McuOnEclipse Components: 12-Mar-2017 Release

I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge, with the following main features and changes:

  • Wait: Busy-Waiting using ARM DWT cycle counter
  • Percepio FreeRTOS+Trace: Updated to version 3.1.1, simplified usage of streaming and snapshot mode
  • GenericSWI2C: MCUXpresso SDK can be used with the bit-banging I2C driver support
  • FreeRTOS: includes updates of the 9.0.1 release, ‘optimized task selection, enabled MPU support (experimental)
  • Graphical GUI drivers for screens, windows, icons, headers, text widgets and more
  • SSD1351: display driver for Solomon Systech SSD1351 display
  • More components are now supported by the McuLibConfig settings
  • Many other smaller bug fixes and enhancements

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Percepio FreeRTOS Tracealyzer Plugin for Eclipse

Good news for everyone using Eclipse, FreeRTOS and Percepio Tracealyzer: Percepio has released an Eclipse plugin which makes snapshot tracing very easy and convenient using the a GNU gdb debugger in Eclipse like Kinetis Design Studio:

Eclipse with Percepio Tracealizer

Eclipse with Percepio Tracealyzer

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eSOMiMX6-micro: NXP i.MX6 System on Module

An interesting trend in the industry are SOM (System on Module): a high performance processor typically running Linux, Windows or Android with all the memory and necessary power logic gets put on a small module. The key benefit is that I don’t need to worry about the complex ball grid routing and the DDR memory connections/lines: all these problems are solved on a small module which then I can use in my design. It seems that NXP i.MX application processors are getting popular in this domain, and after looking at the Toradex Colibri modules, I have an i.MX6 module on my desk from e-con Systems:

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

eSOMiMX6-micro Top Side

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P&E ARM Cortex-M Debugging with FreeRTOS Thread Awareness and Real Time Expressions for GDB and Eclipse

P&E has a new version of their GDB/Eclipse debug plugins available on their Eclipse update site, and it comes with to great features: Real Time Expressions (show variables while target is running) and  FreeRTOS thread awareness 🙂

FreeRTOS Thread Awareness

FreeRTOS Thread Awareness

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Tips for Making Copy of Eclipse CDT Projects Easier

Instead creating a new project from scratch, often it is simpler to copy an existing Eclipse CDT project, then change it and go on.  To copy-past the a project in Eclipse:

  1. Select the project in the Project Explorer View (CTRL-C on Windows)

    Copy of a project

    Copy of a project

  2. Then paste it in the Project Explorer View (CTRL-V on Windows), and I can specify the new name:

    Paste of Project

    Paste of Project

However, to make that process simpler, a few things have to be done right in the ‘source’ project first.

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Cycle Counting on ARM Cortex-M with DWT

Some ARM Cortex-M have a DWT (Data Watchpoint and Trace) unit implemented, and it has a nice feature in that unit which counts the execution cycles. The DWT is usually implemented on most Cortex-M3, M4 and M7 devices, including e.g. the NXP Kinetis or LPC devices.

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McuOnEclipse Components: 28-Jan-2017 Release

I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge, with the following main features and changes:

  • New Sharp Memory Display Driver supporting 96×96 and 128×128 pixel ultra low power display
  • PID_Int can be used without hardware
  • GenericTimeData has added functions to convert date/time into strings
  • HardFault can now disable write buffers on ARM Cortex to simplify debugging faults
  • Folder support for SEGGER SystemView and Percepio FreeRTOS+Trace
  • Component usage without Processor Expert
  • NXP MCUXpresso SDK support for FreeRTOS using tickless idle mode and low power timer
  • Many other smaller bug fixes and enhancements
SourceForge

SourceForge

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“No source available”, or how to Debug Multiple Binaries with GDB and Eclipse

When working and debugging a bootloader, debugging can be a challenge: During debugging the bootloader, a new binary gets loaded into the microcontroller address space which is unknown to the debugger. As soon as I step into the newly loaded binary, I only see assembly code, with that ugly “No source available” in Eclipse:

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

No Source Available, debugging in assembly

But wait: GDB is able to do pretty much everything you can imagine, so here is how to debug multiple binaries with GDB and Eclipse, and to turn the above into something which is easy to debug:

Debugging with Symbolics

Debugging with Symbolics

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Debugging ARM Cortex-M0+ HardFaults

To me, one of the most frustrating things working with ARM Cortex-M cores are the hard fault exceptions. I have lost several hours this week debugging and tracking an instance of a hard fault on an ARM Cortex-M0+ device.

