This year I managed to attend the Embedded World in Nürnberg/Germany after missing the 2016 show. And 2017 has been a blast! With more than 1000 exhibitors and >30’000 visitors it was huge! There were too many exciting things, so I just pick a few: NXP demonstrated the new MCUXpresso Software and Tools with a new Eclipse Neon based IDE, lots of IoT and Hexiwear, the tiny LPC800-DIP board, and I have met Alan Hawse in person!
Instead creating a new project from scratch, often it is simpler to copy an existing Eclipse CDT project, then change it and go on. To copy-past the a project in Eclipse:
- Select the project in the Project Explorer View (CTRL-C on Windows)
- Then paste it in the Project Explorer View (CTRL-V on Windows), and I can specify the new name:
However, to make that process simpler, a few things have to be done right in the ‘source’ project first.
For a CubeSat project we only have a single board available. But multiple universities and developers need to have access to that board for developing and debugging the firmware. We cannot easily ship around the board: that takes a lot of time and during shipment nobody can use the board.
There is a nice feature in the Segger J-Link software which allows to share the debug connection over the network: the J-Link Remote Server. It even works nicely between different networks without complicated firewall setup:
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:
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:
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:
To me, one of the most frustrating things working with ARM Cortex-M cores are the hard fault exceptions. I have lost several hours this week debugging and tracking an instance of a hard fault on an ARM Cortex-M0+ device.
In “Low Power LCD: Adafruit Breakout Board with Sharp Memory Display” I used a 96×96 Sharp Display (LS013B4DN04) with the Adafruit breakout board, but because that one seems to be EOL (End Of Life), I searched for a replacement. I have found the 128×128 pixel version (Sharp LS013B7DH03), and best of all, it is pin compatible :-). With a small tweak of the driver, it works :-):
“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding” – Burt Rutan
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 🙂
I’m using the NXP FRDM-K64F board in several projects: it is reasonably prices, has USB, Ethernet, micro SD card socket and connectors for Bluetooth classic and Nordic Semiconductor nRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz transceiver:
But one issue I have faced several times is that the board works fine while debugging and connected and powered by a host machine, but does not startup sometimes if powered by a battery or started without a debugger attached. I have found that the EzPort on the microcontroller is causing startup issues.
Time is passing by so fast, and the year end is approache fast! I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge:
- Percepio Trace V3.1 for FreeRTOS which includes both Segger RTT continuous streaming and snapshot tracing in a single API
- Generation of sources and drivers so they can be used without Processor Expert using McuLibConfig, removal of dependency to NXP Kinetis SDK: components use a generic API approach to have them working with other SDKs.
- New contributed ExceptionsHandler component
- Callback Setter and Getter in USB CDC stack for simpler option handling
- GenericTimeDate with flexible RTC support and added Unix Timestamp functions
- LongKey events in Key component
- FreeRTOS with optimized task selection on Cortex-M4/M7
- Many smaller bug fixes and enhancements
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:
If you are interested to build your own version, I have documented the different steps with tips and tricks…
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 ;-).
With the GNU compiler and linker I can place variables into custom sections (see “Defining Variables at Absolute Addresses with gcc“). This article is about how to get the section start and end address so I can for example access that range in my code. Or in general ways: how to use symbols defined in the linker script accessible in the C source code.
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 🙂 :
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.
Recently I have been running into the following error message in Eclipse when I started the GDB debugger:
From time to time I face some problems which are really hard to find. Mostly these kind of bugs are very timing sensitive and depend on interrupt execution order. Maybe a dangling pointer is overwriting memory, code is running wild, or some functions are not reentrant as they should be. For these kind of bugs, good tools are worth their weight in gold. The Percepio FreeRTOS+Trace and the Segger SystemView have helped me many times to narrow down such kind problems in my applications. Another ultimate tools is hardware trace: Now I have a Segger J-Trace Pro for ARM Cortex-M in my arsenal of bug extinguishing weapons on my desk:
Dear bugs, look what I have on my desk. Your hiding time is over! 🙂