McuOnEclipse Components: 30-Sept-2018 Release

I’m pleased to announce a new release of the McuOnEclipse components, available on SourceForge. This release includes several bug fixes, extra support for the NXP S32 Design Studio and SDK and includes FreeRTOS V10.1.1.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Tutorial: μCUnit, a Unit Test Framework for Microcontrollers

Unit testing is a common practice for host development. But for embedded development this still seems mostly a ‘blank’ area. Mostly because embedded engineers are not used to unit testing, or because the usual framework for unit testing requires too many resources on an embedded target?

What I have used is the μCUnit framework which is a small and easy to use framework, targeting small microcontroller applications.

uCUnit

uCUnit

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Tutorial: First Steps with Embedded Artists NXP i.MX RT1052 OEM Module

Not ready for the complexity of a full blown Embedded Linux, but need that extra compute performance? Need an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz module on a half-sized business card, ready to be integrated? Here we go: the Embedded Artists i.MX RT1052 OEM module:

Embedded Artists NXP i.MX RT1052 OEM Module

Embedded Artists NXP i.MX RT1052 OEM Module

Compute modules are very common in the Embedded Linux space, for example see this Toradex module. The reason is simple: these high-performance boards simplify the design, as I don’t have to care about the BGA packages and the external SDRAM and FLASH devices: everything is on a module I can easily integrate into my base board.

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Tutorial: Catching Rogue Memory Accesses with ARM Watchpoint Comparators and Instruction Trace

In my “Tutorial: Catching Rogue Memory Accesses with Eclipse and GDB Watchpoints” I have used Eclipse/CDT and GDB watchpoints.  I used a conditional watchpoint, but this comes with a performance hit. In this article I show how to use the ARM Cortex trace hardware to catch specific writes to a memory location. Without severe performance degradation. But for this I need a little helper: the DEADBEEF catcher!

0xdeadbeef catcher

0xdeadbeef catcher

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Tutorial: Catching Rogue Memory Accesses with Eclipse and GDB Watchpoints

Eclipse is great: it gives me the tools and capabilities to solve the really hard bugs to find. An example of that ‘hard’ category are ‘rogue’ memory accesses: something in the application is accessing an unwanted memory location and corrupts the data. This might be very sporadic, or takes a long while until it happens. With normal ‘stop-mode’ debugging (setting a normal breakpoint) and stepping usually won’t let me find that bug, as it might be coming from a pointer somewhere. Maybe from an interrupt routine. Or maybe an unitialized or corrupted pointer corrupts to my memory. Usually all what I know is the memory adddress of the data, maybe what is written, but not what or who is writing to that location.

In this article I’m using one of the ‘less-known’ debugging techniques available in Eclipse and CDT and how it works: watchpoints!

Watchpoint with Condition

Watchpoint with Condition

In this article I’m using one of the ‘less-known’ debugging techniques available in Eclipse and CDT and how it works: watchpoints!

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First Steps with the NXP i.MX RT1020 EVK Board

Powerful ARM Cortex-M7 microcontroller are on the rise, bridging the gap between traditional microcontroller and Embedded Linux systems. I already published articles for the NXP i.MX RT1052 which is an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz. Because the RT105x is available in BGA196 package only, I have as oredered the i.MX RT 1050 EVK which has a similar device on it, but in LQFP package:

i.MX RT1021

i.MX RT1021

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Tutorial: Using Runtime Statistics with Amazon FreeRTOS V10

FreeRTOS includes a nice feature to give me information about how much time every task is spending running on the system:

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

This tutorial explains that FreeRTOS Runtime Statistics feature and how it can be turned on and used.

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MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1

NXP has just released the 10.2.1 update of their flagship Eclipse based IDE. While the number increase from 10.2.0 to 10.2.1 indicates a minor release, there are a several things which make me move over to that new release.

MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1 build 795

MCUXpresso IDE 10.2.1 build 795

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Debug the Last Launched Application with Eclipse and other Debug Tricks

My usual workflow is: edit – build – debug and repeat. And this for the same project again and again. So here are a few tips how to make these iterations faster with Eclipse. One thing is to use the F11 shortcut to debug the last launched/debugged application:

Debug Last Launched

Debug Last Launched

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Execute-Only Code with GNU and gcc

“There is no ‘S’ for Security in IoT” has indeed some truth. With all the connected devices around us, security of code should be a concern for every developer. “Preventing Reverse Engineering: Enabling Flash Security” shows how to prevent external read-out of critical code from device. What some microcontroller have built in is yet another feature: ‘Execute-Only-Sections‘ or ‘Execute-Only-Memory‘. What it means is that only instruction fetches are allowed in this area. No read access at all. Similar like ‘read-only’ ‘execute-only’ it means that code can be executed there, but no other access from that memory is allowed.

