AVR Pong – Peggy2 & Danger Shield

This post should really be titled “AVR Pong, and some other non-firsts”.


I saw the Peggy2LE and decided that it was something that I just had to have. I mean, 625 LEDs on one board can’t be bad, right? Well at least that was what I thought, until I tried to solder 1250 LED leads in one night.


Anyway, to make a point out of this, I decided to make a Pong game, using the Peggy2 and a Danger Shield courtesy of Little Bird Electronics

So why is this interesting? Well there are somes significant firsts in there for me.

  1. Not just multi tasking (using freeRTOS), but real multi-processing using 2 AVR devices. The two AVRs communicate using the I2C bus.
  2. Developing an I2C code base that can simultaneously be Master and Slave, and is interrupt driven. I hope that the code can do MultiMaster too, but I haven’t fully tested it.
  3. Building a robust efficient video transfer protocol between the game mechanics AVR and the video (Peggy2) AVR. Using prioritised row updating and a CRC8, which I think it is pretty robust.
  4. Building a buzzer routine that can play melodies, with real notes, again fully interrupt driven, using Timer 2 (the Danger Shield buzzer is connected to PD3).

None of these things are original. In fact most of the code is borrowed from elsewhere, and the sources can be found in the files. But, I’m pretty stoked to have made it all work together, under freeRTOS. Small things, as they say, amuse small minds.

Code at AVRfreeRTOS at Sourceforge.

Updates with more detail when it is not so late.

freeRTOS and libraries for AVR ATmega with Eclipse IDE

I’ve created a Sourceforge project as a place to host all my current tools and working environment. The Sourceforge site is now 4 years old, and there’s a GitHub site too, which is now the most up to date repository

Preferred: Github freeRTOS & libraries for AVR ATMEGA

Secondary: Sourceforge freeRTOS & libraries for AVR ATMEGA

The Sourceforge repository has become so complex, with so many libraries, I thought that it was about time to make a simple version, which has the minimum implementation to get started. No additional libraries included. One timer option, using the watchdog timer. One heap option, using avr-libc malloc. One example application, just a blink with two tasks, for Uno, Mega, and Goldilocks boards.

Github minimum AVRfreeRTOS

The thing about open source. Sometime you have to give back.

Things I’m really happy about:

  • Arduino Uno family ATmega328p, Freetronics EtherMega (Arduino Mega2560), and Goldilocks ATmega1284p, scheduling and IO works.
  • Being able to use any Timer on the AVR as the system Tick. In practice this means Timer0 on 328p (Arduino Uno), Timer3 on 2560 (Arduino Mega) and 1284p (Pololu SVP) and Timer2 on 1284p with 32.768kHz watch crystal (Freetronics Goldilocks). The watchdog timer has also been implemented, and if there is no critical need for accurate timing, this is the lowest resource impact system tick.
  • Converting all of the relevant libraries to be friendly to a RTOS system. No delay busy-wait loops etc. Everything defers to (is interruptible by) the scheduler when waiting, or is driven from interrupts.
  • Having many finished projects, that are good demonstrations of lots of AVR and freeRTOS capabilities.
  • Having the Sparkfun LCD Shield working properly, with printf string formatting.
  • Having the Rugged Circuits QuadRAM 512kByte and MegaRAM 128kByte RAM extensions working on ATmega2560.
  • Porting ChaN FatF microSD card support for a variety of uSD shield cages.
  • Porting Wiznet W5100, W5200, and W5500 drivers for Arduino Ethernet shields.
  • Porting Wiznet and uIP DHCP and HTTP applications, creating options for implementing a basic web server.
  • Properly implementing semaphores for access to resources (ports, interfaces, ADC, LCD).
  • Properly implementing queues for transferring data between tasks (threads).

The repository of files on Sourceforge freeRTOS & libraries for AVR ATMEGA is a working collection for a freeRTOS based platform using the AVR-GCC and AVRDUDE platform. The development environment used was Eclipse IDE.

With the Eclipse IDE the C Development Environment (CDE), and the AVR plug-in are both needed. It is assumed that the AVR avr-libc libraries are installed.

