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Tiny ARM+DSP+FPGA COMs gain Linux support

Aug 14, 2013 — by Eric Brown 5,084 views

Timesys announced embedded Linux support for a pair of computer-on-modules that combine CPU, DSP, and FPGA functions on tiny, SODIMM-style cards. Critical Link’s MityDSP-L138 series COMs are based on a Texas Instruments OMAP-L138 ARM9+DSP system-on-chip processor, along with an optional Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA.

According to Critical Link, the MityDSP-L138 series COMs are designed for cost-sensitive applications requiring fixed-function coprocessing and power management in markets including industrial automation, communications and telecom, and medical.

MityDSP-L138F computer-on-module


The MityDSP-L138 series COMs are offered in two versions: the -L138 and -L138F. Both are built around TI’s OMAP-L138 ARM9/DSP SoC, while the -L138F model adds a Xilinx Spartan-6 field programmable gate array (FPGA).


Block diagrams: MityDSP-L138F COM; TI OMAP-L138 SoC
(click images to enlarge)


The TI OMAP-L138 SoC combines two of the chip-maker’s most power-efficient processing cores: a 375MHz to 456MHz, 32-bit ARM926EJ-S core and a C674x Fixed/Floating-Point VLIW DSP (digital signal processor) clocked at the same speeds. The ARM9 core features an MMU, 64KB ROM, and 16KB instruction and data caches, while the DSP is equipped with dual 32KB L1 caches and a 256MB L2 cache, and an additional 128KB of shared memory. It supports DDR2 RAM, and offers peripheral interfaces including Ethernet, USB, and various serial interfaces.

The MityDSP-L138 adds to TI’s OMAP-L138 with 128MB to 256MB of DDR2 RAM, 256MB to 512MB of NAND flash, and 8MB of SPI NOR flash. Integrated power management is also provided.

On both models, the SODIMM-200 edge connector supports the following interfaces:

  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 2x USB Ports
  • 2x UARTS
  • 2x McBSPs
  • Video output
  • Camera/video Input
  • MMC/SD
  • SATA
  • 3.3V power supply

On the MityDSP-L138F model, Critical Link adds 96 FPGA user-configurable I/O pins, split into two banks, expressing the module’s additional built-in Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. The I/O lines from the FPGA are routed as differential pairs, and support higher speed LVDS standards as well as SSTL 2.5 switching standards, says Critical Link.

The Spartan-6 falls roughly in the middle of Xilinx’s FPGA line-up, and is considerably more powerful than the Artix-7 class programmable logic found in the Xilinx Zynq-7000. It features up to 150K logic cells, integrated PCI Express blocks, 250MHz DSP slices, and 3.2Gbps low-power transceivers.

On the other hand, without the Zynq’s more powerful Cortex-A9 cores, high-speed AXI interconnects between ARM and FPGA subsystems, and other architectural enhancements, most of the Spartan-6 capabilities are beyond the reach of high-end Linux development. Instead, low-level HDA ((hardware description language) programming is required.

The MityDSP-L138F supports both commercial and industrial (-40 to 85°C) temperature ranges, and supports Windows Embedded CE, QNX, and ThreadX in addition to Linux. The module can be customized by adding additional FPGA I/O cores, including cores for ADC, DAC, GPIO, temperature sensor, touchscreen, PWM, pulse integrator, clock, stepper motor control, camera, UARTS, USB, and more.

LinuxLink for MityDSP

Timesys has been developing customized Linux board support packages (BSPs), software development kits (SDKs), and other open source tools and resources for embedded Linux developers since the 1990s. In more recent years, it has split its offerings into a LinuxLink Free Edition that offers an easy to use, web-based platform for embedded Linux development, as well as a more comprehensive LinuxLink Pro Edition.

TimeSys embedded Linux workflow diagram
(click image to enlarge)


With the LinuxLink Free Edition, MityDSP-L138 series developers can download a free BSP and matching SDK and receive support for build and boot issues. Developers looking for more advanced customization features can move up to the commercially supported LinuxLink Pro Edition provides, which offers a comprehensive development toolset, as well as unmetered, expert support “for all phases of their product development lifecycle,” according to Timesys. The company also offers just-in-time professional services and customized training courses.

LinuxLink is already available on the MityARM-3359 module, based on TI’s Sitara AM3359 processor. Timesys is also working on adding support for Critical Link’s MityARM-1808 module, which is I/O pin compatible with the MityDSP-L138, but is based on TI’s Sitara AM1808 SoC.

Timesys made no mention of plans to support Critical Link’s MityARM-5CSX module. Announced in May, the COM is built around the new Altera Cyclone V SX-U672 SoC, which combines a dual-core, 800MHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with programmable logic similar to that found in Altera’s Stratix V FPGAs. As with the Zynq-7000 processor, Altera links the two subsystems via high-speed AXI interconnects, giving the ARM/Linux subsystem unprecedented control over the FPGA fabric. Last fall, Timesys introduced LinuxLink support for the Zynq-7000 and the Zynq-based Avnet ZedBoard.

“Timesys’s easy-to-use LinuxLink suite of tools and expert support will even further accelerate development, helping our customers bring feature-rich HMI-based products to market in the shortest time possible,” stated Critical Link VP Thomas Catalino.

LinuxLink support for Critical Link’s MityDSP-L138 series COMs is available now. More information is available on the TimeSys LinuxLink for MityDSP-L138 product page. Further details regarding Critical Link’s MiniDSP-L138 series COMs can be found their product page.

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