August 2014 Entries
Windows for IoT, continued

I received many interesting feedbacks on my previous blog post and I tried to find some time to do some additional tests.

Bert Kleinschmidt pointed out that pins 2,3 and 10 of the Galileo are connected directly to the SOC, while pin 13, the one used for the sample sketch is controlled via an I2C I/O expander. I changed my code to use pin 2 instead of 13 (just changing the variable assignment at the beginning of the code) and latency was greatly reduced.


Now each pulse lasts for 1.44ms, 44% more than the expected time, but ways better that the result we got using pin 13.

I also used SetThreadPriority to increase the priority of the thread that was running the sketch to THREAD_PRIORITY_HIGHEST but that didn't change the results. When I was using the I2C-controlled pin I tried the same and the timings got ways worse (increasing more than 10 times) and so I did not commented on that part, wanting to investigate the issua a bit more in detail. It seems that increasing the priority of the application thread impacts negatively the I2C communication.

I tried to use also the Linux-based implementation (using a different Galileo board since the one provided by MS seems to use a different firmware) and the results of running the sample blink sketch modified to use pin 2 and blink the led for 1ms are similar to those we got on the same board running Windows.
Here the difference between expected time and measured time is worse, getting around 3.2ms instead of 1 (320% compared to 150% using Windows but far from the 100.1% we got with the 8-bit Arduino).


Both systems were not under load during the test, maybe loading some applications that use part of the CPU time would make those timings even less reliable, but I think that those numbers are enough to draw some conclusions.
It may not be worth running a full OS if what you need is Arduino compatibility.
The Arduino UNO is probably the best Arduino you can find to perform this kind of development.

The Galileo running the Linux-based stack or running Windows for IoT is targeted to be a platform for "Internet of Things" devices, whatever that means.
At the moment I don't see the "I" part of IoT.
We have low level interfaces (SPI, I2C, the GPIO pins) that can be used to connect sensors but the support for connectivity is limited and the amount of work required to deliver some data to the cloud (using a secure HTTP request or a message queuing system like APMQS or MQTT) is still big and the rich OS underneath seems to not provide any help doing that.
Why should I use sockets and can't access all the high level connectivity features we have on "full" Windows?

I know that it's possible to use some third party libraries, try to build them using the Windows For IoT SDK etc. but this means re-inventing the wheel every time and can also lead to some IP concerns if used for products meant to be closed-source.

I hope that MS and Intel (and others) will focus less on the "coolness" of running (some) Arduino sketches and more on providing a better platform to people that really want to design devices that leverage internet connectivity and the cloud processing power to deliver better products and services. Providing a reliable set of connectivity services would be a great start. Providing support for .NET would be even better, leaving native code available for hardware access etc. 

I know that those components may require additional storage and memory etc. So making the OS componentizable (or, at least, provide a way to install additional components) would be a great way to let developers pick the parts of the system they need to develop their solution, knowing that they will integrate well together.

I can understand that the Arduino and Raspberry Pi* success may have attracted the attention of marketing departments worldwide and almost any new development board those days is promoted as "XXX response to Arduino" or "YYYY alternative to Raspberry Pi", but this is misleading and prevents companies from focusing on how to deliver good products and how to integrate "IoT" features with their existing offer to provide, at the end, a better product or service to their customers.
Marketing is important, but can't decide the key features of a product (the OS) that is going to be used to develop full products for end customers integrating it with hardware and application software.
I really like the "hackable" nature of open-source devices and like to see that companies are getting more and more open in releasing information, providing "hackable" devices and supporting developers with documentation, good samples etc.
On the other side being able to run a sketch designed for an 8 bit microcontroller on a full-featured application processor may sound cool and an easy upgrade path for people that just experimented with sensors etc. on Arduino but it's not, in my humble opinion, the main path to follow for people who want to deliver real products.


*Shameless self-promotion: if you are looking for a good book in Italian about the Raspberry Pi , try mine:

Posted On Tuesday, August 5, 2014 1:36 AM | Comments (2)
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