Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT


Some ARM Cortex-M have a DWT (Data Watchpoint and Trace) unit implemented, and it has a nice feature in that unit which counts the execution cycles. The DWT is usually implemented on most Cortex-M3, M4 and M7 devices, including e.g. the NXP Kinetis or LPC devices.

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Zephyr: Thoughts and First Steps on the ARM Cortex-M4F with gcc, gdb and Eclipse


The concept of Linux (Open Source, broad developer base and broad usage) is a success story. While there is a lot of diversity (and freedom) in the Linux world, Linux is Linux and again Linux :-). And the world has (mostly) standardized on Linux and its variants on the high embedded system side.

On the other side, the ‘middle and lower end’ Embedded world is fragmented and in many aspects proprietary. So it was no surprise to me when the Linux Foundation announced the ‘Zephyr’ project back in February 2016:

“The Linux Foundation Announces Project to Build Real-Time Operating System for Internet of Things Devices. Open source Zephyr™ Project aims to deliver an RTOS; opens call for developers to help advance project for the smallest footprint IoT devices.

Ζεφυρος (Zephyros) is the Greek good of spring and the west wind. Obviously this inspired the logo for the Zephyr project:

Zephyr logo

Zephyr logo (Source: https://www.zephyrproject.org/)

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“No source available”, or how to Debug Multiple Binaries with GDB and Eclipse


When working and debugging a bootloader, debugging can be a challenge: During debugging the bootloader, a new binary gets loaded into the microcontroller address space which is unknown to the debugger. As soon as I step into the newly loaded binary, I only see assembly code, with that ugly “No source available” in Eclipse:

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

But wait: GDB is able to do pretty much everything you can imagine, so here is how to debug multiple binaries with GDB and Eclipse, and to turn the above into something which is easy to debug:

Debugging with Symbolics

Debugging with Symbolics

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Reprogramming the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear Dockingstation


The Hexiwear docking station would have a nice feature: it has embedded a debug circuit (OpenSDA). That way I would not need an external debug probe to debug the Hexiwear. However, a debug probe is required to reprogram the docking station itself:

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

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Debugging ARM Cortex-M0+ HardFaults


To me, one of the most frustrating things working with ARM Cortex-M cores are the hard fault exceptions. I have lost several hours this week debugging and tracking an instance of a hard fault on an ARM Cortex-M0+ device.

Next assembly step will cause a hard fault

Next assembly step will cause a hard fault

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Upgrading to Sharp 128×128 Pixel Memory Display


In “Low Power LCD: Adafruit Breakout Board with Sharp Memory Display” I used a 96×96 Sharp Display (LS013B4DN04) with the Adafruit breakout board, but because that one seems to be EOL (End Of Life), I searched for a replacement. I have found the 128×128 pixel version (Sharp LS013B7DH03), and best of all, it is pin compatible :-). With a small tweak of the driver, it works :-):

Sharp Memory Display 128x128

Sharp Memory Display 128×128

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Building the NXP BLE Stack with Open Source GNU and Eclipse Tools


One of the biggest road blocks (beside of closed source) using the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) stack from NXP is that it requires expensive tools to compile and build the stack. The good news is that I have now the NXP BLE stack for the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear ported to Eclipse and GNU gcc build tools for ARM 🙂

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

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Using Python, Gatttool and Bluetooth Low Energy with Hexiwear


Now I can use the data on the Hexiwear over BLE with the gatttool (see “Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark” and “Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear“). This article is taking things a step further and uses a Python script on Linux to access the sensor data on the BLE device:

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

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VNC Server on Raspberry Pi with Autostart


The Raspberry Pi is a versatile mini computer: as such I can use it with USB keyboard, mouse and HDMI LCD monitor. But having multiple keyboards and mouse on my desktop is not my thing: somehow I always grab the wrong one. So what I prefer is to run the Raspberry with VNC (Virtual Network Computing). That way I have the Linux GUI as a window on my normal desktop, and no messing up with keyboards and mouse 🙂 :

Raspberry Pi on my Dekstop

Raspberry Pi on my Dekstop

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Hexiwear with Raspberry Pi and OpenHAB Home Automation


This is yet another milestone on my journey to combine the Hexiwear with the Raspberry Pi: now I can send take over control of the Hexiwear with openHAB running on the Raspberry Pi:

Controlling Hexiwear with OpenHAB

Controlling Hexiwear with openHAB

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Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark


For a university reasearch project I try to pair the Raspberry Pi 3 with a Mikroelektronika Hexiwear using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Most of things worked after a lot of trial and error, but at a certain point I was stuck trying to write to send data from the Raspy to the BLE device.The Hexiwear BLE protocol description is very thin, so I ended up using a BLE sniffer to reverse engineer the protocol with Wireshark.

