Welcome to ‘Alice in Wonderland‘! For a university research project using an ARM Cortex-M33 we are evaluating position-independent code as way to load applications or part of it with a bootloader. It sounds simple: just add -fPIC to the compiler settings and you are done.
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. That option opened up a ‘rabbit hole’ with lots of wonderful, powerful and strange things. Something you might not have been aware of what could be possible with the tools you have at hand today. Leading to the central question: how is position-independent code going to work with an embedded application on an ARM Cortex-M?
Let’s find out! Let’s start a journey through the wonderland…
“A young man is smoking one cigarette after each other without a pause. An elderly woman observes that and says: “Young man, you are smoking like crazy! Don’t you know that there is a warning on each cigarette package that this can kill you?” The young man finishes his cigarette, looks at the elderly person and says: “Yes, I know. But look, I’m a programmer, and it is only a warning.”
I don’t smoke, and I do pay attention to warnings :-). I always try to keep my source code free of compiler warnings. And I always pay special attention to the following on:
If you are developing Linux or desktop applications with GNU tools, you very likely are familiar with gcov: the GNU coverage tool. It collects data what parts of the code gets executed and represents that in different formats, great to check what is really used in the application code or what has been covered during multiple test runs.
Coverage Information with gcov
line never executed
GNU coverage is possible for resource constraint embedded systems too: it still needs some extra RAM and code space, but very well spent for gathering metrics and improves the firmware quality. As I wrote in “MCUXpresso IDE V11.3.0 for 2021” things are now easier to use, so here is a short tutorial how to use it.
There are many different aspects of Open Source projects: It is not only about the fact if the sources are available (‘open’). It is about the licensing terms (how permissible is it, what can I do with it), maintenance and continuous development (what has changed between releases), how and where is it delivered (Sourceforge, dedicated distribution, packaging) up to collaboration (how can I contribute or submit issues).
I’m in the middle of the university exam season: means writing exams and do grading. The same time the new semester is approaching too and I need to prepare the new course material. For the classes using NXP parts I’m using the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, and I just received the announcement that a new version V11.3.0 is available: time to check out what is new.
The Eclipse CODAN (Code Analysis) plugin is part of CDT and is a powerful static analysis tool finding all kind of possible bugs and issues. Still to my surprise not many C/C++ developers take advantage of it maybe because they are not aware that it exists?
ups! Programming error detected by CODAN
In this article I show a few tips how to effectively use it, especially with the NXP MCUXpresso SDK.
The NXP MCU-Link is a powerful $10 debug probe for ARM Cortex-M devices and works with the NXP LinkServer for debugging. The LinkServer does not an implement a gdb server, so it limits its usage e.g. for scripting or command line debugging. But as MCU-Link is also a CMSIS-DAP compatible debug probe, I can use it with OpenOCD which is open source and implements a GDB server. This article shows how I can use it with the MCU-Link.
Reentrancy is an attribute of a piece of code and basically means it can re-entered by another execution flow, for example by an interrupt or by another task or thread. This is an important concept and still a lot of code ‘in the wild’ does violate reentrancy. As a result the application crashes immediately in the best case. Worse it crashes randomly or even worse it behaves incorrectly 😦 .
Reentrancy is always a concern if using standard library functions, including printf() or malloc(). FreeRTOS offers a reentrant wrapper to the standard malloc() and free() (Memory Scheme 3)