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I'm Amelia, and you're late.

Monday, July 22

Geek

Daily News Stuff 22 July 2019

1,702,001,293 And Counting Edition

Tech News

  • More new websites are created every hour than existed in 1994.  (Internet Live Stats)

    Stop that.  Stop that right now.

    Half of all the websites in the world were created in 2016.

  • Dietary supplements are the new micro SD card.  (Ars Technica)

    Look for the "ships from and sold by" tagline, and even then double-check what you actually receive.

  • No.  No they can't.  Stop asking.  (Ars Technica)

    Even in 1994 they couldn't do that, not with a complete printed list of every website in the world.

  • The hackers hacked.  (ZDNet)

    A contractor for the Russian FSB got hacked and 7.5TB of hacking tools and related data exfiltrated and uploaded to PornHub.  I may have added that last part.

  • George sold his face for five lousy bucks and all he got was...  Wait, that doesn't work.  (ZDNet)

    "Truthfully, I didn't read the full waiver thing."

    Don't be George.

  • The C256 Foenix is an interesting project.

    It takes a 14MHz 65C816 - the same chip used (at a rather lower clock speed) in the Apple IIGS, adds three Altera MAX10 FPGAs for video, sound, and system control, and 6MB of static RAM.

    It is not, despite the choice of CPU, compatible with the C64 or C128.  It's not directly compatible with anything.

    The motherboard - the product of a single engineer - is a work of art that I'd like to frame and hang on my wall.  But it costs $299, so that probably won't happen.

    I can understand why it costs that much.  Not only is doing this a lot of work, there's quite the bill of materials there.  Apart from the CPU and the three FPGAs (each about A$11) there's three 2MB SRAM chips which could run to $15 a piece.

    You can see the DVI encoder chip too, though I can't tell the part number.

    Then there's a whole bunch of connectors - DVI-I (avoiding the HDMI tax), serial, parallel, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, MIDI in and out, a floppy connector, an MMC card slot, four joystick ports, and stereo RCA jacks for audio in and out.  Every one of those adds cost.

    The weak part is the 65C816 CPU, which is actually reasonable fast compared to, say, the 8MHz 68000 found in the original Macintosh (let alone a 4.77MHz 8088), but a pain in the bum to program.

    The MAX10 FPGAs are quite nice.  They cost a bit more than the Lattice iCE40 ($11.06 for the cheapest useful part vs. $5.51) , but they are much faster (450MHz vs. 125MHz) and have much more internal RAM.  The cheapest iCE40 parts have none, but above that they have between 64 and 128 kbits.  Which is enough (for example) for colour lookup tables and video FIFOs.

    The cheapest MAX10 has 96 kbits, so it's in the same ballpark.  The next model MAX10 up, costing $17.12, has 1248 kbits, nearly 10 times the largest iCE40 model.  Also, the MAX10 is configured in internal flash, so you don't need an external SPI ROM or to configure it from the CPU.

    I'm not keen on using an FPGA if I don't have to.  They're neat, no question, and can do things that would otherwise soak up a ton of CPU time, but it takes a lot of effort to get even a modestly complex design working right.

  • The cheapest and easiest way to add HDMI output to a device might well be a Raspberry Pi Zero...  But the HDMI association would probably insist you pay for a license anyway.

    The Pi Compute module, though, is interesting.


Video of the Day



Watching experts struggle with things that should be simple is a whole new under-explored genre.  This time other Linus doesn't drop a $10,000 CPU though.


Picture of the Day

http://ai.mee.nu/images/A1600-1.PNG?size=720x&q=95

Well, it's a design for a possible prototype.  Fully routed, but it doesn't let me directly get at the CPU's video and networking capabilities.


Disclaimer: F the PGA.

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Sunday, July 21

Geek

Daily News Stuff 21 July 2019

We've Got It All Edition

Tech News

  • Only two things are certain: The death of Stadia, and taxes.  (One Angry Gamer)

    And we're trying to do something about taxes.

  • NASA's Orion crew capsule is officially complete.  (Tech Crunch)

    A test flight to lunar orbit is planned for next year, using the SLS.

  • SpaceX's Starship is expected to have a test launch within 3 months.  (Tech Crunch)

    Their StarHopper had an engine test a few days ago that ended abruptly due to anomalous fuel conditions.



    The Hopper seemed to be fine afterwards, at least outwardly.  Looked spectacular though.

