When it comes to testing their designs, hacker communities around the world are not usually in a position to splash out mega bucks on expensive test equipment. The Red Pitaya project expands your workbench hack space outwards to include the test equipment. It has a Xilinx Zynq processor with a dual ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore and the programmable features of an FPGA. Also onboard are two RF analog I/Os, four lower-bandwidth analog I/Os, 16 GPIO ports, an Ethernet port and a Micro SD slot. Its OS is based on GNU/Linux and can be programmed at different levels using a variety of software interfaces, including HDL, C/C++, scripting languages and HTML-based web interfaces.

Right from the start the designers of Red Pitaya acknowledged the power of the maker communities; once support for a particular open-source platform acquires a critical mass it becomes self-sustaining, the generosity of experienced users sharing their knowledge via the forums gives real encouragement to struggling noobs. The Red Pitaya web site caters for the community with its ‘Backyard’ area. It also hosts a ‘Bazaar’ area where finished code to implement a growing number of complete test instruments can be downloaded to configure the red pitaya test platform.

"Red Pitaya is a truly innovative idea that is set to transform the test and measurement space," said Philip Dock, global head of product and supplier management at RS. "It is a compact and powerful building block for T&M applications, but with a price tag of less than $500 it will be the first instrumentation product to hit the market that is accessible to the masses.