Remember the Scribble pen, that showed just how gullible people are and how crappy tech journalism is? They’re back with a beta program. A mere $15 guarantees you a scribble pen for their beta program. I wouldn’t give these guys $15 of someone else’s money, but lucky for us [ch00f] bit the bullet. He’ll be updating everyone on the status of his fifteen dollars, I’m sure.

Hey, guess what will eventually be in the Hackaday store? Keycaps for your mechanical keyboard. Yes, we actually figured out a way to do this that makes sense and won’t lose money. Pick your favorite, or suggest new ones in the comments:
keycaps

BSAPEDWLOVKTUB.YBKAB

Running Golang on the Intel Edison

While most embedded development is still done in C and/or assembly, some people are working with more modern languages. The team over at Gobot has successfully managed to get Go running on the Intel Edison.

The Go programming language, which has been around for about five years, compiles to machine code like C. It has a number of modern features including concurrency, garbage collection, and packages.

We’ve looked at the Edison on Hackaday before, and even took a detailed look at the hardware. It features a Quark SoC, Bluetooth, and WiFi, which makes it well suited for connected devices.

Getting Go to work on the Edison hardware wasn’t particularly difficult, since it supports the Pentium instruction set and MMX. However, a library was needed to interface with the Edison’s peripherals. The Gobot team whipped up gobot-intel-iot, which makes it easy to work with GPIO, I2C, and PWM.

After the break, the team demos PWM on the Edison using Go.
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Intel Releases Edison, a Computer Slightly Larger Than an SD Card

Announced at the beginning of this year, Intel’s Edison is the chipmakers latest foray into the world of low power, high performance computing. Originally envisioned to be an x86 computer stuffed into an SD card form factor, this tiny platform for wearables, consumer electronic designers, and the Internet of Things has apparently been redesigned a few times over the last few months. Now, Intel has finally unleashed it to the world. It’s still tiny, it’s still based on the x86 architecture, and it’s turning out to be a very interesting platform.

The key feature of the Edison is, of course, the Intel CPU. It’s a 22nm SoC with dual cores running at 500 MHz. Unlike so many other IoT and micro-sized devices out there, the chip in this device, an Atom Z34XX, has an x86 architecture. Also on board is 4GB of eMMC Flash and 1 GB of DDR3.  Also included in this tiny module is an Intel Quark microcontroller – the same as found in the Intel Galileo – running at 100 MHz. The best part? Edison will retail for about $50. That’s a dual core x86 platform in a tiny footprint for just a few bucks more than a Raspberry Pi.

When the Intel Edison was first announced, speculation ran rampant that is would take on the form factor of an SD card. This is not the case. Instead, the Edison has a footprint of 35.5mm x 25.0 mm; just barely larger than an SD card. Dumping this form factor idea is a great idea – instead of being limited to the nine pins present on SD cards and platforms such as the Electric Imp, Intel is using a 70-pin connector to break out a bunch of pins, including an SD card interface, two UARTs, two I²C busses, SPI with two chip selects, I²S, twelve GPIOs with four capable of PWM, and a USB 2.0 OTG controller. There are also a pair of radio modules on this tiny board, making it capable of 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Edison

The Edison will support Yocto Linux 1.6 out of the box, but because this is an x86 architecture, there is an entire universe of Linux distributions that will also run on this tiny board. It might be theoretically possible to run a version of Windows natively on this module, but this raises the question of why anyone would want to.

The first round of Edison modules will be used with either a small breakout board that provides basic functionality, solder points, a battery charger power input, and two USB ports (one OTG port), or a larger board Edison board for Arduino that includes the familiar Arduino pin header arrangement and breakouts for everything. The folks at Intel are a generous bunch, and in an effort to put these modules in the next generation of Things for Internet, have included Mouser and Digikey part numbers for the 70-pin header (about $0.70 for quantity one). If you want to create your own breakout board or include Edison in a product design, Edison makes that easy.

edisonbreakout

There is no word of where or when the Edison will be available. Someone from Intel will be presenting at Maker Faire NYC in less than two weeks, though, and we already have our media credentials. We’ll be sure to get a hands on then. I did grab a quick peek at the Edison while I was in Vegas for Defcon, but I have very little to write about that experience except for the fact that it existed in August.

Update: You can grab an Edison dev kit at Make ($107, with the Arduino breakout) and Sparkfun (link down as of this update never mind, Sparkfun has a ton of boards made for the Edison. It’s pretty cool)

Meet Jimmy: An Open Source Biped Robot From Intel

Jimmy_Arm_Up

Intel’s CEO [Brian Krzanich] stopped by the Re/Code conference to announce Jimmy, the first robot from the 21st Century Robot project. The project is the brainchild of [Brian David Johnson], Intel’s resident futurist. We love the project’s manifesto:

 Robot Is: Imagined first. Easy to build. Completely open source. Fiercely social. Intentionally iterative. Filled with humanity and dreams. Thinking for her/him/itself.

Jimmy may not be all those things yet, but he definitely is exciting. For starters, he wasn’t built in some secret lab at Intel HQ. Much of Jimmy’s construction took place at Trossen Robotics, a name well known to Hackaday. [Matt] and [Andrew] at Trossen describe all the details in their video down past the break.

This version of Jimmy is a research robot, which mean’s he’s not going to come cheap. Jimmy sports an Intel i5 NUC motherboard, 20 Dynamixel servos, a 5052 aluminum frame and a host of sensors. A  4S 14.8v 4000mAh LiPo battery will power Jimmy for 30 to 60 minutes between charges, so be sure to budget for a few spare packs. The most striking aspect of Jimmy is his 3D printed shell. The 21st Century Robot Project gave him large, friendly eyes and features, which will definitely help with the social aspect of their goals.

Jimmy is all about open source. He can run two flavors of Linux: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS or a custom version of Yocto Pokey. There is a lot to be said for running and developing on the same hardware. No specialized toolchains for cross compiling, no NFS shares to move binaries around. If you need to make a change, you can plug a monitor (or launch an VNC session) and do everything with Jimmy’s on-board computer. Jimmy’s software stack is based upon the DARwIn OP platform, and a ROS port is in the works.

We’re excited about Jimmy, but at $16,000 USD, he’s a bit outside our budget. Thankfully a smaller consumer version of Jimmy will soon be available for around 1/10th the cost.

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