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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Tutorial: Adding FreeRTOS to where there is no FreeRTOS

FreeRTOS is pretty much everywhere because it is so simple and universal, and it runs from the smallest to the biggest systems. But it still might be that for the microcontroller device you have selected there is no example or SDK support for it from your vendor of choice. In that case: no problem: I show how you could easily add FreeRTOS plus many more goodies to it.

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

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“60 Billion Lights”: 2400 RGB LEDs and 120 Stepper Motors hiding behind Canvas Art

It is one thing to create something ‘cool’ or technically interesting. But it is a completely different story to convince your girlfriend, partner, wife, family (or whatever you can name it) to hang something on a wall in our house or office. Then it is not about technology: it is more about design and art. So here is my attempt to solve that challenge:

Displaying current temperature

Displaying temperature with a painted canvas, stepper motors and 2400 RGB LEDs

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FatFS, MinIni, Shell and FreeRTOS for the NXP K22FN512

I’m using the NXP Kinetis K22FN512 in many projects, either with the FRDM-K22F or on the tinyK22: with 120 MHz, 512 KByte FLASH and 128 KByte it has plenty of horsepower for many projects. The other positive thing is that it is supported by the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and SDK. I have now created an example which can be used as base for your own project, featuring FreeRTOS, FatFS, MinIni and a command line shell.

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

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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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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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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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Ways to apply Eclipse CDT C/C++ Project Settings

Eclipse with its CDT managed Make system makes it easy to build projects, because it can handle a lot of the background tasks and settings between the project and the build setting. It can get a bit difficult if I want to include a library or other sub-source project for which I have to add extra compiler #define or add extra includes path settings.

Eclipse project settings for incliude paths

Eclipse project settings for include paths

This article show the different ways I have found to make such imports (and exports) easier.

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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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MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0

Right before Christmas 2019, NXP has released a new version of the MCUXpresso IDE, the version 11.1.0. This gave me time to explore it over the Christmas/New-Year break and evaluate it for the next university semester. There are several new features which will make my labs using it easier, so I plan to get the course material updated for it.

MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0 Welcome Screen

MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0 Welcome Screen

After the break you will find the highlights …

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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

OpenPnP Solder Paste Dispensing Video

OpenPnP (see “Building a DIY SMT Pick&Place Machine with OpenPnP and Smoothieboard (NXP LPC1769)“) is a cool open source framework to run Pick&Place machines. I have mentored and supported Tobias Mailänder who extended the PnP machine with the ability to dispense solder past on PCBs. Below a video (courtesy of Tobias Mailänder) which shows the machine in action:

It is still a prototype, but things are working very well.

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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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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

Eclipse JTAG Debugging the ESP32 with a SEGGER J-Link

When Espressif released in 2014 their first WiFi ESP8266 transceiver, they took over at least the hobby market with their inexpensive wireless devices. Yet again, the successor ESP32 device is used in many projects. Rightfully there are many other industrial Wi-Fi solutions, but Espressif opened up the door for Wi-Fi in many low cost projects. Many projects use the ESP devices in an Arduino environment which basically means decent debugging except using printf() style which is … hmmm … better than nothing.

What is maybe not known to many ESP32 users: there *is* actually a way to use JTAG with the ESP32 devices :-). It requires some extra tools and setup, but with I have a decent Eclipse based way to debug the code. And this is what this article is about: how to use a SEGGER J-Link with Eclipse and OpenOCD for JTAG debugging the ESP32.

Roboter with ESP32 and JTAG Debug Port

Robot with ESP32 and JTAG Debug Port

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NXP MCUXpresso IDE 11.0.1 available

NXP has released an update of the Eclipse based V11 IDE. This is right on time for the new semester starting mid of September where this IDE will be used in several labs.

MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.1

MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.1

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Programming the ESP32 with an ARM Cortex-M USB CDC Gateway

The Espressif ESP32 devices are getting everywhere: they are inexpensive, readily available and Espressif IDF environment and build system actually is pretty good and working well for me including Eclipse (see “Building and Flashing ESP32 Applications with Eclipse“). The default way to program an ESP32 is to a) enter UART bootloader by pressing some push buttons and b) flash the application with ESP-IDF using a USB cable.

That works fine if the ESP32 is directly connected to the host PC. But in my case it is is behind an NXP Kinetis K22FX512 ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller and not directly accessible by the host PC. So I had to find a way how to allow boot loading the ESP32 through the ARM Cortex-M which is the topic of this article.

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

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