Nordic Semiconductors' nRF52832

Community Round-Up: Bluetooth 5 in Apache Mynewt, Microsoft’s Sopris MCU and CodePlex Closure, ARM Compute Library, Canonical’s IoT Push, Embedded World Videos, Sinclair Spectrum Flashing, and Bomb Squad Academy

The Apache Mynewt open-source embedded operating system has received support for Bluetooth 5, Runtime has announced during the Bluetooth World 2017 conference, with ports already under test for the Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 and nRF52840 system-on-chips (SoCs).

“Last year at Bluetooth World 2016, Runtime announced the world’s first open source, controller-level BLE protocol stack for microcontroller-class (MCU) devices. This year, we are pleased to announce a step-change with Bluetooth 5 for Apache Mynewt,” said James Pace, Runtime co-founder and chief executive officer, at the event. “The benefits of deep, full-stack open source in embedded are proving self-evident: ease of debugging, hooks for manageability, configuration flexibility, and hardware abstraction. An open source, ‘OS-first’ approach will allow connected product companies to select best-of-breed SoCs, reduce switching costs, and exercise price leverage.”

Sadly, the initial ports for the nRF52832 and nRF52840 are currently available only as part of a private beta being run by the company. Once the beta has completed, some time in the second quarter of the year, Runtime has pledged to release its work under a permissive licence – likely the Apache Licence 2.0.

Microsoft has announced a research initiative, dubbed Project Sopris, which aims to redesign microcontrollers to improve the security of low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The company’s efforts centre around a paper dubbed The Seven Properties of Highly Secure Devices, written by Galen Hunt, George Letey, and Ed Nightingale, which argues that systems must be built with seven central properties: a hardware-based root of trust; a small trusted computing base; a defence-in-depth model; hardware-enforced compartmentalisation; certificate-based authentication; renewable security and mechanisms for rapid and automatic updates; and the reporting of failures to the manufacturer as a means of detecting potential attacks.

The result of the team’s effort is the Sopris Security Kit, a microcontroller development board built with the company’s seven core properties in mind. To prove its worth, the team has launched a public bug bounty providing access to a Sopris board and payouts between $2,500 and $15,000 for any verified security vulnerabilities discovered and properly reported.

Sadly, even as Microsoft looks to improve IoT security it’s shuttering one of its other services: the CodePlex collaborative programming and source code repository platform.

“Almost 11 years after we created CodePlex, it’s time to say goodbye,” said Microsoft’s Brian Harry in the closure announcement. “We launched CodePlex in 2006 because we, like others in the industry, saw a need for a great place to share software. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of amazing options come and go but at this point, GitHub is the de facto place for open source sharing and most open source projects have migrated there. So, it’s time to say goodbye to CodePlex. As of this post, we’ve disabled the ability to create new CodePlex projects. In October, we’ll set CodePlex to read-only, before shutting it down completely on December 15th, 2017.”

Projects currently hosted on CodePlex will be made available through a lightweight read-only archive for the foreseeable future, Harry has confirmed. Active projects, however, will need to migrate to GitHub or alternative services prior to October; with fewer than 350 projects receiving a commit in the last month, however, the closure is likely to have little real-world impact.

ARM has announced the launch of the ARM Compute Library, a collection of open-source software functions designed to allow developers to squeeze every last ounce of performance from the company’s Cortex-A CPU and Mali GPU IP family.

“When compared to existing open-source alternatives, the ARM Compute Library provides a much more comprehensive set of functions as well as superior performance – out of the box,” the company has claimed in its launch announcement. “It is a useful tool that can significantly reduce cost and effort for developers targeting image processing, computer vision and machine learning applications – enabling them to focus on differentiation, and reduce their products’ time-to-market.”

The Compute Library is available on the ARM GitHub repository, under the permissive MIT Licence.

Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, has announced that it is redoubling its efforts in the Internet of Things (IoT) market – and, as a result, cancelling its work on the Unity desktop environment and Ubuntu Touch mobile platform.

“I’m writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity 8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS,” wrote company founder Mark Shuttleworth in an announcement so surprising many took it to be a late April Fool’s gag. “The choice, ultimately, is to invest in the areas which are contributing to the growth of the company. Those are Ubuntu itself, for desktops, servers and VMs, our cloud infrastructure products (OpenStack and Kubernetes) our cloud operations capabilities (MAAS, LXD, Juju, BootStack), and our IoT story in snaps and Ubuntu Core.”

The cancelling of Unity 8 also sees official development of Ubuntu Touch for smartphones and tablets and the Mir display server ending, though the open-source nature of the projects means that those currently using the technologies may continue to develop them without Canonical’s input.

Embedded Related’s Stephane Boucher has released a series of videos from Embedded World 2017, including interviews and highlights from Texas Instruments, Cypress Semiconductors, NXP, Atollic, National Instruments, and others.

“I went to Embedded World 2017 in Nuremberg with an ambitious plan; I would make video highlights of several exhibits (booths) to be presented to the *Related sites audience. I would try to make the vendors focus their pitch on the essential in order to produce a one to three minutes video per booth,” explains Stephane, for whom videojournalism is a novel experience. “If you find the time to watch the videos, I would greatly appreciate if you could take a minute to share with me some of your impressions. Is the music a distraction? Is it too loud or too soft? Are the voices loud enough? Are the videos too short or too long? Which videos are your favourites?”

Tynemouth Software’s Dave Curran has published a blog post on a homebrew Arduino-powered firmware flasher with a difference: it connects to original Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware to carry out the work.

Dave’s creation was built for production of The Future Was 8 Bit’s DivMMC Future, a modern multi-function add-on for the classic 8-bit ZX Spectrum microcomputer. Using the Arduino-powered flasher Dave has been able to remote control four original Spectrums simultaneously, allowing the Spectrum itself to program and test each batch of four DivMMC Future modules. The code itself is fed into the Spectrum through the tape input, using an MP3 decoder to play back audio signals carrying the data.

Finally, anyone who doesn’t get enough staring at electronics during their day can now get an additional high-octane fix courtesy Systemic Games’ Bomb Squad Academy.

Available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, Bomb Squad Academy is a game which puts the player in the shoes of a trainee bomb disposal officer. Each bomb is wired to a circuit board with a range of components, and only careful analysis of the circuit and its parts will reveal the way to disarm the bomb safely. “As you progress through the game, you will be faced with increasingly challenging circuits that will test your ability to work through logic puzzles quickly,” the company explains. “Identify the components, understand the connections and learn what makes the circuit work. Do it fast enough and you might just make it through.”

A free demo of the game is available on the company’s Itch.io page, while the full version can be purchased via Steam for £4.99.




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