Linking Bootloader Applications with Eclipse and FreeMarker Scripts

Bootloaders are a fine thing: With this I can load any applications I like. Power comes with some complexity, and a bootloader alone is a complex thing already. But this applies to the application part too: I need to link the application to a certain offset in the memory space so it can be loaded by the bootloader, plus the application typically needs to add some extra information to be used by the bootloader. This article describes how to build a bootloader application with Eclipse (MCUXpresso IDE) using the MCUXpresso SDK.

Build Configuration for Bootloader Application

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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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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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Visualizing Global Variables while Target is Running with Eclipse and MCUXpresso IDE

By default, Eclipse provides ‘stop-mode-debugging’: in order to inspect the target code and data, I have to stop the target. But with the right extensions as present in the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, it is possible to inspect the target even while it is running.

Graphing Variables

Graphing Variables

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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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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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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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Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 2: Commandline Debugging with GDB

In “Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 1: Installation and Build with Maked” I used cmake and make to build the SDK application. In this part I’m going to use the command line gdb to debug the application on the board.

Cross-Debugging with GDB

Cross-Debugging with GDB

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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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Remote Debugging with USB based JTAG/SWD Debug Probes

For some projects it is not possible to have the device under debug available on my desk: the board might be in another room, on another site or in a place where physical access is not possible or even dangerous. In that case an IP-based debug probe (see Debugging ARM Cores with IP based Debug Probes and Eclipse) is very useful: as long as I can access its IP address, that works fine. It is an excellent solution even if the board is moving or rotating: hook it up to a WLAN access point and I still can use it as it would be on my desk.

But what if I have a debug probe only connected to USB? This article shows how to turn a USB debug probe into a IP-based debug solution: that way I can easily debug a board from remote, connected to the network:

IP Based Debugging with USB Debug Probe

IP Based Debugging with USB Debug Probe

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MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.1 available

On Friday a new release of the Eclipse Oxygen based NXP MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.1 has been made available. The IDE supports MacOS, Linux and Windows 32/64-bit and will be 64-bit only going forward.

MCUXpresso 10.3.1 About Information

MCUXpresso 10.3.1 About Information

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Debugging the Startup Code with Eclipse and GDB

By default, when debugging an embedded application, the target usually stops at main():

stopped in main

stopped in main

That’s usually fine, but what if I want to debug the code out of reset?

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Tutorial: Changing ARM Cortex Core or Microcontroller in Eclipse CDT Projects

Sometimes I start a project with an ARM microcontroller, and in the middle of the project I find out that it was a wrong choice at the beginning and I need to switch the microcontroller derivative or even the used ARM core. With little knowledge of the project structure and the files needed, such a switch is not the easiest thing, but definitely possible.

switching cores

switching cores

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Tutorial: Transforming the NXP LPC845-BRK into a CMSIS-DAP Debug Probe

The NXP LPC845-BRK board is a tiny an inexpensive (sub $6) breakout board. The board includes a CMSIS-DAP (LPC11U35) on-board debug probe which can be used as a debug probe to debug any NXP LPC, Kinetis or i.MX RT device 🙂

LPC845-BRK used to debug robot

LPC845-BRK used to debug a Sumo Battle Robot

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Tutorial: HD44780 Display Driver with NXP MCUXpresso SDK

In the age of high-resolution graphical LCDs using a character display might look like a bit anachronistic. But these displays provide a lot of value for me as they are robust, available in different shapes and number of lines. And such a character display can be a better solution for an industrial application.

hd44780 display with NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

hd44780 display with NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

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