Categories: "Hardware" or "Displays" or "SAMA5D3" or "i.MX6"

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Solving the QSPI NOR Flash issue

 15. May 2017, by emtrion
Categories: Hardware, embedded

The Beginning

The following article gives a real life example of pitfalls that developers face during their work almost every day and shows how problems can be solved by close cooperation of software and hardware developers.

It all started with a custom specific design which incorporated a CPU that was not used before. Therefore there was almost no know how available at emtrion about that CPU from former projects. Nevertheless the project was almost finished within the given time and hardware and software were working as demanded by the customer.

The only remaining issue was the startup time of the system. As often the customer complained that it lasts too long until the system was running after power up. To reduce component costs a single QSPI NOR Flash chip was used to store all software, including the Linux operating system.

The used CPU incorporates a so called “First level bootloader” which starts fetching code from the QSPI NOR Flash. This is done in 4 bit wide QSPI mode at 41.5 MHz clock. It was assumed that the startup time could be reduced by increasing the clock of the QSPI NOR Flash after the First Bootloader has finished.

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New mainline-based i.mx6 BSPs

 03. May 2017, by emtrion
Categories: Software, Linux, i.MX6, Android

We recently released our new mainline-Kernel based Debian and Yocto BSPs for our i.mx6 based System on Modules. In this article we'll give you a short overview of the advantages of the new BSP era! Beside the recent Kernel Versions delivered, new userspace APIs have to be used to access peripherals.

Features

The most outstanding feature of the new BSPs is that they both are based on Linux 4.9 LTS with some additional drivers and emtrion's device trees. Beside that they are identical to the upstream Long-Term supported Kernel which allows easy maintenance of security patches and fixes to certain subsystems. Beside that the Kernel does also make use of the Open Source etnaviv GPU driver for OpenGL acceleration. Also included is the Open Source driver for the Video Processing Unit (VPU) contained in the i.mx6. On the other hand, we decided to develop our Yocto Morty (2.2) and Debian Stretch (9) based BSPs in a way that both share key components in the same version allowing developers to change between the BSPs without porting applications. To achieve that we use the same Kernel, mesa (12.04), gstreamer (1.10)  and Qt (5.7) versions on both BSPs.

Etnaviv Graphics Stack

One of the recent changes in the Mainline Kernel is its native support for the Vivante GPU contained in the i.mx6 and several other SoCs. As you might know from desktop Linux systems the nouveau driver is a reverse engineered driver for Nvidia cards, the etnaviv is the one for Vivante SoC's GPUs. As a complete graphics stack requires more than a working Kernel Driver, the userspace components providing OpenGL functionality are delivered by the mesa project like many other Open Source graphic drivers. One of the advantages of the Open Source graphics stack is that it is not only possible to use most Debian packages without recompilation, but it is also possible to upgrade and maintain your system without the lockdown to a specific Kernel or userspace version.

Video4Linux VPU Driver

For quite some time the VPU, which is in fact a CODA DSP included in the i.mx6, is supported by the video4linux subsystem in the Kernel. In contrast to the software delivered by NXP (formerly Freescale) it is only capable of decoding and encoding video streams. However there are outstanding advantages over the closed source drivers like the upstream gstreamer support. With current gstreamer versions, the device class the VPU belongs to, is automatically populated to the gstreamer elements as de-/encoder device and you're no longer restricted to a specific gstreamer release version. Also it's automatically used by many userspace media applications out of the box. In case of our Debian BSP that means, you can use almost every multimedia application, just as you can on your desktop, which uses gstreamer or video4linux without the need of a recompilation.

Limitations

Even if the current support for the i.mx6 is on the right path, there are limitations regarding the supported features. We decided not to include the Open Source camera driver on the i.mx6 in this release as it is under heavy development for now, just as the whole video4linux2 subsystem. However, our engineers are already testing the new drivers and software on our hardware platforms, allowing you to gain support as needed.

Also it is currently not possible to use OpenCL on the GPU due to missing support in the mesa implementation.

 

*NXP, Nvidia, Freescale, Vivante, Coda, OpenCL are registered trademarks of their respective owners.


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Beta Release of SBC-SAMA5D36 RootFS

 03. March 2017, by emtrion
Categories: Software, Linux, SAMA5D3

Today we released a beta version of a new root file system for the SBC-SAMA5D36. The main changes are a new Kernel Version and the use of systemd as init system. The Kernel version is 4.9 and is a longterm maintained kernel (see https://www.kernel.org/category/releases.html for more information). Systemd has some advantages over sysv like parallel start of services (if possible), delaying of the start until a service or device is really needed, and it is compatible to the old sysv init scripts. Systemd also has some other advantages like builtin monitoring of running services and restart of them if they crash or stop working and also better dependency handling of services.

Use this beta release at your own risk. There are some known issues and mabye also some unknown ones. We will stabilize this release during the next weeks and bring out a stable release. Please find the release under following link:

Link to Beta RootFS


Hint:

To get the debug-console of the SBC-SAMA5D36 you can use one of the cheap USB to serial converter that are offered on ebay, amazon, aliexpress and other sites. There are some modules that have exactly the same pinout as the SBC and can directly connect to it. So no extra wiring is needed, expect for an USB-cable, but they are much cheaper than the original FTDI USB-serial converters. But be careful to choose converters which are capable to handle 3.3V levels.

