Over the past few months, I’ve been rewriting it — in Rust.
This is an interesting test case for Rust, because we’re very much in C/C++’s
home court here: the demo runs on the bare metal, without an operating system,
and is very sensitive to both CPU timing and memory usage.
The results so far? The Rust implementation is simpler, shorter (in lines of
code), faster, and smaller (in bytes of Flash) than my heavily-optimized C++
version — and because it’s almost entirely safe code, several types of
bugs that I fought regularly, such as race conditions and dangling pointers, are
now caught by the compiler.
It’s fantastic. Read on for my notes on the process.
This is a position paper that I originally circulated inside the firmware
community at X. I’ve gotten requests for a public link, so I’ve cleaned it up
and posted it here. This is, obviously, my personal opinion. Please read the
whole thing before sending me angry emails.
tl;dr: C/C++ have enough design flaws, and the alternative tools are in good
enough shape, that I do not recommend using C/C++ for new development except in
extenuating circumstances. In situations where you actually need the power of
C/C++, use Rust instead. In other situations, you shouldn’t have been using
C/C++ anyway — use nearly anything else.
This post is the third in a series looking at the
design and implementation of my Glitch demo and the
m4vgalib code that powers it.
In part two, I showed a fast way to push pixels out of an STM32F407 by getting
the DMA controller to run at top speed. I described the mode as follows:
It just runs full-tilt, restricted only by the speed of the “memory” [or
memory-mapped peripheral] at either side…
But there’s a weakness in this approach, which can introduce jitter and hurt your video quality. I hinted at it in a footnote:
…and traffic on the AHB matrix, which is very important — I’ll come back
Quite a bit of m4vgalib’s design is dedicated to coordinating matrix traffic,
while imposing few restrictions on the application. In this article, with a
minimum of movie puns, I’ll explain what that that means and how I achieved it.
I love the ARM Cortex-M series of microcontrollers. The sheer computational
power they pack into a teensy, low-power package is almost embarrassing.
But, many Cortex-M parts are small — 4x4 millimeters small — and don’t have
the pins left over for JTAG. For these parts, ARM introduced a new debug
interface, called SWD.
Unfortunately, SWD isn’t well-supported by open-source tools. Support is in
progress in most of them — including my personal favorite, OpenOCD — but
I’ve had bad luck so far.
Anton Staaf was having the same issue, and decided to do something about it.
He tricked the cheap, commonly-available FTDI FT232H chip into speaking the
line-level SWD protocol. We’ve teamed up and, a week or so later, have
something to show for it.