MCUXpresso IDE 11.6.0

With a steady release train, NXP has released last week a new and updated version of their flagship IDE: the version 11.6.0 of the MCUXpresso IDE.

NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.6.0

And there are several new and cool features with that release, including a power & energy profiler and CMake support.

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Getting Started: Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040 with Eclipse and J-Link

In this time where many micro-controllers have 100+ weeks estimated delivery time, it makes sense to look at alternatives. So it is not a surprise that the Raspberry Pi RP2040 gets used more and more in projects. It is not only inexpensive, it is (at least for now) available which makes all the difference. The RP2040 is the first microcontroller from Raspberry Pi: a dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ running up to 133 MHz, 264 KByte on-Chip RAM and up to 16 MByte external FLASH.

Raspberry Pi Pico with J-Link, with a NXP sensor board

It is a very versatile microcontroller, with a rich eco-system and set of tools. It can be easily used with C/C++ or MicroPython, and the Raspberry Pi Pico board only costs around $5. There are plenty of tutorials out there, for example how to use the Pico board as debug probe to debug another Pico board. While this is great, there is an easy way to use any existing J-Link and Eclipse IDE too, so this is what this article is about.

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Choosing GNU Compiler Optimizations

Tool chains like the GNU compiler collection (gcc) have a plethora of options. The probably most important ones are the ones which tell the compiler how to optimize the code. Running out of code space, or the application is not performing well? Then have a look at the compiler optimization levels!

However, which one to select can be a difficult choice. And the result might very well depend on the application and coding style too. So I’ll give you some hints and guidance with an autonomous robot application we use at the Lucerne University for research and education.

INTRO Sumo Robot
INTRO Sumo Robot
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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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Include .bin Binary Files in a GNU Linker File

Sometimes it is needed or desired just to add or link a piece of data or BLOB (Binary Large OBject) to the application. For example I have created a .bin file of my code and constant data, and I need to add it to an application using the linker file. How to do this?

added BLOB to application
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Resurrecting ‘bricked’ NXP Kinetis Devices

Modern MCUs like the NXP Kinetis have security features which prevent reverse engineering, but can ‘brick’ devices too. Depending on the settings, it prevents read-out from the FLASH or reprogramming the device. While some of the protection is (mostly) not by-passable by design, in many case the devices looks like ‘bricked’ but still can be recovered. In this article I’ll get you some ways for a (hopefully) successful recovery.

J-Link EDU Mini recovering a tinyK22 with needle adapter
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Debugging the LPC804 on the MCU-Link Pro with an external Debug Probe

The NXP MCU-Link Pro debug probe includes a LPC804 as an additional microcontroller on the board, including its debug header.

MCU-Link Pro Debug Probe Board

The question is: how to debug the on-board extra LPC804 microcontroller with an external debug probe?

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Recovering bricked LPC55Sxx EVK Boards

While developing applications, it can happen that things go wrong. And in my case I ended up with two LPC55Sxx EVK boards on my desk, which seemed not to be usable any more. The issue: the boards were not accessible with the debug probe, because right after main they muxed the pins in a wrong way :-(.

bricked board with set of debut probes

The standard GDB debug connections (both on-board and off-board) were not able to regain access of the board, because the MCU was running into the fault condition pretty much right out of reset.

Luckily, after a lot of trial-and-error, I have found a way to recover them.

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Debugging with Dynamic Printf Breakpoints

I’m not a big fan of using printf() in embedded applications, but I have to admit that in some cases it is very useful. One problem in debugging embedded systems debugging is getting values or information off the target: because of the limited resources this can be very challenging.

So why not doing this with the debugger in an automated way? And here dynamic printf breakpoints can help: it adds printf()-style output on-the-fly to your program without the need to recompile or restart your program, without the need to run printf() on the target:

Using Dynamic Printf Breakpoint
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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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