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?
60 kg Weekend Project Box arrived on the front door
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.
FRDM-KL03Z with ROM Bootloader
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.
Eclipse Project with Linked Files and virtual groups
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:
During Embedded World 2017 in Nürnberg I was lucky to get a handful LPC800-DIP boards. To get all students who were lucky to get one, here is a tutorial to make that very exciting ‘blinky’ application on that board:
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?
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 :-).
Block diagram MQTT Application with TLS using lwip
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:
In “MCUXpresso IDE: Importing Kinetis Design Studio Projects” I explained how Kinetis Design Studio projects can be imported and used inside the MCUXpresso IDE. Processor Expert projects can be used, but no new components added, modified or new Processor Expert projects created. To fully use Processor Expert, two plugins need to installed, and this is what this article is about.
To me, software and tools are by far more important than the microcontroller. Because the silicon is a ‘one time kind of thing’, where the software has to be maintained and working over a longer time. And at least my software usually needs to be ported to a new device, so portability and available software and tools are critical to me.
The combination of MCUXpresso SDK (formerly Kinetis SDK) and Processor Expert is unfortunately not supported by NXP. But I have found a way to get them work together in a nice way, and this article is about making that combination possible :-).
SDKv2 Project with Processor Expert which is supposed not to work together
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.
“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: