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Jumentum Introduces a Single-Chip Linux System 76

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-can-you-make-one-with-fewer-chips dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Jumentum open source project has announced a single-chip programming system based on the NXP LPC1768 (the same as in the mbed) that can generate PAL/NTSC video and use a PS/2 keyboard, so it may operate as a standalone BASIC programmable computer, similar to many old BASIC computers (e.g. Apple ][ or C64) of yore. Projects such as the Raspberry Pi provide a multichip Linux solution, and the Humane PC uses three AVR microcontrollers, but the Jumentum system can provide a true one-chip solution. Video is generated by software, and only a few external resistors are required to interface to a composite video input. With the Jumentum system, you can take your tiny one-chip computer on-the-go, or use it as part of your own electronics projects (using for example, the mbed) to give it a convenient interface (along with Jumentum's Ethernet web and USB interfaces)."
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Jumentum Introduces a Single-Chip Linux System

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  • No a Linux system (Score:5, Informative)

    by gweihir (88907) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @05:25AM (#37808582)

    This is not a Linux system at all. It uses some of the GNU tool-chain for cross-compiling, but that is it. This is a single-chip BASIC system with some neat I/O capabilities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It isn't hardware either. It's a programming environment for a class of ARM microcontrollers. You have to make or buy your own hardware based on one of those controllers, for example the "mbed".

      As much more capable systems are coming down in price, limited microcontroller based designs are becoming unattractive. When an evaluation board costs more than for example a Raspberry Pi, why deal with an unfamiliar environment instead of running applications on a standard OS? The only reason I can think of is if yo

      • by Arlet (29997)

        Sure, for single users playing around, a ready-made Raspberry Pi works fine. For higher volume commercial applications, a custom board with a microcontroller is still cheaper, smaller, lower power, and simpler to design and manufacture.

        And for many applications, running Linux is not an advantage.

        • How cheap are those microcontrollers? A 100MHz ARM core with enough flash and RAM on die to run a full operating system is about $1. Even if the microcontroller is free, you're going to have to ship tens of thousands before it becomes cheaper overall, when you factor in the cost of the development.
          • by Arlet (29997)

            Which ARM capable of running a full OS from internal memory is only $1 ?

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              While i'm not the other guy for curiosity I decided to see what i could find and while not $1, I did find one at $6.45 [] which I'd say add in a buck's worth of memory and an I/O chip and you are looking at less than $8 without bulk discount for something more powerful than what many of us old timers ran Win95 on.

              So I gotta agree with the guy. the combo of Moore's law plus cheap China chips and ARM makes those little crap chips end up in the "more trouble than they are worth" bin when you figure in the cost of

              • by Arlet (29997)

                The $6.45 chip you're pointing at is exactly the kind of single chip microcontroller I was talking about.

                This chip won't run Linux. It doesn't even support external memories, and it doesn't have an MMU. The nice things about this chip is that is internal Flash, internal RAM, and internal peripherals, so all you need is a 3.3V power supply, and it'll run your application.

              • by jamstar7 (694492)
                Yeah, the 'horsepower' of these 8 bit chips leaves something to be desired, but they still do have real-world applications. Robotics, for instance, as a secondary processor for something like the controller for a gripper/hand, programmed on the fly by more powerful processors further up the 'chain'.
                • by hairyfeet (841228)

                  Oh I agree completely for an extremely specialized application they are great, but you're not gonna try to run an OS in that instance on them are you?

                  I have a customer, hell of a nice guy and a retired NASA engineer (he made most of the full scale mockups for the shuttle. getting to hold some of the actual shuttle blueprints? VERY cool) that keeps boxes full of TTL chips along with all his old 8 bit chip bibles specifially for running stepper motors for robotics. he helps out the local college with designs

                  • by Nethead (1563)

                    Thanks for the BG Micro link. My wife will be hiding the credit card now ;)

                    • by hairyfeet (841228)

                      Not a problem friend, glad to help. if you don't mind a bit o' advice? sign up for their newsletter as they offer some crazy sales only to those that sign up. my friend got this huge tube full of NOS chips for something like $6 because he got the newsletter and the chips normally went for a buck a piece, they also has some crazy cheap "grab bags" where they just fill it with caps and LEDs and motors and all kinds of stuff for less than $10.

