12.0 beta release - xTIMEcomposer Studio & xSOFTip Explorer

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XMatt
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12.0 beta release - xTIMEcomposer Studio & xSOFTip Explorer

Postby XMatt » Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:23 am

We have two major releases to announce today:

- xTIMEcomposer Studio - this is version 12.0 of the XMOS development tools.

It's faster (on both host and target) and more efficient due to the first release of the XC compiler based on LLVM and contains many improvements including the integration of xSOFTip.

- xSOFTip Explorer

This is a new tool designed to help users explore different designs and the XMOS xSOFTip catalog.

All feedback would be welcome.
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Folknology
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Postby Folknology » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:56 am

Well it looks very nice after a quick peruse through the new site (although the video didn't work for some reason). However I am personally much more a command line developer (except for electronics cad) but I do like the idea of a better/faster compiler so I will leave the new GUI stuff for others to comment on. I am presuming we can still use the command line tools as usual? Are there any new features or changes to the actually language support with the compiler changes that we should know about? Any new or removed features and or pragmas. Also given this change to the XC compiler will that now mean you guys will make good on the intention to opensource it? I would also assume this completes the divorce with GCC so those parts are not required or included, is this the case or is there still a fight over who owns the CD albums? Has the XC user guide been updated to reflect the changes or are we still relying on the original version as an XC introduction. I had kind of gotten use to finding the more detailed parts of documentation with the old Xmos site and am completely lost as far as Docs go with the new one, any tips to finding the detailed (none pdf knowledge based stuff).

regards
Al
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XMatt
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Postby XMatt » Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:41 pm

Yes you can still use the command line tools as before, lots of people prefer using them for development so they will always be supported.

As far as the changes go for this release and LLVM you can see the release notes and compatibility issues here with regards to changes from 11.11.1 here https://www.xmos.com/files/releaseNotes_12.0.0beta.txt
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Bianco
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Postby Bianco » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:05 pm

It looks like having a registration key is now mandatory to use the xTIME Composer Studio.
Command line tools do not require a key.
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Folknology
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Postby Folknology » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:45 pm

Ok I know I don't use the GUI tools, but was curious about what xSoftip actually was, partly because of the name, see below and partly because it was separated as a product. As it was a separate download and the site was back up I figured I would take a peek, so here is a few thoughts:

I was a bit surprised when I ran the stand alone download as is it seemed to run eclipse rather than its own application which is probably why it was bigger than expected. Clearly its quite cool to be able to drag and drop various modules and see the resulting resource usage in a simple format, but I did wonder who it was aimed at. For an engineer they would already have this information as soon as they issue 'Make' or build in the IDE, and getting the modules is simple as 'git clone https://github.com/xcore/sc_xxx.git'. Also given its standalone nature I would imagine it is designed for folks that don't yet have tools installed who maybe looking at using Xmos to solve a given problem (perhaps applications folk rather than just engineers). Thus I am therefore a little surprised that this wasn't a web based tool that integrated into Xmos.com rather than asking potential customers to download an entire eclipse application in order to see what they need for a given job. Making it an application download surely places an obstacle in the path of any potential customer? Also I noticed its recommendations, based on resources, seem to assume an L1 with 128 pins, clearly this excludes the use of 64 and 48 pin variants (the ones I use most). I also notice that it doesn't seem to recommend SU parts when USB is added which is puzzling. If this were web based it could take a potential customer directly to the appropriate products matching resources required without downloading anything.I don't quite understand the criteria for which modules are and are not included for example I couldn't locate the android usb module although there were experimental modules for example, perhaps some clarification on this would be helpful. I am also a bit worried about the terms being used here, 'thread' appears to have been replaced by 'core' and as such an L1 is represented as an 8 core device which seems a little dishonest or deceptive to me, maybe that's just my perception but I am a little worried about this repositioning and the confusion it could lead too, I would love to hear Xmos's position and justification on this to really help explain it a bit more. I also worry about using the term 'IP' so readily both in documentation and naming, given that the so called IP in question is in fact the github xcore module repository, which represent an opensource commons, or at least last time I looked that was the case. IP as in intellectual Property is clearly at odds with the idea of opensource shared commons, I am guessing this is just a naive marketing mistake and the irony of an opensoure commons IP will be resolved using more appropriate terms by someone more informed.

Anyhow just my first thoughts, what do others here think of xSoftip?

regards
Al
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ahenshaw
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Postby ahenshaw » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:09 pm

According to an article on EETimes:
Still downloadable at present the vision is to have xSOFTip as a web-based design entry tool, said Ali Dixon, co-founder and director of product management at XMOS.
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Folknology
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Postby Folknology » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:52 pm

Oh that's excellent news, do you have a link to the article perchance

*Updaete Thanks, found the article actually adds a bit more to what Xmos is thinking which is nice.

regards
Al
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dan
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Postby dan » Sun Oct 21, 2012 11:11 am

Just to clarify regarding xSOFTip licensing, if you download any of the xSOFTip zipfiles from xmos.com then you should find a LICENSE.txt which clarifies the licensing situation. For example, goto resources->xSOFTip on the website and then find the Generic Uart Receiver item and download it and check the license. This should confirm that the item is licensed under the normal XMOS open source license.

