Tutorial: Booting the NXP i.MX RT from Micro SD Card

It is a common thing to boot a Linux system (see the Raspberry Pi) from a micro SD card. It is not that common for a microcontroller. The NXP i.MX RT ARM Cortex-M7 fills that gap between these two worlds. No surprise that it features a ROM bootloader which can boot from a micro SD card.

SD Card with i.MX RT1052

SD Card with i.MX RT1052

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FreeRTOS: how to End and Restart the Scheduler

Most host or desktop systems (say Linux, Mac or Windows) have a normal use case where you start the operating system say in the morning and shut it down in the evening, and then you leave the machine. Embedded Systems are different: they are not attended, and they are supposed to run ‘forever’. Not every embedded system needs to run an OS (or in that world: Real-Time Operating System or RTOS), but the same applies here: after the RTOS is started, it is not intended that it will shutdown and restart. To the extend that you won’t they support the ‘shutdown’ and ‘restart’ functionality at all. In case of gathering coverage information this would be really useful:

coverage information from freertos application

coverage information from FreeRTOS application

In the case of FreeRTOS: what if I really need to shutdown the RTOS and restart it again, as by default this is not supported. This is what this article is about …

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GDB All-Stop and Non-Stop Mode with LinkServer

GDB supports a mode which allows the GDB debug client to read memory while the target is running. This allows features like ‘live variables’: that way I can see the variables refreshed and changing over time without halting the target. Another functionality which comes with that feature is to check stopped threads or to see all threads in the system.

multiple freertos threads in debug view

multiple FreeRTOS threads in debug view

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Regaining Debug Access to NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK executing WFI

Working with low power modes can be challenging. It can severely affect debugging capabilities of a microprocessor or microcontroller. I ported a FreeRTOS application using the Tickless Idle Mode to the NXP i.MX RT1064 board, and all of a sudden, the board was unresponsive to any debugger connection. Luckily the board was not really bricked, but it took me while to find a way to recover it. So for when you end up in a situation with a ‘bricked’ i.MX RT1064 board, this article might be helpful for you to recover it.

i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

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Freelink LPC4322JET100 based Debug Circuit on NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

As noticed in “First Steps with the NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK Board” there is a new LPC4322 based debug interface on the RT1064-EVK board.

LPC4322JET100 based Debug Interface

LPC4322JET100 based Debug Interface

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First Steps with the NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

I always reserve time between Christmas and New Year to get my hands on technology pieces which I might not have any time otherwise. Among different things I ordered the NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK board from Mouser.com, and it arrived right before Christmas. Time to have it unboxed and started….

i.MX RT1064 Processor

i.MX RT1064 Processor

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New NXP MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0 Release

Friday this week NXP has released a new version of their flagship IDE: the MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0. The version number indicates an incremental update from the earlier V10.2.1,  but there are many exciting features and new features which make me switch my lecture material to this new IDE for the next semester.

MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0

MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0

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Using GDB Server Monitor Commands from Eclipse GDB Console

With Eclipse as IDE it is very easy to debug an application on a board. Still sometimes it is useful to get one level down and control the GDB server directly.

Monitor Flash Download

Monitor Flash Download

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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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