  • HDMI is a pain in the bum.

    If you want to output a VGA signal, you can do that with a few TTL chips and a handful of resistors:



    Or a PIC driving an SPI serial bus and a handful of resistors:



    Or an ESP32 with some internal timers and a handful of resistors:



    But if you want to do HDMI, well, first you have to pay $5000 to the HDMI Licensing Association.  Second, whatever pixel clock you are using, the HDMI clock is ten times as fast.  You can just barely get that out of a low-end FPGA like the Lattice iCE40, using DDR signals, if your pixel clock is no more than 25MHz. 

    (And I'm not sure whether pixel-doubling tricks work with HDMI, so that limits you to 640x480 as the one and only available resolution.)

    You can buy DVI interface chips, which have exactly the same video signalling as HDMI at up to 1080p (you can get a DVI<->HDMI cable for $6 and it will work perfectly as long as you don't go above that resolution).  There's no license fee, no NDA, and no royalties.  It's still basically impossible to generate the signal yourself, though.

    You could use a Texas Instruments TFP410, but if you're working with parts like that Amiga-on-a-chip (the STMicro H750) it would be the most expensive component in your entire build.  480MHz Arm microcontroller with 1MB RAM and onboard blitter and LCD controller, $10.91; DVI transmitter $11.24. 

    (A$, qty 1.  Volume prices in US$ will be far lower, but I need to buy one of them to start with.)

    The NXP TDA19988 is described as an HDMI transmitter but would be equally happy being wired to a DVI socket, and at $7.94 would at least be only the second most expensive component.  For comparison, a DisplayPort to VGA adaptor, which is actually complicated, costs $3.00, and a three-port HDMI switch costs $2.40.

    It's at least an option, probably.  And it's cheaper than a proper video DAC that will run at 1080p60 resolutions - the cheapest one I've found is $9.80.  I wasn't planning to use one of those, though;  15 bit colour can be done well enough with cheap 0.5% resistors.

  • Speaking of Amigas-on-chips, I found another one.  This is the Renesas RZ/A1L.

    Performance is very similar to the STMicro H750 - it's a 400MHz Cortex A9 vs a 480MHz Cortex M7, and the A9 is 20% faster than the M7.

    It has a blitter and a video controller, and all the usual periphery like counters, timers, DMA, PWM, Ethernet, USB, SPI, SPDIF, and SD/MMC.

    The big difference is that this is a microprocessor rather than a microcontroller, meaning that (a) it has no on-board flash at all, so it has to have an external boot ROM to do anything, and (b) it has 3MB of RAM vs. 1MB on the H750.

    Oh, and it seems to have four independent playfields - four graphics layers - compared to two on the H750.  So you could have a static game background, a background sprite layer, a static foreground, and a foreground sprite layer, with all the hard parts done by the hardware.

    Which makes it more like the Amiga 1200 than the Amiga 1000. 

    It also has several siblings - the A1LC with 2MB RAM, the A1M with 5MB, the A1H with 10MB, and the faster A2M with 4MB and hardware sprites.  (But only 16 of them; I checked.)  They're not all pin-compatible, though the A1M and A1H are.  And they're available in QFP, unlike many higher-end chips which are only in BGA and a pain for small production runs.

    The A1M, A2M, and A1H also drive two displays simultaneously.  Not sure if they can drive two displays with four graphics layers though.  And it looks like the display controller can do the pixel-doubling and line-doubling that I need without having to constantly fiddle with control registers.

    The RZ/A1LU starts at A$23.52 qty 1.  That's twice as much as the H750, but that chip is an anomaly; the STMicro F469, which has 384K of RAM and runs at 180MHz (but does have 2MB of flash) costs $23.46.

    The 5MB part is nearly double the price, though.  Avnet supposedly have it cheaper, but their search function is bugged all to hell right now.  But hey, a dual-display 400MHz Amiga-on-a-chip for about US$28 is not exactly bad.  (Price does not include two of those darn DVI transmitters.)

  • You also need a license for SD cards, it turns out.  If you want to build something that SD cards can plug into, you need to pay $2500 a year.  Good old MMC, no license fees.

    Wonder why all those cheap Chinese gadgets have TF cards - "TransFlash" that look and work just like micro SD but technically aren't?  There you go.


Video of the Day

It was thirty years ago today.  Approximately.



Disclaimer: Please do not adjust your set.

