PIC alternatives?

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PIC alternatives?

Postby FlyMan » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:46 pm

Although I have invested thousand of hours in the past on PIC development and I have recently bought several Microchip products, I can't stand the company's policy with the non-existent official support in the forums which I perceive it as zero customer respect, or incredible corporate stupidity.

The kind of stupidity that could be included in the next version of this book (a must-read BTW):

Image

"In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters"

So, do you think there are serious alternatives to PIC (especially alternatives to PIC32) from a company that:
1. respects her customers (official forum support and/or ...at least one moderator to "approve" posts)
2. I'd even consider more powerful chips like those used in cellphones, raspberry Pi etc. although the last time I checked I couldn't fine anyone selling them,
3. provided there is a low cost programmer, assembler.

And BTW, who else is licensing MIPs cores for their MCUs?
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby AussieSusan » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:45 am

Not sure how extensively you have searched but there are a number of other suppliers such as ST Micro, Cypress, TI...
Many of these are ARM based MCUs and so generally are 32-bit (some 64-bit).
As for low cost programmers, there are probably heaps but that may depend on the MCU you select. Many of the ones from ST and Cypress can use JTAG for programming as well as SWD.
For assemblers, look to the GCC collection which are free. I have used devices from ST and Cypress and they provide a free IDE and compiler (GCC-based) as I almost exclusively program in C, although that C typically gets compiled to assembler and then to binary so assemblers are certainly available.
For other manufactures of MIPS MCUs, Google found https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_M ... processors very quickly.
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby KTrenholm » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:49 pm

I've started using the Cypress PSoC devices over the past couple years and I've been pretty impressed with them. It's definitely easier to get up and running than using a PIC32 with Harmony from what I've found. The PSoC gimmick is that the MCU is an ARM code with programmable analog and digital hardware space inside (like an FPGA). You connect and configure the components through a GUI (almost like laying a schematic out). It generates the HDL and interface for your components and gives you an API to work with in your C code.

Maybe not perfect for every application, especially if you really like getting your hands dirty in the registers, but it's really nice to be able to just lay out whatever components I may need, and just put them out to nearly any pin I want. It's been a real godsend in some situations like "We need this output to come out of a different pin!" or "We need to invert this input" because you can do it through hardware rather than software. It's nifty.

I recently built a PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse to USB HID adapter with it, here's a page of it:
PS2toUSB.PNG
PS2toUSB.PNG (66.68 KiB) Viewed 871 times
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby FlyMan » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:14 pm

@AussieSusan
Thanks for the pointers Susan, I thought I should ask in case someone has some experience with alternatives.

I particularly like the STM32H753ZIT6 -very powerful with lots of RAM and peripherals and if I'm not mistaken it can be programmed with a fast $35 programmer (STLINK-V3SET).
I also like STM's support with actual engineer employees on the forums(!) -night and day vs a moderator who is visiting the Microchip forum once a month or so...

It's actually very easy for me to switch to another company as I haven't invested time in 32bit development yet (coming from 8-bit in the past), but I've made some recent purchases, so I'll give PIC32 a try first (as everything is ready) and I'll keep an eye on that awesome STM ones to make the switch if I need more power or for whatever reason...

**EDIT:**
BTW, I don't see any new MIPS32 processors being created in that WIKI link... all of them are old. On the other hand, most recent processors are ARM based, incl. those on cellphones.
That probably says something about the future of PIC32 and MIPS in general.
Also I don't see any new revisions from Microchip to correct errata eg the PIC32 I'm going to use was supposed to have an on-chip 32.768khz XTAL oscillator, but it doesn't work, so I have to use an external oscilator... Is it so costly to make a chip revision and correct such unjustified errata?

