When developing with C or C++ an application, then you mostly focus on your own code. You don’t want to bother with the details how input/output functions like printf() or scanf(), and you might just use these functions and helpers and that’s it.
The implementation is part of the ‘C Standard Library’ (or C++ Standard Library). In the world of Linux, this is usually the ‘glibc’ or ‘GNU C Library, and one usually link with ‘libc’. That provides the implementation of printf(), or use ‘libm’ if using math functions like sin() or cos().
In the embedded world, things are much more complex, with plethora of choices, for example in the MCUXpresso IDE:
It is the exam and grading time at the university, and the same time I’m preparing the lectures and labs for the new semester starting mid of February. I’m always heading for using the latest and greatest tools in my labs. A few days ago, NXP released the new version of the MCUXpresso IDE, version 11.7.0. Time to check it out…
In many embedded applications, it is mandatory that memory allocation is static and not dynamic. Means that no calls to things like malloc() or free() shall be used in the application, because they might fail at runtime (out of memory, heap fragmentation).
But when linking with 3rd party libraries or even with the C/C++ standard libraries, how to ensure no dynamic memory is used? The problem can occur as well for C++ objects, or a simple call to printf() which internally requires some dynamic memory allocated.
MCU vendors offer SDKs and configuration tools: that’s a good thing, because that way I can get started quickly and get something up and running ideally in a few minutes. But this gets you into a dependency on tools, SDK and configuration tools too: changing later from one MCU to another can be difficult and time consuming. So why not get started with a ‘bare’ project, using general available tools, just with a basic initialization (clocking, startup code, CMSIS), even with the silicon vendor provided IDE and basic support files?
In this case, I show how you easily can do this with CMake, make and Eclipse, without the (direct) need of an SDK.
Tool chains like the GNU compiler collection (gcc) have a plethora of options. The probably most important ones are the ones which tell the compiler how to optimize the code. Running out of code space, or the application is not performing well? Then have a look at the compiler optimization levels!
However, which one to select can be a difficult choice. And the result might very well depend on the application and coding style too. So I’ll give you some hints and guidance with an autonomous robot application we use at the Lucerne University for research and education.
The MCUXpresso Pins Tool is part of the NXP configuration suite which makes pin assignments, configuration and muxing easy. What I have somehow missed from one of the latest updates and releases is that it allows me now to add my own custom headers definition. Not only the tool is now aware of the ‘standard’ Arduino headers, but I can add my own headers too. This can be useful for providers of breakout boards or any kind of board which can be added to a MCU board. In my case it is very useful for projects where we design our own (breadboard-friendly) board or a custom board with an expansion board: we can design a board header and use it in other projects.
You might never heard about ROM Libraries, and you are probably not alone. Some might thing that this refers to the boot ROM modern MCUs have built in, which is kinda close. But the thing here is about to build your own (possibly constant) ROM library, program it to your device of choice, and then use it from the application running on the device.
So the concept is to have a (fixed, stable) part with code and data on your device, which can be used by a (possibly changing) application: Think about a stable LoRaWAN network stack in the ROM, with a changing application using it: Would that not be cool?
This not only adds flexibility, but as well allows smaller updates, as only a part of the program has to be changed or updated.
The question is: how to create and use such a ROM Library with the normal GNU build tools?
Modern MCUs like the NXP Kinetis have security features which prevent reverse engineering, but can ‘brick’ devices too. Depending on the settings, it prevents read-out from the FLASH or reprogramming the device. While some of the protection is (mostly) not by-passable by design, in many case the devices looks like ‘bricked’ but still can be recovered. In this article I’ll get you some ways for a (hopefully) successful recovery.