I’m making great progress with the firmware for the new Mini Sumo Robot (see “New Concept for 2018 Mini Sumo Roboter“). The goal is a versatile and low-cost Mini Sumo robot, and the robot comes with the feature of magnetic position encoders. In a previous article I have explained how to mold custom tires for robots (see “Making Perfect Sticky DIY Sumo Robot Tires“), this article is about how to make DIY Magnetic disk encoders.
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 :-).
The ARM mbed USB MSD bootloader which is used on many silicon vendor boards has a big problem: it is vulnerable to operating systems like Windows 10 which can brick your board (see “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“). To recover the board, typically a JTAG/SWD programmer has to be used. I have described in articles (see links section) how to recover from that situation, including using an inofficial new bootloader which (mostly) solves the problem. The good news is that ARM (mbed) has released an official and fixed bootloader. The bad news is that this bootloader does not work on every board because of a timing issue: the bootloader mostly enters bootloader mode instated executing the application.
I’m convinced that this ‘Internet of Things’ thing-thing is not real. Pure marketing and buz words without any added value, right? The IoT hype is so bizar: it must be originated by aliens which have taken over the brains of all the Pointy-haired Bosses of the world? There is no useful application or use case out there!
But wait! There *is* actually good use case, at least for the geeks of this world. We all love clocks as we want to know the time, and we all love the weather forecast so we can plan accordingly. At least I usually do :-).
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 :-(.
There are people around me who think I’m crazy. And they are probably right. Who else would buy a machine from someone he does not know. I have to pay upfront. It is not clear how things will get delivered, what gets delivered, or if it gets delivered at all. Up to the point I can lose the money I have spent. Best of all: that machine is dangerous enough to potentially kill me. And it has the potential to put my home on fire too. Well, that sounds like an exciting weekend project, or not?
Last month (June 2017), the latest version of Eclipse “Oxygen” has been released, and I have successfully used it in several embedded projects. Time to write a tutorial how to use it to build a custom Do-It-Yourself IDE for ARM Cortex-M development: simple, easy, unlimited and free of charge. While the DIY approach takes a few minutes more to install, it has the advantage that I have full control and I actually know what I have.
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:
A bootloader on a microcontroller is a very useful thing. It allows me to update the firmware in the field if necessary. There are many ways to use and make a bootloader (see “Serial Bootloader for the Freedom Board with Processor Expert“). But such a bootloader needs some space in FLASH, plus it needs to be programmed first on a blank device, so a JTAG programmer is needed. That’s why vendors have started including a ROM bootloader into their devices: the microcontroller comes out of the factory with a bootloader in FLASH. So instead writing my bootloader, I can use the one in the ROM.
And as with everything, there are pros and cons of that approach.
Some silicon vendors provide their Eclipse example and SDK projects using linked files and folders. For example a bootloader demo application is provided in the context of an SDK or library. That’s fine until the time I want to transform such an example into a real project or if I want to have it without the hundreds of files for all the other devices I don’t need or use. I cannot take the project and put it into a version control system as the linked files won’t be in my VCS. I cannot move the project to another place as the links are pointing to many places. What I need is a ‘standalone’ project: a project which has all the needed files in it and is self-containing.
For a research project, we are going to send a satellite with an embedded ARM Cortex microcontroller into space early next year. Naturally, it has to work the first time. As part of all the ESA paperwork, we have to prove that we tested the hardware and software thoroughly. One pice of the that is to collect and give test coverage evidence. And there is no need for expensive tools: Free-of-charge Eclipse and GNU tools can do the job for a space mission 🙂
The GNU tools include powerful utilities to collect coverage information. With coverage I know which lines of my code have been executed, which is a very useful test metric. The GNU coverage tools are commonly used for Linux applications. But to my surprise not much for embedded application development, mostly because it requires a few extra steps to have it available? Why not using free and powerful tools for improving software quality? This article explains how to install the GNU gcov tools into the Eclipse IDE.
For many projects it would be cool to build a custom USB Joystick device, either as custom game controller for Windows or any USB host which can be used with a USB Joystick. Instead buying one, why not build my version? All what I need is a USB capable board, some kind of input (potentiometer, push buttons) and some software, and I have my USB Joystick:
The MCUXpresso IDE (see “MCUXpresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers“) has one great feature: it includes debug support for the popular LPC-Link2 debug probes. That way I have yet another powerful debug probe with extra features for ARM based boards. That LPC-Link2 circuit is present on many LPCXpresso boards from NXP. So why not using it to debug it my custom hardware?
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.
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 :-).
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.
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.
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: