The ARM Cortex M architecture has many features which are underused, probably simply because engineers are not aware of it. SWO (Single Wire Output) is a single trace pin of the ARM Cortex-M CoreSight debug block. trace pin uses the ITM (Instruction Trace Macrocell) on ARM Cortex. It provides a serial output channel, at a high speed higher than the usual UART, because it is clocked at half or a quarter of the core clock frequency, depending on the core and implementation.
As such, it is an ideal high speed output channel to send text or data to the host. This is how it is usually used, but what is unknown to many: it can be used in a bidirectional way with the help of the debugger.
The topic of this article: how to redirect standard I/O like printf() or scanf() using the SWO ITM console: means both sending *and* receiving data over the SWO debug channel: that way I can use it as a kind of UART with a single pin only.
A typical debugging session involves just one ELF/Dwarf binary or executable. But what if I need to program multiple binary files with gdb? Things like loading both the bootloader and the application binary? Or I have a an on-chip file system or data section I need to program?
In this article I show how I can use gdb to load and program extra data, like a binary (.bin) file, both using command line interface and using an IDE.
MCU vendors offer SDKs and configuration tools: that’s a good thing, because that way I can get started quickly and get something up and running ideally in a few minutes. But this gets you into a dependency on tools, SDK and configuration tools too: changing later from one MCU to another can be difficult and time consuming. So why not get started with a ‘bare’ project, using general available tools, just with a basic initialization (clocking, startup code, CMSIS), even with the silicon vendor provided IDE and basic support files?
In this case, I show how you easily can do this with CMake, make and Eclipse, without the (direct) need of an SDK.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.