Debugging Embedded Linux (Digital Short Cut)

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Debugging embedded linux

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Close Report a review At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. Developers need a methodology for working at different phases of the debugging process and for providing software and hardware tools that support each phase Fig. Furthermore, the methodology should be fully supported with debugging tools from within a single software environment to give developers the power and convenience necessary to deliver fully reliable applications Fig.

A number of variants of Linux are available for embedded-system use, from standard kernels to those modified to support hard real-time applications. Of course, it's possible to perform certain kinds of embedded development by implementing some standard Linux distributions, such as Red Hat and Caldera. Individual developers, though, would have to customize the distribution to get the features and footprint appropriate for their projects, and possibly rewrite drivers or other code for better response. At the next level of sophistication, several versions of Linux have been optimized for embedded systems, primarily by refining the standard Linux scheduler, tuning Linux device drivers, and slimming down the overall distribution to include only the most valuable features for embedded applications.

This category is best thought of as soft real-time operating systems. They serve a large part of the market's requirements through their ability to run in resource-limited environments with a measure of real-time response characteristics.

For many, this represents an acceptable Linux solution. The last method of adapting Linux for embedded systems is inserting a second operating-system kernel into the software architecture.

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This technique employs a small, dedicated kernel with time management in addition to the standard Linux kernel. Installed directly over the x86 processor, the dedicated kernel runs independently from the Linux kernel. Run on a higher level than the real-time kernel, the Linux kernel shares processor time with other tasks. In other words, Linux itself runs in the background and has to satisfy only soft real-time demands as long as no other task is activated. In this model, the real-time kernel takes over the tasks that require hard real-time responses.

This approach offers the potential of getting a hard real-time OS with many of Linux's advantages. Not unexpectedly, the technique has both an advantage and a downside. On the positive side, it permits the integration of Linux features, like the user interface, communications protocols, and other services, into embedded systems while a separate, real-time kernel manages real-time capability.

Debugging Linux Systems (Digital Short Cut)

The downside of this technique is that adding a second OS, regardless of its putative real-time characteristics, introduces a second set of RTOS-specific application program interfaces APIs and potentially starves the applications running in the "normal" Linux environment. These tools could be a good solution for many situations as they make rebuilding kernels and parts of applications easier.

But if a de-veloper depends on strong support because the em-bedded system needs special tool features, things get complicated. Unfortunately, little documentation is available for GNU tools in such cases, which means finding a solution might be extremely time-consuming. Support contracts with GNU-tool distributors are a potential remedy, but they're not cheap.

Obviously, there's no way around a certain financial cost in this area. GNU tools are fine for standard applications on native systems, but they're far from optimal for embedded use. Because of its desktop heritage, most embedded development takes place using the x86 architecture as the target.

Embedded Circuit Debugging

But traditional embedded processors, such as a Motorola ColdFire or 68K, are starting to gain popularity as an embedded target. In the vast majority of cases, the host development system is a Windows PC. In a few instances, it may be a Unix system usually Sun Solaris , or even a Linux system. This relative homogeneity of host systems makes it possible to outfit a robust embedded tool chain for Linux target development.

Debugging Linux Systems (Digital Short Cut) | InformIT

It's a standard debugger that enables programmers to start programs specifying anything that might affect program behavior , cause the program to stop on specified conditions, and examine what has happened, as well as change things in the program. Once the application has initially been written, a robust debugging cycle would consist of the following steps:.

Frequently when embedded development uses a proprietary RTOS, native debugging on the host simply isn't possible. But the use of Linux as the target means many options exist for host debugging. For example, if the development platform is Linux, a version of Unix, or other portable operating-system extension POSIX OS, at least parts of the application may be able to run natively. This can be useful as a quick reality test of the application, without respect to its performance and reliability on the target.

Even if the host platform is Windows, it may be possible to utilize a multiple-OS solution, such as Lin4Win or VMWare, to run a Linux application in the native environment. Some debugging technologies make it possible to conduct debugging with commercial tools by linking the application with native Linux libraries, preparing a portable executable file, and loading that file into the debugger. This lets the application run using the same calls and libraries as it would implement on the target Linux device—but with the convenience and control of the development platform.

Along these same lines, simulating the application behavior and performance on the host system offers a more detailed level of information on the application and concurrently retains control over the overall environment. If a target simulator exists for the host platform, developers can continue testing and debugging their application while still working on the host development platform.

The device simulator permits the development of software drivers when a target system isn't available. With commercial device simulators, users can select the appropriate device simulator for their application and choose different environments to run a wide variety of tests. Simulators let developers write, compile and build, download, and debug code directly on a host system without a real target.

Many simulators permit users to generate data from a virtual device as input for their application. Users also can display values to check if their application is sending the right data to their peripheral device. Developers, then, can implement a data generator or a data receiver to represent actual data transfers. By employing this feature, developers can write their own data analysis and statistics programs to examine errors that are normally hard to find on a real target. Additionally, hardware interrupts can be processed to simulate reality, allowing developers to test far more extensively in the simulated environment, prior to actually downloading to the target.