LeafLabs conference call

in Arduino, dev boards, interviews by Ian | 3 comments

LeafLabs makes a 32bit Arduino compatible board called Maple. The board comes with a 72MHz 32bit STM32 ARM processor, and lots of extras like integrated LiPo battery charging.

They shot us an email about the new Maple Mini. It had a snarky note in regards to our chipKIT coverage: while Microchip is getting a ton of press, Mable has been a 32bit Arudino compatible platform for years.

Since we did a conference call with Microchip, we asked them for one with them as a snarky reply. Microchip’s conference call was supposed to be for big group of bloggers, it only turned into a personal interview due to a scheduling error…

The idea was to pose the same questions we asked the chipKIT team. There’s a big difference though – Microchip is a big company trying to get into the Arduino market, LeafLabs is a cool team working to make open source a business model. Maple is a passion, but they also take on consulting work to pay the bills and test their own hardware.

Check out 38 minutes of lavish geek-out:

  • How not-bitter they are chipKIT is getting so much press
  • Arduino compatibility, what shields work
  • Maple support in the multi-platform Arduino IDE
  • Licensing issues, and from-scratch USB stacks
  • Processor + FPGA interfacing
  • New projects, like the OAK (for Markus)

Thanks to Andrew and Marti, and to Jessica for setting everything up.

Grab the Maple for $44.99, and the Mini for $34.95.

See previous interviews.

It was really interesting to hear about LeafLabs, and we regret not asking more about the open source business model aspect. We’ll be sure to ask about that kind of stuff if we do something like this again.

Notes

Maple from LeafLabs conference call

Andrew Meyer (CEO), Marti Bolivar (software)

We’re talking with LeafLabs. They make an Arduino-shaped board with a 32bit ARM processor.

The way we got in touch is because Jessica at LeafLabs shot us an email about your new Maple Mini board. At the end of the email she said – hey – Microchip’s chipKIT isn’t the first 32bit Arduino-compatable platform, Maple is. And we’ve been at it for years.

  • So, please tell us a little about your development platform? Maple is Arduino shaped, mini is a breadboard compatible version
  • Why did you chose to do it up like an Arduino? Were trying to do FPGA+processor. Forum suggestion for ARM Arduino sparked Maple as a side project.

Your toolchain is 100% open source, can you please tell us a little about it?

  • Software license Compiler chain is GPL. IDE is fork of Arduino IDE. New Maple libraries are MIT license to be more flexible.
  • Hardware license Hardware is CC BY-SA intended to be CC BY.

Let’s talk a little about Arduino compatibility….

  • How many of the (core) Arduino libraries are supported? Several core libraries, 3 more in next release. Community contributions.
  • How much Arduino code will compile without changes? Maple includes reworked standard Arduino examples.

How about Arduino shields?

  • Arduino is a 5volt system, and the ARM is 3.3volts. Flipping through your wiki it looks like not all the pins are 5volt tolerant. Does that cause problems with shields? Hasn’t been a big problem. Most people are developing own shields. Common things like LCD shield work.
  • Is the peripheral pinout the same? Serial ok, more PWM, more Analog. Pin 14 does not set reference voltage, STM32 doesn’t have external reference.
  • Do you keep a list or database of shield compatibility issues? Yes, extensive lists. See here. note however that each function’s docs page has an individual “arduino compatibility” section as appropriate. here’s an example.

Maple uses an Arduino IDE for that doesn’t support AVR anymore. Microchip’s chipKIT went the other way and hacked the original Arduino IDE to be multiplatform. It’s possible to add a new platfrom like Maple to the updated ‘official’ Arduino IDE. Will you try to integrate the Maple with it, or do you plan to stick with your own IDE?

Didn’t have the resources to make it multi-platform when starting. There are plans to merge it into the trunk.

Maple Mini is the new board. Would you like to plug that?

Sold out right away. Simple bread board design with enough room on the sides to still fit wires in the breadboard. 11-12bit analog performance on a 4 layer board.

What is coming from LeafLabs in the future?

Hobby line: Maple OAK – Processor + FPGA + SDRAM. 16bit parallel interface between processor and FPGA. Spartan III FPGA. ETA: couple months.

Consulting: Dogfood own projects on consulting work to test own stuff. Keep IP for open source libraries.

Lala land: Willow – dual code processor with Linux, Spartan 6. Intended as robotics platform. March 2012.

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Comments

  1. Kevin G. Rhoads says:

    Have had LeafLabs do some work for us. Very pleased with quality and timeliness.

    Strongly recommended.

  2. jone says:

    Nice interview, thanks.

    I’d been thinking of buying an ARM dev board for a while, just for messing around.

    But, happy with 8 bit AVR’s, I wasn’t looking forward to getting stuck into a whole new world of device initialisation & peripherals. Checked out the libmaple library while listening & looks really clean.

    Just ordered a mini from seeed. ;)

  3. Frank says:

    Cool, I see this as a “half-way point” between the mbed and Arduino, in terms of capability and price.

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