Tutorial - Getting Started with Embedded Software

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This tutorial presumes you are familiar with programming in C++, C and/or assembly and have basic knowledge of embedded programming. It contains an overview of the TASKING tools available in Altium Designer. It describes how you can add, create and edit source files in an embedded project and how to build an embedded application. An embedded software project is normally used as a subproject for an FPGA project and once they are built, they are downloaded and executed inside an FPGA device.

The example used in this tutorial is a Hello World program in C.

Embedded Software Tools

With the TASKING embedded software tools in Altium Designer you can write, compile, assemble and link applications for several targets, such as the PowerPC, TSK3000, MicroBlaze, Nios II and ARM. The figure below shows all components of the TASKING toolset with their input and output files.

The C++ compiler, C compiler, assembler, linker and debugger are target dependent.

Toolset overview

The following table lists the file types used by the TASKING toolset.

Extension

Description

Source files

 

.cpp

C++ source file, input for the C++ compiler

.c

C source file, input for the C compiler

.ic

Intermediate C source file, generated by the C++ compiler

.asm

Assembler source file, hand coded

.src

Assembler source file, generated by the C compiler, does not contain macros

.lsl

Linker script file

Object files

 

.obj

Relocatable object file, generated by the assembler

.lib

Archive with object files

.abs

ELF/DWARF 2 absolute object file, generated by the locating part of the linker

.hex

Absolute Intel Hex object file

List files

 

.lst

Assembler list file

.map

Linker map file

.mcr

MISRA-C report file

.mdf

Memory definition file

Table 1: File extensions

Creating an Embedded Project

To start working with Altium Designer, you first need a project. A project makes managing your source documents and any generated outputs much easier. For embedded software, you need to create an Embedded Software project.

To create a new Embedded Software project:

  1. Select File»New»Project»Embedded Project from the menu, or click on Blank Project (Embedded) in the New section of the Files panel. If this panel is not displayed, click on the Files tab at the bottom of the Design Manager panel.
  2. The Projects panel displays a new project file, Embedded_Project1.PrjEmb.
  3. Rename the new project file (with a .PrjEmb extension) by selecting File»Save Project As. Navigate to a location where you want to save the project on your hard disk, type the name GettingStarted.PrjEmb in the File name field and click on Save.

Adding a new source file to the project

If you want to add a new source file to your project, proceed as follows:

  1. In the Projects panel, right-click on GettingStarted.PrjEmb and select Add New to Project»C File. A new C source file, C_Source1.c, is added to the Embedded Software project under the folder named Source Documents in the Projects panel. The Text Editor opens ready for your input.
  2. Enter the source code required. For this tutorial enter the following code:
    #include void printloop(void) { int loop; for (loop=0; loop<10; loop++) { printf("%i\n",loop); } } void main(void) { printf("Hello World!\n"); printloop(); }
  3. Save the source file by selecting File»Save As. Navigate to where you want to store the source file on your hard disk, type the name hello.c in the File name field and click on Save.
  4. Save the project by right-clicking on GettingStarted.PrjEmb in the Projects panel and select Save Project.

Your project now looks like:

Adding existing source files to the project

If you want to add an existing source file to your project, proceed as follows:

  1. In the Projects panel, right-click on the project name and select Add Existing to Project. The Choose Documents to Add to Project dialog appears.
  2. Navigate to the file you want to add to your project and click Open.
  3. The source file is added to the project and listed in the Projects panel. Double-click on the filename to view or edit this file in the Text Editor.
  4. Save the project (right-click on the project name in the Projects panel and select Save Project).

Setting the Embedded Project Options

An embedded project in Altium Designer has a set of embedded options associated with it. After you have added files to your project, and have written your application (hello.c in our example), the next steps in the process of building your embedded application are:

  • Selecting a device (resulting in an associated toolset)
  • Specifying the options of the tools in the toolset, such as the C++/C compiler, assembler and linker options. (Different toolsets may have different sets of options.)

Selecting a device

For an embedded project, you must specify the device for which you want to build your embedded project first:

  1. In the Projects panel, right-click on GettingStarted.PrjEmb and select Project Options. Alternatively, select Project»Project Options from the menu.
    The Options for Embedded Project dialog appears.
  2. In the Compiler Options tab select the Device. The contents of this drop down list will depend on which plugins are installed. You can make a selection based on manufacturer, or you can select a generic device. If you select a device from a manufacturer, the correct processor type is selected automatically. If you select a generic device, you have to specify the target processor type manually.
    To specify the target processor type manually (only for a Generic device):
  3. In the left pane, expand the Processor entry and select Processor Definition.
  4. In the right pane, expand the General entry and set Processor to the correct target processor.
  5. Click OK to accept the new device.

Setting the tool options

You can set embedded options commonly for all files in the project and you can set file specific options.