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Saturday, July 20

Geek

Daily News Stuff 20 July 2019

Not Entirely Clear On The Point Edition

Tech News

  • Google told Reddit that its upcoming Stadia Netflix for games service isn't Netflix for games.  (Tom's Hardware)

    You have to pay for the games.  Full price.
    You have to pay for the service.
    You have to pay for a fast internet connection with a high bandwidth cap.
    You never actually own anything.
    And the experience is always going to be worse than playing it on your own computer or games console.

    On the plus side, Stadia won't be around for very long.

  • Netflix for television, which is to say Netflix, isn't having a great time of it either, losing customers despite spending $3 billion on programming in a single quarter.  (TechDirt)

    This is because they are moving to in-house content and all their in-house content is bad.

  • Lockheed's Skunk Works is building a bigger version of their experimental Compact Fusion Reactor.  (The Drive)

    When they say "compact" they mean the size of a bus, so don't expect a Mr Fusion upgrade for your F-150 anytime soon.  Still, the fact that this is apparently a privately-funded project and not a government boondoggle is in itself promising.

    We've had working fusion reactors for fifty years now.  The tricky part has been making them do something useful rather than just eat a lot of energy and make pretty sparks.

  • Israel's Beresheet lunar lander was also carrying a backup copy of the Earth.  (Medium)

    Unfortunately it experienced what is known in the trade as a hard landing, or alternately, lithobraking.  But the backup disks are extremely robust and expected to have survived.

  • Are SLI and Crossfire obsolete?  Yes.



    Bring back the 450W power supplies.

  • Quantum quokkas quicken qubit queries.  (The Guardian)

  • The secret history of the Lauren Bug.  (The Guardian)

  • PCIe 4.0 won't be available on X470 and B350 motherboards oh wait.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Biostar has followed Asus and released a BIOS update that enables PCIe 4.0 old older boards.  AMD's relationship with its OEMs at this point resembles a border collie with ADD trying to round up a bunch of cats.  Also with ADD.

  • A year before the Amiga, there was a computer called the Mindset with similar capabilities and DOS and Windows compatibility.  We're talking Windows 1.0 here, mind you, this was a long time ago.

    I looked to see if any of the YouTube retrocomputer crowd had managed to find one and restore it, but there's nothing.

    So here's another HP 9845.



    Not many of these are still working because they didn't use microprocessors - they used a custom CPU made up of individual bit-slice logic chips.  Lots of little chips subject to lots of little failures, and no-one seems to have the source to the original microcode anymore.  The emulator had to be reverse-engineered.

    For crying out loud, it's easier to find videos of the Sord M5, and no-one remembers that.



    Well, I do, but only because I saw it at a computer show back before I had a computer of my own and thought it was rather small and neat.  The chiclet keyboard had a much better feel than most of that kind.


Disclaimer: Tickets for Border Collies with ADD's 2019 World Tour are now on sale at all disreputable outlets.

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Friday, July 19

Geek

Daily News Stuff 19 July 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old Edition

Anime News

Sentai Filmworks has a GoFundMe set up to try to help with the senseless tragedy that struck Kyoto Animation yesterday.



Tech News



Disclaimer:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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Thursday, July 18

Geek

Daily News Stuff 18 July 2019

Yes, And Edition

Tech News



Disclaimer: PINF.

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Post contains 187 words, total size 3 kb.

Geek

Daily News Stuff 17 July 2019

Europes Gonna Europe Edition

Tech News



Picture of the Day

http://ai.mee.nu/images/9845C_shuttle.jpg?size=720x&q=95




Disclaimer: Well, poo.

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Tuesday, July 16

Geek

Daily News Stuff 16 July 2019

But Then What Isn't These Days Edition

Tech News



Video of the Day


Little bastards had it coming.


Disclaimer: I meant to do that.

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Monday, July 15

Geek

Daily News Stuff 15 July 2019

Props Vs Jets Edition

Tech News

  • Parallax's Propeller 2 Rev B eval board is due next month.  (Parallax)

    The Propeller is a 32-bit CPU divided into 8 slices for hard real time tasks.  Rather than struggling to use interrupts to service low-latency I/O, you dedicate a slice to handle each specific task.

    The Propeller 2 is about twice as fast as version 1, and more significantly it upgrades the internal RAM from 32KB to 512KB.  It has all sorts of built-in hardware, so, for example, each I/O pin can be configured to handle either digital or analog signals. It even has built-in VGA and HDMI output.

