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  • EEVblog #96 – The TI LaunchPad MSP430 Development Board

    Posted on June 24th, 2010 EEVblog 56 comments

    Drive-Time.
    Dave rants randomly about TI’s bold new entry into the hobby/hacker/maker market with the $4.30 MSP-EXP430G2 Evaluation Board, and what it’s got to do with the Arduino.


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    56 responses to “EEVblog #96 – The TI LaunchPad MSP430 Development Board” RSS icon

    • I don’t think it would be a smart choice to use a non-standard spaced headers. And Arduino designers messed that one up.

      Also Arduino libraries are its main selling point, majority of hobbyists are not attracted to pure C.

      I think TI is targetting potential future engineers (e.g. students).

    • All technical drawbacks are pretty much irrelevant. They are essentially giving away boards at 5 bucks a pop. And it’s brilliant. Hats off to them and I can only hope that others have the impetus to offer bottom of the barrel prices on their dev kits.

    • Hi,

      You talked about making it compatible with Arduino shields.

      That’s ok, but an Arduino has 14 digital io pins (some of those PWM), 6 analog in pins. Those TI micros aren’t guaranteed to have even 1 analog in, so most shield wouldn’t work at all causing confusion on all those who are starting now.

      I think it was a safer option for TI to choose their own design, and new shields could be design for the Launchpad too.

    • Interesting take. I remember thinking similar things about Freescale parts i thought were good contenders against popular hobbyist uC’s like the at2313 and pic16f84. But Freescale never seemed interested in hobbyist/hacker markets.

      Is shipping free to AUS? the TI wiki page forwarded me to au.mouser and it looked like it was going to ask me for $39 shipping and it was going to be backorder. I’ll try again tomorrow.

      I don’t much like the pin header shield scheme used by Arduino but i take your point about using already established uC accessories.

      I’ve used free demo/eval boards for uC’s that never caught on like wildfire. Free or affordable demo/evals won’t always mean it’ll be a winner. Sales/Marketing will get a bonus if you at least remember the name.

      Now that the Renesas/NEC merger is complete I wonder if Renesas will push into these markets as well. Will more competition be good for the consumers here? I hope so.

      I think it can’t be understated that part of Arduino’s popularity has to do with a free, easy to get into, cross platform compiler/IDE (even if it is a bit featureless but that’s probably intentional?)& easy connection to the PC.
      Incedentally i think one other part is that the uC’s offered for Arduino have RAM,ROM and peripherals to burn.

      The core business (no pun intended) of silicon vendors in my opinion should be silicon. To that end they should put effort into free compilers/IDEs/debuggers. Sorry if IAR and others then have to find something else to do but that’s the way i feel. By the way i’m not talking about crippled/limited packages.

      JD

      • Just to be clear, my point about free tools and the business of silicon vendors being silicon is i think they should try to make their money off the silicon instead of trying to make money off tools.

        • Just to be clear, my point about free tools and the business of silicon vendors being silicon is i think they should try to make their money off the silicon instead of trying to make money off tools.

          CEO Steve Sanghi had an interesting take on “free” tools. Even as CEO he admitted that in large corporations like that it’s hard to keep divisions alive that do not produce revenue. If a division is not making money then it’s hard to keep the financial sharks at bay in shutting it down. That is why Microchip do not make all their tools at giveaway prices or free.
          Dave.

    • The smt form factor is actually kind of nice if you are wanting to use this in a *small as possible* low power device. It makes for some interesting tiny projects if you know how to solder that stuff under a microscope (I do). How about a universal TV remote (turns any TV on or off) embedded in a ballpoint pen. Could be amusing.

    • Unboxing my ass!!!!!! hahahahahahahahaahahahah awesome!!!!!!! Keep up the good work Dave!

    • If you can’t get the TI, there is the STM8-discovery in the same price range.

    • TI did this a few years ago. Came out with an entry level product based on 430 that had the form factor of a USB drive. USB connector on the board, no cable needed.
      Then they came out with that watch. I don’t think so.

      What they didn’t get right that time or this is the pin count. Look at how many people want to stack multiple shields, and how many designers make shields that use them all (yes, I’m talking about you, Motor Shield 1.0). Sure, I want to use shields for ease of development, but I also want a few pins free for my additions.

      I don’t want a cute little board that has 10 GPIO pins, I want at least 40. I don’t want one UART, I want three. Why? Because the *other* standard that everyone is standardizing on is TTL Serial.

