Zephyr: Thoughts and First Steps on the ARM Cortex-M4F with gcc, gdb and Eclipse

The concept of Linux (Open Source, broad developer base and broad usage) is a success story. While there is a lot of diversity (and freedom) in the Linux world, Linux is Linux and again Linux :-). And the world has (mostly) standardized on Linux and its variants on the high embedded system side.

On the other side, the ‘middle and lower end’ Embedded world is fragmented and in many aspects proprietary. So it was no surprise to me when the Linux Foundation announced the ‘Zephyr’ project back in February 2016:

“The Linux Foundation Announces Project to Build Real-Time Operating System for Internet of Things Devices. Open source Zephyr™ Project aims to deliver an RTOS; opens call for developers to help advance project for the smallest footprint IoT devices.

Ζεφυρος (Zephyros) is the Greek good of spring and the west wind. Obviously this inspired the logo for the Zephyr project:

Zephyr logo

Zephyr logo (Source: https://www.zephyrproject.org/)

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“No source available”, or how to Debug Multiple Binaries with GDB and Eclipse

When working and debugging a bootloader, debugging can be a challenge: During debugging the bootloader, a new binary gets loaded into the microcontroller address space which is unknown to the debugger. As soon as I step into the newly loaded binary, I only see assembly code, with that ugly “No source available” in Eclipse:

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

But wait: GDB is able to do pretty much everything you can imagine, so here is how to debug multiple binaries with GDB and Eclipse, and to turn the above into something which is easy to debug:

Debugging with Symbolics

Debugging with Symbolics

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Reprogramming the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear Dockingstation

The Hexiwear docking station would have a nice feature: it has embedded a debug circuit (OpenSDA). That way I would not need an external debug probe to debug the Hexiwear. However, a debug probe is required to reprogram the docking station itself:

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

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Building the NXP BLE Stack with Open Source GNU and Eclipse Tools

One of the biggest road blocks (beside of closed source) using the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) stack from NXP is that it requires expensive tools to compile and build the stack. The good news is that I have now the NXP BLE stack for the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear ported to Eclipse and GNU gcc build tools for ARM 🙂

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

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Using Python, Gatttool and Bluetooth Low Energy with Hexiwear

Now I can use the data on the Hexiwear over BLE with the gatttool (see “Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark” and “Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear“). This article is taking things a step further and uses a Python script on Linux to access the sensor data on the BLE device:

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

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DIY IKEA Wireless Qi Charging for the Hexiwear

The Achilles Heel of the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear is its charging: the charging and USB connector are only designed for a limited number of plug-unplug cycles, and it does not have a wireless charging capability like the Apple iWatch. Until now! I have built a DIY wireless charging system for the Hexiwear 🙂 :

Wireless Qi Charging the Hexiwear

Wireless Qi Charging the Hexiwear

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Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark

For a university reasearch project I try to pair the Raspberry Pi 3 with a Mikroelektronika Hexiwear using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Most of things worked after a lot of trial and error, but at a certain point I was stuck trying to write to send data from the Raspy to the BLE device.The Hexiwear BLE protocol description is very thin, so I ended up using a BLE sniffer to reverse engineer the protocol with Wireshark.

Sniffing BLE Packets between Raspy and Hexiwear

Hardware setup between Raspy and Hexiwear

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Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear

The Hexiwear (see “Hexiwear: Teardown of the Hackable ‘Do-Anything’ Device“) is a small and portable sensor node with built-in BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) transceiver. In a research project we try to use multiple Hexiwear in a classroom environment and to collect sensor data on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B running Linux has an on-board BLE transceiver too, so why not binding them (wirelessly) together?

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Well, things seemed easy at the beginning, and as always, there are many things to learn on a journey like this…

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Tutorial: STMicroelectronics VL6180X Time-of-Flight LIDAR Sensor

For many of my applications I need to measure a distance. I have used ultrasonic sensors, but there view angle (beam) is not able to detect smaller objects, it very much depends on the object surface and angle, it is slow and not very precise. I have used infrared sensors, but here again it depends on the infrared reflection of the object in range, it depends the amount of reflected light is not really telling much about the distance, and yet IR reflection is subject of material and object targeted.

But there is yet another sensor type to consider: ToF! ToF (or Time-of-Flight) sensors have a built-in LIDAR: The sensor is sending out light pulses and measures how much time it takes for the light to come back. Similar to ultrasonic sensors (see “Tutorial: Ultrasonic Ranging with the Freedom Board“), but instead of ultrasonic it uses an infrared laser light. Or think about a radar system using an infrared laser light.

