In “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools” I mentioned that I wanted to try the i.MX RT1050 processor. Well, finally my ordered board from Mouser arrived, right on time for the week-end, so I had a chance to use that ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz :-).
“Amazon FreeRTOS – IoT operating system for microcontrollers”: The announcement of FreeRTOS V10.0.0 was one of the biggest news last week for me. Not only is there now a Version 10, the bigger news is that FreeRTOS is now part of Amazon. Wow! Now this explains why Richard Barry (the founder behind FreeRTOS) was kind of hiding away for about a year: he joined Amazon as a principal engineer about a year ago. I think we all have to wait and see what it means for FreeRTOS.
Back in March 2017, NXP had rolled the MCUXpresso IDE starting with Version 10.0.0. With the intent to unify the SDK, LPCXpresso, CodeWarrior, Kinetis Design Studio and Processor Expert into one unified and integrated set of tools. V10.0.0 was a good start. The MCUXpresso IDE V10.0.2 in July was more of a smaller update, and the Pin and Clock configuration tools were not integrated, no added tool for peripheral configuration.
A week ago the MCUXpresso V10.1.0 has been released which shows where the journey is going: an free-of-charge and code size unlimited Eclipse based integrated set of tools to configure, build and debug Cortex-M (Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT) microcontroller/processor based applications.
I have used it for a week, and although many things are still new, I thought I’m able to give an overview about what is new.
I’m using many microcontroller in my projects. And a lot more are available out there in the ecosystem. Like many others, I tend to select what I am familiar with. But is this the correct approach to select the hardware and tools for a next project?
The MCUXpresso IDE comes with a ‘Develop’ perspective which combines the usual C/C++ and the Debug perspective in one:
More and more these very-very-high-resolution (UHD, Ultra-High-Density) notebook displays show up in my class rooms.These displays have 3100×1800 or even more pixels, making it great for watching high-resolution videos or for playing games (maybe?). But such a high-resolution makes many tools including Eclipse very hard to use, because the toolbar icons get so tiny that they are really hard to hit with a mouse cursor on Windows:
Most of the time I’m using a dedicated terminal program like Termite or PuTTY to connect to a board using virtual or non-virtual COM port. Another way is to use the Eclipse built-in Terminal view: that way no extra program is needed to communicate with a real or virtual COM port to my target device:
For several projects I’m using library projects: I build a library and then use that library in the other project. If I change something in a library, I want to run make both on the referenced libraries and rebuild my application if needed. If you don’t know how to do this, then read on… 🙂
(… actually it means workign around known Eclipse CDT bug too….)
ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers can have multiple memory controllers. This is a good thing as it allows the hardware to do multiple parallel memory read/writes. However this makes the memory map more complicated for the software: it divides the memory into different regions and memory segments. This article is about how to enable FreeRTOS to use multiple memory blocks for a virtual combined memory heap:
The tools and IDE market is constantly changing. Not only there is every year at least one new major Eclipse IDE release, the commercial tool chain and IDE vendors are constantly changing the environment too. For any ARM Cortex-M development, the combination of Eclipse with the GNU tool chain provided by ARM Inc. is the golden standard. But this does not mean that things can be easily moved from one IDE package to another.
While moving between Eclipse versions and GNU versions is usually not a big deal at all, moving between the Eclipse build tool integration is usually not simple. While the GNU MCU Eclipse plugins are widely used (see Breathing with Oxygen: DIY ARM Cortex-M C/C++ IDE and Toolchain with Eclipse Oxygen), the Eclipse based IDEs from the silicon vendors or commercial Eclipse toolchain vendors are using their own GNU toolchain integration. Which means the project files are not compatible :-(.
Eclipse as IDE takes care about compiling and building all my source files. But in an automated build system I would like to build it from the command line too. While using make files (see “Tutorial: Makefile Projects with Eclipse“) is an option, there is another easy way to build Eclipse projects from the command line:
Sometimes it happens that arm-none-eabi-gdb complains about “no source file named” in the GDB console view in Eclipse when I debug a project with GDB:
FreeRTOS seems to get more and more popular, and I think as well because more and more debugger and Eclipse IDE vendors add dedicated debugging support for it.
Good news! There is an updated version of the EmbSysRegView v0.2.6 available which works now for Eclipse Neon and Oxygen :-).
By default, the GNU Linker expects a very special naming scheme for the libraries: the library name has to be surrounded by “lib” and the “.a” extension:
But what if the library I want to use does not conform to that naming standard?
The benefit of an IDE like Eclipse is: it makes working with projects very easy, as generates make files and it takes and automatically manages the make file(s). But sometimes this might not be what I want because I need greater flexibility and control, or I want to use the same make files for my continues integration and automated testing system. In that case a hand crafted make file is the way to go.
One thing does not exclude the other: This article explains how to use make files with Eclipse with similar comfort as the managed build system in Eclipse, but with the unlimited power of make files:
NXP has released an updated of their Eclipse based IDE for ARM Cortex-M (Kinetis and LPC) microcontroller: the version v10.0.2 build 411:
For reliable applications, I avoid using functions of the standard libraries. They are banned for most safety related applications anyway. I do not use or avoid
printf() and all the other variants, for many reasons including the ones listed in “Why I don’t like printf()“. Instead, I’m using smaller variants (see “XFormat“). Or I’m using only the thread-safe FreeRTOS heap memory allocation which exist for many good reasons.
Things get problematic if
malloc() still is pulled in, either because it is used by a middleware (e.g. TCP/IP stack) or if using C++. Dave Nadler posted a detailed article (http://www.nadler.com/embedded/newlibAndFreeRTOS.html) about how to use newlib and newlib-nano with FreeRTOS.
I like to have as many lines of source code visible on my notebook or desktop monitor. And I think I have found a good balance between font size and readability.
On the other side: I’m getting older and my eyes are not getting any better. At the same time I noticed that students start using these ‘high-resolution-retina-displays’. They are great, but result in tiny default system fonts, so I have a hard time to read the source code on their machines.
Another challenge I noticed are the high-resolution projectors in class rooms or conferences. They are not well suited to show source code or text files because of the tiny fonts. Starting with Eclipse Neon there is an awesome feature which I can use to dynamically increase and decrease the font size which solves that problem: