Cortex-M – Debugging runtime memory corruption

Runtime memory corruption is one of the worst class of bugs a C/C++ application can have. I do not mean design problems like abuse of global variables, but seemingly correct code clobbering memory it should never touch (for example due to runaway pointers). Compared to “regular” crashes that are obvious and much simpler to fix (even if they are rare they leave a stacktrace), memory corruption is often silent. It can go unnoticed for a long period and manifest itself in subtle ways. For example: the application sometimes acts weirdly or a particular variable is sometimes wrong. Fortunately Cortex-M3 and M4 cores are equipped with special hardware that can assist in catching rogue memory accesses.
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Preserving debugging breadcrumbs across reboots in Cortex-M

Debugging embedded systems during development even with the best tools can be hard. Certainly a good debug probe makes life easier, but what do you do after the product is shipped? What if the customer complains that something strange is happening sometimes or a bug makes the device reboot, but only once a week? You make the firmware gather diagnostic information for you. This is the first post in series.
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Reducing firmware size by removing libc

The C standard library (libc) is a component that gets little attention. It is just there. However for embedded systems it brings some challenges and overhead in terms of code size. As firmware size is often critical, it sometimes makes sense to use a trimmed version of the standard library or to remove it entirely. I will focus on reducing the code size that may be beneficial for a small application like a bootloader.
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Fixing Cortex-M startup code for link-time optimization

Link-time optimization is a powerful output size reducing feature. Even though (as of 2018) still regarded as somewhat experimental, LTO is worth trying, if the binary size is very important and the application can be reliably tested afterwards, as link-time optimized code is hard to debug. A bootloader can be an ideal example. LTO is very easy to enable, but there are some small quirks that have to be taken care of. I will use GCC 7.2.1 from GNU Arm Embedded as an example.
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Practical FFT on microcontrollers using CMSIS DSP

Fourier transform is a vast domain of knowledge with many practical applications within signal processing. Virtually all communications protocols use Fourier transform at one step or another (including LTE, GPS and WiFi). Another popular example are the “jumping bars” in music players showing levels of low and high tones in real time. In this post I show the basics of obtaining spectrum of an audio signal on an EFM32 Cortex-M3 microcontroller. No scary math!
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EFM32 Cortex-M firmware project from scratch – step by step

Most popular microcontrollers come with IDEs and tools provided by the manufacturer, like NXP, STM, TI or Silicon Labs. IDEs are commonly based on Eclipse and creating a project for almost any chip in those IDEs is usually just a click away, so why would you ever want to make such a project from scratch, gather all header files, libraries and scripts? Read to find out why and how 🙂
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Using the internal EEPROM of STM32L

Most STM32 microcontrollers feature an internal EEPROM. It is useful for storing settings or calibration data. Regular flash (that stores code) can also be used, but the EEPROM can be updated byte-by-byte and is independent from regular flash. This may come handy during application updating, as whole flash can be simply erased without affecting the EEPROM.

I wrote a generic driver for keeping settings in the EEPROM based on the standard peripherals library for STM32L, that is easier to understand than the official demos from ST. It was tested on an STM32L151RC.
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Open OBD datalogger

This is a fully open-source car datalogger that reads engine data using the OBD2 interface in real time and stores it on an SD card. It also stores GPS data. All communication is done directly by the MCU without a translator chip like ELM327 or STN1110. The datalogger supports all CAN and K-Line OBD2 protocols. All hardware fits into an off-the-shelf OBD2 connector enclosure.


This project is available on Github.


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Kinetis E – writing to internal flash

While working on a bootloader for a Kinetis KE06 I obviously ran in to the task of having to write the internal flash memory of the microcontroller. Freescale’s driver is over 1500 lines of code, exposes every single bit of the flash controller so the simple operation of erasing a sector and writing to it requires many function calls. I wrote my own driver that is less than 200 lines of code and has everything needed to make a bootloader.
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Hard fault in __libc_init_array

When starting my STM32 makefile project for the first time I encountered a very early hard fault in the startup code. It happened exactly when calling libc function at

The whole startup code came straight from ST, so I did not suspect it to be faulty. Here is what I have found out to fix the problem.
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