For me, the available software and tools are the primary key decision factor why I select a particular silicon vendor. Without good software and tools, a microcontroller only ‘sand in plastic case’, even if it is the best microcontroller in the world. I do have several probably excellent microcontroller boards, and they are only getting touched by more durst over the months and years.
Some of these ‘dusted’ boards I gave away, some I have recycled, some I have given away (but they usually come back, see the article about the FRDM-KL26Z).
But sometimes things can change, and suddenly tools are available for the ‘dusted’ parts. We have occasionally used NXP LPC parts in our university projects.I’m a big fan of open software and tools, and Eclipse with GNU tools are simply the best framework for me. And my students appreciate if they have the freedom of host operating systems (Mac, Linux, Windows) and that tools are free and can be extended with extra plugins.
There has been the LPCXpresso IDE, but because it has not supported P&E and Segger probes (which we are mostly using here), the LPC parts have been used in niche areas. Yes, there is the Linkserver/RedLink/LPC-Link2 debug connection in LPCXpresso, and on many boards there is a way to use Segger debug firmware, but required extra steps, extra software installation and was not up to par with P&E and Segger solutions which both support the educational market very well). And both P&E and Segger always were very generously donating hardware and software. Yes, both P&E and Segger are commercial (and not open source) debug connections, but having a solid, ‘just working’ debug probe for a broad range of microcontroller is definitely a plus and a time saver, as I want to teach embedded system programming and not about getting the debug probe to work.
Now with the availability of MCUXpresso IDE (see “MCUXpresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers“) which covers both LPC *and* Kinetis devices, things have suddenly changed: several students came to me this week asking telling me that they digged our their dusted LPC boards and finally can use the same tools as for their Freedom boards they love so much. Plus with the LPC-Link2 with CMSIS-DAP I have a good open source debug connection available in my arsenal. I hope silicon vendors realize how big this could be, and how important the right software and tools are?
And obviously I’m not alone with this: check out the article of David Karibe from the University of Nairobi:
David touches on the importance of Processor Expert in his blog post: I’m still working on an article about how to get this into MCUXpresso IDE :-).
Happy Influencing 🙂