@KTrenholm
Those Cypress PSoC seem interesting, thanks, but their dual-core ones only come in rather difficult to solder packages with ball pins (or easier to fry) -have you tried to solder one using a hot air station?
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby KTrenholm » Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:38 pm

I've never used one of the PSoC 6 series, I mainly use the 5 series. We tend to stick to QFP/QFN packages for micros rather than using BGA/CSP (since you can't really inspect the solder job of a BGA package without an x-ray machine) so I've never soldered one. They do have a couple PSoC 6 options in QFP though.
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby AussieSusan » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:42 am

It all depends on what you are trying to achieve.
I tend to buy the PSOC (3, 5 and 6) kits as they often come with a number of peripherals already on board, and also breakout pins. They are good enough for the initial 'playing' that I want to do and, if I get serious about using a device for one of my circuits, then I start to consider MCUs that are 'just the right size' and (in the past at least) these have ended to be SMD hand solderable.
Same goes for the STM32 devices.
On the other hand, if this is for commercial devices then BGA should not be a problem as you are probably getting a plant to do the PCB making and part soldering. (Something similar might apply to small 'sample' runs with some manufacturers.)
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby KTrenholm » Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:28 pm

The kits are quite good. I have the CY8CKIT-050 which has some peripheral hardware onboard as well as a small breadboard area which lets me prototype all sorts of stuff.

I also keep a couple CY8CKIT-059 kits on hand at all times which are only $10 (USD) and a are basically a chip, a button, an LED, and some headers on the edges for I/O access. Programmer/Debugger is included on the PCB and can actually be snapped off the board. Really useful for getting a proof of concept or small project up an running.
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby FlyMan » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:05 pm

AussieSusan wrote:It all depends on what you are trying to achieve.
I tend to buy the PSOC (3, 5 and 6) kits as they often come with a number of peripherals already on board, and also breakout pins. They are good enough for the initial 'playing' that I want to do and, if I get serious about using a device for one of my circuits, then I start to consider MCUs that are 'just the right size' and (in the past at least) these have ended to be SMD hand solderable.
Same goes for the STM32 devices.
On the other hand, if this is for commercial devices then BGA should not be a problem as you are probably getting a plant to do the PCB making and part soldering. (Something similar might apply to small 'sample' runs with some manufacturers.)
Susan

Currently I'm doing an original research in my spare time (theory->practice) which requires a lot of experimentation, but I don't know what the final CPU power and memory demands will be so I need to select a powerful MCU in order to start low and expand as it goes, using the same chip as long as possible, so that every bit of my effort builds on top of the previous one -to maximize development efficiency.

I also prefer to invest in a technology that has a future, and avoid completely changing the architecture and programming instructions (especially if I'll keep using assembly).
Which is why I (still) have trouble deciding to invest in the recently purchased 32-bit pics + the programmer + the days I spent to collect the documents and make the initial wiring on the breadboard, vs ditching everything and choosing another company more supporting and a technology more established and future-proof: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Smartphon ... 513.0.html

That ST seems a perfect candidate, it also has 144 pins at 0.5 pitch qfp (I recently managed to perfectly and safely solder a pic32mk at 64 pins and 0.5 pitch for the first time using just an iron on a schmartboard 64-pin qfp to DIP adapter), but I saw that the 208pin qfp version of that ST has the same pitch -and price and more port pins. But I'll have to make my own prototype board if I choose to use any of those to save $480 as I also happen to have a better and larger res display than the one incl. on the dev board.

Of course for commercial use one needs to deeply optimize and use the "right size" for everything, but even then, (if I had a choice), I wouldn't chose BGA as that would increase the cost of repairing such boards.


KTrenholm wrote:I also keep a couple CY8CKIT-059 kits on hand at all times which are only $10 (USD) and a are basically a chip, a button, an LED, and some headers on the edges for I/O access. Programmer/Debugger is included on the PCB and can actually be snapped off the board. Really useful for getting a proof of concept or small project up an running.
I wish more companies made such simple kits. I prefer to expand on breadboards and change hardware at will during development.
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby FlyMan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:48 pm

I finally made up my mind: I ordered the NUCLEO-H743ZI dev board which has the same powerful STM32 chip minus the CRYPTO acceleration (which I won't need for a long time -and I can always replace the chip), PLUS an embedded programmer and it only costs $24 (it can take a number of add-on cards although personally I won't need any of them).

It was too-cheap-to-resist: the MCU itself costs as much as the whole board with the programmer, so I actually ordered 2 of them from mouser for my project, and they run out fast, last night they were 12, today only 6 are left!

Thanks for the help! :)
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Re: PIC alternatives?

Postby AussieSusan » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:57 am

I found the Eclipse IDE setup a bit of a trick with the STMicro devices but it works well once you have it all set up. You can get some (to my mind) rather misleading error messages when this are not 'just right'.
On the other hand, there are a number of user support groups that can help you get things sorted out.
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