About Erich Styger

Embedded is my passion....

Linking Bootloader Applications with Eclipse and FreeMarker Scripts

Bootloaders are a fine thing: With this I can load any applications I like. Power comes with some complexity, and a bootloader alone is a complex thing already. But this applies to the application part too: I need to link the application to a certain offset in the memory space so it can be loaded by the bootloader, plus the application typically needs to add some extra information to be used by the bootloader. This article describes how to build a bootloader application with Eclipse (MCUXpresso IDE) using the MCUXpresso SDK.

Build Configuration for Bootloader Application

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One Year after the Storm ‘Adrian’

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Back in October 2018, the storm ‘Adrian’ has hit South Tyrol badly. With a wind speed up to 140 km/h and up to 400 mm rain it had a deep impact on the area. Killing an estimated number of 14 million trees.

Sole Tree

Sole Tree

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Stack Canaries with GCC: Checking for Stack Overflow at Runtime

Stack overflows are probably the number 1 enemy of embedded applications: a call to a a printf() monster likely will use too much stack space, resulting in overwritten memory and crashing applications. But stack memory is limited and expensive on these devices, so you don’t want to spend too much space for it. But for sure not to little too. Or bad things will happen.

The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE has a ‘Heap and Stack Usage’ view which can be used to monitor the stack usage and shows that a stack overflow happened:

Heap and Stack Usage

Heap and Stack Usage

But this is using the help of the debugger: how to catch stack overflows at runtime without the need of a debugger? There is an option in the GNU gcc compiler to help with this kind of situation, even if it was not originally intended for something different. Continue reading

Eclipse JTAG Debugging the ESP32 with a SEGGER J-Link

When Espressif released in 2014 their first WiFi ESP8266 transceiver, they took over at least the hobby market with their inexpensive wireless devices. Yet again, the successor ESP32 device is used in many projects. Rightfully there are many other industrial Wi-Fi solutions, but Espressif opened up the door for Wi-Fi in many low cost projects. Many projects use the ESP devices in an Arduino environment which basically means decent debugging except using printf() style which is … hmmm … better than nothing.

What is maybe not known to many ESP32 users: there *is* actually a way to use JTAG with the ESP32 devices :-). It requires some extra tools and setup, but with I have a decent Eclipse based way to debug the code. And this is what this article is about: how to use a SEGGER J-Link with Eclipse and OpenOCD for JTAG debugging the ESP32.

Roboter with ESP32 and JTAG Debug Port

Robot with ESP32 and JTAG Debug Port

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NXP MCUXpresso IDE 11.0.1 available

NXP has released an update of the Eclipse based V11 IDE. This is right on time for the new semester starting mid of September where this IDE will be used in several labs.

MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.1

MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.1

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Programming the ESP32 with an ARM Cortex-M USB CDC Gateway

The Espressif ESP32 devices are getting everywhere: they are inexpensive, readily available and Espressif IDF environment and build system actually is pretty good and working well for me including Eclipse (see “Building and Flashing ESP32 Applications with Eclipse“). The default way to program an ESP32 is to a) enter UART bootloader by pressing some push buttons and b) flash the application with ESP-IDF using a USB cable.

That works fine if the ESP32 is directly connected to the host PC. But in my case it is is behind an NXP Kinetis K22FX512 ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller and not directly accessible by the host PC. So I had to find a way how to allow boot loading the ESP32 through the ARM Cortex-M which is the topic of this article.

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

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DIY Stepper Motor Clock with NXP LPC845-BRK

This project is about building a stepper motor clock around the NXP LPC845-BRK board. The design is using a combination of 3D printed and laser cut parts and costs below $15.

Stepper Clock Acrylic Face White Hands

Stepper Clock Acrylic Face White Hands

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Building and Flashing ESP32 Applications with Eclipse

The new semester is approaching in a very fast way, and so is the new lecture and lab module ‘Advanced Distributed Systems’ at the Lucerne University. For that module we are going to build a new ‘Sumo’ style robot with WLAN capabilities using the ESP32 chip. It will be a new robot PCB, and below is the current robot (based on NXP K22FX512) with the WLAN module connected to it:

Zumo connected to TTGO ESP32 module

Zumo connected to TTGO ESP32 module

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Tutorial: How to Optimize Code and RAM Size

It is great if vendors provide a starting point for my own projects. A working ‘blinky’ is always a great starter. Convenience always has a price, and with a ‘blinky’ it is that the code size for just ‘toggling a GPIO pin’ is exaggerated. For a device with a tiny amount of RAM and FLASH this can be concerning: will my application ever fit to that device if a ‘blinky’ takes that much? Don’t worry: a blinky (or any other project) can be easily trimmed down.

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

I use a ‘blinky’ project here just as an example: the trimming tips can apply to any other kind of projects too.

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OpenPnP Solder Dispenser Sneak Preview

Many of you are aware of that DIY Pick&Place machine build documented in “Building a DIY SMT Pick&Place Machine with OpenPnP and Smoothieboard (NXP LPC1769)“.

That machine has now been modified to dispense solder paste. I did not had time yet to describe the build, but as I have received recently many questions: here are some pre-information about the build:

Solder Paste Dispenser

Solder Paste Dispenser

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Restoring Default Firmware on Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

In my previous article “Debug and Execute Code from FLASH on the Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I explained how to take complete control over the board and flash and debug a firmware. Of course this overwrites the one which comes by default shipped on the board. This article is about how to restore or update the original firmware.

Restored Seeed Firmware

Restored Seeed Firmware

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Debug and Execute Code from FLASH on the Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

In my previous article “Seeed Studio Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I described how I can use and debug the Seeed Arch Mix Board. But so far I only had things running in RAM. Ultimately I want to use the QSPI FLASH memory on the device with my firmware and running code on it. This article shows how to get from RAM execution to SPI FLASH in-place execution (XiP).

Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

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Seeed Studio Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

The Seeed Studio ‘Arch Mix’ board is a small and versatile development board with an NXP i.MX RT1052 on it, and it costs only $29.90. So I was not able to resist and just have ordered one so I can explore it.

Seeed Arch Mix Top Side

Seeed Arch Mix Top Side

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Visualizing Global Variables while Target is Running with Eclipse and MCUXpresso IDE

By default, Eclipse provides ‘stop-mode-debugging’: in order to inspect the target code and data, I have to stop the target. But with the right extensions as present in the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, it is possible to inspect the target even while it is running.

Graphing Variables

Graphing Variables

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Göscheneralp and Bergseehütte

The ‘Göscheneralp’ is a beautiful valley in the central part of Switzerland with an embankment dam building an artificial lake. The valley hosts several beautiful hikes and climbing routes. The area is the home of several SAC (Swiss Alpine Club) huts, including the Bergseehütte which is the topic of this hike.

Bergseehütte

Bergseehütte

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DIY Wireless Magnetic Levitating Moon Lamp

If your child is making a special wish, you will do everything to make it happen, right? So my daughter’s wish was a ‘moon lamp’. And here is it: a magnetic levitating (MagLev) wireless moon light:

MagLev wireless LED Moon

MagLev wireless LED Moon

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