The freeRTOS folder contains the most recent version 8.2.3 of freeRTOS, but it has been abridged down to only those files relevant for AVR GCC. The port.c file has been extensively modified to allow the use of either of the 328p Timer0 or Timer1 timers. And, the use of Timer3 on the Pololu SVP which has uses a 1284p. Timer 3 for Arduino Mega using a 2560 also works. Timer2 support has been added for the Freetronics Goldilocks and its 32,768kHz crystal. A Real Time system_tick is added using time.h functionality added to the system libraries described below.

The freeRTOSBoardDefs.h file contains most of the variables that you’ll need to change regularly.

There are some relevant and often used libraries added to the basic freeRTOS capabilities.

  • lib_io: contains often used I/O digital and ADC routines borrowed from Pololu.
  • lib_io: contains the tools to use the TWI (non-trademarked I2C) bus. It contains integrated interrupt driven master and slave routines
  • lib_io: contains the tools to use the SPI bus.
  • lib_io: contains routines to drive the serial interface. there are three versions; avrSerial for use before the freeRTOS scheduler has been enabled, and xSerial for use during normal operations. xSerial is interrupt driven and uses an optimised ring buffer. xSerialN is further generalised to allow multiple simultaneous serial ports.
  • lib_ext_ram: contains routines to drive the Rugged Circuits QuadRam on Arduino Mega2560, or Freetronics EtherMega.
  • lib_util: Optimised CRC calculations.
  • lib_util: Extended alpha (string) to integer (binary, octal, decimal, hexdecimal) conversion.
  • lib_time: Real time calculations, from avr-libc upstream, providing esoteric time and date calculations.
  • lib_rtc: drivers for the DS1307 RTC using I2C.
  • lib_fatf: contains ChaN’s FatF FAT32 libraries for driving the microSD card.
  • lib_iinchip: contains the W5100 drivers and the W5200 drivers from Wiznet.
  • lib_inet: contains a DHCP, and HTTP implementation.
  • lib-uIP: contains the uIP implementation derived from Contiki2.7, implemented on MACRAW mode of W5100/W5200, and extensible.
  • lib_ft800: contains optimised drivers for the Gameduino2, a FTDI FT800 implementation, with LCD and touch screen support.

Some more recent posts are here:

Arduino AVRfreeRTOS

Goldilocks Analogue Synthesiser

Goldilocks Analogue Prototyping 4

Melding freeRTOS with ChaN’s FatF & HD44780 LCD on Freetronics EtherMega

Rugged Circuits QuadRAM on Freetronics EtherMega

Quick review of Freetronics EtherMega

Description of the AVR Pong multi-processor game.

Additional steps to use the Mega2560

EtherMega (Arduino Mega2560) and FreeRTOS

I sell on Tindie

Step-by-step Instructions

Our Destination:

On completing these instructions you should have an Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment) installed with all relevant libraries installed, to use the freeRTOS, and the libraries I’ve modified, to build projects (Eclipse term for a set of code) of your own.

We’re Assuming:

These instructions are based on an Ubuntu LTS install, but the path to the destination is not complex, and can be roughly followed for any installation platform.

Step 0. As usual on an Ubuntu (Debian) system, refresh the software sources.

sudo apt-get update

Step 1. Install the AVR Libraries.

Together, avr-binutils, avr-gcc, and avr-libc form the heart of the Free Software toolchain for the Atmel AVR microcontrollers. They are further accompanied by projects for in-system programming software (uisp, avrdude), simulation (simulavr) and debugging (avr-gdb, AVaRICE).
sudo aptitude install avr-libc avrdude binutils-avr gcc-avr gdb-avr

Step 2. Install the Arduino environment.

Doesn’t hurt to have the Arduino environment available. It can be used for programming boot-loaders (using AVR-ISP code), and generally for checking health of equipment, using known good example code.

This will pull in some extra libraries that the Arduino platform needs.

sudo aptitude install arduino


Step 3. Install the Eclipse IDE.

