Development time for network device

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There has been an on/off again requirement for networking a controller
used for data acquisition.  One of my assignments is to do a preliminary
study on the best way to do this (translated cheapest in dev. time and
product cost).  I need some help answering this because I don't have
time or budget to try all the possible solutions.

The requirements are I2C, possibly SPI, RS-485 or CAN (not decided yet),
flash file system, and TCP/IP stack with http, e-mail, ftp, telnet, and
maybe snmp.  I didn't specify the processor because I see there are some
  very powerful 8 bitters out there (MicroChip, Rabbit, Zilog) that may
work, and of course the Moto 5282 and ARM chips.  I understand that
there are some highly integrated x86's as well.  I suspect all may work,
but I would like to hear comments from anyone that has worked with these
processors/manufacturers.

The operating system can be very simple, a RTOS, or Linux.  There are a
lot of considerations here.  The most important that I can think of are
cost, royalties, and development time.

So, I would appreciate any comments from anyone that has walked this
road before and has some good insight on a good direction.  This will
save me a lot of time and my company some money.  Thanks for your help.

Dave,


Re: Development time for network device
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I guess there is absolutely no way to not do the work required.
Go through all the possibilities and sort out the properties,
advantages and disadvantages.
For example, I2C and SPI are not to be put on cable, they are
local to the board or board system.

Rene
--
Ing.Buero R.Tschaggelar - http://www.ibrtses.com
& commercial newsgroups - http://www.talkto.net

Re: Development time for network device
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[...]

These are immeasurably broad requirements (what exactly is this "device"
supposed to do? It sounds like a Pocket Myriad; i.e. a theoretical
device that changes into any shape based on the user's current or future
needs; Ethernet gateway, cryptosystem, dragon-slaying sword, etc).
Cost-savings can only be achieved through specialization, and
specialization can only occur once the task requirements are understood.
A $19 Discman can't play DVD-audio disks. And are you going to make
exactly three of these boxes, or one for every man, woman and ferret in
the northern hemisphere?

For a project with no specification and furthermore no projected sales
volumes, which is basically what you've presented here, a reasonable
heuristic is to consider that development hours will be the most
expensive component and practically ignore the hardware costs. And,
since you'll probably have to make a lot of changes in the application
layer, you should pick an underlying OS and hardware architecture that
has ready-to-use interfaces for everything you want, so at least you are
spared the horror of developing H/W interfaces and device drivers.

Since you are talking about an ultimately general-purpose product, you
should choose an ultimately general-purpose architecture - Linux on x86
is an excellent choice, and royalty-free. You didn't specify any kind of
realtime or reliability requirements, so I'll assume you don't need to
go with "carrier grade Linux" or any of the other buyware variants.

If I was given the assignment of "make a universal connector", I'd pick
a PC to do it, just because the development time is simpler -
well-understood tools, a plethora of free sample sourcecode available,
[relative] ease of debugging, scalability, ...


Re: Development time for network device
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Z-World / RabbitSemiconductor has Ethernet enabled SBCs and core
modules that you can try in inexpensive development kits. There are no
royalties for any SW. The full TCP/IP stack is included with the dev
kits in source form, as are extensive samples, libraries for e-mail,
telnet, SPI, RS-485, http, and a flash file system. A royalty-free
version of the RTOS uC/OS-II is availables for $149, as is SNMP. CAN
libraries are not included, but one of our SW people has written some
CAN chip drivers already.

We are coming out very shortly with some propriety extensions to HTML
and HTTP that work with compiler modifications to make the development
of browser-interfaced embedded applications VERY easy. We'll be
showing this new SW in the Z-World booth at the NMW show in Chicago
next week. -Brian

 www.zworld.com
 www.rabbitsemiconductor.com


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Re: Development time for network device
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If the requirement is "network enabling an existing product"...

Step 1 - do not roll your own.  Unless you have an excess of time, are
trying to be extremely tight on cost, and you're manufacturing a ton of
these to recover development cost.

Step 2 - buy a module.  These will run USD$35-$50 per unit and include
everything you need - turnkey, customizable, with back-end interfaces.
http://www.lantronix.com/products/eds/xport/index.html
http://www.digi.com/products/embeddeddeviceservers/digiconnectme.jsp
http://www.rabbitsemiconductor.com/products/Ethernet /
http://www.netburner.com /
http://www.siteplayer.com /
http://www.picoweb.net/ - license it for $9/ea.

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I suppose these rule out using any form of Linux. If you are in that
league, you might also take a look at Ubicom. Very cheap SOC (including
RAM, Flash and versatile peripherals), good development tools (GNU
based, but not free). 2K for smaller systems, 3K (no internal Flash) for
higher performance and resource demand.

Rabbit seems to be good for small quantities, as they offer a complete
multi-chip system. Easy to use but pricey.

