Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

Texas Instrument Launchpad MSP430 and Linux II

June 13th, 2012 4 comments

So, thanks to very helpful Rickta59 on #43oh IRC channel, I got my Launchpad v1.5 serial communication working. The key piece of information I was missing:

If you are using hardware UART,
you must rotate the RX-TX jumpers by 90 degrees!

This is even drawn on the board, but it just didn’t occur to me that I need to do this simple thing. Most examples seem to use hardware UART, and Energia Serial class also uses hardware UART.

It is still very flaky:

  • For the first ten seconds, communication is impossible. Wait for timeout messages to appear in dmesg, then you can start communication.
  • When the board is sending data, something must be reading them on the host side. If not, the driver collapses and you need to replug the device.
  • The latter might be circumvented by direct USB communication without involving the tty driver.

So, it is rather fragile, but usable! Let’s enjoy our Launchpads for projects where this is not a big issue…

Texas Instrument Launchpad MSP430 and Linux

June 11th, 2012 2 comments

I found out that the situation with MSP430 is not as bad as it seemed. This post is mostly obsolete, but I’m leaving the text up for the benefit of Google index and other desperate people struggling with their Launchpad. :-)

This blogpost serves as a big fat warning to the future ones that might be about to follow in my footsteps:

Currently sold TI Launchpad MSP430
is not properly supported by Linux
as of 2012-06-01

It’s a sad reality but that’s just how it is, to the best of my knowledge, and after a lot of research and doing unbelievable things to kernel drivers etc. To clarify a bit, basic programming using mspdebug works, but you cannot communicate between host and board using USB serial. This seems to have worked with much older USB chips but not with the ones used by TI in current versions of the board (I got Launchpad with MSP-EXP430G2 ordered in May 2012).

Some fun technical details to help google index and guide others diagnosing this:

[186808.775510] usb 1-1.2: new full-speed USB device number 7 using ehci_hcd
[186808.891778] usb 1-1.2: New USB device found, idVendor=0451, idProduct=f432
[186808.891788] usb 1-1.2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[186808.891794] usb 1-1.2: Product: Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF
[186808.891800] usb 1-1.2: Manufacturer: Texas Instruments
[186808.891804] usb 1-1.2: SerialNumber: CFFF4695F6C11445
[186808.924900] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: This device cannot do calls on its own. It is not a modem.
[186808.924914] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: No union descriptor, testing for castrated device
[186808.925029] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: ttyACM0: USB ACM device
[186808.927595] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_acm
[186808.927603] cdc_acm: USB Abstract Control Model driver for USB modems and ISDN adapters
[186818.963279] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: usb_submit_urb(ctrl) failed
[186818.963332] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: timeout initializing reports
[186818.964177] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.01 Device [Texas Instruments Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF] on usb-0000
[186818.964262] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbhid
[186818.964269] usbhid: USB HID core driver

This is what my dmesg says the first time the board is plugged in. mspdebug works fine but any attempt of serial communication over /dev/ttyACM0 (talking to TI-provided sample UART code). OBTW if you are actually wondering how to compile and upload stuff on this baby:

msp430-gcc -mmcu=msp430g2553 -Wall -O3 -o uart_01_9600 msp430g2xx3_uscia0_uart_01_9600.c
mspdebug rf2500 prog\ uart_01_9600

For USB interface, TI includes its own crazy USB-enabled microcontroller on board that provides a HID-ish interface (for mspdebug) and an ACM-ish interface (for UART emulation) on a single port (which is nicely confusing). The serial part is supposed to be handled by ti_usb_3410_5052 kernel driver, which grabs a firmware and attempts to reflash the USB microcontroller so that it presents a more sensible serial USB interface (pretty crazy, eh?). However, the rf2500 variant of this chip appears to be too new and simply not supported either by the firmware or the firmware uploader.

Tweaking USB ids in the driver (f430 -> f432) does not help. Getting ti_3410.fw that Debian helpfully does not ship does not help. Manually binding the driver to USB does not help. The furthest I get is that the driver indeed tries to flash the ti_3410.fw firmware to device, but just times out doing that (I think maybe I bricked the serial part of the USB microcontroller by now):

[193053.430662] ti_usb_3410_5052 1-1.2:1.0: TI USB 3410 1 port adapter converter detected
[193054.443490] usb 1-1.2: ti_download_firmware - error downloading firmware, -110
[193054.443528] ti_usb_3410_5052: probe of 1-1.2:1.0 failed with error -5

Oh, and mspdebug rf2400 exit before any serial communication (I have found a tip somewhere) does not help either. An obviously-working UART code for MSP430G2553 would be welcome too, to triple-rule-out a uC-side firmware problem. (The launchpad board is awesome but rx/tx leds are sorely missing. I know, I could grab an oscilloscope… but how many hours have I already wasted by this?)

