McuLog: Logging Framework for small Embedded Microcontroller Systems

An essential tool especially developing larger applications or distributed firmware is to use logging. This article presents an open source logging framework I’m using. It is small and easy to use and can log to a console, to a file on the host or even to a file on an embedded file system as FatFS.

Log Output

Log Output

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Copper Wire Tree

Image

At the university we collect and recycle: bottles, batteries, glass, electronics and metal. Somebody did not have any use for a bunch of copper wires. I thought: there must be a better second live for it. This is how it looks:

Copper Wire Tree

Copper Wire Tree

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Retrofitting a Charmhigh CHM-T36VA Machine with OpenPnP

OpenPnP is a great open source framework for building a DIY SMT Pick&Place machine. But it does not stop there: It is possible to use OpenPnP with a commercial pick & place machine, for example the Charmhigh CHM-T36VA. This Chinese machine comes with its own controller software which works but is not that great. The good news is that it is possible to hack and retrofit the machine so it can run the much more powerful OpenPnP.

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

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FreeRTOS Task Runtime Statistics for NXP i.MX RT1064

FreeRTOS has many cool features, and one is that it can report the CPU percentage spent in each task. The downside is that to get this kind of information some extra work is needed. In this article I show how to do this for the NXP i.MX1064.

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

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Dumping Variables and Arrays with GDB in Eclipse

Using the debugger to inspect the application data is a very convenient thing. But if the data grows and if the data set is large, it makes more sense to dump the data to the host and process it offline. GDB is the de-facto debugger engine and includes a powerful command line and scripting engine which can be used in Eclipse too.

GDB Debugger Console in Eclipse

GDB Debugger Console in Eclipse

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Tutorial: Rename, Copy or Clone Eclipse Projects with MCUXpresso

Especially in a lab or classroom environment it is convenient to start with a template project, and then explore different ways to shape the project for different needs. As for any IDE of this world, this requires an understanding of the inner workings to get it right. So in this article I show how to copy, clone or rename properly an Eclipse ‘template’ project in the MCUXpresso IDE.

Template Project

Template Project

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Optimized and Easy-to-Use Eclipse Toolbars and Menus

I love Eclipse because as an IDE it can do pretty much everything. Up to the point that some call it an ‘Eierlegende Wollmilchsau‘: something which can do anything. But with all the tools, menus and features, it can be daunting for a someone new to Eclipse. But the good news is: Eclipse is very versatile and can be customized to make it easier and simpler to use too. In this article I show how I’m tweaking it the way I want it, with just the menus and buttons I need:

Eclipse Optimized Menus and Toolbars

Eclipse Optimized Menus and Toolbars

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Copyright Law for Makers and Educators

Maker spaces and ‘FabLabs’ are popular and accessible in many areas. 3D printers are on the cheap, and powerful laser cutters are in the range of the fearless hobbyist. You can get dirty-cheap PCBs from China in less than a week (ok, probably not right now because of Corona virus) and it is easy to SMD solder parts these days with a DIY SMD PnP machine and OpenPnP. With the right equipment and skill set it is possible to build many cool projects. It is very rewarding and a great learning thing. Blog about it so other can learn too. And it even could get featured on Hackaday.

But: The risk is that someone might send you letter about a ‘Copyright Infringement’. Sadly, this is what happened to me for one of my recent projects. I don’t think that ‘take down’ letter was justified, but I learned a great deal what I should have done differently to avoid that situation. So in the end, it was a learning opportunity, which I believe is worth to share. In essence: what can a maker or educator do?

hackaday building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks

Hackaday: building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks (image: original image from Hackaday)

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Tutorial: Maximum Clock Frequency for Kinetis using MCUXpresso Clock Tools

The tinyK22 board with the NXP K22FN512 is a bread-board-friendly small board with a 8 MHz external oscillator:

tinyK22 Board

tinyK22 Board

This tutorial is about how to use the NXP MCUXpresso Clock configuration and configure the board to the maximum clock frequency of 120 MHz. The same steps apply to many other boards, including the FRDM-K22F one.

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Visualizing Data with Eclipse, gdb and gnuplot

The gnuplot is a versatile and powerful tool to plot and visualize all kind of data. I wish there would be a plugin for it in Eclipse. But as this is not (yet?) the case, here is how I’m using it with gdb and Eclipse, using the MCUXpresso IDE as example.

