Tutorial: Open-Source Embedded GUI Library LittlevGL with i.MX RT1050-EVK

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 🙂

Hello from LittlevGL

Hello from LittlevGL

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Display Library Function Help Text in Eclipse C/C++ Projects

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

Library Hover

snprintf() help text

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Porting Processor Expert Projects to MCUXpresso IDE

The McuOnEclipse GitHub repository hosts many Processor Expert projects and is very popular (cloned more than 1000 times, thank you!). Processor Expert is a powerful framework which generates driver and configuration code, simplifying application development for a wide range of microcontroller and families. But Processor Expert won’t be developed further by NXP and is not part of MCUXpresso IDE. While it is possible to install Processor Expert into MCUXpresso IDE 10.2, how can these projects used ini an IDE *without* Processor Expert? This article describes how to port an existing Processor Expert project into the NXP MCUXpresso IDE.

Adafruit SSD1351 with FRDM-K64F

Ported Project with FRDM-K64F using Adafruit SSD1351 and Processor Expert

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Using custom FreeRTOS with S32K SDK and OSIF for ARM

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:

OSIF in S32K for ARM Eclipse Project

OSIF in S32K for ARM Eclipse Project

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Execute-Only Code with GNU and gcc

“There is no ‘S’ for Security in IoT” has indeed some truth. With all the connected devices around us, security of code should be a concern for every developer. “Preventing Reverse Engineering: Enabling Flash Security” shows how to prevent external read-out of critical code from device. What some microcontroller have built in is yet another feature: ‘Execute-Only-Sections‘ or ‘Execute-Only-Memory‘. What it means is that only instruction fetches are allowed in this area. No read access at all. Similar like ‘read-only’ ‘execute-only’ it means that code can be executed there, but no other access from that memory is allowed.

Locked Code

Locked Code

In this article I describe the challenges for a toolchain like the GNU gcc, and how to compile and link code for such an execute-only memory.

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Tutorial: FreeRTOS 10.0.1 with NXP S32 Design Studio 2018.R1

NXP not only sells general purpose microcontroller, but as well a portfolio of automotive devices which includes the S32K which is ARM Cortex based. For this device family, they offer the S32 Design Studio (or S32DS) with its own Eclipse distribution and SDK. The interesting part is that the S32DS includes Processor Expert (which is a bit different from the ‘mainstream’ Processor Expert). It comes with its own components for the S32K SDK which includes a component for FreeRTOS. But that component in S32DS 2018.R1 comes with an old V8.2.1 FreeRTOS component:

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

FreeRTOS 8.2.1 in S32DS 2018.R1

So what to do if I want to use the latest FreeRTOS (currently 10.0.1) with all the bells and whistles?

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GNU Link Time Optimization finds non-matching Declarations

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]
Warning by LTO

Warning by LTO

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Tutorial: Understanding and Using FreeRTOS Software Timers

Hardware Timers are essential to most embedded applications: I use them mostly for triggering actions at a given frequency, such as acquiring data from a  sensor. With using an RTOS I can do a similar thing using a task: the task will run with a given frequency and I can periodic work in it. However, using a task might be too much overhead doing this. The good news is that there is a much more efficient way to do this in FreeRTOS with Software Timers. And this is what this tutorial is about: how to use Software Timers with FreeRTOS.

FreeRTOS Software Timers

FreeRTOS Software Timers

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Do you Speak Klingon? How to change the Eclipse IDE UI Language with Babel

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:

Babel Language Packs in Klingon

Babel Language Packs in Klingon

🙂

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Understanding FreeRTOS Task Stack Usage and Kernel Awareness Information

When using the FreeRTOS Task List in the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, it shows the list of tasks with their stack size used. But with the default FreeRTOS settings it is not able to determine the correct stack size and shows a warning icon:

Warning for Stack Usage

Warning for Stack Usage

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Overview of MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:

  1. Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
  2. 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!

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

MCUXpresso IDE v10.2.0

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Upgrading a Laser Cutter with Cohesion3D Mini and LCD

I’m very happy with my 50W Laser Cutter (see “Getting Control over a 50 Watt CO2 Laser Cutter from China“). My main decision factors were (and still are): Software, software, tools and again software, and down in the list finally the hardware. Same thing for that laser cutter. After several upgrades (see “50W Laser Cutter Upgrades“), it was time replace the stock controller hardware with a new one including LCD display:

New Laser Cutter LCD Panel

New Laser Cutter LCD Panel

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Debugging ARM Cores with IP based Debug Probes and Eclipse

Using IP (Ethernet) based debug probes is a very handy thing: I don’t have to be directly connected to the debug probe (e.g. with the USB cable). This article explains how to use an IP-based Segger or P&E probe with the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE.

LAN Based Debugging

LAN Based Debugging

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Recovering OpenSDA Boards with Windows 10

Windows 8 and 10 have added a ‘feature’ to scan and index devices attached to the host machine. This means that bootloaders or MSD (Mass Storage Device) programming implementations on evaluation boards developed in the Windows 7 age might not be prepared for that. Up to the point that it can impact the bootloader as outlined in “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“. So far one of the easiest way to get out that situation was to use a Windows 7 machine. But if you only have a Windows 10 machine available, this article describes the needed steps to update the bootloader with Windows 10 host machines.

OpenSDA LED

OpenSDA LED

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Listing Code and Data Size with GNU nm in Eclipse

The map file produced by the GNU linker includes lots of information, however it is very cryptic to read. In “Listing Code and Data Size for each Source File with GNU and Eclipse” I showed how the GNU size utility can be used to report the code and data size for each object file. The Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE comes with another nice view which shows detailed information about code and data allocation:

Symbol Viewer in MCUXpresso IDE

Symbol Viewer in MCUXpresso IDE

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McuOnEclipse Components: 1-Apr-2018 Release

It’s April Fool’s Day, but be assured this is not a joke ;-): I’m pleased to announce that a new release of the McuOnEclipse components is available in SourceForge. This release includes several smaller bug fixes and components have been upgraded for FreeRTOS V10.0.1.

SourceForge

SourceForge

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Converting Binary Files to Intel Hex Format with the SRecord Tool

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?

converted binary to intel hex

converted binary to intel hex

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Tutorial: CRC32 Checksum with the KBOOT Bootloader

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.

CRC Values for KBOOT

CRC Values for KBOOT

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