So, what seemed to be a great Arduino replacement turns to dust for me since the whole point of 80% of my Arduino projects is to talk to a computer… That said, if (after) you make it work, you will get one, or maybe even two Launchpads for free from me.

Cute cuddly robot!

May 6th, 2011 No comments

In the past few months, I have been playing a bit with a great robotic platform available at the university in the Introduction to mobile robotics and Eurobot subjects.

We were provided a pre-made robot chassis with some basic electronics, an ATMega128 board, hefty battery, motors and Sabretooth motor drivers. With AxTheB, we have built a merkur-based construction on top of it to hold a camera-on-stick module that gives a picture of surroundings of the robot, and a 12″ notebook that is hooked up to the webcam and the ATMega.

The most interesting thing is the camera. It is held up on a wooden stick, facing upwards to a parabolic mirror (i.e. a laddle), giving it picture of its surroundings in about 320\deg angle (part of the view is obstructed by the stick). That’s not my original idea but it was originally suggested and built for brmbot outdoor. We had it for Robotour 2010 competition, and during the competition I have even built some basic image recognition for it, but in the end we did not have time to integrate it to the main control software so the camera served only as a holder for GPS+compass back then.

More about the tasks below. In the end it turned out that I really don’t have enough time to do this so things got quite stressful at one point, but I would feel really bad if I gave up. In the end, I managed to get things working. And as any robot builder will tell you, seeing your tiny friend roam around happily, doing whatever it’s supposed to do, is worth any stress! :-)

The source code is rather horrible. Keep in mind that it was hacked incrementally and never really cleaned up.


The first task (Puck Collect from Robot Challenge 2011 in Vienna): Your tiny robot is in a ~2x2m white playground, with two corner squares painted red and blue, and with tiny red and blue pucks scattered over the playground. Its robotic opponent also sits in the playground. Each player has a color assigned, and its goal is to accumulate as many pucks of its color in its corner as possible, while avoiding putting pucks of the other color in that corner. And a deadline of two minutes.

(In addition, the robot has got also a sort of plough in the front
where it collects and pushes the pucks as few centimeters directly
in front of the robot are invisible for the camera.)

Unfortunately, I was not actually able to spend a lot of time on the project (and attend the awesome lectures) due to sickness (to play with robots, you have to come to the lab) and time scheduling problems. Nevertheless, I have been able to finish at least a basic version of the robot and it kind of did what it was supposed to do. (Though for a real competition, more work would be needed – the construction was very frail and the bot could not properly unstuck itself when it got misled e.g. by colors seen outside of the playground.)

Source code: brmpuk.git


The second task was a lot simpler – just follow a thick black line laid on the floor. With the communications, firmware and video processing infrastructure already debugged, it was just a matter of replacing the image recognition and I managed to get everything done and debugged in just a couple of hours.

To briefly describe the workings of the robot: The camera provides a picture of the neighborhood of the robot in the YUYV format. The software periodically grabs frames from the camera and looks at three rectangles covering the area slightly in front of the robot – straight ahead, to the right and to the left. (There is a slight gap to give the robot a chance to react with sufficient head-start, deal well with sharp turns and skip over gaps.)

The contents of the three rectangles is then analyzed; YUYV is a convenient pixel format for image recognition since you already have brightness (luma) and hue (chrominance) separated. To detect dark line on light background, it is enough to look at the Y-values of pixels. Second, we are detecting a high-contrast object that is always smaller than the rectangle we look at. So we do a trivial thing – get luma difference of the darkest and brightest pixel. We do not get dark pixels from dirt since the camera image is sufficiently blury, and the only large enough dark object on white background is the line, so this works perfectly, can adjust to overall brightness of the image (to a degree), and is really simple and foolproof.

The robot driving strategy is then trivial. After each frame, the control program will give an update on new speed of both wheels. If it detects the line is being followed, it goes straight ahead. Otherwise, if one of the side rectangles is active, it stops one motor and starts turning in that direction. If no rectangle is active, it may be that a sharp turn has been encountered: at one point both the ahead rectangle and a side rectangle was active, at the next moment none was. Therefore, it looks at the last time one of the side rectangles has been active and goes in that direction. A similar handling is used for both side rectangles active (during turning to one side, the other rectangle may blink to activity e.g. due to table edge).

