Copyright Law for Makers and Educators

Maker spaces and ‘FabLabs’ are popular and accessible in many areas. 3D printers are on the cheap, and powerful laser cutters are in the range of the fearless hobbyist. You can get dirty-cheap PCBs from China in less than a week (ok, probably not right now because of Corona virus) and it is easy to SMD solder parts these days with a DIY SMD PnP machine and OpenPnP. With the right equipment and skill set it is possible to build many cool projects. It is very rewarding and a great learning thing. Blog about it so other can learn too. And it even could get featured on Hackaday.

But: The risk is that someone might send you letter about a ‘Copyright Infringement’. Sadly, this is what happened to me for one of my recent projects. I don’t think that ‘take down’ letter was justified, but I learned a great deal what I should have done differently to avoid that situation. So in the end, it was a learning opportunity, which I believe is worth to share. In essence: what can a maker or educator do?

hackaday building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks

Hackaday: building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks (image: original image from Hackaday)

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Visualizing Data with Eclipse, gdb and gnuplot

The gnuplot is a versatile and powerful tool to plot and visualize all kind of data. I wish there would be a plugin for it in Eclipse. But as this is not (yet?) the case, here is how I’m using it with gdb and Eclipse, using the MCUXpresso IDE as example.

Gnuplot with Eclipse

Gnuplot with Eclipse

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Ways to apply Eclipse CDT C/C++ Project Settings

Eclipse with its CDT managed Make system makes it easy to build projects, because it can handle a lot of the background tasks and settings between the project and the build setting. It can get a bit difficult if I want to include a library or other sub-source project for which I have to add extra compiler #define or add extra includes path settings.

Eclipse project settings for incliude paths

Eclipse project settings for include paths

This article show the different ways I have found to make such imports (and exports) easier.

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Implementing FreeRTOS Performance Counters on ARM Cortex-M

When using an RTOS like FreeRTOS, sooner or later you have to ask the question: how much time is spent in each task? The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE has a nice view showing exactly this kind of information:

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

For FreeRTOS (or that Task List view) to show that very useful information, the developer has to provide a helping hand so the RTOS can collect this information. This article shows how this can be done on an ARM Cortex-M.

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DIY ‘Meta Clock’ with 24 Analog Clocks

Human since 1982 claims

“Human since 1982 have the copyright to works displaying digital time using a grid arrangement of analog clocks…”

I’m not a lawyer, but without obligations (imho) I have removed the content.

Thanks for understanding,

Erich

OpenPnP Solder Paste Dispensing Video

OpenPnP (see “Building a DIY SMT Pick&Place Machine with OpenPnP and Smoothieboard (NXP LPC1769)“) is a cool open source framework to run Pick&Place machines. I have mentored and supported Tobias Mailänder who extended the PnP machine with the ability to dispense solder past on PCBs. Below a video (courtesy of Tobias Mailänder) which shows the machine in action:

It is still a prototype, but things are working very well.

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Open Source LittlevGL GUI Library on Adafruit Touch LCDs with NXP LPC55S69-EVK

The NXP LPC55S69-EVK is a versatile board. In this article I show how it can be used with Adafruit TFT LCD boards, both with resistive and capacitive touch. For the software I’m using the open source LittlevGL GUI.

LPC55S69-EVK with Adafruit Touch LCD

LPC55S69-EVK with Adafruit Touch LCD

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Linking Bootloader Applications with Eclipse and FreeMarker Scripts

Bootloaders are a fine thing: With this I can load any applications I like. Power comes with some complexity, and a bootloader alone is a complex thing already. But this applies to the application part too: I need to link the application to a certain offset in the memory space so it can be loaded by the bootloader, plus the application typically needs to add some extra information to be used by the bootloader. This article describes how to build a bootloader application with Eclipse (MCUXpresso IDE) using the MCUXpresso SDK.

Build Configuration for Bootloader Application

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Stack Canaries with GCC: Checking for Stack Overflow at Runtime

Stack overflows are probably the number 1 enemy of embedded applications: a call to a a printf() monster likely will use too much stack space, resulting in overwritten memory and crashing applications. But stack memory is limited and expensive on these devices, so you don’t want to spend too much space for it. But for sure not to little too. Or bad things will happen.

The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE has a ‘Heap and Stack Usage’ view which can be used to monitor the stack usage and shows that a stack overflow happened:

Heap and Stack Usage

Heap and Stack Usage

But this is using the help of the debugger: how to catch stack overflows at runtime without the need of a debugger? There is an option in the GNU gcc compiler to help with this kind of situation, even if it was not originally intended for something different. Continue reading

Programming the ESP32 with an ARM Cortex-M USB CDC Gateway

The Espressif ESP32 devices are getting everywhere: they are inexpensive, readily available and Espressif IDF environment and build system actually is pretty good and working well for me including Eclipse (see “Building and Flashing ESP32 Applications with Eclipse“). The default way to program an ESP32 is to a) enter UART bootloader by pressing some push buttons and b) flash the application with ESP-IDF using a USB cable.

