Execute-Only Code with GNU and gcc

“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.

Locked Code

Locked Code

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.

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Creating Disassembly Listings with GNU Tools and Eclipse

In many cases it is very useful to see the generated assembly code produced by the compiler. One obvious way to see the assembly code is to use the Disassembly view in Eclipse:

Disassembly View

Disassembly View

But this requires a debug session. An easier way is to use command line options to generate the listing file(s).

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Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1

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:

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

So what to do if I want to use the latest FreeRTOS (currently 10.0.1) with all the bells and whistles?

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Embedded Computing Conference 2018: Pick&Place Overview Video

To support my talk next week at the Embedded Computing Conference 2018, I have put together a video with the hardware features of that Pick&Place based on OpenPnP machine. Below is a picture of the current machine:

Pick & Place Machine

Pick & Place Machine

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Tutorial: Understanding and Using FreeRTOS Software Timers

Hardware Timers are essential to most embedded applications: I use them mostly for triggering actions at a given frequency, such as acquiring data from a  sensor. With using an RTOS I can do a similar thing using a task: the task will run with a given frequency and I can periodic work in it. However, using a task might be too much overhead doing this. The good news is that there is a much more efficient way to do this in FreeRTOS with Software Timers. And this is what this tutorial is about: how to use Software Timers with FreeRTOS.

FreeRTOS Software Timers

FreeRTOS Software Timers

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Overview of MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:

  1. Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
  2. 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!

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

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Sneak Preview: DIY SMT Pick & Place Machine with OpenPnP

I apologize: I have not been blogging much in the past weeks :-(. One reason is that I’m working on a DIY SMT/SMD Pick&Place machine which keeps me busy most of my spare time :-). I admit that this project is not finished yet, but now is the time I can give a sneak preview: a SMD/SMT pick and place machine:

Pick&Place Machine

Pick&Place Machine

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McuOnEclipse Components: 1-Apr-2018 Release

It’s April Fool’s Day, but be assured this is not a joke ;-): I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge. This release includes several smaller bug fixes and components have been upgraded for FreeRTOS V10.0.1.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Converting Binary Files to Intel Hex Format with the SRecord Tool

I’m dealing a lot with bootloaders recently (see “Flash-Resident USB-HID Bootloader with the NXP Kinetis K22 Microcontroller“), and bootloaders are sometimes very picky about what file format they are able to consume. So what if I have a binary (see “S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files“) file and I need to convert it into the Intel Hex format?

converted binary to intel hex

converted binary to intel hex

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Tutorial: CRC32 Checksum with the KBOOT Bootloader

In “Flash-Resident USB-HID Bootloader with the NXP Kinetis K22 Microcontroller” I presented how I’m using the tinyK22 (or FRDM-K22F) with a flash resident USB HID bootloader. To make sure that the loaded application is not corrupted somehow, it is important to verify it with a Cyclic redundancy Checksum (CRC). The NXP KBOOT Bootloader can verify such a CRC, but how to generate one and how to use it is not really obvious (at least to me), so this article explains how to generate that CRC.

CRC Values for KBOOT

CRC Values for KBOOT

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Converting a Raw Binary File into an ELF/Dwarf File for Loading and Debugging

Binary files are just a binary blob without debug information. Most debug tools and flashers are able to deal (raw) binary (see “S-Record, Intel Hex and Binary Files“). But GDB or the P&E GDB server really needs a ELF/Dwarf file which usually has all the debug information in it. This is a problem if all what I have is a binary file.

This post is about transforming a raw binary (.bin) file into an ELF/Dwarf file with adding a header to it:

Added Elf Header to Raw Binary File

Added Elf Header to Raw Binary File

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Custom 3D Printed Magnetic Encoder Disks for Robotics Projects

I’m making great progress with the firmware for the new Mini Sumo Robot (see “New Concept for 2018 Mini Sumo Roboter“). The goal is a versatile and low-cost Mini Sumo robot, and the robot comes with the feature of magnetic position encoders. In a previous article I have explained how to mold custom tires for robots (see “Making Perfect Sticky DIY Sumo Robot Tires“), this article is about how to make DIY Magnetic disk encoders.