Source code: brmpuk.git blackline

P.S.: I just wasted three hours trying to work around bugs in WordPress, jQuery(?) and YouTube/Chromium so that I could publish this post. How are you people managing to live in this Web 2.0 world?!

Categories: hardware, software Tags: , ,

Arduino Software Tone Generator

February 20th, 2011 2 comments

This is something really trivial, but I have not actually googled out a recipe so I thought I’d post it anyway for the googlers out there. Sometimes, you discover the Arduino tune() function does not really work – in our case, it was since we have ethernet shield attached and apparently, some other piece of the software drives the timer (not surprising at all) – besides, the tune() function may silently abuse other pins than the chosen one, AIUI, due to its timer usage.

Therefore, it may be useful to manually generate sounds. The code snippet really is simple, with play-by-melody code thrown in for good measure too:

#include "pitches.h"
/* Cue Star Wars - Darth Vader theme, opening notes! */
int melody_nak[] = { NOTE_G5, NOTE_G5, NOTE_G5, NOTE_DS5, NOTE_AS5, NOTE_G5, NOTE_DS5, NOTE_AS5, NOTE_G5};
int noteDurations_nak[] = { 330, 330, 330, 250, 120, 330, 250, 120, 500 };
int melody_ack[] = { NOTE_D6, NOTE_A6, NOTE_C7, NOTE_A6 };
int noteDurations_ack[] = { 120, 500, 120, 500 };
void toneManual(int pin, int frequency, int duration)
  unsigned long period = 1000000/frequency;
  unsigned long length;
  boolean state = false;
  for (length = 0; length < (long) duration * 1000; length += period) {
    state = !state;
    digitalWrite(pin, state);
    /* The 50uS correspond to the time the rest of the loop body takes.
     * It seems about right, but has not been tuned precisely for
     * a 16MHz ATMega. */
    delayMicroseconds(period - 50);
void playMelody(int *melody, int *noteDurations, int notes)
  int i;
  for (i = 0; i < notes; i++) {
    toneManual(8, melody[i], noteDurations[i]);
    delay(noteDurations[i] * 6/10);
void playMelodyAck()
{ playMelody(melody_ack, noteDurations_ack, sizeof(melody_ack)/sizeof(melody_ack[0])); }
void playMelodyNak()
{ playMelody(melody_nak, noteDurations_nak, sizeof(melody_nak)/sizeof(melody_nak[0])); }

Grab pitches.h from the digital -> tone generator example sketches, i.e. /usr/share/arduino*/examples/2.Digital/toneMelody/pitches.h.

There is one important point. With tone(), you did not need to correctly set pin mode of the pin to output – you do need to do that with this routine! This took me quite a while to debug…

Categories: hardware, software Tags: ,

Datasheet Translator

December 28th, 2010 No comments

As we (well, mostly other people than me) were dealing with a rather obscure micro-controller when hacking our laser projector in brmlab, the only datasheet we have found has been in Chinese. This is quite often the case with obscure China-made parts (including event stuff like LEDs) and it’s annoying to deal with.

So I hacked together a simple datasheet translator – you feed it a PDF with your datasheet, specify the source language, let it munch away for a minute and then it spews out a link to the English translation!

Its user interface is extremely rudimentary, if someone wants to add an AJAXy progressbar and what-not, just let me know. :-)

The “technology” is not much to mention either – thankfully, pdftohtml can do quite nifty stuff nowadays (just needs a lot of beating to properly zoom the documents), and Google Translate can do awesome job with technical documents.

Categories: hardware, linux, software Tags: ,

memtester and Virtual->Physical Address Translation

May 13th, 2010 5 comments server started having trouble with randomly corrupted repositories a while ago; short-time memtests were showing nothing and I was reluctant to take it offline for many days. So I found out the neat memtester tool and fired it up.

Sure enough, in some time, a bitflip error popped up – several times on the same memory offset:

Block Sequential : testing 12FAILURE: 0xc0c0c0c0c0c0c0c != 0xc0c0c0c0c0c0c0e at offset 0x0739610a.