      But then again, I think Arduino realized that their 28pin device wasn’t enough, and that’s why we saw the Mega product.

      Bryan

    • HELLO!!! Not Arduino’s *proprietary* headers because it is *standard* .1 inch spacing.

      No Arduino shield, but every protoboard and breadboard.

      Come on, TI made a very good decision on this and they weren’t just shying away from confronting the Arduino.

      • Hello, but it would have been a trivial and zero cost option to provide two sets of header holes. One Shield compatible for those that want to make use of existing boards and those who want the 0.1″ pitch. Zero downside, only upside.
        They did not make a very good decision when you can add value and upside like that for free. They may not have even thought it through at all.

        Dave.

      • Each Arduino header is standard 100mil, but the headers as such are not all aligned to a 100mil grid.

        Also, using female connectors is a rather unusual, if not stupid idea. The male ones are more robust, and you always put the more robust part of a connection on the more valuable, more difficult to change side of a connection, the main board. Not on cheaper, easier to replace periphery or cables.

        All in all, I always thought the original Arduino PCB layout is rather stupid and amateurish. Unfortunately, they didn’t fix many of the issues over time.

        E.g. they have only three mounting hole, so if you put it on standoffs it tumbles over on your bench. The ISP header position (which they wrongly call ICSP) does not allow to mount a standard Atmel shrouded header. The shrouded header’s housing conflicts with pin 1 and pin 2 of the atmega. And it conflicts with one of the mounting holes, leaving you with two holes for standoffs only.

        The TI guys didn’t even bother to put mounting holes on the MSP430 LaunchPad. So what’s better? A board tumbling over if you use standoffs, or one where you can’t use any?

        While TI has for sure made errors on the LaunchPad, so did the Arduino people. However, the later now had more than five years time to correct some, but didn’t.

    • I can totally see not using the Arduino shield layout. Like was previously mentioned, Ti’s chips only have 10GPIO (at most, if you use a crystal for the clock, you have 8.) It is kinda cool that the 8 normal GPIOs can all be turned to 10-bit ADC inputs (for the better chip which is included, at least.)

    • I just ordered a PSOC5 eval board from Cypress for a project I am working on. I initially will be using it as part of a temperature controller.

      It looks like it has a nice combination of on chip analog and digital components. Would be curious to know others opinions on this chip.

    • TI didn’t think this through.

      It is a bargain, yes. But if the target group are amateurs and hobbyists they forgot that a good amount of these people are making a point of using Linux and a free (as in freedom) toolchain, not Windows and a free (as in beer) toolchain.

      Offering free trial versions of commercial compilers from the usual suspects, processor manufacturer’s best chummies, with access to proprietary protocol specs, doesn’t cut it for them.

      Open, published protocols for flashing code into the processor, and for debugging, plus a reasonable working open-source C compiler would be a start. Implementations of programming and debugging software, including open source-code, instead of just published protocols, plus a reasonable working open-source C compiler would be even better and would attract a large pool of talent.

      Other manufacturers offering super cheap demo and eval boards felt into that trap before and were surprised that cheap hardware alone didn’t work. The STM8S Discovery was mentioned above. It is such an item. See the poorly frequented discussion forum https://my.st.com/public/STe2ecommunities/mcu/Lists/STM8SDiscovery/AllItems.aspx And for a good laugh read ST’s hardware license, yes, license, were they restrict what you are allowed to do with your own property.

      The hobbyists and amateurs are not like the corporate customers. They want to share, openly discuss, rip apart, break and improve things. At least they want the theoretical possibility to do so. They don’t want pittance from commercial vendors.

      • Den tjocke konsulten

        > Linux and a free (as in freedom) toolchain, not Windows and a free (as in beer) toolchain.

        I think enough people are more interested in getting things done than being OS/OSS religious about everything.

        • Your view is the view of professionals who like to get spoon feed.

          Hacker, tinkerer, hobbyists, amateurs, and the like, often have a different view. Am I allowed to take it apart, learn from it, change it, abuse it for something else, and have some fun with it? Because for many it is not about getting things done.

          You felt into the same trap TI felt. And in which ST felt with their hardware license.

          This has nothing to do with OS religious wars. Your claim is just a rather boring discussion stopper. Same like the “free software is communism” argument. Boring, unimaginative, and wrong.

