I've recently been trying to take a closer look at the propeller (1), which I noticed in passing about a half a decade ago, for a computationally intensive embedded application with no IO requirements at all. I've looked through much of what I could find and have some basic questions about the platform and whether it would make sense for me to use a propeller, opposed to a more traditional Linux capable device. To get the context out of the way, I have an easily parallelizable workload that involves multivariate optimization. This is not especially time critical and basically takes some numerical input and returns numerical output. I have my reasons for needing to do it in hardware, and let's leave it at that. The propeller has a nice number of high speed cores and a decent amount of memory (though I will probably need more, been looking at the SRAM application note), which is why I'm taking a very serious look at it. I like that it's available in DIP and more importantly QFP, which makes soldering possible for me. The prop plug is not particularly expensive and is, quite surprisingly, available in my country.
I do not with to offend or inflame anyone, or question the platform as a whole, but I do have some concerns as an outsider considering the platform for a relatively serious application. I might well be very wrong about some or all of the things listed here, but the whole point I'm trying to make (in addition to hopefully getting answers) is that it shouldn't be so hard to find out these things. Here are the issues I have which make me concerned about taking the plunge :
1. I'm not entirely sure what the future for the Propeller 1 is. It seems to have an almost cult-like popularity, and the longevity of the STAMP is comforting (though I never used it or know anything about it). However, information regarding the propeller seems strangely fragmented and confused. Parallax itself seems to center it's website on the Propeller as a learning platform, with information about the platform itself being tucked away in the corner. The information is there, which is nice, but it seems the parallax platform takes second seat to the learning and educational tutorials. This, coupled with with the Propeller 2 being on the horizon, makes me slightly doubtful about getting into a platform on the brink of obsoletion where the core drivers of the platform are literally academic exercises.
2. I'm going to be developing on linux. Windows tools would be nice to also have, but my first requirement is dev tools for linux. The spin programming language and tools confuse me. After all of my looking, (and yes, no actual installing or trying), I'm still not entirely sure whether spin tools support linux well. More importantly, I'm not sure I've seen a recent, authoritative source from parallax discussing the tool and in comparison with C. There were some (3-4 year old) mentions of the situation changing with propeller 2, suggesting a move away from spin. An indicator of platform stability to me is the availability of tools on linux distributions. Ubuntu (and probably Debian) don't seem to have any propeller or Parallax tools in the standard repository.
3. I'm not afraid of compiling tools myself, though I do tend to avoid it as far as I can. However, though there is a lot of talk about the C compiler for the propeller, I can't seem to find a good, authoritative source for which compiler this is. I came across a couple of gcc ports on github, which were last updated in 2015 or earlier. There is talk of various googlecode projects, which hasn't been a thing for a year or two now atleast. There is a SimpleIDE thing on parallax website which seems to partially or fully windows only. I'm not convinced that I know what the reliable, supported C / C++ compiler for propeller is. I'm also not sure I'm convinced the C compiler is ready for serious use, with mentions here and there about how spin tools produce better code with lower memory usage on the device because the gcc ports are not very optimized. In fairness, those claims are all pretty old, circa 2012 / 14, but at the same time the compilers I'm looking at seem just as old.
4. I do have big chunks of C code I would like to be able to reuse with the propeller. Would it be possible to mix C and spin code on the propeller, perhaps even at the level of running C code on some cores and spin code on the others? Are the spin to C converters and the C compilers reliable and optimized (3) enough to base applications off of, if I want to be able to use stuff from the OBEX?
5. Assuming I have a propeller and the prop plug, is that all I'd need to debug applications? There are mentions of gdb being used in the wild, but again from quite some time ago. I can't seem to find any specific mention of the debug hardware used in those cases (JTAG? Something proprietary? Does the prop plug support it by itself?). Is there a preferred, well supported open source linux host combination for compile (Preferably C, acceptably Spin), download / program, and debug?
For a silicon manufacturer that has a seemingly very powerful chip (on paper atleast) at a very reasonable price point, with fully open designs, which has existed for as long as it has, I find it quite strange that the answers to these questions are not readily available. Combined with the higher than usual noise level on seemingly 'official' websites, with the occasional dead links, links to dated posts, git repositories with no activity for years, and a home page that looks built to sell kits for high school and undergraduate courses has me concerned. Again, I apologize if any / all of the above are incorrect claims, and I'm sure many of them are wrong since parallax still exists in 2018. But having looked at the ecosystem for all of two days, which is as much as I really would be prepared to do in the general case, I'm left with more questions than I started with.