The advantage of Microchip seems to be the free development tools (no
idea about their quality) and the price for very small SOCs.

-Michael

Re: Development time for network device
"2K" and "3K" are the names of the processor series.

-Michael

Re: Development time for network device
The Netburner MOD5282 has I2C, SPI, CAN, Uarts, Ethernet, HTTP,Telnet,FTP,
E-Mail  with  SNMP and SSL as options.
A Flash file system ported to the Netburner device is availible from HCC embeded.
The development kits are releativly inexpensive and we have a 30 day return
policy.

See www.netburner.com

"NetWorking in one day"

Paul




Re: Development time for network device

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      There is a lot to this request, so I'll help as best I can.
      First, the processor question.  I have tried the Rabbit a year or
so ago, but moved to the Zilog eZ80 because it has 2 UARTS, and that
plays an important roll in this project.  From what I have seen and can
tell based on information on the web sites, the Motorola ColdFire is the
king of the hill as it has everything but the kitchen sink.  It is
32-bits, which may be a cost or packaging issue.  NetBurner seems to
have a good kit, but I have not tried it.
      I don't have much information on the ARM, AVR, TI, or Maxim
processors, so perhaps someone else can comment on what they offer.
      I have also looked at the products that add networking via serial
port (RS232 or SPI).  I like the Digi and Lantronix units for their
small size, but they are only RS232, which may be a problem for your
application.  The others require a small card, which will be a packaging
problem for this project.
      As for Linux, I have not done an embedded project yet, but
remember that this is a 32-bit OS, so the processor has to be 32-bit.
Again, this may or may not be a packaging and cost problem.  In
addition, Linux out of the box is not really a real time OS.  There is a
patch for that issue, but I don't know how well it works.  Perhaps
someone that has used Linux with the patch can comment.
      It is also worth considering if you really need an OS.  Most of my
HC11 and 8052 projects use a timer and hard code to do this.  Not the
most flexible way, but gets the job done in simple applications.
      Something you didn't mention is developer support.  This is a lot
more important that one may first think.  I'm sure that everyone reading
  this has been some task that will save the company if it can get done
is less than 6 months.  So the developer looks around (like you are
doing now), then gets a development kit.  The assumption being that the
kit will get you up to speed in a few days and you'll be ready to decide
if this is the processor/OS for you, if you need the professional
version of the development tools, etc.
      Unfortunately, you may end up with over 1500 pages of
documentation, no clue where to begin, and to get help you have to
register, then post questions on a web form (with cookies enabled), and
then check back periodically to see if you got an answer.  This is how
Zilog does it and it is a pain.  Some kit producers have a better
system, but they may cost more.  You have to evaluate the trade-offs.
Still, it is very important that you consider this because it will
affect your development time.
      Based on simply the support issue, I may suggest the Rabbit over
the Zilog processor for two reasons.  One is that I see that Brian of
Rabbit/Zworld provided a response.  This means that they are interested
in such matters, which is very positive.  They also have a book written
by Jan Axelson, which may save you a lot of time getting started.  I
have not looked at the book, so I can't say for sure, but it is
definitely a step in the right direction.
      I hope I have helped, but if I have confused you,then send me a
note and I'll try again.

Sincerely,
Dennis Zimmerman

--
If sending a reply you will need to remove "7UP".


Re: Development time for network device
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This is what I especially like about Ubicom. They have a very active
developers forum where users and Ubicom stuff discuss any planning
issues and development problems. Moreover they have a system of "trouble
tickets" that are supposed to be handled in a priority schedule. Of
course you are only allowed to the system when you bought their
development kit ($3000).

-Michael

Re: $98 Embedded controller with Ethernet
You will definitly want to check out our latest SBC with Ethernet, the
picoFlash controller;

http://www.jkmicro.com /

This new board with Ethernet breaks the $100 price barrier - adding
control and TCP/IP connectivity to your product cheaper and easier
than ever before.

Slightly larger than a credit card, we've implemented a 40MHz x86
microprocessor, megabyte each of RAM and Flash memory, two serial
ports, battery-backed clock calendar and socket for DiskOnChip. Also
included on the board are 16 digital I/O lines, a watchdog timer,
RS-485 and TTL serial port I/O, and LCD and keypad drivers.

The picoFlash single-board controller comes with preloaded DOS
operating system and all the utilities you need to start development.
Included in our low-cost development kit (ONLY $129!) is a full copy
of Borland C/C++ and the WatTCP TCP/IP stack. Also included is the
source code for a number of TCP/IP clients and servers including HTTP,
TFTP, FTP, Telnet and PPP.

For RTOS support, consider http://FreeRTOS.org or uC/OS-II
(www.Micrium.com). There is also an option for CAN Bus support using
CAN232, here is a link; http://www.lawicel.com/can232 /

Good luck with your development,

Brian

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