Next assembly step will cause a hard fault

Next assembly step will cause a hard fault

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Upgrading to Sharp 128×128 Pixel Memory Display

In “Low Power LCD: Adafruit Breakout Board with Sharp Memory Display” I used a 96×96 Sharp Display (LS013B4DN04) with the Adafruit breakout board, but because that one seems to be EOL (End Of Life), I searched for a replacement. I have found the 128×128 pixel version (Sharp LS013B7DH03), and best of all, it is pin compatible :-). With a small tweak of the driver, it works :-):

Sharp Memory Display 128x128

Sharp Memory Display 128×128

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Building the NXP BLE Stack with Open Source GNU and Eclipse Tools

One of the biggest road blocks (beside of closed source) using the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) stack from NXP is that it requires expensive tools to compile and build the stack. The good news is that I have now the NXP BLE stack for the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear ported to Eclipse and GNU gcc build tools for ARM 🙂

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

NXP BLE Stack in Eclipse

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DIY IKEA Wireless Qi Charging for the Hexiwear

The Achilles Heel of the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear is its charging: the charging and USB connector are only designed for a limited number of plug-unplug cycles, and it does not have a wireless charging capability like the Apple iWatch. Until now! I have built a DIY wireless charging system for the Hexiwear 🙂 :

Wireless Qi Charging the Hexiwear

Wireless Qi Charging the Hexiwear

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Hexiwear with Raspberry Pi and OpenHAB Home Automation

This is yet another milestone on my journey to combine the Hexiwear with the Raspberry Pi: now I can send take over control of the Hexiwear with openHAB running on the Raspberry Pi:

Controlling Hexiwear with OpenHAB

Controlling Hexiwear with openHAB

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Disabling EzPort on NXP Kinetis to Solve Power-On Issues

I’m using the NXP FRDM-K64F board in several projects: it is reasonably prices, has USB, Ethernet, micro SD card socket and connectors for Bluetooth classic and Nordic Semiconductor nRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz transceiver:

NXP FRDM-K64F Board

NXP FRDM-K64F Board

But one issue I have faced several times is that the board works fine while debugging and connected and powered by a host machine, but does not startup sometimes if powered by a battery or started without a debugger attached. I have found that the EzPort on the microcontroller is causing startup issues.

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Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear

The Hexiwear (see “Hexiwear: Teardown of the Hackable ‘Do-Anything’ Device“) is a small and portable sensor node with built-in BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) transceiver. In a research project we try to use multiple Hexiwear in a classroom environment and to collect sensor data on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B running Linux has an on-board BLE transceiver too, so why not binding them (wirelessly) together?

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Raspberry Pi 3 connected with Hexiwear over BLE

Well, things seemed easy at the beginning, and as always, there are many things to learn on a journey like this…

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Prototype of tiny Hexiwear Docking Station

For a research project we are using Hexiwear to measure the effectiveness of teaching and learning. The Hexiwear is used as a networking sensor device in that project. For that project we needed a docking station with wireless capabilities:

Mini Docking Station for Hexiwear

Mini Docking Station for Hexiwear

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NXP MCUXpresso Software and Tools with Clocks Tool

About a year ago, on December 7th 2015, Freescale and NXP have announced the completion of their merger.  Now it is Qualcomm which wants to acquire NXP? It looks like these mergers are happening faster and faster. The reality is that merging products take more time than anticipated, and nearly one year later I can see the outcome of what comes out of the marriage between Freescale and NXP or between Kinetis and LPC: NXP has announced the MCUXpresso software and tools for Kinetis and LPC microcontroller:

Introducing MCUXpresso

Introducing MCUXpresso (Source: NXP video)

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Making-Of Sea Shell Sand Clock

The year is coming to an end, the Holiday season is approaching. In case you are looking for a nice present: I have completed my version of a sand clock: a clock writing the time into sand:

Sandclock

Sandclock

If you are interested to build your own version, I have documented the different steps with tips and tricks…

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MINTomat: World’s Most Complicated Bubble Gum Automata?

How to fascinate kids for technology? Show them that engineering is fun :-). At the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts we have created the ‘MINTomat’: a robotics system for STEM activities rewarding interaction with bubble gums:

MINTomat

MINTomat

Yes, pretty over engineered compared to a normal bubble gum automata, but that’s part of the fun :-).

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Tutorial: Getting ETM Instruction Trace with NXP Kinetis ARM Cortex-M4F

It seems to me that not many developers use hardware trace? ARM indicates that maybe only <5% of developers are using trace. Too bad! Why are all the ARM Cortex microcontroller vendors putting a powerful hardware (and complicated!) trace engine into their devices, if only few developers are using it? Seems like a waste of silicon and an unnecessary price adder? Well, hardware trace can be a life saver: Because only with hardware trace the most complicated bugs and problems can be solved. And maybe because only the best are using it ;-).

In this article I proudly present my research how to get instruction trace out of the ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller on a NXP TWR-K64F120M board with a Segger J-Trace for ARM:

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

J-TRACE tracing NXP TWR-K64F Board

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