3D Printed Magnetic Disk Encoders

3D Printed Magnetic Encoders Disks

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Debugging the Teensy 3.6 with Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE and CMSIS-DAP LPC-Link2

The Teensy boards are great, but as they are they are not really useful for real development, as they lack proper SWD debugging. In “Modifying the Teensy 3.5 and 3.6 for ARM SWD Debugging” I have found a way to get SWD debugging working, at that time with Kinetis Design Studio and the Segger J-Link. This article is about how debug the Teensy with free MCUXpresso IDE and the $20 NXP LPC-Link2 debug probe:

Teensy 3.6 with NXP LPC-Link2

Teensy 3.6 with NXP LPC-Link2

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New Concept for 2018 Mini Sumo Roboter

Doing Mini Sumo robot competition is really fun, and there is yet another one coming to end the current university semester. For several years we have used our own sumo robot, and this is the one used in the course this year too. But for future and extended events we are exploring a new robot. I proudly present the concept of the next generation sumo robot for the year 2018:

Sumo Robot with Bluetooth module

Sumo Robot with Bluetooth module

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New FreeRTOS V10.0.0: Amazon, Segger SystemView and Percepio Tracealyzer

“Amazon FreeRTOS – IoT operating system for microcontrollers”: The announcement of FreeRTOS V10.0.0 was one of the biggest news last week for me. Not only is there now a Version 10, the bigger news is that FreeRTOS is now part of Amazon. Wow! Now this explains why Richard Barry (the founder behind FreeRTOS) was kind of hiding away for about a year: he joined Amazon as a principal engineer about a year ago. I think we all have to wait and see what it means for FreeRTOS.

Amazon FreeRTOS

Amazon FreeRTOS (Source: Amazon Web Site)

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Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools

Back in March 2017, NXP had rolled the MCUXpresso IDE starting with Version 10.0.0. With the intent to unify the SDK, LPCXpresso, CodeWarrior, Kinetis Design Studio and Processor Expert into one unified and integrated set of tools. V10.0.0 was a good start. The MCUXpresso IDE V10.0.2 in July was more of a smaller update, and the Pin and Clock configuration tools were not integrated, no added tool for peripheral configuration.

A week ago the MCUXpresso V10.1.0 has been released which shows where the journey is going: an free-of-charge and code size unlimited Eclipse based integrated set of tools to configure, build and debug Cortex-M (Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT) microcontroller/processor based applications.

Clock Tool inside MCUXpresso IDE

Clock Tool inside MCUXpresso IDE

I have used it for a week, and although many things are still new, I thought I’m able to give an overview about what is new.

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Solving Problem with GNU Linker and “referenced in section, defined in discarded section ” Error Message

I have been running recently into an interesting case where the GNU ARM Linker failed to link an application with strange error messages:

referenced in section, defined in discarded section

referenced in section, defined in discarded section

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Adding a Delay to the ARM DAPLink Bootloader

The ARM mbed USB MSD bootloader which is used on many silicon vendor boards has a big problem: it is vulnerable to operating systems like Windows 10 which can brick your board (see “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“). To recover the board, typically a JTAG/SWD programmer has to be used. I have described in articles (see links section) how to recover from that situation, including using an inofficial new bootloader which (mostly) solves the problem. The good news is that ARM (mbed) has released an official and fixed bootloader. The bad news is that this bootloader does not work on every board because of a timing issue: the bootloader mostly enters bootloader mode instated executing the application.

DAPLink in Bootloader Mode

DAPLink in Bootloader Mode

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McuOnEclipse Components: 25-Sept-2017 Release

I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge. In this release more ARM Cortex devices/vendors are supported with different SDKs, plus it comes with several FreeRTOS enhancements for debugging highly optimized code.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Managing Project and Library Dependencies with Eclipse CDT

For several projects I’m using library projects: I build a library and then use that library in the other project. If I change something in a library, I want to run make both on the referenced libraries and rebuild my application if needed. If you don’t know how to do this, then read on… 🙂

Shared Library Projects

Shared Library Projects

(… actually it means workign around  known Eclipse CDT bug too….)

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