I recently had a crack at the Rabbit MiniCore 5600W Rabbit Semiconductor, a division of Digi International. Rabbit Semiconductor is well known for their line of Rabbit microcontrollers and associated modules. Most of the modules are available in kits like the one I tried out.
I've always like Rabbit's kits because they are usually complete, well documented and well designed. The Rabbit MiniCore 5600W (Fig. 1) is no exception. The fact that it packs a 74 MHz Rabbit 5000 micro with 1 Mbyte SRAM and 1 Mbyte serial flash onto a tiny 52-pin Mini PCI Express card especially when you consider that it also has 802.11b/g support as well. The board does not have a PCI Express interface but it does use the pins to expose the micro's peripheral interfaces.
The kit (Fig. 2) comes with a carrier board for the Rabbit MiniCore 5600W module along with three peripheral boards that can stack on top. The kit also comes with all hardware, cables and antenna needed to get up and running.
The Rabbit 5000 microcontroller is an impressive package. It can run up to 100MHz and its 24-bit addressing supports up to 16 Mbytes of off-chip memory. There is 128 Kbytes of internal, 16-bit SRAM. The chip has 8 DMA channels and 6 serial ports. It also has two quadrature decoder channels and four independent PWMs. On the analog side there is a 10-bit, 2 channel ADC and a 10-bit, dual channel DAC.
Getting up and running with the system is very easy although I have used Rabbits hardware and software for a number of years. It just keeps getting better. The documentation is good including the Getting Started sheet and the giant Rabbit 5000 instruction and register poster. The key to this WiFi platform is the TCP/IP support that is included.
The kit comes with a copy of Rabbit Semiconductors own Dynamic C compiler and tool chain. The GUI is Rabbit's own but it is well integrated with Dynamic C and the debug tools. The generic Dynamic C CD is the same one that comes with the other Rabbit Semiconductor kits. This is good and bad. For me, with a familiarity of Rabbit's tools, the reference orientation is just fine. For new users, a little exploration will be necessary. Likewise, the RCM5600W User's Manual must be downloaded from the website. Once you get to this point you should be in good shape. There will be a lot that is not relevant to this kit like ZigBee support found in other Rabbit modules.
The WiFi support includes WiFi Authentication support. RabbitWeb provides an easy mechanism for building a web server application. The Remote Program Update (RPU) support allows remote updates even over wireless connections. Overall, Rabbit Semiconductor has taken care of the details so you can concentrate on your application.
Dynamic C extends standard C adding a number of useful features that actually be handy for C in general. In particular, Dynamic C exposes coroutines. Coroutines have less overhead than multitasking threads. It also supports the slice statement that allows developers to build a round-robin style multitasking. They are often more useful as well in control environments. Dynamic C can be used with other operating systems if necessary. Of note its the uC/OS-II RTOS. uC/OS-II has been customized to work with Dynamic C.
I can highly recommend the Rabbit MiniCore 5600W and the kit as I have with all the other Rabbit Semiconductor kits I have looked at in the past.