Exploring a Microcontroller and Software and Tools for the next Project

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?

Microcontroller Boards

Microcontroller Boards

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Solving Problem with GNU Linker and “referenced in section, defined in discarded section ” Error Message

I have been running recently into an interesting case where the GNU ARM Linker failed to link an application with strange error messages:

referenced in section, defined in discarded section

referenced in section, defined in discarded section

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Adding a Delay to the ARM DAPLink Bootloader

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.

DAPLink in Bootloader Mode

DAPLink in Bootloader Mode

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EmbSysRegView 0.2.6 for NXP Kinetis Design Studio V3.2.0

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:

Installed Files in Eclipse

Installed Files in Eclipse

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SQUIX ESP8266 based E-Paper WiFi Weather Station

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:

E-Paper Weather Station

E-Paper Weather Station

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McuOnEclipse Components: 25-Sept-2017 Release

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.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Using Multiple Memory Regions with the FreeRTOS Heap

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:

FreeRTOS with Segmented Heap Memory

FreeRTOS with Segmented Heap Memory

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Tutorial: Porting BLE+NRF Kinetis Design Studio Project to MCUXpresso IDE

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 :-(.

NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

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Adding CMSIS-SVD Files to EmbSysRegView 0.2.6.r192 and Eclipse

In “EmbSysRegView 0.2.6 for Eclipse Neon and Oxygen” I have described how to add CMSIS-SVD register detail files to Eclipse using the EmbSysRegView plugin.

But what I need to add vendor or any other SVD files to it? Here is how:

EmbSys Registers View

EmbSys Registers View

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Building Eclipse and MCUXpresso IDE Projects from the Command Line

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:

Building MCUXpresso IDE from Command Line

Building MCUXpresso IDE from Command Line

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Breathing with Oxygen: DIY ARM Cortex-M C/C++ IDE and Toolchain with Eclipse Oxygen

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.

Eclipse Oxygen

Eclipse Oxygen

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Custom 3D Printed Enclosure for NXP LPC-Link2 Debug Probes

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:

lpc-link2 enclosure

lpc-link2 enclosure

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Troubleshooting Tips for FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging in Eclipse

FreeRTOS seems to get more and more popular, and I think as well because more and more debugger and Eclipse IDE vendors add dedicated debugging support for it.

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse

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How to use Custom Library Names with GNU Linker and Eclipse

By default, the GNU Linker expects a very special naming scheme for the libraries: the library name has to be surrounded by “lib” and the “.a” extension:

lib<NAME>.a

But what if the library I want to use does not conform to that naming standard?

Non-conforming Library Naming

Non-conforming Library Naming

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Tutorial: Makefile Projects with Eclipse

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:

Makefile Project with Eclipse

Makefile Project with Eclipse

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MCUXpresso IDE v10.0.2 – Updated Eclipse based IDE for LPC and Kinetis

NXP has released an updated of their Eclipse based IDE for ARM Cortex-M (Kinetis and LPC) microcontroller: the version v10.0.2 build 411:

MCUXpresso v10.0.2 build 411

MCUXpresso v10.0.2 build 411

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Getting Started: ROM Bootloader on the NXP FRDM-KL03Z Board

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

FRDM-KL03Z with ROM Bootloader

And as with everything, there are pros and cons of that approach.

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Compiler Explorer

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:

Compiler Comparison

Compiler Comparison

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.

Happy Comparing 🙂

Using FreeRTOS with newlib and newlib-nano

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.

Things get problematic if malloc() still is pulled in, either because it is used by a middleware (e.g. TCP/IP stack) or if using C++. Dave Nadler posted a detailed article (http://www.nadler.com/embedded/newlibAndFreeRTOS.html) about how to use newlib and newlib-nano with FreeRTOS.

FreeRTOS Newlib Memory Allocation Scheme

FreeRTOS Newlib Memory Allocation Scheme

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