Embedded World Nürnberg 2017 Impressions: MCUXpresso, Hexiwear, NTAG, LPC800-DIP and Alan Hawse

This year I managed to attend the Embedded World in Nürnberg/Germany after missing the 2016 show. And 2017 has been a blast! With more than 1000 exhibitors and >30’000 visitors it was huge! There were too many exciting things, so I just pick a few: NXP demonstrated the new MCUXpresso Software and Tools with a new Eclipse Neon based IDE, lots of IoT and Hexiwear, the tiny LPC800-DIP board, and I have met Alan Hawse in person!

Impresson from the Show (embeddedworld 2017)

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Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

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.

Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

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McuOnEclipse Components: 12-Mar-2017 Release

I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge, with the following main features and changes:

  • Wait: Busy-Waiting using ARM DWT cycle counter
  • Percepio FreeRTOS+Trace: Updated to version 3.1.1, simplified usage of streaming and snapshot mode
  • GenericSWI2C: MCUXpresso SDK can be used with the bit-banging I2C driver support
  • FreeRTOS: includes updates of the 9.0.1 release, ‘optimized task selection, enabled MPU support (experimental)
  • Graphical GUI drivers for screens, windows, icons, headers, text widgets and more
  • SSD1351: display driver for Solomon Systech SSD1351 display
  • More components are now supported by the McuLibConfig settings
  • Many other smaller bug fixes and enhancements

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What is “Realtime Debugging”?

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 :-).

Debugging Setup

Debugging Setup

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Percepio FreeRTOS Tracealyzer Plugin for Eclipse

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:

Eclipse with Percepio Tracealizer

Eclipse with Percepio Tracealyzer

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P&E ARM Cortex-M Debugging with FreeRTOS Thread Awareness and Real Time Expressions for GDB and Eclipse

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 🙂

FreeRTOS Thread Awareness

FreeRTOS Thread Awareness

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Remote Board Debugging: J-Link Remote Server with Eclipse

For a CubeSat project we only have a single board available. But multiple universities and developers need to have access to that board for developing and debugging the firmware. We cannot easily ship around the board: that takes a lot of time and during shipment nobody can use the board.

There is a nice feature in the Segger J-Link software which allows to share the debug connection over the network: the J-Link Remote Server. It even works nicely between different networks without complicated firewall setup:

Connected in Tunnel Mode

Connected in Tunnel Mode

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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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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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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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Tutorial: Getting ETM Instruction Trace with NXP Kinetis ARM Cortex-M4F

It seems to me that not many developers use hardware trace? ARM indicates that maybe only <5% of developers are using trace. Too bad! Why are all the ARM Cortex microcontroller vendors putting a powerful hardware (and complicated!) trace engine into their devices, if only few developers are using it? Seems like a waste of silicon and an unnecessary price adder? Well, hardware trace can be a life saver: Because only with hardware trace the most complicated bugs and problems can be solved. And maybe because only the best are using it ;-).

In this article I proudly present my research how to get instruction trace out of the ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller on a NXP TWR-K64F120M board with a Segger J-Trace for ARM:

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

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McuOnEclipse Components: 30-Oct-2016 Release

A new McuOnEclipse components release was long overdue, so I’m pleased to announce that a new drop is available with the following major changes:

  • Segger SystemView library with kernel time reporting
  • GenericTimeDate supports different hardware RTC devices
  • Utility with little endian packet handling functions
  • Shell Standard I/O handlers for USB CDC, Segger RTT and Bluetooth
  • FreeRTOS and stack size reporting
  • printf() support in Shell component
  • Various small bug fixes and improvements
SourceForge

SourceForge

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Tutorial: Using Single Wire Output SWO with ARM Cortex-M and Eclipse

As a standard procedure, I add some console functionality to my embedded applications. That way I have a command line interface and can inspect and influence the target system. One interesting hardware feature of ARM Cortex-M is Single Wire Output (SWO): it allows to send out data (e.g. strings) over up to 32 different stimulus ports, over a single wire.

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

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FreeRTOS Kernel Awareness with Ozone

In my first post about Segger Ozone (see “First Steps with Ozone and the Segger J-Link Trace Pro“) I missed the fact that it includes support for kernels like FreeRTOS. So here is how to show the FreeRTOS (or any other RTOS) threads with Ozone:

freertos-threads-in-ozone

freertos-threads-in-ozone

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First Steps with Ozone and the Segger J-Link Trace Pro

From time to time I face some problems which are really hard to find. Mostly these kind of bugs are very timing sensitive and depend on interrupt execution order. Maybe a dangling pointer is overwriting memory, code is running wild, or some functions are not reentrant as they should be. For these kind of bugs, good tools are worth their weight in gold. The Percepio FreeRTOS+Trace and the Segger SystemView have helped me many times to narrow down such kind problems in my applications. Another ultimate tools is hardware trace: Now I have a Segger J-Trace Pro for ARM Cortex-M in my arsenal of bug extinguishing weapons on my desk:
Dear bugs, look what I have on my desk. Your hiding time is over! 🙂

tracing-cortex-m4-with-j-trace

tracing-cortex-m4-with-j-trace

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