Tutorial: μCUnit, a Unit Test Framework for Microcontrollers

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.

uCUnit

uCUnit

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Tutorial: Open-Source Embedded GUI Library LittlevGL with i.MX RT1050-EVK

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 🙂

Hello from LittlevGL

Hello from LittlevGL

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Tutorial: Using Runtime Statistics with Amazon FreeRTOS V10

FreeRTOS includes a nice feature to give me information about how much time every task is spending running on the system:

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

This tutorial explains that FreeRTOS Runtime Statistics feature and how it can be turned on and used.

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MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1

NXP has just released the 10.2.1 update of their flagship Eclipse based IDE. While the number increase from 10.2.0 to 10.2.1 indicates a minor release, there are a several things which make me move over to that new release.

MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1 build 795

MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1 build 795

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Debug the Last Launched Application with Eclipse and other Debug Tricks

My usual workflow is: edit – build – debug and repeat. And this for the same project again and again. So here are a few tips how to make these iterations faster with Eclipse. One thing is to use the F11 shortcut to debug the last launched/debugged application:

Debug Last Launched

Debug Last Launched

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Porting Processor Expert Projects to MCUXpresso IDE

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.

Adafruit SSD1351 with FRDM-K64F

Ported Project with FRDM-K64F using Adafruit SSD1351 and Processor Expert

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Updating the S32K144EVB to Switch between 5V and 3.3V Logic Levels

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

S32K144EVB with OLED SSD1306 using 3.3V Logic Levels

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Using custom FreeRTOS with S32K SDK and OSIF for ARM

In “Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1” I showed how to use a custom FreeRTOS with the S32 Design Studio (ARM). The OSIF (OS Interface) provides an operating system and services abstraction for the application which is used by other S32K SDK components:

OSIF in S32K for ARM Eclipse Project

OSIF in S32K for ARM Eclipse Project

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Execute-Only Code with GNU and gcc

“There is no ‘S’ for Security in IoT” has indeed some truth. With all the connected devices around us, security of code should be a concern for every developer. “Preventing Reverse Engineering: Enabling Flash Security” shows how to prevent external read-out of critical code from device. What some microcontroller have built in is yet another feature: ‘Execute-Only-Sections‘ or ‘Execute-Only-Memory‘. What it means is that only instruction fetches are allowed in this area. No read access at all. Similar like ‘read-only’ ‘execute-only’ it means that code can be executed there, but no other access from that memory is allowed.

Locked Code

Locked Code

In this article I describe the challenges for a toolchain like the GNU gcc, and how to compile and link code for such an execute-only memory.

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Creating Disassembly Listings with GNU Tools and Eclipse

In many cases it is very useful to see the generated assembly code produced by the compiler. One obvious way to see the assembly code is to use the Disassembly view in Eclipse:

Disassembly View

Disassembly View

But this requires a debug session. An easier way is to use command line options to generate the listing file(s).

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Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1

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

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?

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McuOnEclipse Components: 1-July-2018 Release

I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available on SourceForge. This release includes several smaller bug fixes and initial component support for the NXP S32 Design Studio and SDK.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Embedded Computing Conference 2018: Pick&Place Overview Video

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:

Pick & Place Machine

Pick & Place Machine

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GNU Link Time Optimization finds non-matching Declarations

By default, the GNU compiler (gcc) optimizes each compilation unit (source file) separately. This is effective, but misses the opportunity to optimize across compilation units. Here is where the Link Time Optimization (LTO,  option -flto) can help out: with a global view it can optimize one step further.

The other positive side effect is that the linker can flag possible issues like the one below which are not visible to the compiler alone:

type of '__SP_INIT' does not match original declaration [enabled by default]
Warning by LTO

Warning by LTO

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Tutorial: Understanding and Using FreeRTOS Software Timers

Hardware Timers are essential to most embedded applications: I use them mostly for triggering actions at a given frequency, such as acquiring data from a  sensor. With using an RTOS I can do a similar thing using a task: the task will run with a given frequency and I can periodic work in it. However, using a task might be too much overhead doing this. The good news is that there is a much more efficient way to do this in FreeRTOS with Software Timers. And this is what this tutorial is about: how to use Software Timers with FreeRTOS.

FreeRTOS Software Timers

FreeRTOS Software Timers

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Overview of MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:

  1. Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
  2. Or: should we stay home, turn the BBQ smoker engine on fire, load it with baby back pork rib racks for a slow-and-low smoke treatment, while doing some on-the-side IDE and technology exploration?

Well, my family vote was kind of clear: they have chosen that second option. Not to mention that hidden technology piece in it, but that was part of the deal ;-).

And I’m sorry: this article is not about BBQ (for this see “Smoking BBQ Baby Back Ribs – Swiss Style“), it is about technology: I’m using the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and tools for many of my projects (see “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools“). Right before the this extended weekend, NXP has released the new v10.2.0 version, so here is where that technology exploration piece comes into play. Checking the release notes, this version number change includes so many cool stuff I decided to have a look and to check it out. Of course always having an electronic eye on the baby back ribs!

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

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Sneak Preview: DIY SMT Pick & Place Machine with OpenPnP

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:

Pick&Place Machine

Pick&Place Machine

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Upgrading a Laser Cutter with Cohesion3D Mini and LCD

I’m very happy with my 50W Laser Cutter (see “Getting Control over a 50 Watt CO2 Laser Cutter from China“). My main decision factors were (and still are): Software, software, tools and again software, and down in the list finally the hardware. Same thing for that laser cutter. After several upgrades (see “50W Laser Cutter Upgrades“), it was time replace the stock controller hardware with a new one including LCD display:

New Laser Cutter LCD Panel

New Laser Cutter LCD Panel

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