Tutorial: Creating and using ROM Libraries with GNU Build Tools

You might never heard about ROM Libraries, and you are probably not alone. Some might thing that this refers to the boot ROM modern MCUs have built in, which is kinda close. But the thing here is about to build your own (possibly constant) ROM library, program it to your device of choice, and then use it from the application running on the device.

So the concept is to have a (fixed, stable) part with code and data on your device, which can be used by a (possibly changing) application: Think about a stable LoRaWAN network stack in the ROM, with a changing application using it: Would that not be cool?

ROM Library Concept

This not only adds flexibility, but as well allows smaller updates, as only a part of the program has to be changed or updated.

The question is: how to create and use such a ROM Library with the normal GNU build tools?

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MCUXpresso IDE 11.5.0

I’m now in the middle of the university fall semester exam season with writing exams and grading student work, and the same time the new semester courses need to be prepared. With the global silicon and board shortage, this will be again a challenge to equip all the labs with the needed infrastructure. The good thing is that there is no shortage on software and tools side of the infrastructure: NXP released last week their new flagship Eclipse based IDE: the MCUXpresso IDE 11.5.0. Time to check it out for the upcoming lectures and classes….

NXP MCUXpresso IDE Version 11.5.0

Spoiler Alert: It has a new view for FreeRTOS lovers, plus new features for energy/power measurements!

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Position-Independent Code with GCC for ARM Cortex-M

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…

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Error for ‘implicit function declaration’ Warning in C

“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:

implicit declaration of function

implicit declaration of function

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Tutorial: GNU Coverage with MCUXpresso IDE

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

Coverage Information with gcov

line never executed

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.

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NXP published MCUXpresso SDK 2.9.0 on GitHub

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).

NXP has now published the MCUXpresso SDK on Github:

MCUXpresso SDK on GitHub

MCUXpresso SDK on GitHub

Something I was waiting for a long time.

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assert(), __FILE__, Path and other cool GNU gcc Tricks to be aware of

It is always good to have a close look what ends up in a microcontroller FLASH memory. For example using EHEP Eclipse plugin to inspect the binary file:

Source File Name in Binary Image

Source File Name in Binary Image

Obviously it has path and source file information in it. Why is that? And is this really needed?

What about:

  • Privacy: the path or file name might expose information (secret project name?) or might be used for reverse engineering?
  • Size: The strings add up to the final data/FLASH size, so this increases the need for ROM space?

So let’s have a look what is the reason for this and how it could be avoided or at least reduced.

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MCUXpresso IDE V11.3.0 for 2021

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.

MCUXpresso IDE v11.3.0 (Build 5222)

MCUXpresso IDE v11.3.0 (Build 5222)

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Eclipse CODAN (Static Code Analysis) for C/C++

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 catched by CODAN

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.

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New MetaClockClock V3 finished with 60 Clocks

The holiday break at the end of the year is always a good time to finish projects started during the year. This one is about my ‘MetaClockClock’ Version 3.

Red Hands on Blue

2020 with Red Hands on Blue

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