Additionally, all the items we have worked on, developed and directly support in xSOFTip are shown with the "block" icon. This is our IP we have created which we license under the normal open source terms and offer explicit support for. Items that refer to github directly (e.g. the Keyboard peripheral) are shown with the opensource icon (three people).

There is lots of stuff XMOS has developed on github.com/xcore that should make it to xSOFTip in the fullness of time when suitable documentation, demo apps and so on have been developed. That's why we established the 'Roadmap Component' category.

This branding differentiation is important, because our customers need to know what parts of the very extensive open source codebase that is out there that they can use for their designs and be confident that they will receive full support from XMOS.
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Folknology
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Postby Folknology » Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:23 pm

Thanks for your response Dan it does clarify things a little more, however I think Xmos maybe under valuing their hand here, perhaps an explanation is in order:

My main gripe in this instance is that for whatever reasons marketing, politics or just naivety is that Xmos is coming to the market with this new approach and yet leaving a great deal of value on the boardroom table, in other words Xmos are not playing too their real strengths. Maybe its even a confidence issue and what we are seeing is the result of compromise rather than the full turn it up to 11 plan which got knocked down as too risky.

As I am sure you know I have pushed as hard as possible to get Xmos to use the power of opensource, I (and others inside/outside of Xmos) believe it is the ultimate combination for soft hardware the XS1 architecture, combined with its growing commons could show a new and better way forward contrasted to the incumbent closed source IP centric ecosystem of Microcontrollers and FPGAs.

That is why I am disappointed with the terms and approach represented by 'xSOFTip', I have no issue the with licensing and fully expected that to be as is with the commons, my issues here are more about how the value of that commons is being represented or rather that it is in fact being misrepresented. The term IP (Intellectual Property) is commonly used in our industry by those on the closed proprietary side (the darkside) to wrap up and hide code value using means of scarcity. Contrast this to the opensource code which attributes value to the commons, sharing and collaboration the very antithesis of scarcity. An opensource commons IP is in fact an unintentional Oxymoron, property is a reciprocal of commons, open is the opposite of closed or restricted. Thus by using 'IP' frequently in you marketing and documentation as well as name of 'xSOFTip' You are in fact subtracting value rather than adding to it. We know this because a commons is better and more valuable than property it is also much more efficient, Xmos have already made that decision loud and clear by their previous actions which have been applauded by the community. I therefore think that maybe Xmos is just lacking a little courage to go out there and shout about this, as it is one of its key strategic advantages. Playing into the closed source 'IP' encumbered turf reduces the value of your offering and plays into your competitors hands, Xmos should be playing at home not away when they have the choice.

One of the key mistakes I believe Xmos is making here is thinking product rather than service. It is common for opensource businesses (certainly in software) to provide service as the value, often this value is support, but it can also be community and other services. Xmos by misrepresenting its commons value as a product 'xSoftip' rather than as a truly valuable service offering of support and community is underating its value and potential. It is also providing a confused message by combining open and closed terms in ways that are not appropriate and lead to misunderstanding of Xmos's real value. Perhaps if Xmos could turn this into a web application and service you would then treat it as such and perhaps also loose the confusing IP references and contradictions. I for one hope Xmos can be brave and take the risk and really turn this strategy up to the 11 it deserves.

I am writing this because I do care about Xmos and it's commons, I also see Xmos as one of the few bright lights in this industry doing the right thing. What does everyone else thing about xSoftip its positioning and the Xmos commons?

regards
Al
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Postby Heater » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:51 pm

Well, "IP" stands for "Intelectual Property" and is a term that grew up to refere to all that stuff you create or invent that you want to exploit for profit and prevent other people doing so. That is to say you want to "own" it, for it to be your "property". To this end we have copyright, patent and trademark law to enforce the exclusive "ownership" part of that idea.

This term has been widely used to refere to the creations of those who design logic blocks for silcon chips, ASICs, FPGA's and such. They design their logic blocks and have a an "IP" portfolio that you can license for use in your own designs. The classic case of this is the ARM processor core, a purely IP product.

As such it is natural to adopt the term "IP" for the software blocks you can design for the xcore that would otherwise be hardware designs in VHDL or whatever.

This looks like an attempt to ring bells in the mind of ASIC and FPGA users. To make the connection that they can design such things in software rather than hardware. Hence xSOFTip.

This of course rings all the wrong bells in the minds of people who see the importance of free and opensouce software, where the notion that anything "intellectual" can be "property" is absurd. Clearly free and opensource is the way to go for anything provided by XMOS. it adds value to their silcon.

So we have:
1) "ip" which is logically absurd to many already.
2) "SOFTip" which tries to indicate this is a software implementation not hardware.
3) "xSOFTip" just to add that marketing lick and make it look ungainly.

None of which projects into the vast space of the modern worlds free and opensource mind set. Shame.

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