Hardware Virtualization in Microcontrollers

Look at any sufficiently advanced CNC machine or robot, and you’ll notice something peculiar. On one hand, you have a computer running a true operating system for higher-level processing, be it vision or speech recognition, or just connecting to the Internet. On the other hand, you have another computer responsible only for semi-real-time tasks, like moving motors, servos, and reading sensors and switches. You won’t be doing the heavy-lifting tasks with a microcontroller, and the Raspberry Pi is proof enough that real-time functions aren’t meant for a chip running Linux. There are many builds that would be best served with two processors, but that may be changing soon.

Microchip recently announced an addition to the PIC32 family of microcontrollers that will support hardware virtualization. This addition comes thanks to the MIPS M5150 Warrior-M processor, the first microcontroller to support hardware visualization.

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RCA DSB772WE teardown shows that this cheap streaming box might have potential


[David Anders] wrote in to share some details of a cheap little gadget he picked up at his local Wal-Mart. He scored the RCA DSB772WE media streaming box for $48, and so far it looks like it could be a promising addition to his living room.

He started a project page for the box, detailing some of his findings thus far. The device is MIPS based and runs the Linux kernel version right out of the box. The networking components are based on the Broadcom BCM7615 chipset, though it looks to [David] that the Ethernet jack was removed at some point during production.

So far, he’s managed to get a serial console running on the device, along with an additional USB host connection. That’s about all the poking around he has done thus far, but seeing as the box can output a 1080p signal over HDMI, it could be a cheap substitute for an Apple TV or similar device.

If you happen to have one of these at home, or are planning on buying one, be sure to check out his project page and contribute any information you might be able to glean from it. We’re sure [David] would appreciate it, and we certainly look forward to seeing what else comes out of his hacking adventures.