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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Creating custom Expansion Board and Header for the MCUXpresso Pins Tool

The MCUXpresso Pins Tool is part of the NXP configuration suite which makes pin assignments, configuration and muxing easy. What I have somehow missed from one of the latest updates and releases is that it allows me now to add my own custom headers definition. Not only the tool is now aware of the ‘standard’ Arduino headers, but I can add my own headers too. This can be useful for providers of breakout boards or any kind of board which can be added to a MCU board. In my case it is very useful for projects where we design our own (breadboard-friendly) board or a custom board with an expansion board: we can design a board header and use it in other projects.

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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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Installing Processor Expert into MCUXpresso IDE

With the new MCUXpresso versions out, and because it has been a while I showed how to install Processor Expert into Eclipse, here is an update how to do this.

Processor Expert in MCUXpresso IDE
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GNU Coverage (gcov) with NXP S32 Design Studio IDE

The open-source GNU tools provide a rich set of tools to help developing software. Some are clearly more for the high-end application development. But many of the tools are applicable for the more restricted embedded software development process as well. One is gcov, or the GNU Coverage Tool. Coverage is essential for the testing phase, as it tells you what part of code have been used and ‘covered’. This article describes how GNU coverage can be added the NXP S32 Design Studio IDE.

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Using Custom Source File Extensions with Eclipse CDT Gnu Make Builder Projects

One great thing with the Eclipse Gnu Make Builder (aka ‘auto make’ or ‘auto build’) feature: just add source files (*.c, *.cpp, …), and with kind of magic, they all get compiled and linked properly.

But for something easy and convenient: is it hard to use custom file extensions? So what if I want to use a different file extension for my source files, different from the standard ones? Actually Eclipse CDT can do this too, it just takes two settings to recognize, compile and link source files with custom extension.

Custom file extension with Eclipse auto-build
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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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