This is a guest post by one of 43oh members, spirilis. Spirilis is the designer behind the NRF24L01+ Radio BoosterPack and the MSP430F5172 Launchpad. Below are few of his thoughts on the the new MSP430F5529  USB Launchpad.

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Alright so, I had to keep a zip on it til now but since it’s released… I had early access to one of these (thanks to the TI folks!) and got to play with it a little ahead of time.  I’m going to dump my thoughts & observations:

1. New eZFET is based on the MSP430.DLL V3 open-source FET library, same as what they use with the FET430UIF.  See here.
You will need the MSP430.DLL (compilable on Windows and Linux; CCSv6 early adopter beta has a binary with full support for it, CCSv5 might not) to use it with “mspdebug” .  For now I compile on my Mac using mspgcc 4.7.0 and scp over to my Windows netbook where I run “mspdebug tilib” with CCSv6 beta’s MSP430.DLL to program & debug it.

2. The literature all mentions Energia, so I expect a full release of Energia is forthcoming soon.  Might be why they’ve been waiting so long to release an update.  I expect they will have got MSP430.DLL compilation on the Mac working for this release so I can quit worrying about copying the firmware & using my Windows machine, for everything including FET430UIF uses.

3. eZFET’s backchannel UART has 2 new lines; CTS and RTS.  I think these are implemented in the serial link so your PC’s terminal program can use them, but on the MSP430 hardware side they merely connect to 2 random lines on the F5529: CTS is a signal from PC-to-F5529 and goes to P1.7 so it’s interrupt-capable, RTS is a signal from F5529-to-PC and is connected to P6.7.  The documentation for the FET expects you to use these lines for handshaking when you use UART speeds over 200Kbps I believe.

4. I do love the new documentation sheet; it’s colorful and way more explanatory than the others I’ve seen.  Rei Vilo’s energia pinout diagrams inspired this BTW.

5. Those stackable wire-wrap headers are a pain.  I couldn’t get my Nokia 1202 BoosterPack working with this (very flaky problems, including flickering in the backlight) until I bolstered the thickness of the pins with some flux+solder.  Stellaris & Tiva-C Launchpad has the same problem though.

6. There is a nasty glitch that TI should fix ASAP (and they do know about it), preferably with a back-fix for existing boards.  The TUSB hub chip holds the reigns on a couple power switch ICs that let 5V pass through to the eZFET and to the F5529’s nets.  If there is no real PC on the other end of the USB connection, the TUSB chip never switches the power on.  So you HAVE to have this board plugged into a PC to power it up using the built-in USB port.  Maybe I’m overblowing this one but it’s a basic feature we’ve been able to take for granted on pretty much every dev board on the market… in a pinch you can always plug your project into a USB cellphone charger or battery power brick, but not with this board.

I suppose one could argue that with real low-power requirements, nobody’s using that USB port anyway.  However I’m not sure, seeing as they used a high-efficiency DC-DC converter for the 3.3V rail and I’m betting that F5528 eZFET chip goes into LPM4 if it has nothing else to do. But still, USB and ULP don’t usually go hand-in-hand.

7. Board comes with a cool little USB demo, pushbuttons act like keyboard output and you can browse the contents of a USB mass storage device that shows up.  Reinforcing the urgency behind #6, I think a typical use-case for this board will be sensor sampling “in the field” that you can transfer easily to a PC using a USB mass-storage + CSV output generator feature in the firmware.  Or maybe WiFi config or other RF config can be done using easy text files that get dumped onto the USB mass-storage drive.

8. Peter Bigot”s MSPGCC 4.7.0 release, his last one, supports the >64KB address space on this chip using -mmemory-model=large or -mmemory-model=huge.  I’ve tested this out.

9. The RAM is actually 10K; 8KB + 2KB USB RAM that can be used for general purposes if the USB subsystem isn’t switched on.

10. The UART includes USCI_A0 on the boosterpack headers, and USCI_A1 connects to the backchannel UART.  So now you can have your cake & eat it too. A GPS BoosterPack installed without interfering with your ability to play with backchannel UART comms.  Assuming you don’t decide to whip out a USB serial link natively inside the chip, that is.

11. CCS still has a 16K flash code limit, but the idea seems to be that CCSv6 will contain the new RedHat GCC port added as an “unlimited code size” option.  It’ll be interesting to see how this works out with the USB developer’s package and MSP430Ware stuff that TI already has released for this chip.