Vl6180x Breakout Board with tinyK20 Microcontroller-board

Vl6180x Breakout Board with tinyK20 (NXP Kinetis K20) Microcontroller-board

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Making-Of Sea Shell Sand Clock

The year is coming to an end, the Holiday season is approaching. In case you are looking for a nice present: I have completed my version of a sand clock: a clock writing the time into sand:

Sandclock

Sandclock

If you are interested to build your own version, I have documented the different steps with tips and tricks…

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Tutorial: Getting ETM Instruction Trace with NXP Kinetis ARM Cortex-M4F

It seems to me that not many developers use hardware trace? ARM indicates that maybe only <5% of developers are using trace. Too bad! Why are all the ARM Cortex microcontroller vendors putting a powerful hardware (and complicated!) trace engine into their devices, if only few developers are using it? Seems like a waste of silicon and an unnecessary price adder? Well, hardware trace can be a life saver: Because only with hardware trace the most complicated bugs and problems can be solved. And maybe because only the best are using it ;-).

In this article I proudly present my research how to get instruction trace out of the ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller on a NXP TWR-K64F120M board with a Segger J-Trace for ARM:

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

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Tutorial: Building FreeRTOS Applications for ARM Cortex-M4 on i.MX7 with Eclipse

Command line tools to build applications are great. But productivity goes up if I can use the standard Eclipse environment with GNU tools. This tutorial is about how to use standard and free GNU and Eclipse tools to build my FreeRTOS application for the ARM Cortex-M4 on i.MX7 🙂 :

Eclipse used to build FreeRTOS applications for M4 on i.MX7

Eclipse used to build FreeRTOS applications for M4 on i.MX7

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Tutorial: Updating Embedded Linux on Toradex i.MX7 Colibri Module using SD Card

My Toradex i.MX7Dual module comes with a preflashed Linux distribution (see “Tutorial: First Steps with NXP i.MX7 and Toradex Colibri Board“). As with any other things, Linux gets updated from time to time, and Toradex publishes new firmware. In this article I’m documenting how I can update Linux in the external FLASH on that module.

NXP i.MX7Dual Module

NXP i.MX7Dual Module

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Tutorial: Running FreeRTOS on NXP i.MX7Dual Cortex-M4F

In my previous article (see “Tutorial: First Steps with NXP i.MX7 and Toradex Colibri Board“) I have booted the i.MX7 on a Toradex CPU module. In this post I’m showing how to run a FreeRTOS application on that board.

UART-A and UART-B Connections

UART-A and UART-B Connections

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Tutorial: First Steps with NXP i.MX7 and Toradex Colibri Board

I’m using in several projects different variants of Raspberry Pi boards: they are great and providing a lot of processing power. However, they are not suitable for any hard realtime systems. For a different class of projects I’m currently evaluating the NXP i.MX7 processors: the cool thing with these is that they have up to two ARM Cortex-A7 running at 1 GHz, plus a Cortex-M4 running at 200 MHz. And here things get really interesting: I can run a realtime application and FreeRTOS on that M4, while running Linux on the A7 :-).

i.MX7 on Colibri with Iris Carrier Board

i.MX7 on Colibri with Iris Carrier Board

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Tutorial: Using Single Wire Output SWO with ARM Cortex-M and Eclipse

As a standard procedure, I add some console functionality to my embedded applications. That way I have a command line interface and can inspect and influence the target system. One interesting hardware feature of ARM Cortex-M is Single Wire Output (SWO): it allows to send out data (e.g. strings) over up to 32 different stimulus ports, over a single wire.

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

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Tutorial: RFID Tags with the NXP NFC Controller PN7120 and Eclipse

Playing with RFID and NFC is definitely fun :-), and they are everywhere! For a research project I’m exploring different RFID tags and solutions. I several types around for a long time, but never found the time to actually work on it, so last nightI thought I give it a try, and I have it working with GNU ARM and Eclipse, powered by the NXP FRDM-K64F board 🙂

NXP NFC PN7120S

NXP NFC PN7120S with a FRDM-K64F Board

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Tutorial: Blinky with Kinetis SDK V1.3 and Processor Expert

This tutorial goes through the steps how to create a blinking LED application, using Kinetis SDK and Processor Expert, using the TWR-KL43Z48M board from Freescale (now NXP):

twr-kl43z48m

twr-kl43z48m

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Four States BBQ Sauce for Pulled Pork (or anything else)

It seems that my pulled pork BBQ (see “Tutorial: BBQ Pulled Pork“) gets more and more fans :-). We will have a BBQ party for 10 person tomorrow evening :-). In preparation for that, the two pork shoulders started brining in the refrigerator from yesterday night on. Today we prepared the BBQ sauce for tomorrow, in four different styles: North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Kansas:

Four States BBQ Sauce

Four States BBQ Sauce

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