Sniffing BLE Packets between Raspy and Hexiwear

Hardware setup between Raspy and Hexiwear

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Disabling EzPort on NXP Kinetis to Solve Power-On Issues


I’m using the NXP FRDM-K64F board in several projects: it is reasonably prices, has USB, Ethernet, micro SD card socket and connectors for Bluetooth classic and Nordic Semiconductor nRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz transceiver:

NXP FRDM-K64F Board

NXP FRDM-K64F Board

But one issue I have faced several times is that the board works fine while debugging and connected and powered by a host machine, but does not startup sometimes if powered by a battery or started without a debugger attached. I have found that the EzPort on the microcontroller is causing startup issues.

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Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear


The Hexiwear (see “Hexiwear: Teardown of the Hackable ‘Do-Anything’ Device“) is a small and portable sensor node with built-in BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) transceiver. In a research project we try to use multiple Hexiwear in a classroom environment and to collect sensor data on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B running Linux has an on-board BLE transceiver too, so why not binding them (wirelessly) together?

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Well, things seemed easy at the beginning, and as always, there are many things to learn on a journey like this…

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Low Power LCD: Adafruit Breakout Board with Sharp Memory Display


Many projects benefit from a small display as a user interface. For very low power applications this is usually a no-go as the display needs too much energy. I have used e-paper displays from Kent: while these e-paper displays do not need any power to keep the image, changing the display content is not for free, plus is very slow (around 1 second needed to update the display). So I was looking for something low power and fast for a long time, until Christian (thanks!) pointed me to a display from Sharp: both very low power and fast:

Font Test with Sharp Memory Display

Font Test with Sharp Memory Display

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McuOnEclipse Components: 12-Dec-2016 Release


Time is passing by so fast, and the year end is approache fast! I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge:

  • Percepio Trace V3.1 for FreeRTOS which includes both Segger RTT continuous streaming and snapshot tracing in a single API
  • Generation of sources and drivers so they can be used without Processor Expert using McuLibConfig, removal of dependency to NXP Kinetis SDK: components use a generic API approach to have them working with other SDKs.
  • New contributed ExceptionsHandler component
  • Callback Setter and Getter in USB CDC stack for simpler option handling
  • GenericTimeDate with flexible RTC support and added Unix Timestamp functions
  • LongKey events in Key component
  • FreeRTOS with optimized task selection on Cortex-M4/M7
  • Many smaller bug fixes and enhancements
SourceForge

SourceForge

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Flashing and Restoring the Hexiwear Firmware


The Hexiwear device is a great and versatile device with two microcontrollers on it. Developing firmware on a Hexiwear means changing what was originally on it. And sometimes it happens that I’m not sure if the changes are for good. Or that I accidentally destroyed the firmware on the NXP Kinetis KW40 BLE microcontroller :-(. So I had to find a way to restore the original firmware, and this is what this post is about.

Restoring the Hexiwear Firmware with a Segger J-Link

Restoring the Hexiwear Firmware with a Segger J-Link

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Prototype of tiny Hexiwear Docking Station


For a research project we are using Hexiwear to measure the effectiveness of teaching and learning. The Hexiwear is used as a networking sensor device in that project. For that project we needed a docking station with wireless capabilities:

Mini Docking Station for Hexiwear

Mini Docking Station for Hexiwear

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Tutorial: STMicroelectronics VL6180X Time-of-Flight LIDAR Sensor


For many of my applications I need to measure a distance. I have used ultrasonic sensors, but there view angle (beam) is not able to detect smaller objects, it very much depends on the object surface and angle, it is slow and not very precise. I have used infrared sensors, but here again it depends on the infrared reflection of the object in range, it depends the amount of reflected light is not really telling much about the distance, and yet IR reflection is subject of material and object targeted.

But there is yet another sensor type to consider: ToF! ToF (or Time-of-Flight) sensors have a built-in LIDAR: The sensor is sending out light pulses and measures how much time it takes for the light to come back. Similar to ultrasonic sensors (see “Tutorial: Ultrasonic Ranging with the Freedom Board“), but instead of ultrasonic it uses an infrared laser light. Or think about a radar system using an infrared laser light.

Vl6180x Breakout Board with tinyK20 Microcontroller-board

Vl6180x Breakout Board with tinyK20 (NXP Kinetis K20) Microcontroller-board

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NXP MCUXpresso Software and Tools with Clocks Tool


About a year ago, on December 7th 2015, Freescale and NXP have announced the completion of their merger.  Now it is Qualcomm which wants to acquire NXP? It looks like these mergers are happening faster and faster. The reality is that merging products take more time than anticipated, and nearly one year later I can see the outcome of what comes out of the marriage between Freescale and NXP or between Kinetis and LPC: NXP has announced the MCUXpresso software and tools for Kinetis and LPC microcontroller:

Introducing MCUXpresso

Introducing MCUXpresso (Source: NXP video)

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Making-Of Sea Shell Sand Clock


The year is coming to an end, the Holiday season is approaching. In case you are looking for a nice present: I have completed my version of a sand clock: a clock writing the time into sand:

Sandclock

Sandclock

If you are interested to build your own version, I have documented the different steps with tips and tricks…

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