McuLog: Logging Framework for small Embedded Microcontroller Systems

An essential tool especially developing larger applications or distributed firmware is to use logging. This article presents an open source logging framework I’m using. It is small and easy to use and can log to a console, to a file on the host or even to a file on an embedded file system as FatFS.

Log Output

Log Output

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Tutorial: Adding FreeRTOS to where there is no FreeRTOS

FreeRTOS is pretty much everywhere because it is so simple and universal, and it runs from the smallest to the biggest systems. But it still might be that for the microcontroller device you have selected there is no example or SDK support for it from your vendor of choice. In that case: no problem: I show how you could easily add FreeRTOS plus many more goodies to it.

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

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“60 Billion Lights”: 2400 RGB LEDs and 120 Stepper Motors hiding behind Canvas Art

It is one thing to create something ‘cool’ or technically interesting. But it is a completely different story to convince your girlfriend, partner, wife, family (or whatever you can name it) to hang something on a wall in our house or office. Then it is not about technology: it is more about design and art. So here is my attempt to solve that challenge:

Displaying current temperature

Displaying temperature with a painted canvas, stepper motors and 2400 RGB LEDs

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FatFS, MinIni, Shell and FreeRTOS for the NXP K22FN512

I’m using the NXP Kinetis K22FN512 in many projects, either with the FRDM-K22F or on the tinyK22: with 120 MHz, 512 KByte FLASH and 128 KByte it has plenty of horsepower for many projects. The other positive thing is that it is supported by the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and SDK. I have now created an example which can be used as base for your own project, featuring FreeRTOS, FatFS, MinIni and a command line shell.

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

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Retrofitting a Charmhigh CHM-T36VA Machine with OpenPnP

OpenPnP is a great open source framework for building a DIY SMT Pick&Place machine. But it does not stop there: It is possible to use OpenPnP with a commercial pick & place machine, for example the Charmhigh CHM-T36VA. This Chinese machine comes with its own controller software which works but is not that great. The good news is that it is possible to hack and retrofit the machine so it can run the much more powerful OpenPnP.

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

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FreeRTOS Task Runtime Statistics for NXP i.MX RT1064

FreeRTOS has many cool features, and one is that it can report the CPU percentage spent in each task. The downside is that to get this kind of information some extra work is needed. In this article I show how to do this for the NXP i.MX1064.

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

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Dumping Variables and Arrays with GDB in Eclipse

Using the debugger to inspect the application data is a very convenient thing. But if the data grows and if the data set is large, it makes more sense to dump the data to the host and process it offline. GDB is the de-facto debugger engine and includes a powerful command line and scripting engine which can be used in Eclipse too.

GDB Debugger Console in Eclipse

GDB Debugger Console in Eclipse

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Tutorial: Rename, Copy or Clone Eclipse Projects with MCUXpresso

Especially in a lab or classroom environment it is convenient to start with a template project, and then explore different ways to shape the project for different needs. As for any IDE of this world, this requires an understanding of the inner workings to get it right. So in this article I show how to copy, clone or rename properly an Eclipse ‘template’ project in the MCUXpresso IDE.

Template Project

Template Project

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Optimized and Easy-to-Use Eclipse Toolbars and Menus

I love Eclipse because as an IDE it can do pretty much everything. Up to the point that some call it an ‘Eierlegende Wollmilchsau‘: something which can do anything. But with all the tools, menus and features, it can be daunting for a someone new to Eclipse. But the good news is: Eclipse is very versatile and can be customized to make it easier and simpler to use too. In this article I show how I’m tweaking it the way I want it, with just the menus and buttons I need:

Eclipse Optimized Menus and Toolbars

Eclipse Optimized Menus and Toolbars

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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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Tutorial: Maximum Clock Frequency for Kinetis using MCUXpresso Clock Tools

The tinyK22 board with the NXP K22FN512 is a bread-board-friendly small board with a 8 MHz external oscillator:

tinyK22 Board

tinyK22 Board

This tutorial is about how to use the NXP MCUXpresso Clock configuration and configure the board to the maximum clock frequency of 120 MHz. The same steps apply to many other boards, including the FRDM-K22F one.

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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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Enable Default FreeRTOS Debugging for LinkServer Debug Connections

Most of my projects are using FreeRTOS, and I’m using different Debug Probes (SEGGER, P&E and LinkServer) to debug NXP devices.

The NXP LinkServer debug connection is able to show the RTOS threads in Eclipse/MCUXpresso IDE which is incredibly helpful:

FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging with LinkServer Connection

FreeRTOS Thread Aware Debugging with LinkServer Connection

However, by default this is turned off. In this article I show how to turn this on by default.

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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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Listing Code and Data Size for all Files with the GNU size Utility in a Post-Build Action

The GNU size utility which is part of the GNU build tools shows code and data size for archive or object files. It is usually used as a post-build step in Eclipse CDT to show text, data and bss at the end of the build:

Detailed size information for each file

Detailed size information for each file

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MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0

Right before Christmas 2019, NXP has released a new version of the MCUXpresso IDE, the version 11.1.0. This gave me time to explore it over the Christmas/New-Year break and evaluate it for the next university semester. There are several new features which will make my labs using it easier, so I plan to get the course material updated for it.

MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0 Welcome Screen

MCUXpresso IDE V11.1.0 Welcome Screen

After the break you will find the highlights …

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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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