It is a common thing to boot a Linux system (see the Raspberry Pi) from a micro SD card. It is not that common for a microcontroller. The NXP i.MX RT ARM Cortex-M7 fills that gap between these two worlds. No surprise that it features a ROM bootloader which can boot from a micro SD card.
Modern microcontroller come with plenty of internal FLASH memory. On the other side, many high performance MCUs as the NXP i.MX RT are ‘flashless’, because the silicon process for high performance cores is not matching the FLASH memory technology, so they are using external serial SPI or Quad-SPI (QSPI) memory instead.
Why not using an external SPI FLASH for a ‘normal’ microcontroller too?
I always reserve time between Christmas and New Year to get my hands on technology pieces which I might not have any time otherwise. Among different things I ordered the NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK board from Mouser.com, and it arrived right before Christmas. Time to have it unboxed and started….
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.
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 🙂
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!
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?
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.
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:
In “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools” I mentioned that I wanted to try the i.MX RT1050 processor. Well, finally my ordered board from Mouser arrived, right on time for the week-end, so I had a chance to use that ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz :-).
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.
Many of the NXP OpenSDA boot loaders are vulnerable to Windows 8.x or Windows 10: write accesses of Windows can confuse the factory bootloader and make the debug firmware and bootloader useless. In this post I show how to recover the bootloader using MCUXpresso IDE and the P&E Universal Multilink.
A bootloader on a microcontroller is a very useful thing. It allows me to update the firmware in the field if necessary. There are many ways to use and make a bootloader (see “Serial Bootloader for the Freedom Board with Processor Expert“). But such a bootloader needs some space in FLASH, plus it needs to be programmed first on a blank device, so a JTAG programmer is needed. That’s why vendors have started including a ROM bootloader into their devices: the microcontroller comes out of the factory with a bootloader in FLASH. So instead writing my bootloader, I can use the one in the ROM.
And as with everything, there are pros and cons of that approach.
I’m using Eclipse based IDE’s to develop and debug my embedded applications. This works great, as Eclipse has all the necessary tools to edit, build and debug it. But when it comes just to download/flash a binary to the board, then things are pretty much specific to the tools used. With the advent of the new MCUXpresso IDE, here is how that Eclipse IDE can be used for this.
The MCUXpresso IDE (see “MCUXpresso IDE: Unified Eclipse IDE for NXPs ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers“) has one great feature: it includes debug support for the popular LPC-Link2 debug probes. That way I have yet another powerful debug probe with extra features for ARM based boards. That LPC-Link2 circuit is present on many LPCXpresso boards from NXP. So why not using it to debug it my custom hardware?
Looking for a small, inexpensive ($25-30) ARM development board (say 120-180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with FPU, 512kB-1MB of FLASH and 256 KByte of RAM? Then have a look at the Teensy 3.5 and Teensy 3.6 by PJRC/Paul Stoffregen:
The only problem? it is not possible to debug it :-(. At least not in the traditional sense. This article is about how to change the board to use it with any normal SWD debugging tool e.g. Eclipse and the Segger J-Link :-).
There are many mergers going on in the industry, and one of the largest one was in 2016 the integration of Freescale Semiconductor with NXP Semiconductors, with both providing Eclipse based IDE’s to their customer base. Consequently, the company merger triggered a merger of the IDE’s, and last week NXP has released the result: the MCUXpresso IDE.