In the age of high-resolution graphical LCDs using a character display might look like a bit anachronistic. But these displays provide a lot of value for me as they are robust, available in different shapes and number of lines. And such a character display can be a better solution for an industrial application.
Most host or desktop systems (say Linux, Mac or Windows) have a normal use case where you start the operating system say in the morning and shut it down in the evening, and then you leave the machine. Embedded Systems are different: they are not attended, and they are supposed to run ‘forever’. Not every embedded system needs to run an OS (or in that world: Real-Time Operating System or RTOS), but the same applies here: after the RTOS is started, it is not intended that it will shutdown and restart. To the extend that you won’t they support the ‘shutdown’ and ‘restart’ functionality at all. In case of gathering coverage information this would be really useful:
In the case of FreeRTOS: what if I really need to shutdown the RTOS and restart it again, as by default this is not supported. This is what this article is about …
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’m using the VL6180X ToF (Time-of-Flight) sensors successfully in different projects. The VL6180X is great, but only can measure distances up to 20 cm and in ‘extended mode’ up to 60 cm. For a project I need to go beyond that, so the logical choice is the VL53L0X which measures between 30 cm and 100 cm or up to 200 cm. For this project I’m using the VL53L0X breakout board from Adafruit, but similar products are available e.g. from Pololu.
You might wonder what ‘Zork‘ is? Zork is one of the first and earlist fictive computer games, written around 1977 and 1979, written in MDL on a DEC PDP-10 by members of the MIT Dynamic Modelling group (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zork). I believe the first time I have played Zork was around 1984 on a Commodore 64.
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.
There are things which are game changer in the world of software development: one such event was when I started using a VCS (Version Control System): it changed for me how I keep and store my projects and settings. It even changed the way how I deal with non-software related items like documents or other valuable things: I started storing them in to a VCS too.
Unit testing is a common practice for host development. But for embedded development this still seems mostly a ‘blank’ area. Mostly because embedded engineers are not used to unit testing, or because the usual framework for unit testing requires too many resources on an embedded target?
What I have used is the μCUnit framework which is a small and easy to use framework, targeting small microcontroller applications.
Open Source software has been around for decades. But open source on hardware especially microcontroller is not much a reality these days. But there is something which might change this: RISC-V is a free and open RISC instruction set architecture and for me it has the potential to replace some of the proprietary architectures currently used. RISC-V is not new, but it gets more and more traction in Academia (no surprise).
I wanted to play with RISC-V for over a year, but finally a week ago I did one of these “hey, let’s buy that board” thing again. Sometimes these boards get on a pile to wait a few weeks or longer to get used, but that one I had to try out immediately :-).
Most embedded projects need an user input device. For the NXP i.MX RT1050-EVK board I have recently added a 480×272 full color touch LCD (see “Adding a Rocktech Capacitive Touch LCD to the NXP i.MX RT1052 EVK“). I have looked at different commercially available GUI libraries, but none of them really were matching my expectations: either very expensive or closed source, or an overkill for small LCDs and projects. But then I have found LittlevGL: free-of-charge, open source, easy to use, well documented and has everything I need. And it really looks gorgeous 🙂
In this short article I show you how to enable one of the hidden gems in Eclipse: how to get a description of the library function used in the code
In “Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1” I showed how to use a custom FreeRTOS with the S32 Design Studio (ARM). The OSIF (OS Interface) provides an operating system and services abstraction for the application which is used by other S32K SDK components:
By default, the GNU compiler (gcc) optimizes each compilation unit (source file) separately. This is effective, but misses the opportunity to optimize across compilation units. Here is where the Link Time Optimization (LTO, option -flto) can help out: with a global view it can optimize one step further.
The other positive side effect is that the linker can flag possible issues like the one below which are not visible to the compiler alone:
type of '__SP_INIT' does not match original declaration [enabled by default]
We in Switzerland are proud about the fact that our country has four official languages: Italian, French, German and Romansh. Most of Swiss people speak at least two of them, plus the inofficial fifth language (English).
Eclipse is even better than that and speaks 46 different languages. If you are not happy with the default language, try out Babel! And yes, Eclipse has a language pack for Klingon too:
I apologize: I have not been blogging much in the past weeks :-(. One reason is that I’m working on a DIY SMT/SMD Pick&Place machine which keeps me busy most of my spare time :-). I admit that this project is not finished yet, but now is the time I can give a sneak preview: a SMD/SMT pick and place machine:
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.
One of the great things with the FreeRTOS operating system is that it comes with free performance analysis: It shows me how much time is spent in each task. Best of all: it shows it in a graphical way inside Eclipse too:
Three years ago I published “Debugging Failure: Check List and Hints” and unfortunately this article is one of the most popular ones: obviously debugging problems are very common. Debugging with GDB works usually fine, but if things are failing, then it can be hard to find the cause for it. Recently I have been asked to check some failures, so here are two more hints about what could go wrong…