I’m using many microcontroller in my projects. And a lot more are available out there in the ecosystem. Like many others, I tend to select what I am familiar with. But is this the correct approach to select the hardware and tools for a next project?
The ARM mbed USB MSD bootloader which is used on many silicon vendor boards has a big problem: it is vulnerable to operating systems like Windows 10 which can brick your board (see “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“). To recover the board, typically a JTAG/SWD programmer has to be used. I have described in articles (see links section) how to recover from that situation, including using an inofficial new bootloader which (mostly) solves the problem. The good news is that ARM (mbed) has released an official and fixed bootloader. The bad news is that this bootloader does not work on every board because of a timing issue: the bootloader mostly enters bootloader mode instated executing the application.
Kinetis Design Studio by default uses an older version of EmbSysRegView. This article explains how to upgrade to the latest and greatest version 0.2.6. And how it is possible to use the latest NXP update for the 0.2.4 version:
I’m a fan of all kind of weather stations. When Daniel Eichhorn twittered about his new version using an E-Paper display module, I immediately preordered one. I decided to build a station with a custom enclosure, so here is my version of a 3D printed version, featuring magnets so it can be attached to the fridge:
I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge. It this release more ARM Cortex devices/vendors are supported with different SDKs, plus it comes with several FreeRTOS enhancements for debugging highly optimized code.
ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers can have multiple memory controllers. This is a good thing as it allows the hardware to do multiple parallel memory read/writes. However this makes the memory map more complicated for the software: it divides the memory into different regions and memory segments. This article is about how to enable FreeRTOS to use multiple memory blocks for a virtual combined memory heap:
The tools and IDE market is constantly changing. Not only there is every year at least one new major Eclipse IDE release, the commercial tool chain and IDE vendors are constantly changing the environment too. For any ARM Cortex-M development, the combination of Eclipse with the GNU tool chain provided by ARM Inc. is the golden standard. But this does not mean that things can be easily moved from one IDE package to another.
While moving between Eclipse versions and GNU versions is usually not a big deal at all, moving between the Eclipse build tool integration is usually not simple. While the GNU MCU Eclipse plugins are widely used (see Breathing with Oxygen: DIY ARM Cortex-M C/C++ IDE and Toolchain with Eclipse Oxygen), the Eclipse based IDEs from the silicon vendors or commercial Eclipse toolchain vendors are using their own GNU toolchain integration. Which means the project files are not compatible :-(.
Eclipse as IDE takes care about compiling and building all my source files. But in an automated build system I would like to build it from the command line too. While using make files (see “Tutorial: Makefile Projects with Eclipse“) is an option, there is another easy way to build Eclipse projects from the command line:
Last month (June 2017), the latest version of Eclipse “Oxygen” has been released, and I have successfully used it in several embedded projects. Time to write a tutorial how to use it to build a custom Do-It-Yourself IDE for ARM Cortex-M development: simple, easy, unlimited and free of charge. While the DIY approach takes a few minutes more to install, it has the advantage that I have full control and I actually know what I have.
I love 3D printing as it enables me to create custom enclosures for all kind of projects. The NXP LPC-Link2 probe is great, but it lacks a protective enclosure. So I decided to create a custom enclosure. And as 3D filaments are available in different colors, I experimented with red and black and custom painting:
The benefit of an IDE like Eclipse is: it makes working with projects very easy, as generates make files and it takes and automatically manages the make file(s). But sometimes this might not be what I want because I need greater flexibility and control, or I want to use the same make files for my continues integration and automated testing system. In that case a hand crafted make file is the way to go.
One thing does not exclude the other: This article explains how to use make files with Eclipse with similar comfort as the managed build system in Eclipse, but with the unlimited power of make files:
A bootloader on a microcontroller is a very useful thing. It allows me to update the firmware in the field if necessary. There are many ways to use and make a bootloader (see “Serial Bootloader for the Freedom Board with Processor Expert“). But such a bootloader needs some space in FLASH, plus it needs to be programmed first on a blank device, so a JTAG programmer is needed. That’s why vendors have started including a ROM bootloader into their devices: the microcontroller comes out of the factory with a bootloader in FLASH. So instead writing my bootloader, I can use the one in the ROM.
FRDM-KL03Z with ROM Bootloader
And as with everything, there are pros and cons of that approach.
If you are like me – someone who always wants to know what the compiler generates for a piece of source code – then have a look at the Compiler Explorer: A web-based compiler code comparison tool:
Thanks to Matt Godbolt, I can select different compilers and compare their output for a given source code. Very useful to see the impact of a compiler optimization or to compare different GCC compiler versions.
For reliable applications, I avoid using functions of the standard libraries. They are banned for most safety related applications anyway. I do not use or avoid malloc(), printf() and all the other variants, for many reasons including the ones listed in “Why I don’t like printf()“. Instead, I’m using smaller variants (see “XFormat“). Or I’m using only the thread-safe FreeRTOS heap memory allocation which exist for many good reasons.