August 03, 2013 @ 00:44 EDT

Freescale vs ST-Micro

Tonight I tried downloading the documentation and sample source code for both Freescale's KL25Z "Freedom" board and ST-Micro's STM32F4 "Discovery" board.

STM's site has its navigational quirks, but all documentation and standard peripheral librares were readily available, with no registration, no hoops, no fuss. Everything I need to build a sample project with four different toolchains is now saved on my workstation.

Freescale's site was better organized, and easier to find information, but they take a very different philosophy when it comes to actually obtaining what you were looking for. First, you have to register, supply a ton of information, and agree to a clickthrough license that basically states you may not actually be allowed to do anything with the code you're downloading.

To top that all off, as I type this their site's CDN is basically shot. All downloads are glacially slow, with occasional bursts of 4-8KB of data followed by the connections dropping. Even the documentation download wasn't working.

Then they don't have any simple standalone development tools; instead you're stuck either downloading a quarter-gig customized Eclipse package (aka "Procesor Expert Software, Microcontroller Driver Suite").

Assuming I ever get this stuff downloaded, in order to get what I want (namely the CMSIS and peripheral library definitions their MCUs require) I'm going to have to do some serious spelunking since my goal is to use GNU toolchains to create a codebase that isn't completely tied to a single MCU vendor. Or hack, a single MCU from a single vendor, which is what the Processor Export suite seems to accomplish.

No wonder ARM is trying to push the mbed platform; Despite ARM's earlier efforts to standardize ARM MCU programming with CMSIS, Freescale aptly demonstrates the penchance of MCU vendors to shoot themselves in both left feet. mbed standardizes things at a much higher level, effectively abstracting out (and therefore commoditizing) the entire MCU, even the I/Os, generic peripherals, and more esoteric things like clock setup.

Freescale, you have failed. For all your talk of your "freedom" platform, you're doing a piss-poor job of enabling someone to do, well, anything useful with your hardware. (This is especially true for experienced MCU developers!)

In contrast, STM does a pretty good job here; they provide a full standalone peripheral library, including sample applications to drive each peripheral that tie into several different toolchains. They also provide several full-up applications and link to 3rd-party samples, including ensuring that FreeRTOS has first-class support for their parts.

Anyway. Time for bed. Maybe I'll actually get a hello world project generated for the STM32F4 tomorrow. It's obvious that the KL25Z is going to take a lot more work, and I'm beginning to not care enough to put forth the effort.

Posted by Solomon Peachy | Permanent link & Comments | File under: Free Software