Sometimes I start a project with an ARM microcontroller, and in the middle of the project I find out that it was a wrong choice at the beginning and I need to switch the microcontroller derivative or even the used ARM core. With little knowledge of the project structure and the files needed, such a switch is not the easiest thing, but definitely possible.
I always reserve time between Christmas and New Year to get my hands on technology pieces which I might not have any time otherwise. Among different things I ordered the NXP i.MX RT1064-EVK board from Mouser.com, and it arrived right before Christmas. Time to have it unboxed and started….
Friday this week NXP has released a new version of their flagship IDE: the MCUXpresso IDE V10.3.0. The version number indicates an incremental update from the earlier V10.2.1, but there are many exciting features and new features which make me switch my lecture material to this new IDE for the next semester.
Open Source software has been around for decades. But open source on hardware especially microcontroller is not much a reality these days. But there is something which might change this: RISC-V is a free and open RISC instruction set architecture and for me it has the potential to replace some of the proprietary architectures currently used. RISC-V is not new, but it gets more and more traction in Academia (no surprise).
I wanted to play with RISC-V for over a year, but finally a week ago I did one of these “hey, let’s buy that board” thing again. Sometimes these boards get on a pile to wait a few weeks or longer to get used, but that one I had to try out immediately :-).
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.
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:
“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.
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.
In many cases it is very useful to see the generated assembly code produced by the compiler. One obvious way to see the assembly code is to use the Disassembly view in Eclipse:
But this requires a debug session. An easier way is to use command line options to generate the listing file(s).
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]
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:
Three years ago I published “Debugging Failure: Check List and Hints” and unfortunately this article is one of the most popular ones: obviously debugging problems are very common. Debugging with GDB works usually fine, but if things are failing, then it can be hard to find the cause for it. Recently I have been asked to check some failures, so here are two more hints about what could go wrong…
The Teensy boards are great, but as they are they are not really useful for real development, as they lack proper SWD debugging. In “Modifying the Teensy 3.5 and 3.6 for ARM SWD Debugging” I have found a way to get SWD debugging working, at that time with Kinetis Design Studio and the Segger J-Link. This article is about how debug the Teensy with free MCUXpresso IDE and the $20 NXP LPC-Link2 debug probe:
In “Eclipse MCUXpresso IDE 10.1 with integrated MCUXpresso Configuration Tools” I mentioned that I wanted to try the i.MX RT1050 processor. Well, finally my ordered board from Mouser arrived, right on time for the week-end, so I had a chance to use that ARM Cortex-M7 running at 600 MHz :-).
The NXP Freedom boards are very popular. Many of them are inexpensive (less than $20), include a debug interface and can be easily extended with extra shields or boards. Especially the FRDM-KL25Z is very popular: I’m getting told because of Processor Expert and tutorials available on web sites like this one ;-).
Unfortunately there are no small or breadboard friendly Kinetis boards available. There is the NXP LPC800-DIP but with no onboard debugger and without Processor Expert support. We have the tinyK20, but projects tend to use more CPU power, FLASH and RAM space than what the tinyK20 board (50 MHz, 128 KByte FLASH, 16 KByte RAM) can provide. So we ended up designing the big brother of the first tinyK20: the tinyK22 with 120 MHz, 512 KByte of FLASH and 128 KByte of RAM.
The ARM mbed USB MSD bootloader which is used on many silicon vendor boards has a big problem: it is vulnerable to operating systems like Windows 10 which can brick your board (see “Bricking and Recovering OpenSDA Boards in Windows 8 and 10“). To recover the board, typically a JTAG/SWD programmer has to be used. I have described in articles (see links section) how to recover from that situation, including using an inofficial new bootloader which (mostly) solves the problem. The good news is that ARM (mbed) has released an official and fixed bootloader. The bad news is that this bootloader does not work on every board because of a timing issue: the bootloader mostly enters bootloader mode instated executing the application.
More and more these very-very-high-resolution (UHD, Ultra-High-Density) notebook displays show up in my class rooms.These displays have 3100×1800 or even more pixels, making it great for watching high-resolution videos or for playing games (maybe?). But such a high-resolution makes many tools including Eclipse very hard to use, because the toolbar icons get so tiny that they are really hard to hit with a mouse cursor on Windows:
Most of the time I’m using a dedicated terminal program like Termite or PuTTY to connect to a board using virtual or non-virtual COM port. Another way is to use the Eclipse built-in Terminal view: that way no extra program is needed to communicate with a real or virtual COM port to my target device:
It can happen to everyone using Eclipse: launching Eclipse with workspace, and then it is stuck loading it. As a last resort, create a new workspace and go on? Possible, but painful, right? For some time I have a strange issue nagging me: from time to time, I’m not able to switch to a workspace which worked before. The IDE starts loading, but then is stuck: