Setting up a Custom MSP430 Development Environment

MSP430 development board showing the text 'Linux' on its LCD screen

For an upcoming project I wanted to use my MSP430 Launchpad development board. I haven’t worked with TI’s MSP430 series for a long time, so I needed to set up my environment first.

I didn’t want to go to the trouble of installing another full-blown IDE just for playing around with a microcontroller. I wanted to write code in Vim and use the environment I am used to instead of dealing with yet another IDE.

Fortunately, there is a full GCC-Toolchain for MSP430 available, as well as a command-line flashing tool from TI. Debugging is also possible thanks to the also open-source mspdebug utility.

On my Gentoo GNU/Linux system, I used crossdev to compile cross-toolchain for MSP430, but it is also available as a binary download from TI. mspdebug was available in the package repository, but it could also be downloaded from Github.

Important to know is that before your compiled binary can be uploaded to the microcontroller, it needs to be converted. The MSP430-FLASHER tool accepts images in TI-TXT or Intel HEX format. The file can be converted with objcopy (see Makefile below for details).

With all the tools ready and working separately, the only thing there is left to do is to create a Makefile for a convenient interface.

PATH_SRC     = src
PATH_BUILD   = build/target
PATH_OBJS    = build/target/objects

CC       = msp430-elf-gcc
CFLAGS   = -I /usr/msp430-gcc-support-files/include
CFLAGS  += -I ./driverlib/MSP430FR2xx_4xx
CFLAGS  += -mmcu=msp430fr4133
CFLAGS  += -Og -Wall -Werror -g3 -ggdb
CFLAGS  += -D__MSP430FR4133__
CFLAGS  += -c

LD       = msp430-elf-gcc
LDFLAGS  = -L /usr/msp430-gcc-support-files/include
LDFLAGS += -L ./driverlib/MSP430FR2xx_4xx
LDFLAGS += -T msp430fr4133.ld

SRCS = $(wildcard $(PATH_SRC)/*.c)

MKDIR           = mkdir -p

.PHONY: clean
.PHONY: test

all: target convert

target: $(BUILD_PATHS) $(PATH_BUILD)/target.out

OBJS = $(patsubst %.c, $(PATH_OBJS)/%.o,$(notdir $(SRCS))) 

        $(MKDIR) $(PATH_BUILD)

        $(MKDIR) $(PATH_OBJS)

$(PATH_BUILD)/target.out: $(OBJS)
        $(LD) -o $@ $^ $(LDFLAGS)

$(PATH_OBJS)/%.o:: $(PATH_SRC)/%.c
        $(CC) $(CFLAGS) $< -o $@

        msp430-elf-objcopy -O ihex $(PATH_BUILD)/target.out $(PATH_BUILD)/target.hex

        MSP430Flasher -e ERASE_ALL -w $(PATH_BUILD)/target.hex -v -z [VCC]

        mspdebug tilib

        msp430-elf-gdb target.out

        msp430-elf-objdump -D target.out | less

        rm -rf $(PATH_OBJS)/*.o
        rm -rf $(PATH_BUILD)/*.out
        rm -rf $(PATH_BUILD)/*.hex
        rm -rfd Log

The above Makefiles assumes the source files to be in a subdirectory called src. It is also possible to connect GDB to the hardware using target remote :2000 in GDB and use mspdebug’s “gdb” mode on the other side.

As you can see, with this Makefile I get all the functionality you need for proper firmware development: Compiling, uploading, debugging, disassembly view...

Note that you also need the necessary include files. I needed to get them separately from TI.

This is how it looks in action (Editor/Upload/Debug):

screenshot of the MSP430 development setup

Unit testing

Next I wanted to be able to properly unit test my code. For this, I plan to use the Unity Framework. This simple framework is especially well suited for embedded systems.