I was also very excited to hear the guest speaker this year, Dr. Peter Diamandis CEO of the X Prize Foundation, give his keynote on inspiring innovation. Did you know that the X Prize for a privately owned manned spacecraft was created in 1996, but did not actually have the $10 Million of prize money funded until May 2004? That’s just a few months before the prize was actually won. Interestingly, a total of $100 Million was invested in new technologies as a result of all the teams competing for the prize.
In addition to being a venue for Freescale to demonstrate its own products, FTF also represents an opportunity for Freescale’s partners to demonstrate their supporting technology. ARM participated by demonstrating our software development tools, ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5™ ) toolchain and the Keil MDK-ARM, development kit working with Freescale silicon. As a matter of fact, this is what I spent most of my time leading up to FTF preparing for! Freescale has lots of new ARM processor-based products coming out soon; ranging from Kinetis L with our smallest MCU processor, the ARM Cortex™-M0+, all the way to a quad core Cortex-A9 in i.MX6, and everything in between with Vybrid, which has a Cortex-M4 and Cortex-A5. At FTF we were able to demonstrate our software development tools working on all of these devices. Let’s take a closer look at some of the demos.
The Cortex-M0+ is ARM’s newest and most efficient Cortex-M core and is the heart of Freescale’s Kinetis L Series of MCUs. Check out this video of Eduardo Montanez demonstrating the performance and efficiency of the Kinetis L versus the competition from other architectures. One of the benefits of the Cortex-M0+ over the older Cortex-M0 is that it has enhanced debug capabilities such as the Micro Trace Buffer (MTB). The MTB allocates a small portion of RAM to act as a circular buffer storing program flow information during execution. Debug tools are then able to read this information and re-construct program trace. This is exactly what we were showing at FTF using Keil MDK-ARM and ULINKpro™ debug and trace.
For i.MX6 and its quad Cortex-A9 processors, we were showing off DS-5’s Linux debug and profiling capabilities. Our i.MX6 Sabrelite board was loaded up with the latest Linux BSP from Timesys which already includes the gator daemon. This daemon enables DS-5’s Streamline performance analyzer to work out of the box and the Timesys i.MX6 demo application was a perfect vehicle for showing its power. The demo application included a 1080p animation of Big Buck Bunny which could be rendered using either a Software Renderer or the Hardware Rendering capabilities included in the i.MX6. With the i.MX6 being as powerful as it is, it was able to render the animation smoothly using the software renderer. However, after using Streamline for a closer inspection, it quickly became clear that you were sacrificing almost an entire Cortex-A9 core to do so. We were also able to show DS-5’s Linux Application debug capabilities as we were actually debugging this demo the entire time. I had strategically set up breakpoints so that whenever one would pause the animation, you would hit one of the breakpoints and halt the demo. Then from DS-5 you were able to step through code, browse variables, and everything else you would expect from a Linux Application Debug session - all this from an Ethernet connection to the Sabrelite board.
Figure 2 Streamline Report from Timesys demo highlighting CPU Activity. Hardware Accelerated video left of cursor, Software Acceleration right of the cursor.
Last, and certainly not least, was our DS-5 Vybrid demo(s). As we are gearing up to support the Vybrid platform with DS-5, there were several new technologies we wanted to display at FTF in addition to traditional debug support of both the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-M4 cores (which is no small feat in itself). The first technology I want to mention is CMSIS-DAP. CMSIS-DAP is an open firmware standard which allows for any Cortex-M devices with USB capabilities to act as a JTAG or Serial Wire interface to your debug target. Freescale, fully embracing CMSIS-DAP, has a Kinetis K20 (Cortex-M4) present on their Vybrid Tower board which can be programmed with the CMSIS-DAP firmware. This allows tools like DS-5 to debug a Vybrid Tower board using only a USB cable, and this is exactly how we demonstrated DS-5 debugging Vybrid at FTF.
The second technology that I want to talk about is Freescales RTOS, MQX. MQX is heavily used by Freescale customers, and they expect development tools to have MQX specific debug capabilities. For example, with Keil MDK, we have had MQX Task Awareness for some time now in support of Freescale’s Cortex-M4 Kinetis Family. With the release Vybrid, we are extending MQX task awareness to DS-5 and successfully previewed an early build of this at FTF.
With the release of Vybrid, Freescale has also developed Software Models to enable Vybrid Software developers without hardware. How many times have you wanted to work on a demo for a big conference on that 4hour flight to SJC but didn’t want to be “that guy” who pulled out a demo board on a plane? Thanks to the Vybrid model, you don’t have to! And since the CPU models of the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-M4 are based on ARM’s Fast Models, they are fully debugable via DS-5. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that DS-5 already supports debug of multi-core devices including Vybrid?
This leaves DS-5 in a unique position to support Vybrid. DS-5 has the capability to debug both processors (Cortex-A5 and Cortex-M4), supports both MQX, and Linux development, and it has the capability to support all of this from a single USB cable via CMSIS-DAP. And if you want to debug the Vybrid models, you can do this from DS-5 without a USB cable.
If you missed us in San Antonio this year, we will be demonstrating ARM tools at other Freescale and Industry events around the world. Feel free to come visit us at FTF Japan, Design With Freescale in Brazil, and ARM Techcon in Silicon Valley.
Drew Barbier, Field Applications Engineer, ARM, possesses extensive experience in the engineering of new ARM processor-based products. His engineering background and innovative approach to providing working solutions is a great asset to both the customers he supports and the sales teams at ARM. Drew’s experience gives him a unique perspective in all aspects of design from concept development, defining design requirements, user interface design, hardware/software integration to troubleshooting and support of the final product.
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