Last update : 02 Nov 2013
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PiXCLe and Decaf boards are due for release in Q2, 2014.
Q1: Do these boards have an operating system and device drivers?
Yes, they have a micro-kernal multi-threading real time operating system (RTOS) and device drivers for all the supported system resources including the LCD. This means that multiple operations (threads) can be running and won't interfere with each other in unexpected ways. This is vitally important when, for example, multiple threads need to access the LCD, or analog or digital input events have to be processed.
Q2: What are the licensing details?
Briefly, the RTOS and PiXCLe are fully licensed on a per board basis. Customers are required to purchase the PiXCL Code Studio for the first board, and can purchase additional board-only licenses afterwards. PiXCL Code Studio is licensed per developer seat, which allows one primary workstation and one additional backup system e.g. a laptop for that developer. Commercial quantity licenses are available, and can include source codes if required.
Q3: How fast does the board boot up?
All the Decaf boards boot in less than a second.
Q4: What USB device classes do they support?
When plugged into a Windows host, boards appear as a Composite USB device consisting of a
Q5: Does the host have to be connected?
No, once programmed using the PiXCL Code Studio, the boards run stand alone. A host PC can be connected if desired.
Q6: Can the host send commands to the board?
Yes, the PiXCLe app code can accept and process strings of PiXCL commands from a host if required. The host can also query sensors and control devices by sending requests to a running PiXCLe application that has enabled host communications.
Q7: Do I need a JTAG device to download application code? When is a JTAG required?
No, application code is prepared by the PiXCLe compiler in the PiXCL Code Studio, and downloaded via USB to the SD card. We use a JTAG to install the initial DFU loaded firmware during manufacture.
Q8: Can I write my own programs in C or C++ and add them to the boards?
Not at present. The intent of the built in RTOS and PiXCLe is to remove the need and knowledge gaps to do this. There is an optional PiXCLe extension command library planned, similar in concept to the PiXCL 10 Extension SDK .
Q9: Is source code available?
For PiXCLe, no. For the RTOS (chibiOS 2.4), yes, excluding our proprietary extensions, according to terms of the chibiOS License. All relevent source code is made available on request after purchase of products.
Q10: Does this board run Linux and Android?
No, Decaf boards do not run any version of Linux, and are not Android tablets. They will be able to work with Android 4.0 and later tablets as standard USB devices, and possibly as Android Accessory Devices. See also Q25.
Q11: What size Colour LCDs are supported?
2.4" 320x240, 4.3" 480x272 and 7" 800x480. All render colour as RGB565, giving 256K possible colours.
Q12: Do you provide panel mounting hardware?
Not at present, but this is planned for 2014. We can provide technical drawings as needed.
Q13: I have located some hardware that looks the same as or very similar to yours. Can I get your software?
Yes. You will have to return some details about your board using a utility provided by us, and if your board is compatible, we will be happy to sell you a copy that works on your specific board only, along with the PiXCL Code Studio development tools.
Q14: I have an ARM Cortex-M3 board that's quite different to yours. Will your software work on it?
Maybe. The main issue is the available Cortex-M3 chip memory resources. There has to be at least 512K flash and 64KB ram. We will be providing support for additional Cortex-M3 hardware platforms. This is esspecially true when Cortex-M4 boards become generally available. See also Q24.
Q15: How do I upgrade the RTOS and PiXCLe versions?
We provide via our support pages what's called Device Firmware Upgrade or DFU, utilities and the necessary upgrade binaries. Upgrading is done over USB and takes less than a minute.
Q16: We could use a box of these boards. What are the commercial license terms?
Please contact us directly for more information. Commercial licenses are available, include all necessary firmware download utilities, and can include source code if and as necessary.
Q17: Are these boards rated for mission critical applications?
No. They are not intended for, are not warranted for, and should not be used for, any mission critical medical, aerospace, automotive, nuclear, transportation or industrial application. There's plenty of suppliers to this high-end market.
Q18: Is the RTOS rated Secure?
No. If you need a secure Certification, then please consult any of the major vendors. Here in Ottawa, we suggest QNX
Q19: Why the Decaf name?
Because they don't need Java ...
Q20: What does PiXCLe stand for?
Pixel-based eXtendable Command Language, embedded.
Q21: Can the boards display .JPG and .PNG files? How do I get images on to the board?
Decaf boards can display RGB24 BMP files, and our open RGB565 .PXI format. PiXCL 11 includes commands to import any of 15 supported image formats, convert to RGB24, then export to a .PXI format. PXI images can be imported and converted into other image formats. A utility application written in PiXCL is supplied to do this. Depending on the available board memory resources, we may provide the ability to decode other formats, such as PNG.
Q22: Can other USB devices be attached to a Decaf board? Can the Decaf board act as a USB Host device?
The short answer is no, at present Decaf-1 and Decaf-2 boards are USB slave devices only, with a standard B connector. We are looking at options to add a secondary board that has USB A-connectors and can act as a host device. The main issues are the cpu and memory resources needed to run the USB communication stacks.
Q23: Can I/O boards from Phidgets Inc be used with Decaf boards?
See Q22. With Phidget boards there is also the need to create USB access and device control libraries.
Q24: The Cortex-M3 has been superceeded by the M4. Will your software work on these boards?
The 168 MHz M4 has more than twice the memory of the M3, and porting the RTOS to it is expected to be a simple execise. Our ARM board supplier tells us that updating the design to support is the M4 is very simple. We are evaluating an M4 board kit at the moment.
Q25: Why can't I use a Linux / Android board for something like this?
The short answer is that of course you can. The longer answer is that the issues (USB firmware stack, RTOS, TCP/IP middleware, graphics libraries, commercial licensing fees) are more complex than you may have realized.
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