Is Developing for ARM more difficult than for other Architectures?

I believe in ‘life-long-learning’. With this I continue to learn and discover new things every day. I’m writing tutorials to give something back to the community from which I have learned so much.

On top of this, I receive emails on a nearly daily basis, asking for help. Many articles have the origin in such requests or questions. I prefer questions or comments in a public forum, because that way I feel all others can benefit from it. Last week Alessandro contacted me with this:

“Hi Erich,

I hope this find you well! I’m starting to using ARM processors, but I find them quite complicated on the configuration side. I started in the past with PIC micro (PIC16) with asm, and I found them quite straightforward to be configured (clock, IO, peripherals, …). Then I moved myself on C language, and on PIC18 without any big issues.

Now I would really like join the ARM community, I see that these processors are what I’ve always looking for, on energy, calc power, peripherals, and FINALLY on IDE (editor, toolchain and utilities)… AMAZING!!!”

The topic is about how to start learning developing for ARM. Alessandro agreed to make this public, so I thought this might be a good topic for an article?

Firmware

Firmware

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Modifying the Teensy 3.5 and 3.6 for ARM SWD Debugging

Looking for a small, inexpensive ($25-30) ARM development board (say 120-180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with FPU, 512kB-1MB of FLASH and 256 KByte of RAM? Then have a look at the Teensy 3.5 and Teensy 3.6 by PJRC/Paul Stoffregen:

Teensy 3.6 with NXP K64

Teensy 3.5 with NXP K64F ARM Cortex-M4F

The only problem? it is not possible to debug it :-(. At least not in the traditional sense. This article is about how to change the board to use it with any normal SWD debugging tool e.g. Eclipse and the Segger J-Link :-).

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Tuturial: mbedTLS SSL Certificate Verification with Mosquitto, lwip and MQTT

In “Tutorial: Secure TLS Communication with MQTT using mbedTLS on top of lwip” I already used TLS for a secure communication, but I had not enabled server certificate verification. This article is about closing that gap.

MQTT running on NXP FRDM-K64F

Secure MQTT running on NXP FRDM-K64F with lwip and mbed TLS

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Tutorial: Secure TLS Communication with MQTT using mbedTLS on top of lwip

One of the most important aspects of the ‘IoT’ world is having a secure communication. Running MQTT on lwip (see “MQTT with lwip and NXP FRDM-K64F Board“) is no exception. Despite of the popularity of MQTT and lwip, I have not been able to find an example using a secure TLS connection over raw/native lwip TCP :-(. Could it be that such an example exists, and I have not found it? Or that someone implemented it, but has not published it? Only what I have found on the internet are many others asking for the same kind of thing “running MQTT on lwip with TLS”, but there was no answer? So I have to answer my question, which seems to be a good thing anyway: I can learn new things the hard way :-).

Blockdiagram MQTT Application with TLS using lwip

Block diagram MQTT Application with TLS using lwip

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Enable Secure Communication with TLS and the Mosquitto Broker

MQTT is a lightweight  and broadly used internet protocol (see “MQTT with lwip and NXP FRDM-K64F Board“). And probably the majority of IoT applications today are using Mosquitto as server (or ‘broker’ in MQTT language). By default, Mosquitto is using a protocol without encryption. In “Introduction to Security and TLS (Transport Layer Security)” I have covered the basics and needs for encryption. This article is about how to enable Mosquitto and clients to use the TLS protocol.

TLS Handshaking with certificates and keys

TLS Handshaking with certificates and keys

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Introduction to Security and TLS (Transport Layer Security)

IoT (Internet of Things) is all about connecting to the internet. And even more it is about security. Without security and without encrypted communication, everyone possibly can see what I send or receive. And this is especially bad if passwords or user names are sent in an unencrypted way. So encryption and secure communication is key. The solution to that is to use a connection which uses the TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol.

I want to use TLS for my MQTT communication (see “MQTT with lwip and NXP FRDM-K64F Board“). I’m still learning MQTT, and I’m even more learning about the fundamentals of security and security protocols. So this article is about what I have learned recently, and what I can use to make my data communication secure: Network stack architecture, symmetric and asymmetric encryption and certificates.

