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

’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in 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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Listing Code and Data Size with GNU nm in Eclipse

The map file produced by the GNU linker includes lots of information, however it is very cryptic to read. In “Listing Code and Data Size for each Source File with GNU and Eclipse” I showed how the GNU size utility can be used to report the code and data size for each object file. The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE comes with another nice view which shows detailed information about code and data allocation:

Symbol Viewer in MCUXpresso IDE

Symbol Viewer in MCUXpresso IDE

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McuOnEclipse Components: 1-Apr-2018 Release

It’s April Fool’s Day, but be assured this is not a joke ;-): I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge. This release includes several smaller bug fixes and components have been upgraded for FreeRTOS V10.0.1.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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3D Printed SMT Cut Tape Holder

If you follow me on Twitter, then you are aware that I’m working on a larger project building an SMT pick and place machine :-). The fun with this project is that it includes electronics, mechanics and all kind of 3D printing and laser cutting. That machine picks SMD components and places them on a PCB. One sub-project is to build a SMD cut tape holder:

SMD Tape Holder

SMD Tape Holder

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Converting Binary Files to Intel Hex Format with the SRecord Tool

I’m dealing a lot with bootloaders recently (see “Flash-Resident USB-HID Bootloader with the NXP Kinetis K22 Microcontroller“), and bootloaders are sometimes very picky about what file format they are able to consume. So what if I have a binary (see “S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files“) file and I need to convert it into the Intel Hex format?

converted binary to intel hex

converted binary to intel hex

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Tutorial: CRC32 Checksum with the KBOOT Bootloader

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.

CRC Values for KBOOT

CRC Values for KBOOT

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Flash-Resident USB-HID Bootloader with the NXP Kinetis K22 Microcontroller

The tinyK22 board (see “tinyK22 Boards arrived“) gets rolled out at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, so I thought I write-up an article this weekend how to use that board with a Flash Resident Bootloader.

tinyK22 with USB HID Bootloader

tinyK22 with USB HID Bootloader

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Performance and Runtime Analysis with FreeRTOS

One of the great things with the FreeRTOS operating system is that it comes with free performance analysis: It shows me how much time is spent in each task. Best of all: it shows it in a graphical way inside Eclipse too:

FreeRTOS Runtime Information in Eclipse

FreeRTOS Runtime Information in Eclipse

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Troubleshooting Tips: Failed Debugging with GDB

Three years ago I published “Debugging Failure: Check List and Hints” and unfortunately this article is one of the most popular ones: obviously debugging problems are very common. Debugging with GDB works usually fine, but if things are failing, then it can be hard to find the cause for it. Recently I have been asked to check some failures, so here are two more hints about what could go wrong…

Error while launching command: arm-none-eabi-gdb --version

Error while launching command: arm-none-eabi-gdb –version

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Converting a Raw Binary File into an ELF/Dwarf File for Loading and Debugging

Binary files are just a binary blob without debug information. Most debug tools and flashers are able to deal (raw) binary (see “S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files“). But GDB or the P&E GDB server really needs a ELF/Dwarf file which usually has all the debug information in it. This is a problem if all what I have is a binary file.

This post is about transforming a raw binary (.bin) file into an ELF/Dwarf file with adding a header to it:

Added Elf Header to Raw Binary File

Added Elf Header to Raw Binary File

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