Getting Started with Microsoft Azure RTOS (aka ThreadX)

If you are a regular reader of my articles, you probably know that I’m using FreeRTOS in most of my applications, for obvious reasons. But clearly this is not the only RTOS out there. After Microsoft had acquired Express Logic back in April 2019 things kept quite for a while. To me the crown jewel of Express Logic is the ThreadX RTOS. But recently Microsoft is pushing more and more the ‘Azure Sphere’ and trying to monetize the ‘IoT’ (I apologize for mentioning that overused acronym) application space and providing it now free for devices from selected partners which includes NXP now.

Debugging with ThreadX in MCUXpresso IDE

Debugging with ThreadX in MCUXpresso IDE

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Debugging Bootloader and Application with one Debug Session

If having a boot loader running on a micro-controller, it is very useful if both the boot loader and the loaded application can be debugged together:

Bootloader with Application Code

Bootloader with Application Code

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Power Measurement with the PEmicro Multilink Universal in Eclipse

Implementing low power in embedded applications implemented can be challenging. Measuring current consumption is a first step to see if the software changes indeed have an effect on the current consumed. The PEmicro Universal Multilink FX debug probe comes with a useful feature to provide power to the target and the same time to measure the current consumption and to show the current used in the Eclipse IDE:

PEmicro power measurement

PEmicro power measurement

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FreeRTOS and Eclipse Indexer for >5K Lines Source Files

Eclipse has a great built-in source code parser and browser (aka ‘Indexer’). It is basically a built-in compiler which parses the source files and assists the user with code completion and navigation help, making Eclipse this awesome productivity tool. On the downside this background parsing could potentially slow down things, and therefore Eclipse has some default settings to prevent this. Unfortunately, the FreeRTOS Kernel ‘tasks.c’ file is above-and-beyond of a ‘sane’ source file and will hit the default limits: as a result the ‘tasks.c’ file is not indexed and things like ‘Open Declaration‘ might not work for the file ‘tasks.c’.

Open Declaration

Open Declaration

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Grouping Eclipse Projects with Working Sets

Typically I have many, many projects listed in the Eclipse Project Explorer, usually more than 100 projects: from example projects, projects on git, lecture module projects, research projects or just some hobby projects I’m working on. With the default Eclipse settings, all these projects are listed in a ‘linear’ list. What I found really useful is the ability to group them into ‘Working Sets‘:

Grouped Projects in Eclipse Project Explorer

Grouped Projects in Eclipse Project Explorer

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Tweaking MCUXpresso IDE Black Theme

‘Dark’ or ‘Black’ themes are on vogue: some love it, some do not care. The good thing is that we all have a choice. Things are getting improved on the host OS (Windows/Linux) side, but the challenge is still on the application side, but things are getting better. This is true for the Eclipse based IDEs too, with the NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.1 just recently released: it comes with improved Dark Theme support:

Tweaked MCUXpresso IDE Dark Theme

Tweaked MCUXpresso IDE Dark Theme

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MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.1

I have started the semester and labs using the MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.0 which has been available from July this year. The past week I received the notification that the update V11.2.1 is available: time to check it out….

MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.1

MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.1

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FreeRTOS V10.4.1 with SEGGER SystemView V3.12

Amazon has released in the past week the FreeRTOS version V10.4.0. Time to upgrade, actually the most recent version 10.4.1! The same time the SEGGER SystemView V3.12 was released back in April this year. No surprise: with the FreeRTOS changes they don’t work out of the box: but no worries, I have you covered and applied all the needed patches and changes to have them working again together: the latest FreeRTOS v10.4.x with Segger SystemView v3.12:

Segger SystemView 3.12 with FreeRTOS 10.4.2

Segger SystemView 3.12 with FreeRTOS 10.4.2

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Import Projects from git into Eclipse

As a VCS (Version Control System) I’m using git in all my projects. And not only for software or firmware projects: I’m using it for hardware design (KiCAD, FreeCAD, …) or for documentation (LaTeX, …) too.

The nice thing with the Eclipse IDE is that it supports nice git integration, making importing projects from git repositories easy.

Import Projects from git

Import Projects from git

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DIY Portable Video Conference, Sharing and Teaching Device

COVID-19 is by far not over, and in Switzerland the infection rate is going up again (2nd wave?). During the spring 2020 semester university lock-down we moved pretty much everything to a ‘distance learning’ setup. With that experience and with the request to prepare for the fall semester, I have constructed a DIY conference and teaching device which should make things simpler and easier: a combination of video camera, speaker phone and a muting device:

Desk with Communicator

Desk with Communicator C2020

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