Okay! That might hint on a bad memory cell in a DIMM. But which DIMM? Weelll…

We have to figure out which virtual address does the offset correspond with. Then, we have to figure out which physical address would that be. Finally, we have to guess the appropriate DIMM. We will make a lot of assumptions along the way – generally, the mapping can change all the time, pages may be swapped out, etc. – but memtester keeps the single mmap()ed region mlock()ed all the time, the architecture is regular i7, etc. And we don’t have to be 100% sure about the result.

First, keep the memtester running, do not restart it! Let’s assume its pid is 25773. First, we need to look at its memory maps:

# cat /proc/25773/maps 
00400000-00403000 r-xp 00000000 09:00 19511804                    /usr/bin/memtester
00602000-00603000 rw-p 00002000 09:00 19511804                   /usr/bin/memtester
7fea279c9000-7fea279ca000 rw-p 7fea279c9000 00:00 0 
7fea279ca000-7feb601ca000 rw-p 7fea279ca000 00:00 0 
7feb601ca000-7feb60314000 r-xp 00000000 09:00 28713328    /lib/

We can see pretty much immediately that the 7fea279ca000-7feb601ca000 map is the memory region of the main testing buffer – it’s just huge!

# echo $((0x7fea279ca000-0x7feb601ca000))

Splendid – 5GiB, just as much as we told memtester to check. Now, what is the virtual memory address of the fault? memtester grabs the buffer, splits it in two halves, then fills both halves with identical stuff and then goes through them, comparing. The second address contained the faulty bit set, so the printed offset is within the second buffer; its start is at (0x7feb601ca000-0x7fea279ca000)/2 + 0x7fea279ca000 = 0x7feac3dca000, add up the offset 0x0739610a… but beware! The offset is in ulongs, which means we need to multiple it by 8. and we get 0x7feacb16010a.

The 0x7feacb16010a should be the faulty address!

*** EDIT *** – this turns out to be wrong! There are two reasons:

  1. The offset is actually in multiples of sizeof(unsigned long), which is 8 on 64-bit archs; multiply the number by 8.
  2. There is some other problem – some slight shift. In my experiments, 0x7f1bd4f71a40 would be the real address but the computed one came out as 0x7f1bd4f72238 – not sure what causes that.

Therefore, the best solution is to apt-source memtester and tweak tests.c to print out also the actual pointers of the fault.

*** END EDIT *** – the rest should work as described again.

Ok. How to get the physical address? New Linux kernels have a nifty invention – /proc/.../pagemap – that provides access to per-page mapping information for the whole process virtual space; see Documentation/vm/pagemap.txt for details. Unfortunately, accessing it is not so simple, but I hacked together a simple Perl script:

# (c) Petr Baudis 2010 &lt;;
# Public domain.
# This won't work on 32-bit systems, sorry.
use warnings;
use strict;
use POSIX;
our ($pid, $vaddr);
($pid, $vaddr) = @ARGV;
open my $pm, "/proc/$pid/pagemap" or die "pagemap: $!";
binmode $pm;
my $pagesize = POSIX::sysconf(&amp;POSIX::_SC_PAGESIZE);
my $ofs = int((hex $vaddr) / $pagesize) * 8;
seek $pm, $ofs, 0 or die "seek $vaddr ($pagesize * $ofs): $!";
read $pm, my $b, 8 or die "read $vaddr ($pagesize * $ofs): $!";
my $n = unpack "q", $b;
# Bits 0-54  page frame number (PFN) if present
# Bits 0-4   swap type if swapped
# Bits 5-54  swap offset if swapped
# Bits 55-60 page shift (page size = 1&lt;&lt;page shift)
# Bit  61    reserved for future use
# Bit  62    page swapped
# Bit  63    page present
my $page_present = ! ! ($n &amp; (1 &lt;&lt; 63));
my $page_swapped = ! ! ($n &amp; (1 &lt;&lt; 62));
my $page_size = 1 &lt;&lt; (($n &amp; ((1 &lt;&lt; 61) - 1)) &gt;&gt; 55);
if (!$page_present and !$page_swapped) {
        printf "[%s: %d * %d] %x: not present\n", $vaddr, $pagesize, $ofs, $n;
if (!$page_swapped) {
        my $pfn = ($n &amp; ((1 &lt;&lt; 55) - 1));
        printf "[%s: %d * %d] %x: present %d, size %d, PFN %x\n", $vaddr, $pagesize, $ofs, $n, $page_present, $page_size, $pfn;
} else {
        my $swapofs = (($n &amp; ((1 &lt;&lt; 55) - 1)) &gt;&gt; 5);
        my $swaptype = ($n &amp; ((1 &lt;&lt; 5) - 1));
        printf "[%s: %d * %d] %x: present %d, size %d, swap type %x, swap offset %x\n", $vaddr, $pagesize, $ofs, $n, $page_present, $page_size, $swaptype, $swapofs;

