freeSoC PSoC dev board

The freeSoC is a Programmable System on Chip (PSoC) based development board currently being developed by Jon Moeller, a student at Texas A & M University. Freesoc uses the PSoC5 chip from Cypress Semiconductors, which is supported by their free, full-featured PSoC Creator IDE. These programmable logic devices are really amazing and are definitely worth considering by anyone who wants to move up from the hardware limitations of either a MCU or Arduino to a programmable logic platform without losing the advantage of programming in C or having IP libraries included with the IDE.

The Freesoc project has been fully funded via Kickstarter.

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  1. Can someone explain me what is free (in the freedom sense) about this thing ?
    It’s all about using bloated proprietary, windows-only, software in order to program proprietary hardware.
    Even worse, the kickstarter page maintains the confusion between “free of charge” and “open source” software/hardware all along : there is a paragraph named “Free Software” which tells you that you can download the software for free just after a section called “Open Hardware”.

  2. Yes, I have to agree with Grapsus.

    Open hardware here seems to refer to the fact that the schematic and gerbers are available, but the fact that a PSoC chip is used does not feel very “open” (at least for the experience I got when using psoc systems).

    And I specially dislike the “Hardware multiply and divide operations ensure you’ll never be limited by your microcontroller’s capabilities.” In arduino-class embedded controllers. wtf is this nonsense marketing pitch?

    Final remark: “Don’t waste your time reading the USB spec, just drag and drop and you’re done.” That does not feel very educative. For me open hardware has always been tinkering, breaking open, and discovering, not using closed black boxes for the sake of simplicity.

    All of this is just a new confusion between open hardware and DIY…

    1. I agree with you when you say that it missleds you when he mentions “Free software” he should note that it is “free as in free beer”.

      But why would the fact that it uses a PSOC rather than a ATMEGA make it less “open hardware” ? in the arduino you are ultimatelly using a closed uC design anyway.

      Also, if you ever use a PSOC you will easily understand what “not being limited by your microcontroller capabilities” means.

      With a PSOC if “how USB works” is not your thing and you are more interested in using it on your application, then you don’t need to understand it you just use a module and an API. It is just like when an Arduino user doesn’t care about I2C timings and just uses the api calls. The big difference being that with a PSOC if “how [something] works” is your thing, then you can even peek at even the logic gates level. You could even build your own hardware implementation inside the chip if you have the skills required. How deep you dig into the details is your choise.

      1. 15 min of google searching convinced me that either any open source alternative to the proprietary psoc creator software is very well hidden or does not exist at all.

        the provided ide may be free as beer and user friendly, the unavailability of any third party development kit makes all of this ecosystem outside of the open world.

        if I want to design a psoc system, I guess that I won’t be able to use a, say, xml description in a raw text file, and build that with a makefile on any linux-ish machine without any graphical resource.

        don’t talk to me about the ARM core, I’m talking about what makes a psoc, a psoc, e.g. the configurable hardware blocks.

      2. @openmakerdaily
        it does not exist at all. It is a fine piece of software that has taken a lot of effort to put thogether. But nothing stops you from building one yourself.

        after all, if you want to configure the PSOC without any IDE or just a XML file you can do it by issuing standard JTAG commands from any Unix-ish machine. All the registers are well documented in the reference material.

        But most probably what you want is to have everything done for you already. One of the things I hate the most about the Arduino legacy is that mindset that it has created on newcommers that expect to have everything done for them. They expect to get all the open tools without making any effort to build one. I wonder why they won’t ask to have all of the other components to be open, there has been open cores already since SUN released it’s complete risc core several years ago, but they will insist in doing a trade off when it comes to using a closed uc and come strong expecting to have only certain software open.

      3. @Zeta , October 17: I’ll suppose that this “they” does not include me, as I was not expecting any tool being made for me, or to exist off-the-shelf…

        If the documentation is available, complete and usable, that’s fine for me.
        I guess the command line tool will emerge as the need arises, but for the moment, there may be no such need…

        That said, I will try tp stay wise and not use what I don’t like :)

  3. Sure the chip isn’t really open but neither are a lot of cutting edge micros and GPU’s. If you don’t like it because it doesn’t fit your ideology then don’t use it.

    That said, it’s a nice board and I think it will sell well. The PSOC5 is a interesting micro that can find a lot of use among hobbyists. And the development system is nice. Not everyone has the skill the to create virtual peripherals in assembly language.

    Now if a person wants to create virtual peripherals in software with no hand holding. I suggest the Parallax Propeller. You can get going for under $30.00. It’s a versatile micro. Also you can it in DIP40 package.

  4. I’m curious what part of PSoC is the not open part? The IDE is closed source, and I guess the warp-verilog compiler is closed.
    I thought hardware multiply and divide was an instruction in all M3 processors. On the psoc there is additional filter hardware that has hardware MAC (and if you like you can program it in assembly–some strange VLIW mini DSP like thing)
    The underlying code for most peripherals is provided, it’s mostly verilog with C access functions, some assembly too prob.
    Personally I like the breadboard like feel to the IDE. a circuit does not work, why then I rip up wires and plug differently. I also prefer not to deal with configuring peripherals by setting bits in registers.

  5. Not only is the PSoc closed and windows only, I know more about their product than their tech support team. Their tech support is from India, and mostly give wrong answers.

    At least with the other manufacturers out there, they at least have cross-platform support.

    Also, their auto-gen code is bloated and strewn with while (wait on bit){ do nothing}, so most of their code needs to be re-written. Also, USB is all in software, so it really slows the CPU down. Their hardware fitter is an all or nothing, so if you make local changes, the fitter blows them all away when it runs. The IDE is great for high school students who are just starting out, but if you do anything ‘out of the box’, it will either not work or you will spend hours working around the IDE. I have had to write scripts and programs to manage code, and it still doesn’t work well.

    They have a piece of software that generates a hex file – but it can’t customized, and the hex file is proprietary, AND if you decide to do anything custom with that hex file you will be better off breathing under water. Ask me how I know.

    There is nothing open about Cypress PSoC, it is not hacker-friendly, and does not have any support for cusomization, unless the IDE supports it.

    Stay far away. Stay far, far away.

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