          • I’ve been using Linux since Slackware 0.x back in the early 90s, and I’ve used many distros over the years. I used to spend (waste) a lot of time worrying about what OS I was running, but finally I got over it. I use the OS that allows me to reach my goal in the least amount of time. Every time I’ve tried to move to Linux as my primary desktop OS, I wind up blowing a couple of weeks worth of time and getting about 95% there. But in the end, even though I have several friends on call that are very advanced Linux users, there are always a couple of things that I simply can’t do in Linux, because the software just isn’t available.

            These are not things that are common; for many people I know that Linux would work great, but it just isn’t a solution for some people. I still wind up with Windows on my desktop. And there wasn’t really anything I could do in Linux that I couldn’t do in Windows (though sometimes it wasn’t as easy) but the reverse was not the case. Given all that, why bother with Linux?

            Does TI’s IDE not run under WINE, BTW? A lot of stuff runs great under WINE – in fact I found that some software runs BETTER under WINE than under Windows 7.

        • Looks to me like a lot of words to make the lawyers happy. So if someone does use the demo-board in an end product and it goes explody then ST’s lawyers can point to the “Agreement” and not waste a bunch of money on litigation. The other half of the document says don’t put it in the trash can, also to make lawyers happy. But are the lawyers ever really happy? Maybe its all just to make them less pissed off.

          • The main goal of a company is to make the owners happy. Do do so, a company has to make a decision. Do I want to make the lawyers happy or the customers? The customers are typically the ones that have the money. Instead making the lawyers happy isn’t clever.

            Maybe ST’s lawyers are happy, but will it work out for them? Does it really prevent litigation? I am not a lawyer, but I could imagine that it could well be that ST’s lawyers would have to explain to a judge why they market to hobbyists (“It will satisfy hobbyists, developers, students and support teams.”) and then have stuff like

            http://www.st.com/mcu/stonline/img/licence_agreement.pdf

            You warrant to ST that the Evaluation Product will be used and managed solely
            and exclusively in a laboratory by skilled professional employees of Yours with
            proven expertise in the use and management of such products and that the
            Evaluation Product shall be used and managed according to the terms and
            conditions set forth in the related documentation provided with the Evaluation
            Product.

            in a license, and why ST thinks that license is in any way enforceable? Starting with their claim of automatic acceptance of the license. And why they claim ownership after you bought the eval board?

    • Someone needs to come out with a (better-than-Arduino) standard bus / form factor that shield-makers and devboards can use. Micro-S100-ish.

      The Maple: 72MHz ARM Cortex M3, 32bit, Arduino Form Factor. Not $4., but more interesting than the TI.

      http://leaflabs.com/devices/maple/

    • Well, yet more BULLSHIT from TI.

      They mention “introductory”, “beginner” and maybe even “student” somewhere, yet you need a CC to buy it! — Most interested people don’t have a credit card… You’re aiming toward cheap people and you demand a CC?

      Obviously, the local store which is registered as an official distributor does NOT stock it and if they did it would cost 10 times more!!

      Digi-key? $40 shipping rate.

      Duck me!

      • There’s no reason not to have a credit card these days, especially if you want to be ordering internationally online. A lot safer than dodgy services like Paypal too.

        Failing that, you can always get a quasi-credit card like a Visa or Mastercard Debit that will be accepted almost anywhere that accepts credit, but without the income/rating requirements of getting credit card approval.

        • I have a project cmoing up where I will want to control a peripheral from an Arduino.Since it is similar to your launcher library ( mostly sending commands, not receiving info), I decided to start there.The board is a CircuitsAtHome 2.0 board.I\’ve installed the USB library and it seems to work the mouse HID routine sends data.The USBHID_desc routine gives me a report OK.I set up your library and example program. It compiled OK.The first time I ran it, the launcher rotated right and stopped. Now it doesn\’t respond at all.The missile launcher is OK, since it runs on a PC with the Thunder program.The program runs OK, I get:StartDevice RunningDevice Running in the monitor window.I have tried it both on a Duemilanove and a Mega.Thoughts on how to continue?

      • This, most definitely. Credit cards are common… wait for it… in the US. They’re rare in EU because of variety of reasons. I know a ton of people with regular jobs who don’t have a credit card. And as for student / hobbyist? There’s some rare scenarios in which you may be able to get one but even then, it’s totally unnecessary around here for paying stuff and all the big online biz accept Electron and Paypal.

