To me, software and tools are by far more important than the microcontroller. Because the silicon is a ‘one time kind of thing’, where the software has to be maintained and working over a longer time. And at least my software usually needs to be ported to a new device, so portability and available software and tools are critical to me.
The combination of MCUXpresso SDK (formerly Kinetis SDK) and Processor Expert is unfortunately not supported by NXP. But I have found a way to get them work together in a nice way, and this article is about making that combination possible :-).
SDKv2 Project with Processor Expert which is supposed not to work together
With debugging FreeRTOS applications in Eclipse, it is a big to have views available showing all the threads, queues, timers and heap memory allocation. One of the best Eclipse plugins are the one NXP provides for FreeRTOS: they are free of charge and give me pretty much everything I need. However, if you are not that familiar with FreeRTOS itself, here are a few tips to get more out of the plugins.
Questions from students or readers of my articles are a great source for all kind of articles. And here is the ‘question of this week’: “What is realtime debugging”?
It’s a good question because the topic of ‘realtime’ and ‘debugging’ was a topic in the lectures this week. So this question gives me the opportunity to combine the two things of ‘realtime’ and ‘debugging’, I love it :-).
Good news for everyone using Eclipse, FreeRTOS and Percepio Tracealyzer: Percepio has released an Eclipse plugin which makes snapshot tracing very easy and convenient using the a GNU gdb debugger in Eclipse like Kinetis Design Studio:
An interesting trend in the industry are SOM (System on Module): a high performance processor typically running Linux, Windows or Android with all the memory and necessary power logic gets put on a small module. The key benefit is that I don’t need to worry about the complex ball grid routing and the DDR memory connections/lines: all these problems are solved on a small module which then I can use in my design. It seems that NXP i.MX application processors are getting popular in this domain, and after looking at the Toradex Colibri modules, I have an i.MX6 module on my desk from e-con Systems:
Coming out of a project meeting Friday evening, the following wisdom came to my mind:
“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” – Anonymous
P&E has a new version of their GDB/Eclipse debug plugins available on their Eclipse update site, and it comes with to great features: Real Time Expressions (show variables while target is running) and FreeRTOS thread awareness 🙂
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.
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.
“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:
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
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:
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
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂 :