USB on STM32F10x µCs Mar 2016

Every µC from the STM32F10x family has hardware built-in to support USB. The earlier (i.e. smaller) STM32F103’s have a more limited implementation that more recent models. There are some really strange design choices in it - they look like a rushed-to-market implementation:

Having seen some FPGA designs recently, it’s clear that this is caused by the two different clock domains of the µC on the one hand (normally 72 MHz) and the USB hardware on the other (48 MHz, but not necessarily synchronised). Improving this would probably have required more silicon and engineering time, which perhaps wasn’t avaialable when the STM32F103 came out.

It all leads to very convoluted code!

USB is a fairly complex protocol. There is an excellent USB in a NutShell resource on the web which goes into all the details. A brief summary and some notes:

But the good news is, the current work-in-progress implementation is working (with a big thank you to Eckhart Köppen for his help!). Here’s an extract from the Linux kernel log:

[98361.944068] usb 2-1: new full-speed USB device number 6 using uhci_hcd
[98362.144095] usb 2-1: New USB device found, idVendor=0483, idProduct=5740
[98362.144106] usb 2-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[98362.144112] usb 2-1: Product: Forth Serial Port
[98362.144118] usb 2-1: Manufacturer: Mecrisp (STM32F10x)
[98362.144124] usb 2-1: SerialNumber: C934CC37
[98362.149505] cdc_acm 2-1:1.0: ttyACM0: USB ACM device
[98443.520186] usb 2-1: USB disconnect, device number 6

And here’s what it looks like on Mac OSX:

(this is an earlier version, the serial number was not yet filled in)

As you can see, the STM32F103 presents itself as an “ACM” modem-like device (with device names chosen to identify this as a Mecrisp Forth context). The huge advantage here, is that such devices do not need any additional drivers - at least not on Linux and Mac OSX.

There is one quirk on Linux: if there’s a ModemManager running, it’ll start sending “AT” commands to the device the moment it is plugged in. This will confuse the Forth interpreter - you have to kill that modemmanager process first (who uses modems anyway, nowadays?).

The other good news is that serial I/O actually works - with the driver set up to send back everything it receives, you can open the serial port, type at it, and see everything echoed back.

In short: the USB driver is essentially already working!

But now comes the tricky bit: for this to become the main interface to Mecrisp Forth, we will need to re-route its input and output to use the USB device. There are four words defined in Forth to help with this: key?, key, emit?, and emit. There are also four “hooks” which allow pointing these to other words to “re-vector” all keyboard output and console output through.

Right now, a first attempt to redefine these words is still failing: for some reason, Mecrisp Forth refuses to start listening to the USB device. This may be related to some circular “ring buffers” added to solve the impedance mismatch between packet-oriented USB streams and the character-oriented mode required by Forth. It’s not clear at the moment where the problem originates - clearly more debugging will be needed to figure this out.

But then what? We can load the new USB driver in flash memory, on top of Mecrisp, and we can set it up to switch its I/O permanently to this code. But what if someone types “eraseflash”? That would wipe out our setup, and revert the entire system to its original serial-port-only state.

Whoops, bye bye USB - we will effectively have lost control of the system!

Here is one possible way out (but see below) - it requires a change in Mecrisp Forth:

The above changes would not alter the way Mecrisp Forth operates, as shipped. But they will make it possible to alter the system (once!) to include more Forth code in Flash memory, and to make sure that code can never be lost again.

The trade-off is that once you make such a change, it becomes permanent (which is the whole point) - to change it again, the entire chip will have to be erased and re-flashed with a clean Mecrisp firmware image.

The flash-limit and ram-limit variables are not strictly necessary, but they allow altering the system to use more or less of the available flash and RAM. This neatly addresses the fact that there are variations of the STM32F103 (and others), which differ only in flash and RAM size.

It also allows reserving flash and/or RAM for other uses. And even do crazy things like putting the RAM limit very very high and allow Forth to allocate memory in external RAM chips attached via FSMC, for example.

On to the implementation of otp-var: this might not be very difficult: variables defined in flash already contain a copy of their initial value. Of course, these variables end up being allocated in RAM (as part of Mecrisp’s startup sequence), so maybe all that needs to be done is to add one extra 32-bit field to these variables in flash, preset to $FFFFFFFF, with logic to check this extra value first. If it’s still $FFFFFFFF, we use the other intial value, but if it isn’t, we use this new value instead. And then some code in Forth (it need not be part of the Mecrisp core) can figure out how to re-write that special value - once only.

One could even consider changing all variables in this way, i.e. allowing every variable defined in flash to be changed once. So the Mecrisp core can continue to set them up as usual, while still allowing an application to change them, once. This may lead to more cases where the entire chip will have to be erased and re-flashed (over serial or via SWD), but this reconfigurability really isn’t intended for mainstream use - it just adds the option to create an enhanced core, such as a USB-enabled variant of Mecrisp. It would also allow creating a smaller Mecrisp core, FWIW.

Update - Matthias Koch, Mecrisp’s author, has suggested some alternatives, which will avoid having to ever reflash the core (although you may still need a serial hookup to get out of one of the possible failure modes). Consider the above shelved: keeping the core as is, is preferable!

Weblog © Jean-Claude Wippler. Generated by Hugo.