Setting project wide options

  1. In the Projects panel, right-click on GettingStarted.PrjEmb and select Project Options. Alternatively, select Project»Project Options from the menu.
    The Options for Embedded Project dialog appears.
  2. In the left pane, expand the C Compiler entry. This entry contains several pages where you can specify C compiler settings. Note that on the Miscellaneous page of each tool entry, the Command line options field shows how your settings are translated to command line options.
  3. In the right pane, set the options to the values you want. Do this for all pages.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other tools like assembler and linker.
  5. Click OK to confirm the new settings.
    Based on the embedded project options, Altium Designer creates a so-called makefile which it uses to build your embedded application.

Setting options for an individual document

  1. In the Projects panel, right-click on hello.c and select Document Options. Alternatively, select Project»Document Options from the menu. The Options for Document dialog appears.
    Steps 2 to 5 are the same as the steps for setting project wide options. The Files With Options tab in the Options for Embedded Project dialog shows which files have deviating settings. If you right-click on a file in this tab, a menu provides you with functions to copy options quickly from and to other individual files.

Building your Embedded Application

You are now ready to build your embedded application.

  1. Select Project»Compile Embedded Project GettingStarted.PrjEmb or click on the button.
    The TASKING program builder compiles, assembles, links and locates the files in the embedded project that are out-of-date or that have been changed during a previous build. The resulting file is the absolute object file GettingStarted.abs.
  2. You can view the results of the build in the Output panel (View»Workspace Panels»System»Output).

Compiling a single source file

If you want to compile a single source file:

  1. Right-click on the file (hello.c) you want to compile and select Compile Document hello.c. Alternatively, you can open a file in the Text Editor and select Project»Compile Document hello.c.
  2. Open the Messages panel to view any errors that may have occurred during compilation by selecting View»Workspace Panels»System»Messages, or selecting System»Messages from the Panels tab.
  3. Correct any errors in your source files. Save your project files.

Rebuilding your entire application

If you want to build your embedded application from scratch, regardless of their date/time stamp, you can perform a recompile:

  1. Select Project»Recompile Embedded Project GettingStarted.PrjEmb.
  2. The TASKING program builder compiles, assembles, links and locates all files in the embedded project unconditionally.
    You can now debug the resulting absolute object file GettingStarted.abs.

Debugging your Embedded Application

When you have built your embedded application, you can start debugging the resulting absolute object file with the simulator.

To start debugging, you have to execute one or more source lines:

  • Select one of the source level or instruction level step options (Debug»Step Into, Step Over) to step through your source or select Debug»Run to run the simulation. A blue line indicates the current execution position.

To view more information about items such as registers, locals, memory or breakpoints, open the various workspace panels:

  • Select View»Workspace Panels»Embedded»(a_panel).

To end a debugging session:

  • Select Debug»Stop Debugging.

Setting breakpoints

You can set breakpoints when the embedded source file is opened. Small blue points indicate where you can set breakpoints:

  • Click on the left margin next to the source line to toggle a breakpoint on and off.

A red crossed circle and red line mark the breakpoint.

To change the breakpoint's properties:

  • To change the breakpoint, right-click on the breakpoint and select Breakpoint Properties

To disable or enable a breakpoint:

  • Right-click on the breakpoint and select Disable Breakpoint (or Enable Breakpoint when it was disabled). A disabled breakpoint is marked with green color.

The breakpoint panel gives an overview of all (disabled) breakpoint and their properties:

  • Select View»Workspace Panels»Embedded»Breakpoints.

Evaluating and watching expressions

The way an expression is evaluated, depends strongly on the amount of debug information in the object file. Also the optimization level influences the ease of debugging. You can examine the value of expressions in the Evaluate panel.

  1. Open the Evaluate panel by selecting View»Workspace Panels»Embedded»Evaluate.
  2. In the edit field enter the expression you want to evaluate and click Evaluate. The expression and its value appear below in the Evaluate panel. Click on the Evaluate button every time the variable in the code is modified.
    To watch an expression continuously, you can set a watch:
  3. Select Add Watch
    The new expression and its value appear in the Watches panel. The values in the Watches panel are updated continuously when the code is executing.
    Alternatively: Select Debug»Add Watch; enter an expression and click OK.

Viewing output

It is possible to view the output generated by your embedded application. Remember, you must be in debugging mode. To open the Output panel:

  • Select View»Workspace Panels»System»Output.

The Output panel opens showing the output of the embedded application.

Viewing memory

It is possible to view the contents of the memory. You can open several memory windows. Remember, you must be in debugging mode. The type of memory windows you can open, depends on the selected target processor.

To open for example the Main memory window:

  1. Select View»Workspace Panels»Embedded»Main. The Main memory window opens showing the contents of the memory.
  2. In the edit field you can specify the address you want to start viewing from.

See Also

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