Tuesday, 14 January 2014

[Review] XMOS Startkit

XMOS Startkit is a developer board you can start using once you have computer, a browser and an internetconnection.
Reviewing a developer board is not an easy task since they all are unique in their own way .
Just look at what's out there for anyone to get hacking on, arduino, raspberry PI and loads of others.
With a limited understanding of coding and a genuine interest in anything that's open for the common man i will try to share my experience of my first contact with the XMOS Startkit.
XMOS is all about designing multicore embedded systems and/or applications.
See the excellent introduction here.

As you can see the packaging is neat to say the least.
Nice box with the board itself embedded in dark cozy plastic foam and some quick start instructions printed on the inside of the lids.

All you need is a computer of some sort, a Windows based , Linux or a Mac with a internetconnection and USB to MicroUSB cable.
Ready, set go!
Plug the little fellow in and head over to the XMOS Startkit page, register for a free account, download the software needed (xTimecomposer) and Bob's your uncle!
Check the start video here.
Now, this is not for the faint of heart wish to be developer i might add.
I found myself trying to relocate a lost "explorer" window within the xTimeComposer tool for quite some time.
The projects included and made in xTimeComposer are written in pure C , with a slight modification to handle the multicore instructions applied to the XMOS board.
There are some sample code to get started with, wich you can easily drag and drop into the right places with the help of the in-built tutorial to see some neat action done by the 9 leds located in the middle of the board.
The board, yes it has capabilities.
We got:

  • 2x4 - zone touch sensors
  • Push button Switch
  • 3x3 green LEDs (as mentioned earlier)
  • 0.1" header with XMOS links
  • Raspberry PI header/GPIO
  • 2  green LEDs
  • micro-USB Socket for debugger/power
  • Analog integration header
  • XMOS sliceCard connector or GPIO
  • 256KB SPI Flash
  • xCore Analog A8-DEV with integrated Debugger
Quite a list of features for a card that's just slightly bigger than a credit card .
As a quote from the XMOS Startkit homepage states:
"Its 500MIPS xCORE multicore microcontroller has eight 32bit logical cores that perform deterministically, making startKIT an ideal platform for functions ranging from robotics and motion control to networking and digital audio."

Naturally there is a community behind this , so you'd never need to be alone with your challenges or questions.
Developing can be extremely rewarding, pulling late nights trying out different solutions on coding has a charm in itself, at least if it's for your own leisure.
Now all i need is that time maching and i can put as much time i need into this awesome startkit.

Big thanks for XMOS showing generosity handing out startkits late 2013, Androidistica being one of the lucky recipients.