Using Multiple Memory Regions with the FreeRTOS Heap

ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers can have multiple memory controllers. This is a good thing as it allows the hardware to do multiple parallel memory read/writes. However this makes the memory map more complicated for the software: it divides the memory into different regions and memory segments.  This article is about how to enable FreeRTOS to use multiple memory blocks for a virtual combined memory heap:

FreeRTOS with Segmented Heap Memory

FreeRTOS with Segmented Heap Memory

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Tutorial: Porting BLE+NRF Kinetis Design Studio Project to MCUXpresso IDE

The tools and IDE market is constantly changing. Not only there is every year at least one new major Eclipse IDE release, the commercial tool chain and IDE vendors are constantly changing the environment too. For any ARM Cortex-M development, the combination of Eclipse with the GNU tool chain provided by ARM Inc. is the golden standard. But this does not mean that things can be easily moved from one IDE package to another.

While moving between Eclipse versions and GNU versions is usually not a big deal at all, moving between the Eclipse build tool integration is usually not simple. While the GNU MCU Eclipse plugins are widely used (see Breathing with Oxygen: DIY ARM Cortex-M C/C++ IDE and Toolchain with Eclipse Oxygen), the Eclipse based IDEs from the silicon vendors or commercial Eclipse toolchain vendors are using  their own GNU toolchain integration. Which means the project files are not compatible :-(.

NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

NXP FRDM-KW41Z Board

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Building Eclipse and MCUXpresso IDE Projects from the Command Line

Eclipse as IDE takes care about compiling and building all my source files. But in an automated build system I would like to build it from the command line too. While using make files (see “Tutorial: Makefile Projects with Eclipse“) is an option, there is another easy way to build Eclipse projects from the command line:

Building MCUXpresso IDE from Command Line

Building MCUXpresso IDE from Command Line

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Breathing with Oxygen: DIY ARM Cortex-M C/C++ IDE and Toolchain with Eclipse Oxygen

Last month (June 2017), the latest version of Eclipse “Oxygen” has been released, and I have successfully used it in several embedded projects. Time to write a tutorial how to use it to build a custom Do-It-Yourself IDE for ARM Cortex-M development: simple, easy, unlimited and free of charge. While the DIY approach takes a few minutes more to install, it has the advantage that I have full control and I actually know what I have.

Eclipse Oxygen

Eclipse Oxygen

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Troubleshooting Tips for FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging in Eclipse

FreeRTOS seems to get more and more popular, and I think as well because more and more debugger and Eclipse IDE vendors add dedicated debugging support for it.

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse

FreeRTOS Threads in Eclipse

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How to use Custom Library Names with GNU Linker and Eclipse

By default, the GNU Linker expects a very special naming scheme for the libraries: the library name has to be surrounded by “lib” and the “.a” extension:

lib<NAME>.a

But what if the library I want to use does not conform to that naming standard?

Non-conforming Library Naming

Non-conforming Library Naming

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Tutorial: Makefile Projects with Eclipse

The benefit of an IDE like Eclipse is: it makes working with projects very easy, as generates make files and it takes and automatically manages the make file(s). But sometimes this might not be what I want because I need greater flexibility and control, or I want to use the same make files for my continues integration and automated testing system. In that case a hand crafted make file is the way to go.

One thing does not exclude the other: This article explains how to use make files with Eclipse with similar comfort as the managed build system in Eclipse, but with the unlimited power of make files:

Makefile Project with Eclipse

Makefile Project with Eclipse

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Getting Started: ROM Bootloader on the NXP FRDM-KL03Z Board

A bootloader on a microcontroller is a very useful thing. It allows me to update the firmware in the field if necessary. There are many ways to use and make a bootloader (see “Serial Bootloader for the Freedom Board with Processor Expert“). But such a bootloader needs some space in FLASH, plus it needs to be programmed first on a blank device, so a JTAG programmer is needed. That’s why vendors have started including a ROM bootloader into their devices: the microcontroller comes out of the factory with a bootloader in FLASH. So instead writing my bootloader, I can use the one in the ROM.

FRDM-KL03Z with ROM Bootloader

FRDM-KL03Z with ROM Bootloader

And as with everything, there are pros and cons of that approach.

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GNU Code Coverage on Embedded Target with Eclipse Neon and ARM gcc 5

For a research project, we are going to send a satellite with an embedded ARM Cortex microcontroller into space early next year. Naturally, it has to work the first time. As part of all the ESA paperwork, we have to prove that we tested the hardware and software thoroughly. One pice of the that is to collect and give test coverage evidence. And there is no need for expensive tools: Free-of-charge Eclipse and GNU tools can do the job for a space mission 🙂

Eclipse with Coverage Views

Eclipse with Coverage Views

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ARM SWO Performance Counters

In “Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT” I have used the ARM DWT register to count the executed cycles. With the MCUXpresso IDE comes with a very useful feature: it can capture the ARM SWO (Single Wire Output) trace data. One special kind of trace data is the ‘cycle counter’ information which is sent through SWO.