                      So if you like to DIY you really can't go wrong with those guys. yo

              • by Goaway (82658)

                You can't just "add in a buck's worth of memory and an I/O chip", there's no external bus on a chip like that. It's a system-on-a-chip, and when they say that, they mean it. You get what's on the chip, and maybe some peripherals if you're lucky.

                That is exactly the kind of chip that the project this story confusedly refers to targets.

          • by LocalH (28506)

            "Tens of thousands" is not considered a "higher volume commercial application". Think millions.

            • by Arlet (29997)

              Doesn't have to be millions. Even for 10,000 pieces I would prefer a $5 chip over a $25 chip set, even if it takes a few months extra work to get the software in there.

          • by falzer (224563)

            > A 100MHz ARM core with enough flash and RAM on die to run a full operating system is about $1.

            What operating system? What supplier and part number do you have in mind, exactly?

      • by fatphil (181876)
        So, apart from the hardware and the software, the summary's spot on?
        Thanks, slashdot - news for derps.
      • why deal with an unfamiliar environment instead of running applications on a standard OS? The only reason I can think of is if you have very strict and low power consumption limits (milliwatts instead of one or two watts). Once you throw Ethernet in there, there really is no point in going with a microcontroller anymore.

        This isn't unusual. For example, just about any device that needs to be battery powered. An 8bit ARM or PIC can run a a few milliwatts, less if it can drop into sleep mode for a percentage of its operation.

        Sure a couple of watts is not much, but if a device is running from batteries, it's still 500 times the power budget of a "limited microcontroller design"

    • So, not very useful then. I mean why choose BASIC? Or at least, why restrict it to BASIC? Would probably be a good learning or hobbyist machine if it had Python/Scheme/Ruby instead.

      I mean, I loved my ZX Spectrum and the old BBC Micro, but in retrospect this was in spite of BASIC, not because of it. Nobody knew any better then.

      • by skastrik (971221)

        I mean why choose BASIC? .. I loved my ZX Spectrum and the old BBC Micro, but in retrospect this was in spite of BASIC, not because of it. Nobody knew any better then.

        They do say "basic-derived language". But otherwise I agree, a small and more modern language would have been a better match. Lua comes to mind.

        • by RCL (891376)
          BASIC is simpler and - as funny as it sounds - closer to assembler than "modern languages". I mean, each line has an "address" (number) and you can happily jump back and forth with GOTO, you don't have "local" vars nor scopes (I'm talking about ZX Spectrum-like BASIC). This is closer to way beginners think about programming.

          (And no, I don't think that learning to use "goto" is a bad thing. Goto may make code harder to optimize for compiler or harder to understand for humans, but when not abused, it can si
      • by Arlet (29997)

        I think it would be quite challenging to run any of the more modern languages with only 64kB RAM, and 512 kB of Flash.

        • That's not a much lower spec than the Xerox Alto, and it ran a complete GUI written in Smalltalk, an introspective IDE, and some apps.
          • by Arlet (29997)

            I know, but those applications were written with the hardware limitations in mind. Similarly, the first PDPs were running C compilers and UNIX. However, my local /usr/bin/python is 2MB, and uses 350kB of RAM, and that's excluding shared libraries and OS support that it requires.

            Porting Python to a microcontroller would certainly be possible, but it wouldn't be a matter of downloading the source tree, and typing 'make'. You'd probably have to rewrite most of the stuff in order to make it fit.

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          Most of these devices are targeted natively by C compilers instead of interpreting BASIC.

          You can target even Atmel's ATTinys with C. (2k flash, I think 512 bytes RAM, 8 bit core for the Tiny25.)

          • by Arlet (29997)

            I know, I've used C with both LPC17xx and ATTiny45. The interesting part about this hack is the use of the SSP port with DMA to produce video output, although I wonder how stable the image is when used in combination with Ethernet and SD. The BASIC interpreter is cute, but it wouldn't be my style. For my own purposes, I'd prefer C.

