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:
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?
The tinyK22 board with the NXP K22FN512 is a bread-board-friendly small board with a 8 MHz external oscillator:
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.
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.
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:
However, by default this is turned off. In this article I show how to turn this on by default.
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.
This article show the different ways I have found to make such imports (and exports) easier.
One great feature of Eclipse is its built-in spell checking engine. So no more excuses are possible for typos in the source code ;-). Eclipse scans the source code in the background and offers to correct it:
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:
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.
In “Seeed Studio Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” and “Debug and Execute Code from FLASH on the Seeed Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I have used the NXP LPC-Link2 to debug the Seeed Arch Mix board with the NXP i.MX RT1052, because the SEGGER J-Link does not work out-of-the box with the i.MX RT using QSPI Flash. This article shows how the J-Link connection can be changed from HyperFlash to work with QSPI Flash.
In “Eclipse JTAG Debugging the ESP32 with a SEGGER J-Link” I used a SEGGER J-Link to debug an ESP32 device with JTAG. I looked at using one of the FTDI FT2232HL development boards which are supported by OpenOCD. The FT2232HL is dual high-speed USB to UART/FIFO device, and similar FTDI devices are used on many boards as UART to USB converters. With OpenOCD these devices can be turned into inexpensive JTAG debug probes. This article shows how to use a $10 FTDI board as JTAG interface to program and debug the Espressif ESP32.
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.
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:
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
When Espressif released in 2014 their first WiFi ESP8266 transceiver, they took over at least the hobby market with their inexpensive wireless devices. Yet again, the successor ESP32 device is used in many projects. Rightfully there are many other industrial Wi-Fi solutions, but Espressif opened up the door for Wi-Fi in many low cost projects. Many projects use the ESP devices in an Arduino environment which basically means decent debugging except using printf() style which is … hmmm … better than nothing.
What is maybe not known to many ESP32 users: there *is* actually a way to use JTAG with the ESP32 devices :-). It requires some extra tools and setup, but with I have a decent Eclipse based way to debug the code. And this is what this article is about: how to use a SEGGER J-Link with Eclipse and OpenOCD for JTAG debugging the ESP32.
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.
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:
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.
I use a ‘blinky’ project here just as an example: the trimming tips can apply to any other kind of projects too.
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.
In my previous article “Seeed Studio Arch Mix NXP i.MX RT1052 Board” I described how I can use and debug the Seeed Arch Mix Board. But so far I only had things running in RAM. Ultimately I want to use the QSPI FLASH memory on the device with my firmware and running code on it. This article shows how to get from RAM execution to SPI FLASH in-place execution (XiP).
By default, Eclipse provides ‘stop-mode-debugging’: in order to inspect the target code and data, I have to stop the target. But with the right extensions as present in the Eclipse based MCUXpresso IDE, it is possible to inspect the target even while it is running.