Embedded World Nürnberg 2017 Impressions: MCUXpresso, Hexiwear, NTAG, LPC800-DIP and Alan Hawse

This year I managed to attend the Embedded World in Nürnberg/Germany after missing the 2016 show. And 2017 has been a blast! With more than 1000 exhibitors and >30’000 visitors it was huge! There were too many exciting things, so I just pick a few: NXP demonstrated the new MCUXpresso Software and Tools with a new Eclipse Neon based IDE, lots of IoT and Hexiwear, the tiny LPC800-DIP board, and I have met Alan Hawse in person!

Impresson from the Show (embeddedworld 2017)

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Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

With debugging FreeRTOS applications in Eclipse, it is a big to have views available showing all the threads, queues, timers and heap memory allocation. One of the best Eclipse plugins are the one NXP provides for FreeRTOS: they are free of charge and give me pretty much everything I need. However, if you are not that familiar with FreeRTOS itself, here are a few tips to get more out of the plugins.

Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

Better FreeRTOS Debugging in Eclipse

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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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What is “Realtime Debugging”?

Questions from students or readers of my articles are a great source for all kind of articles. And here is the ‘question of this week’: “What is realtime debugging”?

It’s a good question because the topic of ‘realtime’ and ‘debugging’ was a topic in the lectures this week. So this question gives me the opportunity to combine the two things of ‘realtime’ and ‘debugging’, I love it :-).

Debugging Setup

Debugging Setup

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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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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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Sous-Vide Cooking: Beef Sirloin Steak

I’m a big fan of ‘low-and-slow’ cooking, and that’s why I love my BBQ Smoker. That smoker is great for Ribs, Brisket or Pulled Pork. But it is not ideal for other pieces of meat. After doing some research, this weekend I tried something differently: “Sous-Vide”. The result is delicious: this is by far the best steak I’ve ever cooked :-).

Beef Sous Vide

Beef Sous Vide

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Remote Board Debugging: J-Link Remote Server with Eclipse

For a CubeSat project we only have a single board available. But multiple universities and developers need to have access to that board for developing and debugging the firmware. We cannot easily ship around the board: that takes a lot of time and during shipment nobody can use the board.

There is a nice feature in the Segger J-Link software which allows to share the debug connection over the network: the J-Link Remote Server. It even works nicely between different networks without complicated firewall setup:

Connected in Tunnel Mode

Connected in Tunnel Mode

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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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Zephyr: Thoughts and First Steps on the ARM Cortex-M4F with gcc, gdb and Eclipse

The concept of Linux (Open Source, broad developer base and broad usage) is a success story. While there is a lot of diversity (and freedom) in the Linux world, Linux is Linux and again Linux :-). And the world has (mostly) standardized on Linux and its variants on the high embedded system side.

On the other side, the ‘middle and lower end’ Embedded world is fragmented and in many aspects proprietary. So it was no surprise to me when the Linux Foundation announced the ‘Zephyr’ project back in February 2016:

“The Linux Foundation Announces Project to Build Real-Time Operating System for Internet of Things Devices. Open source Zephyr™ Project aims to deliver an RTOS; opens call for developers to help advance project for the smallest footprint IoT devices.

Ζεφυρος (Zephyros) is the Greek good of spring and the west wind. Obviously this inspired the logo for the Zephyr project:

Zephyr logo

Zephyr logo (Source: https://www.zephyrproject.org/)

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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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Reprogramming the Mikroelektronika Hexiwear Dockingstation

The Hexiwear docking station would have a nice feature: it has embedded a debug circuit (OpenSDA). That way I would not need an external debug probe to debug the Hexiwear. However, a debug probe is required to reprogram the docking station itself:

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

Repgrogramming the Mikroelektronika Docking Station

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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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Using Python, Gatttool and Bluetooth Low Energy with Hexiwear

Now I can use the data on the Hexiwear over BLE with the gatttool (see “Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark” and “Tutorial: BLE Pairing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with Hexiwear“). This article is taking things a step further and uses a Python script on Linux to access the sensor data on the BLE device:

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

Accessing Hexiwear Sensor Data with Python

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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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VNC Server on Raspberry Pi with Autostart

The Raspberry Pi is a versatile mini computer: as such I can use it with USB keyboard, mouse and HDMI LCD monitor. But having multiple keyboards and mouse on my desktop is not my thing: somehow I always grab the wrong one. So what I prefer is to run the Raspberry with VNC (Virtual Network Computing). That way I have the Linux GUI as a window on my normal desktop, and no messing up with keyboards and mouse 🙂 :

Raspberry Pi on my Dekstop

Raspberry Pi on my Dekstop

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Tutorial: Hexiwear Bluetooth Low Energy Packet Sniffing with Wireshark

For a university reasearch project I try to pair the Raspberry Pi 3 with a Mikroelektronika Hexiwear using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Most of things worked after a lot of trial and error, but at a certain point I was stuck trying to write to send data from the Raspy to the BLE device.The Hexiwear BLE protocol description is very thin, so I ended up using a BLE sniffer to reverse engineer the protocol with Wireshark.

Sniffing BLE Packets between Raspy and Hexiwear

Hardware setup between Raspy and Hexiwear

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