It is not necessary to use or install an IDE to develop with freeRTOS, or with any other system. It is easy to use makefiles and the command line with avr-gcc and avrdude. In fact, I didn’t use Eclipse for a long time. And, when I first started to use it, it felt very unnatural and clumsy.

However, now I’ve been using it for some time I highly recommend it, for the ability to see deeper into the code (definitions are detailed on mouse over), and to compare (live differences) and roll-back code to any step of your editing process.

Again, installation is easy with Ubuntu (Debian), but it can take a while. Lots of things get installed along with it.

sudo aptitude install eclipse

Step 4. Select the C & C++ development tools within Eclipse.

Eclipse is a Java based platform, but it works just as well with C, and C++, as it does with a wide variety of languages. Getting the C Development Tools (CDT) is the first step to a C environment that we’ll be using.

Open Eclipse, and lock it to your launcher. You’ll be using it frequently.

Using the Menus, click:

Help>>Install New Software…>>Add…

CDT Indigo http://download.eclipse.org/tools/cdt/releases/indigo

Select only “CDT Main Features”, and install these plugin development tools.

Step 5. Select the AVR development environment within Eclipse.

The AVR environment includes direct access to the avrdude downloading tool for one-click programming of your AVR devices.

Using the Menus, click:

Help>>Install New Software…>>Add…

AVR Plugin http://avr-eclipse.sourceforge.net/updatesite/

Select “CDT Optional Features”, and install these plugin development tools.

Step 5c. Select C/C++ Perspective

First you need to select the right perspective, being C/C++. Top right there is a button showing “Java”. Just to the left is a button (like a window) for selecting perspective. Select


When that is finished, you should have Eclipse menu button containing a AVR* with a green down arrow. That is the button used to program the device.

Step 6. Define a freeRTOS static library project.

There are lots of short cuts, and alternative ways to achieve things using context sensitive menus in Eclipse. I’ll concentrate on the top menu bar options, though you can get most things from a context menu click in the right window.

File>>New>>C Project: AVR Cross Target Static Library: Empty Project

A static library project is never run by itself. It is always linked to by other projects, called AVR Cross Target Applications.

Give the project a name (perhaps freeRTOS82x).

Now a project will apear in the “Project Explorer” window. Select it. We are going to set some options relating to this project.

Project>>Build Configurations>>Set Active>>Release


AVR:Target Hardware: MCU Type: ATmega328p (or other depending on hardware)

AVR:Target Hardware: MCU Clock Frequency: 16000000 (for Arduino hardware or other depending on your hardware)

C/C++ Build: Configuration: [All Configurations] (make sure this is set for all following configurations)

C/C++ Build: Environment: AVRTARGETFCPU: 16000000

C/C++ Build: Environment: AVRTARGETMCU: atmega328p

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR Compiler: Optimisation: Other Optimisation Flags: -ffunction-sections -fdata-sections -mcall-prologues -mrelax (and use -Os or -O2)

Now we are going to add just the freeRTOS files, from the subdirectory within the freeRTOS82x_All_Files.zip file that you have downloaded from Sourceforge, and extracted somewhere sensible.

File>>Import…>>General:File System

Select the “into folder” as the project name you just created, and “Select All” for the import on the freeRTOS subdirectory. That should import the entire freeRTOS system. Spend some time browsing, if you like.

NOTE. Do NOT import the entire contents of the freeRTOS82x_All_Files.zip file. At this stage just import contents of the freeRTOS subdirectory.

Now we define the include library for the build. Remember to select [All Configurations] first.

Project>>Properties>>C/C++ Build>>Settings: AVR Compiler: Directories 

Add the from the “Workspace…”: freeRTOS82x/include


Now there are fouralternative memory management routines, explained in the freeRTOS documentation. We are going to use the heap_2.c version, so we need to exclude the other three files from the build. In the project explorer RIGHT CLICK (context menu) each one then exclude them.




Resource Configurations>>Exclude from Build…: Select All

Following this step, it should be possible to compile the library.

Project>>Build All

If there are any ERRORS, then go back and check the configurations for the project. Sometimes they may be changed, forgotten, or otherwise different from what you expected.

