Friday this week NXP has released a new version of their flagship IDE: the MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0. The version number indicates an incremental update from the earlier V10.2.1, but there are many exciting features and new features which make me switch my lecture material to this new IDE for the next semester.
You might wonder what ‘Zork‘ is? Zork is one of the first and earlist fictive computer games, written around 1977 and 1979, written in MDL on a DEC PDP-10 by members of the MIT Dynamic Modelling group (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zork). I believe the first time I have played Zork was around 1984 on a Commodore 64.
With Eclipse as IDE it is very easy to debug an application on a board. Still sometimes it is useful to get one level down and control the GDB server directly.
Not ready for the complexity of a full blown Embedded Linux, but need that extra compute performance? Need an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz module on a half-sized business card, ready to be integrated? Here we go: the Embedded Artists i.MX RT1052 OEM module:
Compute modules are very common in the Embedded Linux space, for example see this Toradex module. The reason is simple: these high-performance boards simplify the design, as I don’t have to care about the BGA packages and the external SDRAM and FLASH devices: everything is on a module I can easily integrate into my base board.
In my “Tutorial: Catching Rogue Memory Accesses with Eclipse and GDB Watchpoints” I have used Eclipse/CDT and GDB watchpoints. I used a conditional watchpoint, but this comes with a performance hit. In this article I show how to use the ARM Cortex trace hardware to catch specific writes to a memory location. Without severe performance degradation. But for this I need a little helper: the DEADBEEF catcher!
Powerful ARM Cortex-M7 microcontroller are on the rise, bridging the gap between traditional microcontroller and Embedded Linux systems. I already published articles for the NXP i.MX RT1052 which is an ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz. Because the RT105x is available in BGA196 package only, I have as oredered the i.MX RT 1050 EVK which has a similar device on it, but in LQFP package:
I noticed on Mouser.com that there is a new i.MX RT1050 board: the EVKB one. I have used the EVK (the one without the ‘B’) for several weeks (see “MCUXpresso IDE V10.1.0 with i.MX RT1052 Crossover Processor” and “Adding a Rocktech Capacitive Touch LCD to the NXP i.MX RT1052 EVK“). I needed anyway a second board, so I ordered that EVKB from Mouser, and after some delay and waiting it arrived on my desk. So far this boards seems to be a better one:
NXP has just released the 10.2.1 update of their flagship Eclipse based IDE. While the number increase from 10.2.0 to 10.2.1 indicates a minor release, there are a several things which make me move over to that new release.
It is never too early to start thinking about Halloween projects :-).
When I ordered originally the MIMXRT1050-EVK from Mouser, it was without the LCD display (see “MCUXpresso IDE V10.1.0 with i.MX RT1052 Crossover Processor“. I ordered the LCD for the board soon after writing that article, but I was too busy with the university lectures and exams to get a hand on it. Finally I have spent a few hours at night and I proudly can say: the display is working 🙂
By default, the NXP S32K144EVB and microcontroller is using a 5V supply voltage and logic levels which is great for noisy environment or any 5V devices. Many of my displays and sensors use 3.3V logic levels, so I would have to use a level shifter from 5V to 3.3V. There is another way: to change the board for 3.3V logic levels so I can use directly things like a SSD1306 display.
In “Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1” I showed how to use a custom FreeRTOS with the S32 Design Studio (ARM). The OSIF (OS Interface) provides an operating system and services abstraction for the application which is used by other S32K SDK components:
“There is no ‘S’ for Security in IoT” has indeed some truth. With all the connected devices around us, security of code should be a concern for every developer. “Preventing Reverse Engineering: Enabling Flash Security” shows how to prevent external read-out of critical code from device. What some microcontroller have built in is yet another feature: ‘Execute-Only-Sections‘ or ‘Execute-Only-Memory‘. What it means is that only instruction fetches are allowed in this area. No read access at all. Similar like ‘read-only’ ‘execute-only’ it means that code can be executed there, but no other access from that memory is allowed.
In this article I describe the challenges for a toolchain like the GNU gcc, and how to compile and link code for such an execute-only memory.
NXP not only sells general purpose microcontroller, but as well a portfolio of automotive devices which includes the S32K which is ARM Cortex based. For this device family, they offer the S32 Design Studio (or S32DS) with its own Eclipse distribution and SDK. The interesting part is that the S32DS includes Processor Expert (which is a bit different from the ‘mainstream’ Processor Expert). It comes with its own components for the S32K SDK which includes a component for FreeRTOS. But that component in S32DS 2018.R1 comes with an old V8.2.1 FreeRTOS component:
So what to do if I want to use the latest FreeRTOS (currently 10.0.1) with all the bells and whistles?
By default, the FreeRTOS threads do not show up with the SEGGER J-Link debug connection in the Eclipse based NXP S32 Design Studio IDE. But don’t worry: Here is how to get it working with SEGGER J-Link debug connection:
The ARM DWT (Data Watchpoint and Trace) is an optional feature of the ARM-Cortex-M, and many Cortex-M3, M4 and M7 devices have it implemented. With it comes a cycle counter which counts the cycles spent. In Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT I described an approach how the application on the target can access the cycle counter.
The MCUXpresso IDE shows that cycle counter in the Eclipse Registers view:
I recently discovered a nice feature in Eclipse CDT: the ability to show the return value of a function:
By default, the GNU compiler (gcc) optimizes each compilation unit (source file) separately. This is effective, but misses the opportunity to optimize across compilation units. Here is where the Link Time Optimization (LTO, option -flto) can help out: with a global view it can optimize one step further.
The other positive side effect is that the linker can flag possible issues like the one below which are not visible to the compiler alone:
type of '__SP_INIT' does not match original declaration [enabled by default]
Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:
- Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
- Or: should we stay home, turn the BBQ smoker engine on fire, load it with baby back pork rib racks for a slow-and-low smoke treatment, while doing some on-the-side IDE and technology exploration?
Well, my family vote was kind of clear: they have chosen that second option. Not to mention that hidden technology piece in it, but that was part of the deal ;-).
And I’m sorry: this article is not about BBQ (for this see “Smoking BBQ Baby Back Ribs – Swiss Style“), it is about technology: I’m using the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and tools for many of my projects (see “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools“). Right before the this extended weekend, NXP has released the new v10.2.0 version, so here is where that technology exploration piece comes into play. Checking the release notes, this version number change includes so many cool stuff I decided to have a look and to check it out. Of course always having an electronic eye on the baby back ribs!