Certificate Based Key Exchange

Certificate Based Key Exchange

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MQTT with lwip and NXP FRDM-K64F Board

In the area of IoT (Internet of Things), one obvious need is to have a way to send and receive data with an internet protocol. MQTT (or Message Queue Telemetry Transport) is exactly like that: a light-weight Machine-to-Machine communication protocol. With the MQTT protocol a microcontroller (or ‘client’) can send data and/or subscribe to data. For example to the Adafruit.IO:

Adafruit MQTT IO Feed

Adafruit MQTT IO Feed

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MCUXpresso IDE: Installing Processor Expert into Eclipse Neon

In “MCUXpresso IDE: Importing Kinetis Design Studio Projects” I explained how Kinetis Design Studio projects can be imported and used inside the MCUXpresso IDE. Processor Expert projects can be used, but no new components added, modified or new Processor Expert projects created. To fully use Processor Expert, two plugins need to installed, and this is what this article is about.

Processor Expert in MCUXpresso IDE

Processor Expert in MCUXpresso IDE

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MCUXpresso IDE: Importing Kinetis Design Studio Projects

Many of my currently active projects are using Kinetis Design Studio (KDS) V3.2.0 from NXP (I have published many of my projects on GitHub). Now with the advent of the MCUXpresso IDE (see “MCUXpresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers“), I have migrated several projects from KDS to MCUXpresso. This post is about how to easily get KDS projects ported and running in MCUXpresso IDE.

Debugging KDS Project in MCUXpresso IDE

Debugging KDS Project in MCUXpresso IDE

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The Influence of Software and Tools on ARM Cortex-M Microcontroller Vendor Selection

For me, the available software and tools are the primary key decision factor why I select a particular silicon vendor. Without good software and tools, a microcontroller only ‘sand in plastic case’, even if it is the best microcontroller in the world. I do have several probably excellent microcontroller boards, and they are only getting touched by more durst over the months and years.

Undusted LPC824 Board

Undusted LPC824 Board

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MCUXpresso IDE: S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files

This is another article about the NXP MCUXpresso IDE (see “MCUXPresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers“), this time it is about Post-build steps. Post-build steps are custom actions which can be executed after the build (or link phase), and are typically used to generate S-Record, Binary or Intel Hex files (see “S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files“).

Post Build Steps Details

Post Build Steps Details

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MCUXpresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers

There are many mergers going on in the industry, and one of the largest one was in 2016 the integration of Freescale Semiconductor with NXP Semiconductors, with both providing Eclipse based IDE’s to their customer base. Consequently, the company merger triggered a merger of the IDE’s, and last week NXP has released the result: the MCUXpresso IDE.

MCUXpresso IDE

MCUXpresso IDE

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Simulating Space on Earth: Irradiation Tests at the Paul Scherrer Institute

Space is a hostile environment. Sending hardware to space means putting it under irradiation tests: exposing the object to radiation and see what happens :-). For this, under the lead of the ETHZ (Mathematical and Physical Geodesy), we had the opportunity to put the CubETH payload board under a proton beam. The test facility is at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland:

Control Room at PSI

Control Room at PSI

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Tutorial: Using Eclipse with NXP MCUXpresso SDK v2 and Processor Expert

To me, software and tools are by far more important than the microcontroller. Because the silicon is a ‘one time kind of thing’, where the software has to be maintained and working over a longer time. And at least my software usually needs to be ported to a new device, so portability and available software and tools are critical to me.

The combination of MCUXpresso SDK (formerly Kinetis SDK) and Processor Expert is unfortunately not supported by NXP. But I have found a way to get them work together in a nice way, and this article is about making that combination possible :-).

SDKv2 Project with Processor Expert

SDKv2 Project with Processor Expert which is supposed not to work together

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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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eSOMiMX6-micro: NXP i.MX6 System on Module

An interesting trend in the industry are SOM (System on Module): a high performance processor typically running Linux, Windows or Android with all the memory and necessary power logic gets put on a small module. The key benefit is that I don’t need to worry about the complex ball grid routing and the DDR memory connections/lines: all these problems are solved on a small module which then I can use in my design. It seems that NXP i.MX application processors are getting popular in this domain, and after looking at the Toradex Colibri modules, I have an i.MX6 module on my desk from e-con Systems:

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

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