Debug Modules : Introduction

Working with on-chip debug IP modules was a definite learning experience. It included writing low level software for setting breakpoints, watchpoints,  configuring of call trace and also maintenance of a hardware dependent high performance data logging module. Such debug modules rarely get the appreciation which they deserve, considerable amount of chip space is dedicated for hardware IPs which enable us to develop such complex embedded software.

Each processor comes with its own unique ways of implementing debug modules, my understanding is based on the experience with StarCore. Lets look at the the features of the On chip Emulator which gives the infrastructure for doing all the debug activities. Below we can see the diagram of a typical JTAG  based debugging setup.

JTAG based Debugging setup
JTAG based Debugging setup

EOnCE(Enhanced Onchip Emulator)

EOnCE is the debug module which add all the above mentioned capabilities to the StarCore based platforms. There are various points which we need to note about EONCE.

  • Eonce is accessible using JTAG as well as from core by addressing its memory mapped registers.
  • Simultaneous access of Eonce from JTAG as well as Core will result in JTAG access getting prioritized over the StarCore access.
  • JTAG writes into EOnCE registers using JTAG port and configures it for debugging related features.
  • When we set a break point or configure a trace using the debugger on the Host PC at that time a message is send to the EOnCE module on the Target, this message makes sure that our debug configurations are applied on the chip.
EOnCE framework
EOnCE framework


Downloading binary using JTAG!

This is one of the most obvious reasons to use a JTAG debugger, pretty much sure that we can never deliver anything on time if we have to start flashing the binary each time we compile and test it. Every module on the chip has a controller(TAP Controller)associated with it which makes it JTAG compliant , in other words this very TAP controller connects the JTAG port to the hardware module.

TAP interfaced with the System JTAG Controller
TAP interfaced with the System JTAG Controller

In the above pic we can see the DMA module having a TAP controller and it being interfaced with the System JTAG controller(SJC), which is the main JTAG controller, as illustrated in the above pic every peripheral and core logic inside a chip will have a TAP controller and this is accessed and configured using SJC. Now lets see what all steps are involved in downloading code into the target RAM.

  • First we need to place the processor (StarCore) is in DEBUG mode, for that we need to send the DEBUG Command to SJC.
  • Next step is for accessing the EOnCE, execute the command to select EONCE TAP controller through SJC. From this point on we will be able to directly control EOnCE using JTAG.
  • EOnCE module has the capability to make the star core execute commands like MOVE and and some of the arithmetic operations, this feature of EOnCE will be used to transfer the program data into the memory
  • Now send the program data to the EOnCE recieve register, now we need to move this program data to the StarCore accessible memory. For that we need to execute a MOVE instruction.
  • Every command which needs to be issued to the StarCore through JTAG has to be written into a specific Econce Command register.
  • Now write a MOVE instruction into the Core comand register to transfer the Program data from the receive register to any CORE register (Because we can write data into memory only from a CORE register not from any EOnCE register)
  • Now send a Core command to move the data from the Core Register to the memory location. This completes one transfer
  • The above steps are repeated till the whole program code is written into the memory.

Now that makes up the rather elaborate sequence for downloading contents into the RAM.


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