        So the “epic fail” for TI is half or more of the target market not being able to purchase it without first getting credit card. Then there’s the 2nd fail of what if you want the better chips that come later. I bet the shipping costs are insane since I doubt these products will be cheaply available in most places.

        Unless they fix both of these issues this Launch will turn into a slow Fall.

    • Electronic Duck

      I just tried using TI’s estore to order the launchpad.

      http://www.ti-estore.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=MSP-EXP430G2

      It went seems to have gone through. Shipping was free.

      • Electronic Duck

        Oh I forgot. My order was to Adelaide and for one unit (I didn’t want to push my luck).

        I would like to know if anyone managed to order more then one unit. If it turns out to be a good board and uC, I may get a few more. :-)

        • From some shipping value onwards your customs will harass you. Staying under the (legal) radar is a good thing.

          My country’s customs especially hates free shipping, regularly assuming a fraud (thanks eBayers …). And then slapping one with customs duties on estimated shipping costs on top of normal duties. Of course, the good government workers they are, they always happen to use the most expensive means of shipping as the base for the estimate.

          This gets especially uglky if shipping is via a carrier like FedEx. Legally they are the importers of the goods, so customs charges them, and they in turn charge you. Of course with a hefty surcharge “for the paperwork”.

          Government and carrier shenanigans together can make great deals rather expensive

    • I think comparing these with Arduinos is a bit off the mark. The ATMega168 is a lot more capable chip than these TI chips – 16kB of Flash, A/D converters, serial IO, etc.

      The TI chips are about comparable to ATTiny2313A (which is incidentally cheaper!) and that is a completely different type of micro …

      I am sure the kit is going to be popular and useful, but it is not in the same league.

      Plus the Atmel chips are using standard tools and compilers available on all platforms (gcc …), not just Windows – a big deal for all the creative types on Macs who love Arduinos.

    • aha!
      MSP430 for 4.30 USD !!
      how clever marketing people are!!

    • Dammit, TI does not ship to my country :(

    • George Graves

      What’s all the hubb-bubb about the headers? Someone will make a “launch pad to arduino shild” adapter. Not more issue.

    • Everyone wants to make accessories which only work with their products. But I don’t want to buy a Data Logging Shield that I can only use with Arduino. I want a standard. Standards make things cheap. Look at what happened to USB: When manufacturers agreed to this standard, everyone built around it. All the peripherals built to use PS/2 connectors, RS232 serial, Parallel ports, etc started using the standard. Why? Because there is economy of scale in buying the components, the end-user can customize the system to their needs, and the manufacturer doesn’t have to build in hardware the customer wasn’t going to use.

      I miss the days of the Apple ][. I miss being able to build my own RAM. I miss building my own video card. What I really miss is an expansion bus that let me build products that I could use. I don’t want to buy a $50 adapter cable to connect my cellphone to my computer.

      I think this is what everyone loves about Arduino – the ability of the end-user to expand using the built-in expansion bus. I built products for ISA, but I can’t make something that’ll connect to a PCI Express Bus. I can’t solder (or even see) things that are that small, and I can’t afford PCBs which require an edge connector. I don’t know enough about transmission line design, grounding and shielding to make something that runs at 2.4GHz. I sure can’t make something that uses those freaking flat plastic “cables”. But I can make something on a perfboard that’ll run at 100MHz, and that’s probably fast enough for most things that most people want to do.

      Sure, there are generic products designed for multiple uCs, but they’re designed around TTL Serial. If I’m lucky, they’re designed around I2C. Attention “designers”: Yes, I realize that is easy, but The World can’t be connected to the single serial port on an Arduino.

      I also know that lots of potential uC designers don’t want to design additions for the goofy Arduino shape, knowing that it’s only going to run the one or two processors.

      I’d love to see a standard expansion bus for microcontrollers built on an 80-100pin 0.1″, double-row header backplane. Cards would be cheap to mass-produce, and it would be possible for the user to create one-off cards for quick prototyping. A motherboard wouldn’t be needed – one of the expansion card slots could be the uC board, or an adapter that allows you to plug your favorite uC into the bus.

      If everything was connected to a standardized bus, then I could build or buy a feature once, and use it for future projects. Features like an SD Card, an I/O Card, accelerometers, gyros, a keyboard connector, etc. I could add or subtract features as needed, simply by plugging in or removing a card.

