Freescale Tech Day in Milton Keynes

MK Dons football ground

No post yesterday, as I was attending a "Designing with Freescale" Tech Day. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will probably know that I like working with Freescale ARM microcontrollers, particularly with their low cost and surprisingly powerful FRDM range of development boards. For once, I had a day where I was not being chased by clients, so I hopped in my little car and drove the 100 miles or so over to Milton Keynes. Everything was held in the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel attached to the MK Dons football stadium, which is at least easy to get to.

The event officially opened with registration at 08:00, but there was no way I could get over there for that. The first main session ran from 09:15 to 10:15, I left home about 07:30, dropped off my daughter at her work experience placement, and hit the road. It was an annoying time to travel, and I hit quite a lot of traffic, so in the end I did not arrive until ten minutes or so into the second session.

There were several tracks to choose from, and I went into one about Kinetis Design Studio. This is the stock-Eclipse-based successor to Freescale's Code Warrior IDE. This looks to be a nice compromise between the heavily-tweaked version used in recent Code Warrior releases, and the fiddly process of adding all the plugins and bits into your own Eclipse install. The slides for this session seemed to have been produced by Erich Styger, author of MCU on Eclipse blog which I have referenced here several times. However, Erich lives and works in Switzerland, so the presentation was actually given by Mark Dunnett, who certainly had an engaging style, but perhaps did not go into as much detail as Erich might have.

A short while into this session, someone entered carrying a smallish box, and we were informed that there would be a prize for the best question. Despite some very cheesy attempts from the audience ("Have you always been such an excellent speaker?", for example) eventually I walked away with this prize for a minor rant about how Freescale's "Processor Expert" component made it surprisingly difficult to set up projects for Freescale's own development boards. Of course, I no longer have the prize (a bluetooth speaker "dock") as that was immediately nabbed by my daughters when I got home!

Freescale Tech Day buffet

After the KDS session we had a break for lunch and browsing the trade stands. The food was the usual kind of conference fare, a cold buffet which we had to juggle, lacking enough hands to hold a plate, a fork, a cup, and any brochures and freebies we may have picked up along the way. The trade area consisted of two main parts. One long table area was managed by Freecale and showed a variety of demonstrations of what you can do with their products. There was a car dashboard, complete with swinging gauges and simulated incoming phone calls, something to do with controlling hydraulics, and a lot of smaller "fun" projects based on Freescale development boards.

The rest of the trade area consisted of several tables, with representatives of partners, distributors, trainers and so on. I had some interesting discussions, gave away all my business cards and came away with a selection of goodies and paperwork.

After lunch we headed back to the sessions. My next one was also presented by Mark Dunnett and covered MQX, a free (at least for use on Freescale devices) real-time operating system (RTOS). This seemed very capable, and I am definitely looking forward to working with this on some of my projects.

After a brief coffee break and some more discussions with vendors, I headed back for the final session. I could not find anything particularly compelling at this point, so I went back in with Mark Dunnett for a presentation about Freescale's "KW" series of "wireless microcontrollers". Of course, the MCU itself is hardly wireless as it requires circuitry for I/O and power, however it does feature built-in radio hardware, which should make building disconnected and distributed devices a bit easier.

Finally, I filled in my feedback form, collected a USB stick with all the day's slide decks, and drove home. I found the day surprisingly inspiring. I followed up on connections and downloaded some of the software which was demonstrated and I'm already bubbling over with ideas of what to do with the collection of Freescale development boards I have knocking about.


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