  • The EU's Galileo GPS satellite network has been down for four days - not one of the 26 satellites is currently working correctly.  (ZDNet)

    Hey, it's July, they're French, what do you expect?

  • It's Prime Day.  Look at all the bargains...  Um, somewhere?

  • Don't blame San Francisco for the rot of New York and Washington DC.  (Bay Area Apologist)


Social Media News

  • So, an Antifa nut grabbed an AR-15, published his manifesto, and attempted to firebomb an immigration detention facility, because, yeah, that totally makes sense to burn down a building with the people you want to save still locked inside.

    The response from social media has been swift and definitive and consisted entirely of crickets chirping.


Anime News

  • Danmachi the movie and zeroth and first episodes of season two are out.  Guess that means it's summer, if we couldn't already tell from the crickets.



Video of the Day



"A fascinating mess, in the best way possible."


Bonus Video of the Day



"Cats and dogs, living together."


Disclaimer: That is a very silly question.

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Sunday, July 14

Geek

Daily News Stuff 14 July 2019

Doublesoft VGA Edition

Free Stuff

Tech News

  • The world's worst video card is complete!

    This was part one that sent me down this retrocomputing thought-experiment path.



    And now part two: Life's a finch.



    I love the minimalist DAC he builds.  It's not technically correct but it gets the job done.

  • Watching that video I realised that you can do something really sneaky with software-generated 64 colour video.  You're only using six of your eight bits (assuming one byte per pixel) so the two extra bits can be used to encode HSYNC and VSYNC.

    You don't need to output those on separate pins from a timer; you just need to consistently output one pixel every clock at the correct rate.  Where HSYNC is needed you output a byte with only that but high, and the same for VSYNC.

    Which would be a recipe for disaster if you were directly transmitting the bytes from the frame buffer, but my plan is to use software to create a line buffer first, and put the HSYNC/VSYNC codes in at that stage.

    Which makes my PIC32MX design that much simpler if I can solve the problem those Cornell students ran into with DMA priorities.  Though I can't simultaneously use those bits for Z-channel and H/VSYNC.

    Or...  Can I?

    No.

  • That Amiga-on-a-chip from yesterday has couple of little brothers, or possibly sisters - I can mostly decode STMicro part numbers now but I'm not sure which is the gender bit - the STM32F730 and STMF750.  (st.com)

    The former is the part used in that Black Ice MX developer board; the latter is sort of half-way between the low-end and the high-end.

    These are also Cortex M7 parts, but slower (216MHZ vs. 400MHz) and with a lot less RAM (256KB and 320KB vs about 1060KB when you add up all the banks).

    The F730 is about A$7.50 locally (qty 1).  I got the description wrong when talking about the Black Ice - it has 64KB of flash and 256KB of RAM.  These parts are designed to be used with external NOR flash, which as I mentioned costs $2.28 for 16MB qty 1, but is slower than internal flash and not great for directly executing code even though the chips can do that.

    The F730 doesn't have the video controller and blitter; but the F750 does, and comes in at A$9.74.  Unless you add external RAM though you're blitting at most 240KB of data so it won't take very long.

    16MB of 200MHz SDRAM costs a whole A$2.53 though.  If that's too steep, 8MB is A$1.81.  Or 69¢ on AliExpress as long as you buy at least 10.

    AliExpress is something of a trip.  What's this chip for $1.23?  Oh, it's a gigabit GDDR3 video RAM?  Cool.  And this one for $15?  It's a Radeon HD 4570 GPU?  And this - wait, that's a 6116, it's a 2KB static RAM chip from about 1982.  Okay, look, that's a 6502.  What did you pull that out of?

  • Speaking of the Black Ice card, the Lattice Ice40 FPGA it uses costs as little as A$2.17, again in qty 1.  It includes 14 256-byte RAM blocks, which doesn't sound like a lot because it isn't, but if you need some FIFOs or dual-ported RAM because you can't get your video timing exactly right in software, that's plenty for both a colour lookup table and a line buffer.

    I was looking at some of Lattice's other parts and it looked like Intel offered better value, because the cheapest Ice40 LP has no RAM blocks at all.  For some reason the even cheaper Ice40 UltraLite does.  The problem is it only has 26 I/Os, which is absurdly constrained.  I need 11 inputs and 12 outputs to do anything with it at all, which leaves 3 for real-world design constraints.

