Accurate short & long delays on microcontrollers using ChibiOS

How system ticks work

In order to understand how delays work, we’ll first need to have a look at system ticks. Although ChibiOS 3.x supports a feature called tickless mode, we’ll stick to a simple periodic tick model for simplicity reasons.

A system tick is simply a timer that interrupts the microcontroller periodically and performs some kernel management tasks. For example, with a 1 kHz system tick (systick) frequency, the program flow is interrupted every millisecond. When being interrupted, one of the things the kernel does is to check if a thread that is currently asleep needs to be woken up. In other words, if your thread has some code like this:

// [...]
chThdSleepMilliseconds(5);
// [...]

and the kernel has a 1 kHz systick frequency, the kernel will set your thread to sleep, wait for 5 system ticks (i.e. 5 ms) and then wake up the

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Using Arduino Leonardo as an USB/UART adapter

In contrasts to older designs like the Arduino Uno, the Arduino Leonardo features a separate connection Serial1 for TTLUART whereas Serial is used for the USB CDC UART interface.

This allows one to use the Leonardo as an USB/UART bridge without having to resort to more expensive boards like the Arduino Mega 2560. In order to do this, use this sketch which can also be modified to provide an intelligent UART bridge.

Remember to adjust the baudrate for your application. This version of the sketch does not support automatic baudrate selection via the CDC peripheral.

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Reading the STM32 unique device ID in C

All STM32 microcontrollers feature a 96-bit factory-programmed unique device ID. However, for me it was hard to find an adequately licensed example on how to read it in a manner compatible with different families and compilers.

Here’s a simple header that defines a macro for the device ID address. While I checked the address for both STM32F4 and STM32F0 families, other families might have slightly different addresses for the device ID. Check the reference manual corresponding to your STM32 family if errors occur.

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Reading STM32F0 internal temperature and voltage using ChibiOS

The STM32F0 series of 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 microcontrollers contain a huge number of internal peripherals despite their low price starting at 0,32€ @1pc. Amongst them is an internal, factory-calibrated temperature sensor and a supply voltage sensor (that specifically senses VDDA, the analog supply voltage rail) connect to channels 16 and 17 of the internal ADC.

While I usually like the STM32 documentation, it was quite hard to implement code that produced realistic values. While the STM32F0 reference manual contains both formulas and a short section of example code, I believe that some aspects of the calculation are understated in the computation:

Section 13.9 in RM0091 provides a formula for computing the temperature from the raw temperature sensor output and the factory calibration values. However it is not stated anywhere (at least in Rev7, the current RM0091 revision) that this formula is only correct for a VDDA of exactly 3.30V.

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Using the lwIP SNTP client with ChibiOS

A common task with embedded systems is to use the RTC to timestamp events. However, the system architect needs to find a way of synchronizing the devices RTC time with an external time source. Additionally, the designer needs to deal with the problem of drifting RTC clocks, especially for long-running devices. This article discusses an lwIP+SNTP-based approach for STM32 devices using the ChibiOS RTOS. The lwIP-specific part of this article is also applicable to other types of microcontrollers.

For high-accuracy or long-running applications, RTC clock drift also has to be taken into account. Depending on the clock source in use, the clock frequency can deviate significantly from the nominal value.

On the STM32F4 for example, you can derive the RTC clock from: The HSE/HSI main oscillator The LSI oscillator * The LSE oscillator, i.e. a 32.768 kHz external crystal.

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Enforcing debugger breakpoints in ChibiOS chDbgAssert()

ChibiOS provides a variety of debug functions that can be enabled or disabled using preprocessor definitions.

When debugging ARM-based microcontrollers like the STM32, it can be useful to hardcode

This post provides a simple method of improving the definition of chDbgAssert() in chdebug.h so that a breakpoint is enforced in case of assertion failures. By using the ARM BKPT instruction, the overhead is only a single assembler instruction.

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Reading STM32 unique device ID using OpenOCD

When working with the STM32 family of microcontrollers, it can be useful to evaluate the factory-programmed 96-bit UUID using JTAG. On all major operating systems, OpenOCD provides a simple yet highly compatible and free solution in order to do this.

In this example, we’ll use a JLink adapter together with the Olimex E407 evalation board. Both the adapter and the board are interchangable, provided you have working OpenOCD configurations available.

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