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Hummingboard Pulse - first impression

Introduction

SolidRun is a global leading developer of embedded systems and provides a lot of powerful products. One of them I want to describe in this post is the HummingBoard Pulse. You can see it in the picture below.

HummingBoardPulse picture

Hummingboard Pulse has the powerful i.MX8M SOM with a quad ARM Cortex A53 processor (up to 1.5 GHz) with ARM M4. The i.MX8M family of processors provides industry-leading audio, voice and video processing for applications that scale from consumer home audio to industrial building automation and mobile computers. More information can be found at the official website of the producer of these processors there.

The HummingBoard Pulse provides a lot of hardware interfaces from which I can mention:

  • USB type C
  • Micro USB
  • RJ45 Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • HDMI 2.0
  • Audio Headset
  • MicroSD

All of them are nicely shown on the pictures which can be found on this website.

Getting started with the board.

To start using the HummingBoard Pulse you will need a couple of things:

  • Linux or Windows PC (it will be easier if you’ll have Linux PC),
  • 16GB Micro SD card,
  • 12V Power adapter (the board has wide range input of 7V-36V but 12V is recommended),
  • MicroUSB to USB for the console because the HummingBoard Pulse has an onboard FTDI chip, which means that there is no need to use external UART/USB converter,
  • and of course the HummingBoard Pulse with SOM.

OK, assuming you have everything that’s needed, now it’s time to flash our SD card with U-Boot and Debian. Let me help you with that. As I mentioned earlier, the whole installation is easier when using Linux PC so all commands will be given for users of Linux.

Building ARM Trusted Firmware and U-Boot

Let’s start with a toolchain. You can download a ready-to-use-toolchain. When writing this post following toolchain was used: http://releases.linaro.org/components/toolchain/binaries/7.4-2019.02/aarch64-linux-gnu/gcc-linaro-7.4.1-2019.02-x86_64_aarch64-linux-gnu.tar.xz. After you download and extract your, just type commands which are shown below in the terminal. Just remember that CROSS_COMPILE environment variables need to be set to the path of the toolchain prefix.

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export ARCH=arm64
export CROSS_COMPILE=$PWD/toolchain/gcc-linaro-7.4.1-2019.02-x86_64_aarch64-linux-gnu.tar.xz/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu

Source and firmware can be downloaded from the GitHub repos and sites listed below. You can copy and execute those commands in your terminal.

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git clone https://github.com/SolidRun/arm-trusted-firmware.git -b imx-atf-v1.6
git clone https://github.com/SolidRun/u-boot.git -b v2018.11-solidrun
wget https://www.nxp.com/lgfiles/NMG/MAD/YOCTO/firmware-imx-7.9.bin

Building ATF is as follows.

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cd arm-trusted-firmware
make PLAT=imx8mq bl31
cp build/imx8mq/release/bl31.bin ../u-boot/

After you extract NXP firmware you will need to accept the end user agreement.

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chmod +x firmware-imx-7.9.bin
./firmware-imx-7.9.bin
cp firmware-imx-7.9/firmware/hdmi/cadence/signed_hdmi_imx8m.bin u-boot/
cp firmware-imx-7.9/firmware-imx-7.9/firmware/ddr/synopsys/lpddr4*.bin u-boot/

OK, so now you can change directory to the U-Boot directory, then build U-Boot and generate the image.

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make imx8mq_hb_defconfig
make flash.bin

Doing that you may need to install two programs named bison and flex. In this case, you just need to type those commands in your terminal.

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sudo apt-get install bison
sudo apt-get install flex

After all of that, you can flash U-Boot on to your SD card.

Firstly, after you plug-in your sd card to PC, you need to unmount it using:

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umount /dev/sd[x]

Then you can easily flash your SD card with u-boot simply typing:

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sudo dd if=flash.bin of=/dev/sd[x] bs=1024 seek=33

Where [x] stands for your SD card attached to PC. For me it was sdb.

From now you will have working U-Boot on your SD card. If you want to check how it looks on HummingBoard Pulse you need to connect your PC with the board using MicroUSB to USB cable and minicom on the terminal. Just type:

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sudo minicom -b 115200 -D /dev/ttyUSB[x]

This time [x] stands for the USB port you use to communicate. For me, it was 0.

You should receive something like this:

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-Boot SPL 2018.11-00078-g0dd51748c2a (Dec 16 2018 - 18:35:18 +0100)
PMIC:  PFUZE100 ID=0x10
Normal Boot
Trying to boot from MMC2
NOTICE:  Configureing TZASC380
NOTICE:  BL31: v1.6(release):v1.6-110-g0eb2df45
NOTICE:  BL31: Built : 13:56:07, Nov 29 2018
NOTICE:  sip svc init


U-Boot 2018.11-00078-g0dd51748c2a (Dec 16 2018 - 18:35:18 +0100)

CPU:   Freescale i.MX8MQ rev2.0 at 1000 MHz
Reset cause: POR
Model: SolidRun i.MX8MQ HummingBoard Pulse
DRAM:  3 GiB
MMC:   FSL_SDHC: 0, FSL_SDHC: 1
Loading Environment from MMC... *** Warning - bad CRC, using default environment

In:    serial
Out:   serial
Err:   serial
Net:
Error: ethernet@30be0000 address not set.

Error: ethernet@30be0000 address not set.
eth-1: ethernet@30be0000
Hit any key to stop autoboot:  0

OK, so now you need to copy the kernel image and .dtb file. Unfortunately, I was not able to compile image following instructions given by SolidRun. Happily, there is another way to run Linux on the HummingBoard Pulse.

Installing Debian on HummingBoard Pulse

SolidRun gives instructions on how to install Debian on HummingBoard Pulse. Debian is well-documented GNU/Linux distribution and images of it are easily available at https://images.solid-build.xyz/IMX8/Debian/. When you will be choosing one for you please check the log of changes at the bottom. You will read there that only versions released after 07.12.2018 supports booting from SD card.

After you download and extract an image of Debian you need to flash it on SD card.

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dd bs=4k conv=fsync if=<image name>.img of=/dev/sdb

Below you can watch log from booting Debian on HummingBoard Pulse. I’ve captured it using asciinema.

asciicast

Summary

This post describes the HummingBoard Pulse and attempts of booting a Linux on it. If you are looking for more detailed information about the board you are welcome to check this or that. We hope to work with this platform much more and write many more posts about i.MX8 series. Please let us know which i.MX8 features you like the most and what kind of content would you expect in the next posts.

If you think we can help in improving the security of your firmware or you looking for someone who can boost your product by leveraging advanced features of used hardware platform, feel free to book a call with us or drop us email to contact<at>3mdeb<dot>com. If you are interested in similar content feel free to sing up to our newsletter


Tomasz Żyjewski
Junior embedded developer at 3mdeb hopefully beginning his long and great career. He's mainly interested in C/C++ and programming microcontrollers but always keen on getting know new stuff.