There will be some WARNINGS, relating to the usage of different Timers. I added these warnings to keep these things front of mind, as depending on which hardware I’m using the ./include/FreeRTOSBoardDefs.h file needs to be managed to suit.

Step 7. Define an Application Project.

An Application will generate the final hex code that you upload to the AVR with avrdude. This final code is created from the freeRTOS static library code generated above, together with code contained in the avr-libc, and any other linked projects.

We are going to import the UnoBlink or MegaBlink project as it makes a good example. Without a display, or real-time-clock module, it will only flash a LED. But, least we know it is alive.

To get started create a new project as below.

 File>>New>>C Project: AVR Cross Target Application: Empty Project

Give the project a name (perhaps MegaBlink or retrograde).

Now a project will appear in the “Project Explorer” window. Select it. We are going to set some options relating to this project.

Project>>Build Configurations>>Set Active>>Release



Configuration name: Arduino or Freetronics 2010

Programmer Hardware: Atmel STK500 Version 1.x firmware

Override default port: /dev/ttyUSB0 (FTDI USB) OR /dev/ttyACM0 (AVR USB)

Override default baudrate: as or if required.

AVR:Target Hardware: MCU Type: ATmega328p (or other depending on hardware)

AVR:Target Hardware: MCU Clock Frequency: 16000000 (or other depending on hardware)

C/C++ Build: Configuration: [All Configurations] (make sure this is set for all following configurations)

C/C++ Build: Environment: AVRTARGETFCPU: 16000000

C/C++ Build: Environment: AVRTARGETMCU: atmega328p

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR Compiler: Directories: “${workspace_loc:/freeRTOS82x/include}”

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR Compiler: Optimisation: Other Optimisation Flags: -mcall-prologues -mrelax (and use -Os or -O2)

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR C Linker: General: Other Arguments -Wl,–gc-sections

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR C Linker: Libraries: Add “m” without quotes. m is the standard math library, which should be included in most projects.

C/C++ Build: Settings: AVR C Linker: Objects: Other Objects Here you need to add the compiled freeRTOS library. And this is the only place where the Debug and Release builds are different.

With Release Build selected, paste “${workspace_loc:/freeRTOS82x/Release/libfreeRTOS82x.a}”

With Debug Build selected, paste “${workspace_loc:/freeRTOS82x/Debug/libfreeRTOS82x.a}”

Or select the Workspace option to navigate to the actual assembler files to be linked into the project.

Project References: freeRTOS82x ticked.

Now we are going to add the MegaBlink (or retrograde) files, from the MegaBlink.zip (or retrograde.zip) file that you have downloaded from sourceforge, and extracted somewhere sensible. If you downloaded the freeRTOSxxx_All_Files.zip, you have all the sources.

File>>Import…>>General:File System

Select the “into folder” as the project name you just created, and “Select All” for the import. That should import the 2 files shown inro the project file system. Spend some time browsing, if you like.

Following this step, it should be possible to compile and link the project.

Project>>Build All

If this step completes successfully, with no additional ERRORS, then the final step is to upload the new application into your Arduino or Freetronics device.

Make sure that you have your device plugged into the USB port, then simply hit the AVR* button in the row of buttons. You will see some green text showing the status of the upload, finishing with the words

avrdude done. Thank you.

Now, you should have a flashing LED.

Now you can import any additional projects, in the same way.

Step 8. Things to watch.

Turn on the serial port by removing the comments around the serial port definitions, and watch to see aspects of the program in action.

Expect to manage the amount of heap allocated in the ./include/FreeRTOSBoardDefs.h file, to ensure that the total SRAM utilised (as noted in the final linker stage when using heap_1.c, heap_2.c or heap_4.c) remains less than 100% or for ATmega328p 2048 bytes.

Expect to manage the amount of stack space allocated to each task during the set up, to ensure you’re not wasting space, nor (worse) you’re over writing another task’s stack.

For the Arduino Uno, keep the total number of tasks to below 4, otherwise too much SRAM is consumed in stack allocations.

Freetronics 2010 (Arduino Duemilanova) Overclocking & Review

Recently, I picked up a Freetronics 2010 from Little Bird Electronics.