    So the cheapest Lattice part has too few I/Os, and the next cheapest part has no RAM at all.  It's a whole A$5.51 for a part that has enough RAM to be useful (64Kbits) and enough I/Os as well (67).

    I noticed that Intel / Altera also had some amazingly cheap FPGAs - starting about that same price - but didn't check the I/Os column.  Yep, 27 I/O pins.

    The solution if I want a simple 8-bit-style design and not an entire 16-bit Amiga-alike might be that middle chip.  If I make things sufficiently weird in software no-one will care that I'm abusing a hardware video controller to do it.

  • I also looked at free / opensource tiny real-time operating systems.  

    ChibiOS/RT caught my eye, because of the name, and because it has hardware drivers for most of the built-in devices in STMicro Arm chips.  They have a long thread on STM32H7 support - which is the Amiga-on-a-chip - and basically everything works now except Ethernet and then three months ago STMicro released updated hardware.  The two smaller chips use older, well-supported devices and work just fine with ChibiOS.  They have an updated Cortex M7 CPU, but that's basically 100% compatible; it's the I/O devices that cause the difficulties.

    Anyway, it handles stuff like providing a driver for SPI-connected NOR flash so that you can then load a FAT filesystem on top without having to spend every weekend for six months getting that stuff working yourself.

    It looks like the STM32F746VGT7 might be easiest to work with.  It has 1MB flash (so I don't need to worry about external flash) and a video controller (so I just need some resistor ladders, no external FIFOs, LUTs, or DACs).  It has 320KB of RAM (enough for an 8/32 bit system), which is broken into separate blocks but not as many as the H750.  And all the I/O devices are supported by ChibiOS.

    For that convenience though it costs $20.  But I don't need an FPGA or external flash to make it work.  Just the chip, and an oscillator to get the video frequency, and a bunch of resistors and capacitors, and a VRM, and an Ethernet PHY, and an RS-232 line driver, and whatever it is you use for USB.  And is there something that needs to go between the CPU and an SD card?  Probably not since those are passive.  NB: If this ever comes into existence and you blow it up by putting the wrong thing into the SD card slot it's not my fault.

    Update: Wait, if I'm going to build the simpler 8/32 bit version first, I don't need Ethernet anyway.  So the fact that it doesn't work in ChibiOS yet is kind of irrelevant.  I can use the cheaper H750 to do the 8/32 version (just masking off most of the RAM), and then use the exact same hardware for the 16/32 version.

    So one $40 developer board and I'm set!  Where's that Arm Thumb-2 manual?

  • I read the manual on the display controller first.  It doesn't have any way to configure it for line doubling.  As far as I can see, the only way around that is to have an interrupt on HSYNC that subtracts (for example) 320 from the address of the frame buffer for lines 1 through 5 out of each 6 so that the controller keeps trucking along not knowing it's repeating lines.  Only... Not sure if that will work at all.

    Update: Oh, the AAH register might be the key.  Stupid thing only goes up to 768 anyway.  If I decrement that on HSYNC it should send the same line again.  And it is writable just as if they are inviting people to do bizarre horrible things to it.  But...  Ugh.

  • In other retro-nonsense news RetroArch is coming to Steam.  (Ars Technica)

    Of course you can download it for free right now, and it will still be free on - AARGH.

  • I ALMOST FORGOT AGE OF WONDERS III IS FREE ON STEAM RIGHT NOW AND IT'S PRETTY GOOD!  (Steam)

    You have another 24 hours to grab it.

  • A single Atari 2600 cartridge just sold for the price of a four-bedroom house in Bozeman, Montana  (Ars Technica)

    Or...  Wait.  No, it didn't sell.  Faith in humanity restored just a tiny bit.

    You can download the damn thing for free if you really have to.

  • Vaio has a new laptop out.  It seems that the engineers looked at the recently deceased Macbook with its solitary USB-C connector and decided to do the exact opposite.  (The Verge)

    http://ai.mee.nu/images/VaioAnyPortInAStorm.jpg?size=720x&q=95

  • I haven't read In the Pipeline for a while.  It's a terrific blog that's been going for over fifteen years now, by Derek Lowe, a research chemist working in the pharmaceutical industry.

