If you are a regular reader of my articles, you probably know that I’m using FreeRTOS in most of my applications, for obvious reasons. But clearly this is not the only RTOS out there. After Microsoft had acquired Express Logic back in April 2019 things kept quite for a while. To me the crown jewel of Express Logic is the ThreadX RTOS. But recently Microsoft is pushing more and more the ‘Azure Sphere’ and trying to monetize the ‘IoT’ (I apologize for mentioning that overused acronym) application space and providing it now free for devices from selected partners which includes NXP now.
‘Dark’ or ‘Black’ themes are on vogue: some love it, some do not care. The good thing is that we all have a choice. Things are getting improved on the host OS (Windows/Linux) side, but the challenge is still on the application side, but things are getting better. This is true for the Eclipse based IDEs too, with the NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.2.1 just recently released: it comes with improved Dark Theme support:
It is the 4th week: Stores, school and universities are closed. Everyone should stay at home if possible. It is really a special situation, and there is no Easter traffic jam to the South.
For nature it means less pollution, there is much less traffic, and ideal to enjoy nature. But we should stay at home. I’m very happy that I live in a rural area and that I can enjoy this beautiful blooming tree behind the house.
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?
Decisions, decisions! Such long weekends like Pentecost are a real challenge for a family with engineers:
- Should we join that record long traffic jam to Italy and be stuck for more than 4 hours and analyze it?
- 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!
“Amazon FreeRTOS – IoT operating system for microcontrollers”: The announcement of FreeRTOS V10.0.0 was one of the biggest news last week for me. Not only is there now a Version 10, the bigger news is that FreeRTOS is now part of Amazon. Wow! Now this explains why Richard Barry (the founder behind FreeRTOS) was kind of hiding away for about a year: he joined Amazon as a principal engineer about a year ago. I think we all have to wait and see what it means for FreeRTOS.
The question has been: If I buy such a 50 Watt cheap laser cutter from China, how many Watts does it really have? I have read all these stories that usually what is advertised is only the theoretical maximum I could get, and will not be realistic at all. This article is about how I tuned the machine and how much I got out of it.
There are people around me who think I’m crazy. And they are probably right. Who else would buy a machine from someone he does not know. I have to pay upfront. It is not clear how things will get delivered, what gets delivered, or if it gets delivered at all. Up to the point I can lose the money I have spent. Best of all: that machine is dangerous enough to potentially kill me. And it has the potential to put my home on fire too. Well, that sounds like an exciting weekend project, or not?
I believe in ‘life-long-learning’. With this I continue to learn and discover new things every day. I’m writing tutorials to give something back to the community from which I have learned so much.
On top of this, I receive emails on a nearly daily basis, asking for help. Many articles have the origin in such requests or questions. I prefer questions or comments in a public forum, because that way I feel all others can benefit from it. Last week Alessandro contacted me with this:
I hope this find you well! I’m starting to using ARM processors, but I find them quite complicated on the configuration side. I started in the past with PIC micro (PIC16) with asm, and I found them quite straightforward to be configured (clock, IO, peripherals, …). Then I moved myself on C language, and on PIC18 without any big issues.
Now I would really like join the ARM community, I see that these processors are what I’ve always looking for, on energy, calc power, peripherals, and FINALLY on IDE (editor, toolchain and utilities)… AMAZING!!!”
The topic is about how to start learning developing for ARM. Alessandro agreed to make this public, so I thought this might be a good topic for an article?
For me, the available software and tools are the primary key decision factor why I select a particular silicon vendor. Without good software and tools, a microcontroller only ‘sand in plastic case’, even if it is the best microcontroller in the world. I do have several probably excellent microcontroller boards, and they are only getting touched by more durst over the months and years.
Space is a hostile environment. Sending hardware to space means putting it under irradiation tests: exposing the object to radiation and see what happens :-). For this, under the lead of the ETHZ (Mathematical and Physical Geodesy), we had the opportunity to put the CubETH payload board under a proton beam. The test facility is at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland:
Coming out of a project meeting Friday evening, the following wisdom came to my mind:
“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” – Anonymous
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:
“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding” – Burt Rutan
About a year ago, on December 7th 2015, Freescale and NXP have announced the completion of their merger. Now it is Qualcomm which wants to acquire NXP? It looks like these mergers are happening faster and faster. The reality is that merging products take more time than anticipated, and nearly one year later I can see the outcome of what comes out of the marriage between Freescale and NXP or between Kinetis and LPC: NXP has announced the MCUXpresso software and tools for Kinetis and LPC microcontroller:
The good thing with failure is: it is an opportunity to learn :-).
So here is a case: For a STEM roadshow (see “MINTomat: World’s Most Complicated Bubble Gum Automata?“), we have produced in a rush an autonomous robot with a shiny printed 3D cover:
It seems to me that not many developers use hardware trace? ARM indicates that maybe only <5% of developers are using trace. Too bad! Why are all the ARM Cortex microcontroller vendors putting a powerful hardware (and complicated!) trace engine into their devices, if only few developers are using it? Seems like a waste of silicon and an unnecessary price adder? Well, hardware trace can be a life saver: Because only with hardware trace the most complicated bugs and problems can be solved. And maybe because only the best are using it ;-).