Gnuplot with Eclipse

Gnuplot with Eclipse

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Enable Default FreeRTOS Debugging for LinkServer Debug Connections

Most of my projects are using FreeRTOS, and I’m using different Debug Probes (SEGGER, P&E and LinkServer) to debug NXP devices.

The NXP LinkServer debug connection is able to show the RTOS threads in Eclipse/MCUXpresso IDE which is incredibly helpful:

FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging with LinkServer Connection

FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging with LinkServer Connection

However, by default this is turned off. In this article I show how to turn this on by default.

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Listing Code and Data Size for all Files with the GNU size Utility in a Post-Build Action

The GNU size utility which is part of the GNU build tools shows code and data size for archive or object files. It is usually used as a post-build step in Eclipse CDT to show text, data and bss at the end of the build:

Detailed size information for each file

Detailed size information for each file

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Implementing FreeRTOS Performance Counters on ARM Cortex-M

When using an RTOS like FreeRTOS, sooner or later you have to ask the question: how much time is spent in each task? The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE has a nice view showing exactly this kind of information:

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

For FreeRTOS (or that Task List view) to show that very useful information, the developer has to provide a helping hand so the RTOS can collect this information. This article shows how this can be done on an ARM Cortex-M.

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DIY ‘Meta Clock’ with 24 Analog Clocks

Human since 1982 claims

“Human since 1982 have the copyright to works displaying digital time using a grid arrangement of analog clocks…”

I’m not a lawyer, but without obligations (imho) I have removed the content.

Thanks for understanding,

Erich

World Stepper Clock with NXP LPC845

I really love clocks. I think this is I am living here in Switzerland. Beside of that: clock projects are just fun :-). After I have completed a single clock using stepper motors (see “DIY Stepper Motor Clock with NXP LPC845-BRK“), I wanted to build a special one which is able to show up to four different time zones: Below an example with London (UK), New York (USA), Beijing (China) and Lucerne (Switzerland):

Stepper Clock

Stepper Clock

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Using SEGGER J-Link with QSPI FLASH on NXP i.MX Boards

In “Seeed Studio Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” and “Debug and Execute Code from FLASH on the Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I have used the NXP LPC-Link2 to debug the Seeed Arch Mix board with the NXP i.MX RT1052, because the SEGGER J-Link does not work out-of-the box with the i.MX RT using QSPI Flash. This article shows how the J-Link connection can be changed from HyperFlash to work with QSPI Flash.

J-Link EDU Mini with Seeed i.MX RT1052

J-Link EDU Mini with Seeed i.MX RT1052

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JTAG Debugging the ESP32 with FT2232 and OpenOCD

In “Eclipse JTAG Debugging the ESP32 with a SEGGER J-Link”  I used a SEGGER J-Link to debug an ESP32 device with JTAG. I looked at using one of the FTDI FT2232HL development boards which are supported by OpenOCD. The FT2232HL is dual high-speed USB to UART/FIFO device, and similar FTDI devices are used on many boards as UART to USB converters. With OpenOCD these devices can be turned into inexpensive JTAG debug probes. This article shows how to use a $10 FTDI board as JTAG interface to program and debug the Espressif ESP32.

FTDI JTAG Connection

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Linking Bootloader Applications with Eclipse and FreeMarker Scripts

Bootloaders are a fine thing: With this I can load any applications I like. Power comes with some complexity, and a bootloader alone is a complex thing already. But this applies to the application part too: I need to link the application to a certain offset in the memory space so it can be loaded by the bootloader, plus the application typically needs to add some extra information to be used by the bootloader. This article describes how to build a bootloader application with Eclipse (MCUXpresso IDE) using the MCUXpresso SDK.

Build Configuration for Bootloader Application

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Stack Canaries with GCC: Checking for Stack Overflow at Runtime

Stack overflows are probably the number 1 enemy of embedded applications: a call to a a printf() monster likely will use too much stack space, resulting in overwritten memory and crashing applications. But stack memory is limited and expensive on these devices, so you don’t want to spend too much space for it. But for sure not to little too. Or bad things will happen.

The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE has a ‘Heap and Stack Usage’ view which can be used to monitor the stack usage and shows that a stack overflow happened:

Heap and Stack Usage

Heap and Stack Usage

But this is using the help of the debugger: how to catch stack overflows at runtime without the need of a debugger? There is an option in the GNU gcc compiler to help with this kind of situation, even if it was not originally intended for something different. Continue reading