SWO Counters

SWO Counters

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Is Developing for ARM more difficult than for other Architectures?

I believe in ‘life-long-learning’. With this I continue to learn and discover new things every day. I’m writing tutorials to give something back to the community from which I have learned so much.

On top of this, I receive emails on a nearly daily basis, asking for help. Many articles have the origin in such requests or questions. I prefer questions or comments in a public forum, because that way I feel all others can benefit from it. Last week Alessandro contacted me with this:

“Hi Erich,

I hope this find you well! I’m starting to using ARM processors, but I find them quite complicated on the configuration side. I started in the past with PIC micro (PIC16) with asm, and I found them quite straightforward to be configured (clock, IO, peripherals, …). Then I moved myself on C language, and on PIC18 without any big issues.

Now I would really like join the ARM community, I see that these processors are what I’ve always looking for, on energy, calc power, peripherals, and FINALLY on IDE (editor, toolchain and utilities)… AMAZING!!!”

The topic is about how to start learning developing for ARM. Alessandro agreed to make this public, so I thought this might be a good topic for an article?

Firmware

Firmware

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Modifying the Teensy 3.5 and 3.6 for ARM SWD Debugging

Looking for a small, inexpensive ($25-30) ARM development board (say 120-180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with FPU, 512kB-1MB of FLASH and 256 KByte of RAM? Then have a look at the Teensy 3.5 and Teensy 3.6 by PJRC/Paul Stoffregen:

Teensy 3.6 with NXP K64

Teensy 3.5 with NXP K64F ARM Cortex-M4F

The only problem? it is not possible to debug it :-(. At least not in the traditional sense. This article is about how to change the board to use it with any normal SWD debugging tool e.g. Eclipse and the Segger J-Link :-).

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Simulating Space on Earth: Irradiation Tests at the Paul Scherrer Institute

Space is a hostile environment. Sending hardware to space means putting it under irradiation tests: exposing the object to radiation and see what happens :-). For this, under the lead of the ETHZ (Mathematical and Physical Geodesy), we had the opportunity to put the CubETH payload board under a proton beam. The test facility is at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland:

Control Room at PSI

Control Room at PSI

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eSOMiMX6-micro: NXP i.MX6 System on Module

An interesting trend in the industry are SOM (System on Module): a high performance processor typically running Linux, Windows or Android with all the memory and necessary power logic gets put on a small module. The key benefit is that I don’t need to worry about the complex ball grid routing and the DDR memory connections/lines: all these problems are solved on a small module which then I can use in my design. It seems that NXP i.MX application processors are getting popular in this domain, and after looking at the Toradex Colibri modules, I have an i.MX6 module on my desk from e-con Systems:

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

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Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT

Some ARM Cortex-M have a DWT (Data Watchpoint and Trace) unit implemented, and it has a nice feature in that unit which counts the execution cycles. The DWT is usually implemented on most Cortex-M3, M4 and M7 devices, including e.g. the NXP Kinetis or LPC devices.

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Tutorial: Using Single Wire Output SWO with ARM Cortex-M and Eclipse

As a standard procedure, I add some console functionality to my embedded applications. That way I have a command line interface and can inspect and influence the target system. One interesting hardware feature of ARM Cortex-M is Single Wire Output (SWO): it allows to send out data (e.g. strings) over up to 32 different stimulus ports, over a single wire.

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

swo-pin-on-arm-debug-header

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First Steps with Ozone and the Segger J-Link Trace Pro

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! 🙂

tracing-cortex-m4-with-j-trace

tracing-cortex-m4-with-j-trace

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ARM Cortex-M, Interrupts and FreeRTOS: Part 2

In “ARM Cortex-M, Interrupts and FreeRTOS: Part 1”  I started with the ARM Cortex-M interrupt system. Because the ARM implementation cann be very confusing, I confused myself and had to fix and extend the description in Part 1 :-). Thank for all the feedback and comments!

Originally I wanted to cover FreeRTOS in Part 2. Based on the questions and discussions in Part 1 I thought it might be a good idea to provide visual examples.

NXP KV58F ARM Cortex-M7

NXP KV58F ARM Cortex-M7

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ARM Cortex-M, Interrupts and FreeRTOS: Part 1

The ARM Cortex-M microcontroller are insanely popular. And it features a flexible and powerful nested vectored interrupt controller (NVIC). But for many, including myself, the Cortex-M interrupt system can be counter-intuitive, complex, inconsistent and confusing, leading to many bugs and lots of frustration :-(.

NXP KV58F ARM Cortex-M7

ARM Cortex-M7: NXP KV58

Understanding the NVIC and the ARM Cortex-M interrupt system is essential for every embedded application, but even for if using an realtime operating system: if you mess up with interrupts, very bad things will happen….

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