Cheap USB-serial converter example

 


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Introduction

Products for consumer market, industrial control systems and other embedded devices often require a touch screen display to offer both, visual feedback to the user, as well as an input method to interact with the system. In order to achieve a nicely designed and responsive user interface, developers can write their own graphical library providing widgets like drop-down menus, list-views, check-boxes or simple buttons. However, this can be a very tedious and error-prone task. It is best to use one of the available graphic libraries like Qt[1], Cairo[2], EFL[3] or also emWin[4], not to forget to mention nCurses for console-style block-oriented graphics.

Now which library should one select, especially in terms of limited hardware resources on embedded systems but also with a look forward to the look&feel as well as the usability on a touch screen? Besides, hardware restrictions, like the used CPU and its computing power, available RAM-size, free space in ROM, availability of a GPU with 2D/3D hardware accelerated graphics and the used operating system, should be taken into consideration. emWin for example, runs on bare-metal systems either with or without a RTOS whereas Qt or EFL need at least a running Linux (but not said that it is impossible to run them on bare-metal). Other decision affecting parameters are the availability of the library as open- or closed-source, as well as the costs for non-commercial and commercial products. In the following article we will take a brief look at the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL) of a small Cortex-A5 based single board computer from emtrion running a Debian Jessie based Linux: the SBC-SAMA5D36 [5].

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The emtrion SBC-SAMA5D36

 06. May 2015, by emtrion
Categories: Hardware, Linux, embedded, SAMA5D3

 I may be a microcontroller guy myself, but there are times where you need the power of a microprocessor. Having an operating system handle the memory, peripherals and events just saves time, and some applications really do need the power a microprocessor provides.

Atmel’s SAMA5D3 family has some impressive devices. Based on ARM’s A5 architecture, they has an impressive amount of peripherals and I/O lines. To name just a few, the SAMA5D36 has 3 I2C ports, 6 SPI ports, 12 12-bit ADC channels, and something you don’t see every day, 7 UART ports. This is impressive enough, but to add to that, the SAMA5D3 also has up to 160 I/O pins, each with its own interrupt. The SAMA5 series is geared towards industrial environments, automotive devices, and with Atmel’s implementation of capacitive touch peripherals, it can be used on just about any application where a user must input data.

With all that power, it isn’t surprising that the German manufacturer emtrion used this processor for one of their development boards, the SBC-SAMA5D36. They not only went with the SAMA5D36 device for its power and reliability, but also for Atmel’s reactivity when it comes to support. Atmel has worked hard on Linux implementation, and so the Linux kernel has everything you need to access every part of the processor, but I’ll get into that later on.

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New CPU-Module DIMM-RZ/A1H

 06. October 2014, by emtrion
Categories: Hardware, embedded
New CPU-Module DIMM-RZ/A1H

emtrion is pleased to announce the availability of the new processor-module based on the RZ/A1H CPU from Renesas.

The RZ processor family was designed to meet the requirements of the constantly growing market for HMI-applications. The improved GUIs of new HMI applications lead to a demand for enhanced 2D graphics functions to utilize LCD-panels with higher resolutions. The DIMM-RZ/A1H processor module with its CPU internal 10MB of SRAM is capable to operate a display at WXGA resolution without external DDR-SDRAM.

The DIMM-RZ/A1H is well-suited for applications which were formerly based on Cortex-M3/M4 CPUs and are now facing new tasks to integrate a LCD-panel, with the new demand for more RAM, 2D graphics functions and higher CPU-speed. The RZ/A1H processor includes a Video Display Controller (VDC5) with hardware accelerated 2D vector graphics (OpenVG1.1) which keeps the CPU-load low for image processing tasks.

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New SBC-SAMA5D36 developer kit presentation

 08. September 2014, by emtrion
Categories: Hardware, Linux, embedded, SAMA5D3
New SBC-SAMA5D36 developer kit presentation

Emtrion is pleased to announce the availability of its new SBC (Single Board Computer) based on the new SoC ‘ATSAMA5D36’ from Atmel.

The SBC is composed of a single ARM Cortex-A5 core CPU running at 536MHz, 256MB of DDR2-SDRAM, 512MB of SLC NAND Flash and 8 MB NOR Flash. The available peripherals are 2xUSB 2.0 Host, 1xUSB 2.0 Device, 1xGbit Ethernet, 1x100Mbit Ethernet, 1xLCD connector, 1xHDMI connector and more than 40 fully configurable I/Os on its expansion connectors.

With its compact size (135mm x 74mm x 15mm (LxWxH)) and its low power consumption (only 200mA @ 5V typ), the SBC-SAMA5D36 is the perfect low-power prototyping board with industry quality. Thanks to its optional extended temperature (-40°C to 85°C) and its 4 mounting holes, the board can also be directly integrated into your industrial project.  

This board is targeting various industrial field applications. With its Lithium battery charger, the board can be used as battery powered device. It can also connect with several industrial busses via its expansion board: CAN, RS-232/485, Soft Modem Device, SPI, I²C… The user interaction is not only composed by 4 LEDs and 2 Push Buttons, but also with the LCD connector that can output a WVGA resolution on a 7” LCD screen with no extra external power supply for the display! And if the LCD display is too small for the application, the HDMI connection makes it possible to output on a standard PC monitor with no extra software required!

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emtrion GmbH
Kreativpark - Alter Schlachthof 45
D-76131 Karlsruhe
Germany

Tel: +49 (0)721-62725-0
Fax: +49 (0)721-62725-19
sales@emtrion.com