      Bryan

    • I really appreciate that you mentioned about that develboard Dave. I recently bought Pickit2 to start with uC after painfully beeing hit in the head by AvrStudio from Atmel and thanks God that I only borrowed programmer (not original Atmel) and devel board from a friend as it cost half of my month allowance (while Pickit2 only 1/4 of it).

      But for my collegues from uni it is still horrendous amount of money so there is hardly anyone (even on the robotics/automatics course at uni) who tinkers with uC for his joy, fun and knowlage.

      You would not know how excited they get when I told them that there is such cheap develboard with full suited software.
      THANKS DAVE!

      Ps. In my country there is really no market for Arduino. I have not seen any projects with it on electronics boards or any magazine. So the lack of compability with it’s shields here is not a case.

    • Use the code HALFMSPTOOL for a -50% price.
      2.15$ for a LauchPad shipped :)
      Max. 3 pieces per order.

    • TI published the schematics. There is some indication the board was done by TI’s German branch. Those wacky Germans, no wounder the headers are nicely aligned in a row :-)

    • Can’t tell if my comment went through as this blog doesn’t say if posting was success or not, repost:

      This, most definitely. Credit cards are common… wait for it… in the US. They’re rare in EU because of variety of reasons. I know a ton of people with regular jobs who don’t have a credit card. And as for student / hobbyist? There’s some rare scenarios in which you may be able to get one but even then, it’s totally unnecessary around here for paying stuff and all the big online biz accept Electron and Paypal.

      So the “epic fail” for TI is half or more of the target market not being able to purchase it without first getting credit card. Then there’s the 2nd fail of what if you want the better chips that come later. I bet the shipping costs are insane since I doubt these products will be cheaply available in most places.

      Unless they fix both of these issues this Launch will turn into a slow Fall.

    • From wiki comments:
      “On another note, I just had to learn that TI is playing stupid tricks with international orders, setting the Shipping Status to “shipped”, with a Qty Shipped of “0″. The classic process to indicate they have finalized the order by shipping nothing, aka the order was canceled, without any further notification or information why.”

      Is this really true?

    • I’ve purchased the ” MSP430 LaunchPad ” and downloaded the FREE ( code size limited ) Texas Instruments Code Composer Studio Ver. 4 IDE. While everyone seems to be infatuated with shields and shipping I cannot get the damn thing to work by EXACTLY following their “step by step tutorial for the LED blinker code demo program. The system ( software and hardware )can’t download the code to the target.
      The predominant error message is:
      “Error initializing emulator:
      Could not initialize device interface “.
      Beyond this the TI website is USELESS, USELESS,
      USELESS UUUSSSEEELLLEEESSSSSS. There is no amount of midnight oil burnt that can get these things to work without Texas Instruments doing the right thing and issuing a notice and a fix on their LaunchPad website for this device. There is NO WAY they could have let this S.O.B.’n thing go out the door and published the tutorial and actually tested it.
      If someone comes up with a fix, please put it on this site. What a bunch of flipping JACKASSES

      • I’ll have to try it on mine! Haven’t even powered them up yet.
        Dave.

        • The link on their website was “Simple LED Blinking Tutorial using CCS + LaunchPad” which provided a PDF doc. A person should be able to start there, make it work if they followed all steps faithfully, and use it as a baseline to return to if encountering trouble when advancing the complexity of their programs. I’ll try to cool down.

          Thanks

      • I’m experiencing the very same problem. I just cannot get anything downloaded to my Launchpad. I tried all possible options worked through the step-by-step guide over and over again but in vain…
        Also IAR Workbench Kickstart does not seem to write anything to the MC. Debugging works, but it is only simulated? The temperature measuring demo program with the flashing LEDs is still running during the debug…

        Has anyone solved the “Could not initialize device interface” problem? Copying msp430.dll from the IAR directory didn’t help either.

    • I solved the “Could not initialize device interface

    • Hej!

      Arduino is great…we all get that. I think the problem is that it creates a bubble for a lot of people. When I fist started with Arduino I found it so hard to spread my wings and try other controllers. Everything was so much harder. Arduino actually kept me from learning more about the lower level of the chip. It was not until I bought a book on c and pic programming that I realized I did not need an Arduino for my projects and that it is a lot cheaper to buy a chip and program it to do exactly what I want.

    • I am an Arduino user…and I like it. Does T.I. still even sell this divice and has anybody got one to work properly? For $5 it would be great for small projects using npn transistors.

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