Saturday, February 6, 2010

Texas Instruments SafeRTOS Contest

Texas Instruments is sponsoring the DESIGNStellaris 2010 design contest run by Circuit Cellar, with a prize of up to $10,000 USD.

I bring this up in our Software Safety blog because the Stellaris ARM chip comes preloaded with SafeRTOS, an offshoot of the FreeRTOS project.

"SafeRTOS is a unique real-time, deterministic operating system specially designed for critical applications. It is available pre-certified according to key standards in markets including Industrial and Medical. First certified by TÜV SÜD in 2007, SafeRTOS was developed in compliance with IEC61508 SIL3 [Safety Integrity Level], and it continues to set the pace as the first pre-certified real-time operating system available in the ROM of a micro-controller. The Texas Instruments LM3S9B96 is now supplied with SAFERTOS embedded in ROM at no additional cost, saving tens of thousands of dollars and offering a low risk path to certification."

Oddly this means that TI is competing directly with themselves.

A few years ago TI came out with the their virtually unknown dual core ARM part the TMS570, aimed at automotive safety applications.

"Running in asynchronous mode, the TMS570 device was the first to achieve IEC 61508 compliance, the highest level of safety and reliability for automotive applications. The TMS570 is the first homogeneous Cortex™ ARM® R4 based MCU target safety critical automotive applications with a patent-pending implementation of the lock-step cores."

The TI contest, comes with a tools limited to six-months of usage. Something that has always irritated me is that chip vendors, for the most part, do not supply free tools to support their parts. Microchip has always spouted the party line of "If we have free tools, then we will not get third party tool suppliers to support us.". Which is pure BS. Companies like Image Craft exist just fine, as well as many others, to support other companies products. Either be in the component business or the tool business, not both. After all we will spend far more time with the tools, than we will with the chips.

Something else that has irritated me even more, for a long time with TI is their support.

Years ago I designed a TI battery charger chip in to a product. We had some problems with it. When the front line FAE support, who has always been a great asset, could not find any problems with our implementation, they moved us up to the next level of support, where I was told, and this a direct quote: We do not have time to help you. Today they seem to wonder why we don't design in more of their products...