    The most entertaining section is probably Things I Won't Work With, stories about chemical reagents whose properties are not so much hair-raising as entirely hair-removing.

    A fine example I saw linked on Hacker News is Sand Won't Save You This Time about chlorine trifluoride, a chemical so reactive it will set asbestos on fire.

  • The Epyc 7702P - a single-socket only 64-core server CPU - has snuck out from behind locked doors to post the highest score ever on the SiSoft benchmark.  (SiSoft)

    It posts just shy of 1 TFLOPs double precision, putting it in video card territory.

  • The Radeon VII - which launched at CES in January - has been stamped EXPIRED by AMD.  (VideoCardz)

    It was based on a Radeon Pro card that is still in production (that is, for example, what the new Mac Pro uses).  It was just too expensive to make much sense as a gaming card.

    It will presumably be replaced by a Navi card - at some point.

  • Microsoft has hit one billion installs...  For one single app on one single platform and it's not Windows.  (Thurrott.com)

    That's not the same as a billion users.  Though they have that too.

  • Dear people who create stuff, stop listening to the people who like your work and pay for it, and pay attention to worthless whining mouth-breathers us journalists instead.  (One Angry Gamer, commenting on a perhaps overly honest piece by VG247)


Anime News



Social Media News

  • How to be Totally Not the Enemy of the People.



  • MSNBC are, as the kids like to say, complete and unmitigated lolcows.



Video of the Day



Well, that was certainly a thing.

But wait there's more.




Music Video of the Day




Bonus Music Video of the Day



No, I couldn't find Dirty Deeds and you can bet that I looked.


Disclaimer: In the future all hardware will be software for 15 minutes.

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Saturday, July 13

Geek

Daily News Stuff 13 July 2019

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Wait Is That New In Box I Just Paid $300 For One Used On eBay And I Had To Replace All The Capacitors In The Power Supply Edition

Tech News

  • Facebook's $5 billion FTC fine is an embarrassing joke. (The Verge)

  • You know what else is an embarrassing joke? The Verge. (The Verge)

    Mastodon's Nazi problem is that Mastodon is run by Nazis.

  • Apple shut down their Walkie-Talki Apple Watch app because it was more of a walkie-talkie-anyone-can-listenie app.  (Ars Technica)

    Oops.

  • PCIe 4 might actually work on X470 after all wait no it won't.  (AnandTech)

    It's still unreliable and is supposed to be disabled, but some BIOS updates out there do enable it.  That will be fixed.

    Not unreasonable to consider reliability over a questionable performance benefit.

  • Get started in quantum programming with Q#.

    Then wait 30 years for a quantum computer you can actually buy.

  • Want to port Deluxe Paint to your Amiga-like but not Amiga-compatible system? The source is now up on GitHub.

  • Want to build an Amiga-like but not Amiga-compatible system?

    Well!

    STMicroelectronics' STM32H750VBT6 is just the thing. It has:

    • A 400MHz Arm Cortex M7 CPU core
    • 16KB each instruction and data cache
    • FPU with single and double precision
    • DSP extensions
    • MPU (memory protection unit - not the same as a demand-paged MMU)

    • 128KB flash* on bus D1******
    • 512KB user RAM** on bus D1 (with 64-bit access)
    • Two 128KB RAM banks on bus D2  perfect for double-buffered or dual-playfield video at resolutions like 640x200 or 470x270
    • 64KB fast instruction RAM
    • 128KB fast data RAM (these are wired directly to the CPU)
    • 32KB additional RAM on bus D2
    • 64KB additional RAM on bus D3
    • 4KB of battery-backed RAM also on bus D3
    • All internal RAM has SECDED ECC

    • QSPI for easily attaching cheap external flash
    • Memory controller for SRAM, SDRAM, PSRAM, and NAND and NOR flash
    • 4x 12C
    • 4x UART
    • 6x SPI
    • 2x SD card controllers
    • 2x CANbus controllers
    • 2x USB controllers - one USB 1.0, one USB 2.0, no super-speed here
    • 10/100 Ethernet MAC
    • HDMI-CEC which is not HDM video, just the control signal
    • S/PDIF
    • MDMIO

    • 3x 16-bit ADC with up to 36 input channels
    • 2x 12-bit DAC
    • 2x handy built-in op amps
    • Quad 8-channel digital signal filter
    • Temperature sensor

    • Display controller with dual playfields, alpha blending, and dual 256-colour palettes
    • JPEG hardware codec (no, not MPEG)
    • A blitter (they call it DMA2D but it's a blitter) with its own colour palette for pixel operations
    • A camera interface

    • 22 timers across three timer units
    • Real-time clock
    • Two complex interrupt procesors handling over 250 possible interrupt channels
    • 4 DMA controllers - not 4 DMA channels, but four separate DMA controllers

    • CRC generate / check unit
    • AES and TDES encryption
    • MD5, SHA-1, SHA-2 and HMAC
    • Random number generator

    I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

    It costs A$10.91 qty 1, in stock for immediate delivery.  I checked and in 10K quantity it's just US$3.37.

