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Develop embedded systems for free

20 Aug 2014  | Max Maxfield

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My chum Bob Zeidman, president of Zeidman Technologies, is always involved in something interesting. Some time ago, for example, he told me about SynthOS. This little scamp can automatically generate an RTOS (real-time operating system)—for use on an FPGA, MCU, or SoC—that is optimised and tuned to your particular requirements.

Bob tells me that the resulting RTOS, which he calls an application-specific operating system (ASOS), boasts strengthened security, increased reliability, and a minimised memory footprint, all of which are critical to devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

The clever thing is that the synthesised ASOS is optimised for the applications running on top of it. According to Bob:

There is no need for the developer to worry about things like setting semaphores, mutexes, or priority flags, and no need to create task context blocks, message queues, or task mailboxes—these are all handled automatically. Furthermore, the developer doesn't need to worry about race conditions, deadlocks, processor hogging, or un-serviced tasks, because—in addition to being optimised for speed, size, and security—the resulting ASOS is correct-by-design.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that SynthOS is now available for free at www.SynthOSonline.com. I asked Bob if he could tell me a little more about this, and he responded with a "Top 10" list as follows:

  1. SynthOS is an innovative new tool for the rapid development of embedded systems. SynthOS automatically "synthesises" an application-specific operating system (ASOS) that is optimised for your application. By leveraging patented algorithms and utilising a higher level of software coding, SynthOS creates an ASOS with an extremely small footprint. SynthOS has a very small learning curve; it greatly improves reliability; and it reduces development time and debug time by eliminating race conditions and other hazards before the code is even compiled.

  2. It's now available online for free at www.SynthOSonline.com. Both non-commercial and commercial uses are 100 per cent free for the foreseeable future. We will, however, charge companies for processor-specific versions of SynthOS, for installing it at their facility, and for priority support.

  3. There's a very short learning curve; SynthOS requires the knowledge of only five primitives rather than over 100 APIs as with many RTOSs.

  4. It allows a faster time to market because of the short learning curve. Plus, the OS is correct by design, thereby cutting down debug time.

  5. SynthOS creates a very small footprint OS. Some of our demos have an ASOS of less than 1KB. This means you can squeeze entire systems onto an FPGA or SoC without external memory.

  6. It's low power because it can run on a minimal processor that doesn't need memory management hardware, context switching hardware, and other hardware to support the OS. The OS support is done in the ASOS code.

  7. It lowers hardware costs because you can now put multi-tasking systems on simple, cheap, 8bit and even 4bit processors without external memory chips.

  8. Your system is portable to new processors because it doesn't rely on specific processor hardware for supporting the OS.

  9. Because of all these reasons, ASOSs generated by SynthOS are great for the Internet of Things (IoT). Lots of designers are putting processors into devices that never had them before (e.g., toasters, thermostats, light bulbs, home alarms). Manufacturers can't afford to train all their engineers in the details of RTOSs. This way, every programmer can create an optimised RTOS at the push of a button. The resulting ASOS will be fast, have a small memory footprint, consume little power, and run on any processor with a C compiler (which is almost every processor we're aware of).

  10. Every good list should have 10 points, so I added this one. I'll think of something else to say eventually.

Well, call me "old-fashioned" if you will, but this sounds like a bargain if ever I heard of one. The code I create for most of my hobby projects (which run pretty simple in the scheme of things) runs on the "bare metal" processor. However, now I'm wondering if any of my projects could benefit from running under an RTOS, in which case I think the SynthOS website may expect me to be paying a visit. In the meantime, if you decide to take a look at SynthOS yourself, it would be great if you could share your experiences with the rest of us in the comments below.




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