Locked Code

Locked Code

In this article I describe the challenges for a toolchain like the GNU gcc, and how to compile and link code for such an execute-only memory.

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Creating Disassembly Listings with GNU Tools and Eclipse

In many cases it is very useful to see the generated assembly code produced by the compiler. One obvious way to see the assembly code is to use the Disassembly view in Eclipse:

Disassembly View

Disassembly View

But this requires a debug session. An easier way is to use command line options to generate the listing file(s).

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Eclipse Debugging with Pointers and Arrays

In the C programming language it is good practice to pass values by reference (using a pointer), especially for large set of data. For example the following function takes a message string and pointer to integer data which then is printed to the console:

static void printData(const char *msg, const int *intBuf, size_t bufSize) {
  puts(msg); /* print message */
  for(int i=0; i<bufSize;i++) {
    printf("buf[%i] = %i\n", i, intBuf[i]);
  }
}

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Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1

NXP not only sells general purpose microcontroller, but as well a portfolio of automotive devices which includes the S32K which is ARM Cortex based. For this device family, they offer the S32 Design Studio (or S32DS) with its own Eclipse distribution and SDK. The interesting part is that the S32DS includes Processor Expert (which is a bit different from the ‘mainstream’ Processor Expert). It comes with its own components for the S32K SDK which includes a component for FreeRTOS. But that component in S32DS 2018.R1 comes with an old V8.2.1 FreeRTOS component:

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

So what to do if I want to use the latest FreeRTOS (currently 10.0.1) with all the bells and whistles?

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Show FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse Debug View with SEGGER J-Link and NXP S32 Design Studio

By default, the FreeRTOS threads do not show up with the SEGGER J-Link debug connection in the Eclipse based NXP S32 Design Studio IDE. But don’t worry: Here is how to get it working with SEGGER J-Link debug connection:

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse Debug View

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse Debug View

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Measuring ARM Cortex-M CPU Cycles Spent with the MCUXpresso Eclipse Registers View

The ARM DWT (Data Watchpoint and Trace) is an optional feature of the ARM-Cortex-M, and many Cortex-M3, M4 and M7 devices have it implemented. With it comes a cycle counter which counts the cycles spent. In Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT I described an approach how the application on the target can access the cycle counter.

The MCUXpresso IDE shows that cycle counter in the Eclipse Registers view:

Cycle Counter in Register View

Cycle Counter in Register View

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GNU Link Time Optimization finds non-matching Declarations

By default, the GNU compiler (gcc) optimizes each compilation unit (source file) separately. This is effective, but misses the opportunity to optimize across compilation units. Here is where the Link Time Optimization (LTO,  option -flto) can help out: with a global view it can optimize one step further.

The other positive side effect is that the linker can flag possible issues like the one below which are not visible to the compiler alone:

type of '__SP_INIT' does not match original declaration [enabled by default]
Warning by LTO

Warning by LTO

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Tutorial: Understanding and Using FreeRTOS Software Timers

Hardware Timers are essential to most embedded applications: I use them mostly for triggering actions at a given frequency, such as acquiring data from a  sensor. With using an RTOS I can do a similar thing using a task: the task will run with a given frequency and I can periodic work in it. However, using a task might be too much overhead doing this. The good news is that there is a much more efficient way to do this in FreeRTOS with Software Timers. And this is what this tutorial is about: how to use Software Timers with FreeRTOS.

FreeRTOS Software Timers

FreeRTOS Software Timers

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Understanding FreeRTOS Task Stack Usage and Kernel Awareness Information

When using the FreeRTOS Task List in the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, it shows the list of tasks with their stack size used. But with the default FreeRTOS settings it is not able to determine the correct stack size and shows a warning icon:

Warning for Stack Usage

Warning for Stack Usage

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Overview of MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:

  1. Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
  2. Or: should we stay home, turn the BBQ smoker engine on fire, load it with baby back pork rib racks for a slow-and-low smoke treatment, while doing some on-the-side IDE and technology exploration?

Well, my family vote was kind of clear: they have chosen that second option. Not to mention that hidden technology piece in it, but that was part of the deal ;-).

And I’m sorry: this article is not about BBQ (for this see “Smoking BBQ Baby Back Ribs – Swiss Style“), it is about technology: I’m using the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and tools for many of my projects (see “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools“). Right before the this extended weekend, NXP has released the new v10.2.0 version, so here is where that technology exploration piece comes into play. Checking the release notes, this version number change includes so many cool stuff I decided to have a look and to check it out. Of course always having an electronic eye on the baby back ribs!

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

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