COVID-19 is by far not over, and in Switzerland the infection rate is going up again (2nd wave?). During the spring 2020 semester university lock-down we moved pretty much everything to a ‘distance learning’ setup. With that experience and with the request to prepare for the fall semester, I have constructed a DIY conference and teaching device which should make things simpler and easier: a combination of video camera, speaker phone and a muting device:
At the university the end of a semester means that you have to get ready for the next semester. I always tend to use the latest and greatest tools for the labs. This week I received the notification that a new version of the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE is available, time to check it out for the next semester.
Creating a new project with Eclipse for a microcontroller these days is fairly easy, and I have the choice if I want to start the project with C or C++:
Choice of C and C++ for a new project
Still the embedded microcontroller world is dominated by C and not C++. So while it is easy to start with a C++ project, most vendor provided example or tutorial project are C projects. So how can I transform such project to C++?
The NMI is a special interrupt on ARM Cortex-M architecture: as the name indicates, it cannot be ‘masked’ by the usual ‘disable interrupts’ flags (PRIMASK, BASEPRI), similar to the Reset signal.
cortex-m-vector-table (Source: adapted from arm.com)
Dealing with the reset signal is kind of obvious, and most designs and boards have it routed to a reset button or similar. The NMI is less obvious if you don’t pay attention to it: most ARM-Cortex implementations and boards have the NMI signal routed to a pin and are ‘hiding’ it in the schematics behind a normal GPIO pin or port: if you don’t pay attention to the NMI functionality, the board might not work as intended.
As promised I’m going to share more details about the “60 Billion Lights” project. It is about a project to build a piece of electronics behind a 100×50 cm canvas to show animations or to display information like temperature, humidity, weather, time or just any arbitrary text.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 →
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.
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.
With great pleasure I can introduce a new guest blogger on McuOnEclipse: Mark Dunnett is going to publish a series of technical videos and tutorials with the LPC55S69 board over the course of the next weeks.