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

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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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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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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Generating Intel Hex Files with a given Length using srec_cat

The ‘standard’ binary files for many tools are S19, binary or Intel Hex files. Especially for S19 and Intel Hex it can be useful to control the amount of data per line. By default, the GNU objcopy creates files with a line length of 44 characters:

default objcopy binary file line length

default objcopy binary file line length

But it is possible to have Intel Hex files with an custom line length using the SRecord utility, and this is what this article is about.

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Black Magic Open Source Debug Probe for ARM with Eclipse and GDB

The ‘Black Magic Probe’ (or in short: BMP) is a very small and open source JTAG/SWD debug probe with a build-in GDB Server. I saw that probe referenced in different places, so I thought I try it out with a few of my NXP LPC and Kinetis boards:

BMP with LPC and Kinetis Boards

BMP with LPC and Kinetis Boards

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New NXP MCUXpresso Eclipse IDE v11.0

A few days ago NXP has released a new version of their Eclipse IDE flagship: the MCUXpresso IDE v11.0.

NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.0

NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.0

The previous v10.3.1 was released back in Feb 2019, and the 11.0 now in June this year matches up with the Fall university semester. I appreciate that the releases are about every 6 months, so this gives me time to use it in my university lecture material and lab work. I had the weekend for trying it out, and I’m very pleased.

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SWO with NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

With the cost of an single pin, many ARM Cortex-M boards including the NXP i.MX RT1064 can produde SWO data: think about a pin able to stream data out of the chip in realtime. For example interrupt activity which otherwise might be hard to capture:

SWO Interrupt Trace

SWO Interrupt Trace

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MCUXpresso Eclipse IDE Mouse Tips & Tricks

In a modern development workflow both command-line and a graphical user interface has its place. On the GUI side, Eclipse is famous that it offers many different ways to accomplish something which is great. But sometimes I continue to use an old habit or way because I have missed that there is a newer and better way, and the MCUXpresso Eclipse IDE is no exception to that. In this article I show a few ways how to use the mouse even more productive.

Project Settings

Project Settings

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Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 3: RAM and XiP Code on i.MX RT1064

In my previous articles I have used the command line on Linux to build and debug NXP MCUXpresso SDK applications. In this article I’m running code on NXP i.MX RT1064 in RAM or FLASH.

i.MXRT1064 board with LPC845-BRK as debug probe

i.MXRT1064 board with LPC845-BRK as debug probe

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Building a Raspberry Pi UPS and Serial Login Console with tinyK22 (NXP K22FN512)

There are different ways to ruin a Linux system. For the Raspberry Pi which uses a micro SD card as the storage device by default, it comes with two challenges:

  1. Excessive writes to the SD card can wear it out
  2. Sudden power failure during a SD card write can corrupt the file system

For problem one I do I have a mitigation strategy (see “Log2Ram: Extending SD Card Lifetime for Raspberry Pi LoRaWAN Gateway“). Problem two can occur by user error (“you shall not turn it off without a sudo poweroff!”) or with the event of a power outage or black out. So for that problem I wanted to build a UPS for the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi with UPS System and tinyK22

Raspberry Pi with UPS System and tinyK22

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TrustZone with ARMv8-M and the NXP LPC55S69-EVK

The ARM TrustZone is an optional secu=rity feature for Cortex-M33 which shall improve the security for embedded applications running on microcontroller as the NXP LPC55S69 (dual-core M33) on the LPC55S69-EVK.

NXP LPC55S69-EVK Board

NXP LPC55S69-EVK Board

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Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 1: Installation and Build with Make

I admit: my work laptop machine is running a Windows 10 OS by default. But this does not prevent me running Linux in a Virtual Machine (VM). Each host platform has its benefits, and I don’t feel biased to one or the other, but I have started using Ubuntu more and more, simply because I have worked more on Embedded Linux projects. While I have used mostly Windows with Eclipse for NXP LPC, Kinetis and i.MX platforms in the past, I started using Ubuntu too from last year with the NXP MCUXpresso SDK. I did not find much documentation about this on the web, so I thought it might be a good idea to write a tutorial about it. So here we go…

Building NXP MCUXpresso SDK on Linux Ubuntu

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Be aware: Floating Point Operations on ARM Cortex-M4F

My mantra is *not* to use any floating point data types in embedded applications, or at least to avoid them whenever possible: for most applications they are not necessary and can be replaced by fixed point operations. Not only floating point operations have numerical problems, they can lead to performance problems as in the following (simplified) example:

#define NOF  64
static uint32_t samples[NOF];
static float Fsamples[NOF];
float fZeroCurrent = 8.0;

static void ProcessSamples(void) {
  int i;

  for (i=0; i < NOF; i++) {
    Fsamples[i] = samples[i]*3.3/4096.0 - fZeroCurrent;
  }
}

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Tutorial: RAK813 LoRaWAN+BLE+GPS Sensor Node with Eclipse IDE

In the IoT world, it is all about security, connectivity and low power. LoRaWAN with the Things Network is able to connect devices over several kilometers, and I’m running my gateway for it already (see “Contributing an IoT LoRaWAN Raspberry Pi RAK831 Gateway to The Things Network“). This tutorial is about building a BLE+LoRaWAN+GPS sensor node with GNU tools and Eclipse:

LoRa+BLE with RAK813 and LPC845

LoRa+BLE with RAK813 and LPC845

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Running FreeRTOS on the VEGA RISC-V Board

In “Debugging the RV32M1-VEGA RISC-V with Eclipse and MCUXpresso IDE” I described how to build and debug applications for the VEGA RISC-V board. In this article I describe how to enable FreeRTOS for RISC-V, based on the latest FreeRTOS V10.2.0 release.

Blinky with FreeRTOS on the VEGA RISC-V Board

Blinky with FreeRTOS on the VEGA RISC-V Board

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