      • by mangu (126918) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @06:26AM (#37808742)

        If you are looking for a small mobo with Linux perhaps your best choice woud be the Beagle board [].

        For lower capabilities, Arduino [] would be the obvious choice, it's programmed in C, using gcc.

        I don't see too much in this Jumentum, offering a web server in a chip is interesting, but this capability has been available in small chipsets (not single chips) for Atmel or Microchip PICs for years. If I needed that capability right now I'd probably go for an Arduino with ethernet.

        Apart from this, Jumentum is a poor name choice, "jumento" means donkey in Portuguese.

        • by Arlet (29997)

          The ARM is much more powerful than the Atmega in the Arduino, and easier to program due to its unified address space. It also has 8 times the RAM, and more flash. It's a good choice if you need a bit more oomph than the Arduino offers.

          • by mangu (126918)

            The Beagle board is ARM. I mentioned it just because it was the first that came to my mind, but there's also FriendlyARM [] and perhaps other systems that I haven't heard of yet. FriendlyARM was created as a development system for Android, so it has a lot of capability.

            The only interesting feature I can see for the Jumentum is it being single-chip. The lack of a decent operating system would be a no-go for most users. Without an OS it's nothing more than an Arduino on steroids and without a decent programming

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            Problem is, this particular project wastes the power of ARM by using it to run a BASIC intepreter.

            Target a 1768 directly with a C compiler and you have a very powerful chip that is still possible to solder yourself at home (e.g. you can design your own custom board around it.)

            Good luck soldering the Package-on-Package BGA stack (yes, that's multiple chips stacked on top of each other) in the BeagleBoard.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          in between and arduino are these ethernet jacks with embedded linux


          both have a little GPIO
          either way it's about $200-300 to get a development kit and a device, and roughly $50/unit in Qty 1,000

      • by pmontra (738736)
        Don't know, even php shines compared to that mess I saw in the examples. I'm a ZX81 old timer and I remember well that we had plenty of better languages available at those times on systems that were only a fraction of this one. Maybe its creators are nostalgic and want to inflict their mood on everybody.
      • by RCL (891376)
        BASIC is a high level "assembly" language, it allows programming in every style: structured, unstructured, whatever you want. Every line is addressed by its number, and some versions of BASIC [] even allowed self-modifying code (e.g. renumbering lines).

        "Modern" languages are much less expressive than assembly or BASIC: e.g. you cannot [easily] have functions that jump from one to another, or have multiple points of entry.

        What's more important though, BASIC (and assembly, once newbie gets accustomed with it
        • What's more important though, BASIC (and assembly, once newbie gets accustomed with it) is closer to the way non-programmers think about programs

          I am in perfect factual agreement about that, but I ascribe a different value to it :)

          • by RCL (891376)
            Well... I see your point, but I think that we need to teach people to program in the same way as hardware works (and unstructured BASIC happens to be closer to that). Ideally, I'd want every programmer to start with learning assembly and understanding what limitations we put on it in higher level languages and what trade-offs are involved - but in a less ideal world, they may begin with BASIC.

            Also, there's this thing called "Data-Oriented Design/Programming" which despises OOP for not thinking about data
    • by b1t r0t (216468)

      Good ol' Slashdot non-editors. Indeed, there's basically no way this chip can run Linux, at least not the way most of us know Linux. It's an ARM Cortex M3 (Thumb-2 instruction set only) with 512K flash and 64K RAM (about the maximum on CM3 these days), and has no external memory bus.

      The mbed board is kind of nice, in that it also has a Cortex A-something chip that loads the 1768's flash from the last file saved to its small USB stick filesystem, and does a few other things. The idea is that once your proj

    • This isn't Linux. It's a BASIC Stamp replacement [], 30 years too late.

      Aurduno is far ahead for dinky-machine low level programming. It has a rational way for newbies to deal with interrupts, which you need down at that level.

      Personally, I think the next step up ought to be a QNX on a chip system. QNX scales down further than Linux does; you can run QNX with no disk or writable flash. and get something useful going in well under 1MB. You still have a real OS, with processes, threads, a POSIX API, etc. I

  • How long will you still get TVs which accept PAL/NTSC signals?