I thought that it would make a nice upgrade to my Dogbot test bed. It uses the same USB connector as Dogbot’s Pololu SVP, so it saves me from keeping different USB cables handy, but is in every way 100% the same as the Arduino Duemilanove that I’ve been using up to now.

But, everything I own is hacked in some way. So as usual, I thought that the 2010 could be improved, just as I’ve improved the Duemilanove before it, by overclocking it to 22.1184MHz.

Overclocking to 22.1184MHz

So why change the clock frequency to this odd number of 22.1184MHZ, and not to 20MHz which would be in specification?

It turns out that because of the binary and integer world the 2010 and the Duemilanova ATmega328p MCU live in, it is much better have a “nice” binary and integer friendly base frequency. Unfortunately, although 16MHz on a 2010 or Arduino sounds nice, from the point of view of integer programming, clock scaling, and UART interfacing, it is difficult to get clean integer numbers.

A small example.
16MHz clock scaled to 115200baud = 138.888888889 so rounding gives an error term.
20MHz clock scaled to 115200baud = 173.6111111111 so, again, rounding gives an error term.
22.1184MHz clock scaled to 115200baud = 192 with no rounding error.

Also, even though we are getting 16,000,000 instructions per second out of a standard?2010, and that should be enough for any application. I can get 22,118,400 or a 38% improvement for the cost of a few cents. So, why wouldn’t you?

What kind of issues can occur?

Well, over-clocking means that the ATmega328p is out of specification. But, I’m not too worried about pushing specification on this project, as the 328p is certified for an industrial operating temperature range, which is way outside of my operating temperature… There are also unverified reports of AVR ATmegas working successfully up to 32MHz.

In the overall scheme of things, raising the clock frequency on the AVR ATmega328p above specification by 10% to 22.1184MHz is no big deal.

Upgrading Process

1. Obtain a 22.1184MHz HC49/US crystal from Digikey They’re pretty cheap. Buy a bag in case of accidents.


2. Use a knife tip under the existing 16MHz crystal to give you a lever to pressure it into removal, without burning your fingers. It will get very hot!

3. Turn over the board and use a soldering iron to heat the joints, whilst leaning on the knife to lever out the 16MHz crystal. Once it is removed, use some solder wick or similar to remove excess solder, and make it easier to insert and solder the new 22.1184MHz crystal.


4. Building a new bootloader. In replacing the crystal, the 2010 is effectively bricked. You can no longer communicate with it using the standard bootloader. It is now running too fast and out of specification for avrdude to communicate with it, so we have to compile and burn a new boot loader before we go any further. I choose to use the Adaboot328 bootloader from Ladyada. It resolves a few known issues with Arduino compatible boards, and is easy to compile.

In the ATmegaBOOT_xx8.c file, change the UART baud rate to 115200, if you use avrdude for programming (if using Arduino IDE, do not change this from 19200). Who has time to wait around these days for 19200 baud, anyway?

/* set the UART baud rate */
#define BAUD_RATE?? 115200

In the Makefile, change the AVR_FREQ value to 22118400L for the adaboot328: TARGET.

adaboot328: TARGET = adaboot328
# Change clock frequency from 16000000L
adaboot328: AVR_FREQ = 22118400L

Then, compile the bootloader, and keep it safe.

5. Prepare an ISP. There are many alternative ways to do this, and here is not the place to describe the alternatives. Suffice to say that I used the AVRISP method in the Arduino-0018 IDE. I’ve struggled with avrdude (which I otherwise use for everything) as a bootloader ISP. I don’t know why, but I can’t make it work.

It happens that I have a standard Arduino clone available, which I prepare as the AVRISP, by uploading the following sketch File>Examples>ArduinoISP.

6. To be able to use Arduino IDE to burn our special bootloader, you have to replace the standard ATmegaBOOT_168_atmega328.hex bootloader file, found in ~arduino/bootloaders/atmega/ with our newly generated file. And, to make things simple, I just rename or remove the standard one, and replace it with our newly prepared and renamed bootloader with this name

7. Connect our Freetronics 2010 up using the AVRISP connections, described on the Arduino web site. Make sure we have the right board type selected; it should be Duemilanova w/ ATmega328. Then using the Arduino IDE use Tools > Burn Bootloader > w/ Arduino as ISP.