Fire this up, and you should see something like:

# perl ~pasky/ 25773 0x7feacb16010a
Hexadecimal number > 0xffffffff non-portable at /home/pasky/ line 18.
[0x7feacb16010a: 4096 * 274700012288] 860000000002adf7: present 1, size 4096, PFN 2adf7

PFN stands for Page Frame Number. To get physical address on a PC
from this, just multiply it by page size. The physical address should be 0x2adf7000.

So, which DIMM do we have to replace? This is the most problematic stpe, it does not seem that the mapping would be available anywhere.
Let’s look at the physical mappings available in total:

# dmesg | head -n 20
[    0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpuset
[    0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpu
[    0.000000] Linux version 2.6.26-2-amd64 (Debian 2.6.26-21lenny4) ( (gcc version 4.1.3 20080704 (prerelease) (Debian 4.1.2-25)) #1 SMP Tue Mar 9 22:29:32 UTC 2010
[    0.000000] Command line: root=/dev/md0 ro quiet
[    0.000000] BIOS-provided physical RAM map:
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 0000000000000000 - 000000000009fc00 (usable)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 000000000009fc00 - 00000000000a0000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000000e0000 - 0000000000100000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 0000000000100000 - 00000000bf780000 (usable)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000bf78e000 - 00000000bf790000 type 9
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000bf790000 - 00000000bf79e000 (ACPI data)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000bf79e000 - 00000000bf7d0000 (ACPI NVS)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000bf7d0000 - 00000000bf7e0000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000bf7ec000 - 00000000c0000000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000fee00000 - 00000000fee01000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 00000000ffc00000 - 0000000100000000 (reserved)
[    0.000000]  BIOS-e820: 0000000100000000 - 0000000200000000 (usable)
[    0.000000] Entering add_active_range(0, 0, 159) 0 entries of 3200 used

There is 7GB available on the machine and that can be easily found to correspond to the 0000000000100000 - 00000000bf780000 3GiB and 0000000100000000 - 0000000200000000 4GiB ranges. Our physical address is very low in the range. I guess the best we could do is assume that the DIMMs provide mappings in the same order they are in the slot, and replace the first one…

Or, you could use dmidecode, but only if your BIOS is not broken like mine and actually reports the start/stop addresses. :(

MultiTouch W.I.P.

July 12th, 2009 3 comments

I spent large part of the weekend resurrecting my multitouch setup attempts again. I’m trying to use rear diffused illumination, but without much success yet. I have purchased two 1×1 meter 5mm thick plexiglass squares, but they are too impractical for the prototype yet, so I’m just using an A3-sized piece of glass with tracing paper underneath.

My elite IR light source:
IR light source

Yesterday, I’ve used a setup with projector, camera and IR light source horizontally shining into a mirror reflecting everything at the surface. However, due to short cables ;-) this wasn’t very practical and everything had to be much too far from the mirror, plus there were some (although not so bad) double-reflections. So today I’ve rearranged the setup to a much simpler vertical one.

My trivial vertical multitouch prototype
At the bottom is an Acer 1024×768 DLP projector, then on the white box is my IR light source illuminating the surface from an angle, then on the chair is sticked (literally) an IR webcam taking in a subset of the surface – a piece of glass with tracing paper sticked to the bottom side.

Unfortunately, so far I’m unable to get reasonably even IR illumination; it seems six leds are way too few, and the light is not diffused enough. I need to get multiple IR sources, and some translucent surface to diffuse the light a bit. Another problem is that the projector also shows the image in the IR spectrum, thus it somewhat interferes with the reflections; however, having strong enough IR light source should marginalize that problem.

The last problem is that my webcam is too crappy, on Linux it gives me only one to two FPS on 320×240. I’m planning to buy the absurdly cheap MSI StarCam Mini+ which should give me 30fps on 640×480 and has already night vision support so it should be enough to block visible light; I’m not feeling yet like shelling out huge money for Xbox or PS3 webcam.

Now I mainly wish I knew where to buy IR light sources in Prague…

Categories: hardware Tags: ,