That works fine if the ESP32 is directly connected to the host PC. But in my case it is is behind an NXP Kinetis K22FX512 ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller and not directly accessible by the host PC. So I had to find a way how to allow boot loading the ESP32 through the ARM Cortex-M which is the topic of this article.

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

TTGO ESP32 MICRO-D4 Module

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Building and Flashing ESP32 Applications with Eclipse

The new semester is approaching in a very fast way, and so is the new lecture and lab module ‘Advanced Distributed Systems’ at the Lucerne University. For that module we are going to build a new ‘Sumo’ style robot with WLAN capabilities using the ESP32 chip. It will be a new robot PCB, and below is the current robot (based on NXP K22FX512) with the WLAN module connected to it:

Zumo connected to TTGO ESP32 module

Zumo connected to TTGO ESP32 module

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Tutorial: How to Optimize Code and RAM Size

It is great if vendors provide a starting point for my own projects. A working ‘blinky’ is always a great starter. Convenience always has a price, and with a ‘blinky’ it is that the code size for just ‘toggling a GPIO pin’ is exaggerated. For a device with a tiny amount of RAM and FLASH this can be concerning: will my application ever fit to that device if a ‘blinky’ takes that much? Don’t worry: a blinky (or any other project) can be easily trimmed down.

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

I use a ‘blinky’ project here just as an example: the trimming tips can apply to any other kind of projects too.

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Restoring Default Firmware on Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board

In my previous article “Debug and Execute Code from FLASH on the Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I explained how to take complete control over the board and flash and debug a firmware. Of course this overwrites the one which comes by default shipped on the board. This article is about how to restore or update the original firmware.

Restored Seeed Firmware

Restored Seeed Firmware

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SWO with NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK Board

With the cost of an single pin, many ARM Cortex-M boards including the NXP i.MX RT1064 can produde SWO data: think about a pin able to stream data out of the chip in realtime. For example interrupt activity which otherwise might be hard to capture:

SWO Interrupt Trace

SWO Interrupt Trace

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MCUXpresso Eclipse IDE Mouse Tips & Tricks

In a modern development workflow both command-line and a graphical user interface has its place. On the GUI side, Eclipse is famous that it offers many different ways to accomplish something which is great. But sometimes I continue to use an old habit or way because I have missed that there is a newer and better way, and the MCUXpresso Eclipse IDE is no exception to that. In this article I show a few ways how to use the mouse even more productive.

Project Settings

Project Settings

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Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 3: RAM and XiP Code on i.MX RT1064

In my previous articles I have used the command line on Linux to build and debug NXP MCUXpresso SDK applications. In this article I’m running code on NXP i.MX RT1064 in RAM or FLASH.

i.MXRT1064 board with LPC845-BRK as debug probe

i.MXRT1064 board with LPC845-BRK as debug probe

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Internal and External Debug Options for the NXP LPC55S69-EVK Board

The LPC55S69-EVK board comes on-board debug probe. The board includes the LPC4322JET100 device which acts like NXP LPC-Link2 debug probe:

LPC4322JET100 on LPC55S69-EVK

LPC4322JET100 on LPC55S69-EVK

But it is easily possible to use the board with an external debug probe or re-program the onboard one as a SEGGER J-Link debug probe.

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Building a Raspberry Pi UPS and Serial Login Console with tinyK22 (NXP K22FN512)

There are different ways to ruin a Linux system. For the Raspberry Pi which uses a micro SD card as the storage device by default, it comes with two challenges:

  1. Excessive writes to the SD card can wear it out
  2. Sudden power failure during a SD card write can corrupt the file system

For problem one I do I have a mitigation strategy (see “Log2Ram: Extending SD Card Lifetime for Raspberry Pi LoRaWAN Gateway“). Problem two can occur by user error (“you shall not turn it off without a sudo poweroff!”) or with the event of a power outage or black out. So for that problem I wanted to build a UPS for the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi with UPS System and tinyK22

Raspberry Pi with UPS System and tinyK22

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First Steps with the LPC55S69-EVK (Dual-Core ARM Cortex-M33 with Trustzone)

For the long Easter weekend I have organized a new toy: the NXP LPC55S69-EVK board: a dual ARM Cortex-M33 running at 100 MHz with ARM TrustZone:

LPC55S69 Microcontroller

LPC55S69 Microcontroller

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Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 2: Commandline Debugging with GDB

In “Tutorial: MCUXpresso SDK with Linux, Part 1: Installation and Build with Maked” I used cmake and make to build the SDK application. In this part I’m going to use the command line gdb to debug the application on the board.

Cross-Debugging with GDB

Cross-Debugging with GDB

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