8. Program a sketch using either the Arduino IDE, or using avrdude, remembering that the baudrate is set to 115200. And, enjoy.

Conclusions regarding the Freetronics 2010.

Its a very well designed and produced device, that is 100% compatible with the Arduino Duemilanova. Some advantages are: the mounting holes are slightly larger so cable ties go through nicely, smaller USB connector is more common than the B connector used on Duemilanova, and there’s no solder in the holes for the X3 connector so it is easy to add headers to make it possible to burn its own bootloader (if you want).

It runs my freeRTOS build with no problems, as seen in this demo on my Dogbot test bed with a Robot Electronics Thermopile, and Sharp IR Distance sensor.


WiFi Dogbot

I was looking for a “why” for investing my time in Atmel AVR devices, because with a “why” progress is always faster. I think making an autonomous robot with dog-like behaviour will make an excellent one / two year multi-layer project, that will be able to demonstrate itself at the end. Also it won’t consume too much cash.

This post is to create a problem description, expected outcomes, and path I’ll be taking. It will also be a reference when I forget where I was going with this.


  • Being able to find my ‘Droid when it has gone missing around the house, and (more reguarly) being able to find my wife’s Crackberry is a fairly regular occurrence. So, I’d like to build something that can find both of these WiFi enabled devices. Also, being able to search out iPhones and WiFi APs, like a drug sniffer dog, would be mildly entertaining for family and visitors.

Expected features

  • Autonomously seek out and approach WiFi sources in order of strength.
  • “Bark” when the device is in close proximity.
  • Navigate & travel at dog speed in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Avoid aggressive obstacles within the map. “Growl” at these obstacles.
  • Reorientate autonomously if an aggressive obstacle “picks up” or “plays”.

Optional features

  • Follow someone around whether or not they have a WiFi device.


  • The floor is flat. Litter can be avoided. -> a cheaper indoor chassis can be used.
  • The room is small. 10m x 10m map can be built, with translation as map edge approached. -> memory conservation.

Initial Plan

  1. Build chassis platform for use indoors.
  2. Build motor controls to allow straight line, radius, and B?zier motion.
  3. Build emergency collision avoidance.
  4. Build long distance sensors.
  5. Build voice box – bark, growl, yap, whine, etc.
  6. Build area mapping.
  7. Build aggressive object collision avoidance.
  8. Build aggression response.
  9. Build WiFi sensors & target mapping.
  10. Build intelligence logic to enable end result.
  11. Build Thermal sensors & target tracking.

Component sourcing

  • Chassis

1x Pololu 5″ inch Robot Chassis RRC04A http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/353
1x Pololu 42 x 19mm Wheel and Encoder Set http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/307
1x TB6612FNG Dual Motor Driver Carrier http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/319
1x Pololu Ball Caster with 1″ Plastic Ball http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/370
2x 30:1 Micro Metal Gearmotor http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/344

1x Arduino Duemilanove http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardDuemilanove
(will be replaced in step 9.)
1x Arduino Proto Shield http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=7914

  • Emergency Sensors

3x Pololu Carrier with Sharp GP2Y0D810Z0F Digital Distance Sensor 10cm

  • Long Distance Sensors.

2x Sharp GP2Y0A02YK0F Analog Distance Sensor 20-150cm http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/272
1x SRF10 Dual Transducer Ultrasonic Ranger http://www.robot-electronics.co.uk/htm/srf10tech.htm

  • Voice Box.

1x Piezo Buzzer from NerdKits

  • Aggression Sensors.

1x MMA7260QT 3-Axis Accelerometer http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/766
1x LISY300AL Single-Axis Gyro http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/765

  • WiFi Sensor (and revised Microcontroller Platform).

1x BlackWidow 1.0 http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/blackwidow-10-p-613.html

  • Thermal Sensor.

1x Thermopile Array http://www.robotgear.com.au/Product.aspx/Details/294

So, maybe the next post once some more details are to hand.