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      You will be able to use PAL/NTSC for a fair bit longer than any other currently available standard for video. Keep in mind that PAL and NTSC have been around for decades and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon because a lot of equipment either depends upon it or will fall back to it. Even "VGA" is unlikely to exist as far into the future because it was a *relatively* specialis standard (at least when compared to PAL/NTSC).

      • by am 2k (217885)

        Even "VGA" is unlikely to exist as far into the future because it was a *relatively* specialis standard (at least when compared to PAL/NTSC).

        When doing presentations, it's nearly impossible to connect anything else than VGA. Even when the beamer supports DVI or HDMI, the cables are never set up for this. As a result, VGA is always supported on notebooks (exclusively on some), and even on iPads. I do presentations very frequently, and I haven't bought the DVI/HDMI adapters for any of my portable devices, only VGA. I think this will stay with us for a while.

    • by ttong (2459466)

      Quite some time, actually. And it's awesome because replacements are FREE nowadays. No one wants them so I actually have a small surplus now of old tellies that people didn't want to keep any longer. The analogue ones are best, just flick the next or previous channel button and it instantly switches channel! That's so awesome, I laugh in the face of anyone trying to sell one of those set-top boxes with their awfully slow menus and "interactive content" which are in reality mandatory loading screens whenever

      • by EdZ (755139)
        Good luck once the PAL (or NTSC) analog broadcast spectrum no longer exists, which is in the next couple of years.
        And good riddance to it! Colour interlaced broadcast video was a pair of ugly (though incredibly ingenious) hacks to very old B&W broadcast systems that is an incredible pain to work with in anything other than a fully analog toolchain (what, you thought you could just sample a few hundred times each scanline and stack the result? HAH!). And even then there was little guarantee of the end p
        • by caseih (160668)

          The PAL/NTSC composite display standard has absolutely nothing to do with analog broadcast spectrum. The composite port on a TV will exist for many years to come, long after analog TV tuners are no longer produced. As wikipedia says, "Composite video can easily be directed to any broadcast channel simply by modulating the proper RF carrier frequency with it." But I think you're confusing the two.

    • For use in the field you probably want a small screen. I use a $40 MP4 player (JXD 969) that takes video input to provide remote viewing for my digital camera. Sure the resolution is only QVGA (320x240), that is what my camera's A/V output produces. Sure maybe in a few years, these devices will go away, but it is likely the system mentioned in the OP will also be enhanced, or their will be new systems.
    • by vlm (69642)

      How long will you still get TVs which accept PAL/NTSC signals?

      Until the last analog cable TV channel is replaced with a QAM signal on the last cable TV system in the world.

      Its gonna be awhile.

      The one good thing is "TVs" have never done more and it keeps getting cheaper to add more silicon. Mandatory NTSC stereo decoders in the 80s. All TVs must support closed captioning since roughly the 90s. All TVs must support the V-chip that no one uses since the 00s. All TVs must support NTSC that few people use since the 10s. I'm sure the TV of the 2050s will have to suppor

    • Probably quite a long time. Make a TV that can't take composite video input and people will female-dog that they can't use their Wii console, the VCR they keep around for the wedding video or those very few movies still not rereleased on DVD, or the SDTV cable box that they use to save on monthly recurring costs (local cable TV company charges $18/mo extra for HDTV service).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds a similar idea to the Maximite, which is based on a PIC32.

  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @06:05AM (#37808694) Homepage

    Um, from what I've seen so far, the reason they can sell the Raspberry Pi model A for $25 is that it's basically a single Broadcom BCM2835 SoC (with embedded RAM) mounted on a PCB with some I/O connectors and not much else. (the model B just adds one other chip to provide a USB hub and ethernet).

    • by Arlet (29997)

      The BCM2835 isn't very open, though. Apparently, you need to sign an NDA to obtain a data sheet. For tinkering hobbyists, that's going to be a big hurdle.

  • I would say it's a bad choice for a name. In portuguese "Jumento" means ass (the animal) and is a relativelly common adjective used to indicate something/someone dumb.

  • NuttX [] is a Posix compliant real time embedded operating system and supports a massive amount of microcontrollers and development boards.

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