    It's basically an Amiga 1000 on a chip except running about 400 times faster.  The 7.16MHz 68000 in the Amiga could generally execute one instruction per 8 cycles; the Cortex M7 can do up to two per cycle, and is clocked more than 50 times higher.

    I completely overlooked the existence of this part because the memory configuration is unusual for an MCU.  The PIC32MX has 256KB flash and 64KB RAM (for A$6.65); this has half as much flash but 16 times the total RAM.

    There's a version with 2MB flash but at $19.61 it costs nearly twice as much and I was looking for parts below $15.  But that QPI interface will wire straight into a 16MB NOR flash chip costing A$2.28, or if you need even more, a 128MB SLC NAND chip for A$3.37.

    There's also a developer board for the version with 2MB flash available for A$40.45 (US$27).  The one I found available doesn't have the crypto module probably so that they don't have to deal with export restrictions to naughty bad countries, but it seems to have everything else, including a working Ethernet port.

    The "problem" with this is that it seems to solve all the hardware problems.  There's no longer any clever use of the CPU to handle sprites or DMA to stream the video from a line buffer - which as it turned out wouldn't have worked anyway due to priority conflicts, so maybe that's a good thing.

    Having two independent USB controllers is nice, because it means you can have one connected to a PC for debugging and the other running local peripherals like the keyboard and mouse.  If that doesn't sound important, consider trying to develop keyboard and mouse drivers without it.

    * The original Amiga had 256KB of ROM.***

    ** The original Amiga had 256KB of RAM*****

    *** Actually, the original original Amiga - the one I had**** - had 64KB of ROM and a tiny daughter board with 256KB of RAM. You had to boot a ROM disk first before booting the computer.

    **** I still have it, but it's been upgraded twice. First I put in a full set of ROMs, which gave me an extra 256KB of RAM; then later I replaced the motherboard with a clone with gave me new ROMs and an updated chipset and a full 2MB of chip RAM.

    ***** Actually, the original Amiga had 512KB total RAM because the ROMs weren't ready when it shipped (see above), and most units were shipped with a 256KB RAM expansion cartridge so it had a total of 768KB of which you could only use 512KB until you bought a set of ROMs and installed them.

    ****** D1, D2, and D3 are power domains.  D1 is the CPU itself, D2 is communications, and D2 is reset, clock, and power.  So if you're running on batteries you can put the whole of domain D1 to sleep and have it get woken up again on a keypress or a timer signal.


  • The Black Ice MX has another STMicro Cortex M7 MCU - the F730 as opposed to the H750 - and a Lattice Ice40 FPGA.  (Tindie)

    Just 256KB flash and 64KB RAM on the MCU, but there's another 2MB each of external RAM and flash.  $59.  I was looking at that FPGA to go with the H750 last night, but I think Intel (Altera) would be better for my purposes.

  • If you'd rather not build your own Phoronix has been benchmarking the Raspberry Pi 4 and comparing it to other boards.

  • If either of those options are too fast for you maybe this Z80 system is more your speed.  (Tindie)


    Like an S100 that shrank in the wash, it has a passive backplane into which you plug the CPU board, memory board, serial board, clock board, and so on.  8 and 12 slot backplanes are available.

    Like real S100 systems it gets expensive fast.


Video of the Day



It looks like a typical run-down old second-hand computer store on the outskirts of town.  It is a run-down old second-hand computer-store on the outskirts of town, but it's not exactly typical: It occupies the entire building, including the shop front, several rooms of office space above, and a 38,000 square foot warehouse behind, filled 20 feet deep with stacks of old computers.


Disclaimer: Insert Tab Thingy in Slot Whatever.  Or don't.  I'm outta here.  (Instructions Written on a Friday.)

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