Unit testing is a common practice for host development. But for embedded development this still seems mostly a ‘blank’ area. Mostly because embedded engineers are not used to unit testing, or because the usual framework for unit testing requires too many resources on an embedded target?
What I have used is the μCUnit framework which is a small and easy to use framework, targeting small microcontroller applications.
Not ready for the complexity of a full blown Embedded Linux, but need that extra compute performance? Need an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz module on a half-sized business card, ready to be integrated? Here we go: the Embedded Artists i.MX RT1052 OEM module:
Embedded Artists NXP i.MX RT1052 OEM Module
Compute modules are very common in the Embedded Linux space, for example see this Toradex module. The reason is simple: these high-performance boards simplify the design, as I don’t have to care about the BGA packages and the external SDRAM and FLASH devices: everything is on a module I can easily integrate into my base board.
Open Source software has been around for decades. But open source on hardware especially microcontroller is not much a reality these days. But there is something which might change this: RISC-V is a free and open RISC instruction set architecture and for me it has the potential to replace some of the proprietary architectures currently used. RISC-V is not new, but it gets more and more traction in Academia (no surprise).
I wanted to play with RISC-V for over a year, but finally a week ago I did one of these “hey, let’s buy that board” thing again. Sometimes these boards get on a pile to wait a few weeks or longer to get used, but that one I had to try out immediately :-).
Most embedded projects need an user input device. For the NXP i.MX RT1050-EVK board I have recently added a 480×272 full color touch LCD (see “Adding a Rocktech Capacitive Touch LCD to the NXP i.MX RT1052 EVK“). I have looked at different commercially available GUI libraries, but none of them really were matching my expectations: either very expensive or closed source, or an overkill for small LCDs and projects. But then I have found LittlevGL: free-of-charge, open source, easy to use, well documented and has everything I need. And it really looks gorgeous 🙂
In my “Tutorial: Catching Rogue Memory Accesses with Eclipse and GDB Watchpoints” I have used Eclipse/CDT and GDB watchpoints. I used a conditional watchpoint, but this comes with a performance hit. In this article I show how to use the ARM Cortex trace hardware to catch specific writes to a memory location. Without severe performance degradation. But for this I need a little helper: the DEADBEEF catcher!
Powerful ARM Cortex-M7 microcontroller are on the rise, bridging the gap between traditional microcontroller and Embedded Linux systems. I already published articles for the NXP i.MX RT1052 which is an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz. Because the RT105x is available in BGA196 package only, I have as oredered the i.MX RT 1050 EVK which has a similar device on it, but in LQFP package:
The McuOnEclipse GitHub repository hosts many Processor Expert projects and is very popular (cloned more than 1000 times, thank you!). Processor Expert is a powerful framework which generates driver and configuration code, simplifying application development for a wide range of microcontroller and families. But Processor Expert won’t be developed further by NXP and is not part of MCUXpresso IDE. While it is possible to install Processor Expert into MCUXpresso IDE 10.2, how can these projects used ini an IDE *without* Processor Expert? This article describes how to port an existing Processor Expert project into the NXP MCUXpresso IDE.
Ported Project with FRDM-K64F using Adafruit SSD1351 and Processor Expert
It is never too early to start thinking about Halloween projects :-).
rendered Eyes with i.MX RT
When I ordered originally the MIMXRT1050-EVK from Mouser, it was without the LCD display (see “MCUXpresso IDE V10.1.0 with i.MX RT1052 Crossover Processor“. I ordered the LCD for the board soon after writing that article, but I was too busy with the university lectures and exams to get a hand on it. Finally I have spent a few hours at night and I proudly can say: the display is working 🙂
By default, the NXP S32K144EVB and microcontroller is using a 5V supply voltage and logic levels which is great for noisy environment or any 5V devices. Many of my displays and sensors use 3.3V logic levels, so I would have to use a level shifter from 5V to 3.3V. There is another way: to change the board for 3.3V logic levels so I can use directly things like a SSD1306 display.
S32K144EVB with OLED SSD1306 using 3.3V Logic Levels
NXP not only sells general purpose microcontroller, but as well a portfolio of automotive devices which includes the S32K which is ARM Cortex based. For this device family, they offer the S32 Design Studio (or S32DS) with its own Eclipse distribution and SDK. The interesting part is that the S32DS includes Processor Expert (which is a bit different from the ‘mainstream’ Processor Expert). It comes with its own components for the S32K SDK which includes a component for FreeRTOS. But that component in S32DS 2018.R1 comes with an old V8.2.1 FreeRTOS component:
FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1
So what to do if I want to use the latest FreeRTOS (currently 10.0.1) with all the bells and whistles?
This article is about a project I have started back in January 2018. As for many of my projects, it took longer than anticipated.But now it is working, and the result is looking very good: a DIY automated pick and place machine to place parts on circuit boards. In the age of cheap PCBs, that machine closes the gap for small series of boards which have to be populated in a time consuming way otherwise.
To support my talk next week at the Embedded Computing Conference 2018, I have put together a video with the hardware features of that Pick&Place based on OpenPnP machine. Below is a picture of the current machine:
I apologize: I have not been blogging much in the past weeks :-(. One reason is that I’m working on a DIY SMT/SMD Pick&Place machine which keeps me busy most of my spare time :-). I admit that this project is not finished yet, but now is the time I can give a sneak preview: a SMD/SMT pick and place machine:
Using IP (Ethernet) based debug probes is a very handy thing: I don’t have to be directly connected to the debug probe (e.g. with the USB cable). This article explains how to use an IP-based Segger or P&E probe with the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE.
Windows 8 and 10 have added a ‘feature’ to scan and index devices attached to the host machine. This means that bootloaders or MSD (Mass Storage Device) programming implementations on evaluation boards developed in the Windows 7 age might not be prepared for that. Up to the point that it can impact the bootloader as outlined in “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“. So far one of the easiest way to get out that situation was to use a Windows 7 machine. But if you only have a Windows 10 machine available, this article describes the needed steps to update the bootloader with Windows 10 host machines.
In “Flash-Resident USB-HID Bootloader with the NXP Kinetis K22 Microcontroller” I presented how I’m using the tinyK22 (or FRDM-K22F) with a flash resident USB HID bootloader. To make sure that the loaded application is not corrupted somehow, it is important to verify it with a Cyclic redundancy Checksum (CRC). The NXP KBOOT Bootloader can verify such a CRC, but how to generate one and how to use it is not really obvious (at least to me), so this article explains how to generate that CRC.