Tips for Debugging C++ Embedded Applications

Tips for Debugging C++ Embedded Applications

Last updated:

By Shane Garcia

Debugging C++ embedded applications is hard, but with the right tools, it can be efficient. Limited resources and simple operating systems are challenging. There are strategies to help developers.

This section offers expert tips for debugging C++ embedded applications. We will cover TotalView’s debugging features, using GPIO pins for code checks, benefits of serial output, importance of reading microcontroller documentation, isolating code and finding interdependencies, and the value of online technical communities.

Let’s dive in and discover how these techniques can enhance your debugging process and help you overcome the challenges of debugging C++ embedded applications.

Utilize TotalView for Advanced Debugging Capabilities

TotalView is a high-performance tool that can improve your debugging process. TotalView offers remote debugging, mixed language debugging, advanced thread control, and scripting. TotalView helps developers debug in tough environments with limited resources and simple OS.

TotalView’s mixed language debugging lets you debug C++ and assembly code. This is useful for embedded systems needing code in different languages.

Remote Debugging with TotalView

TotalView’s standout feature is remote debugging. It lets you connect to your device remotely, no physical access needed. With remote debugging, you can debug your application in real-time, gain insights into code execution, and identify and fix issues faster.

Benefits of TotalView

Remote Debugging Allows debugging applications on embedded systems remotely, eliminating the need for physical access.
Mixed Language Debugging Enables debugging applications written in multiple languages, such as C++ and assembly.
Advanced Thread Control Provides fine-grained control over threads, allowing you to analyze multi-threaded applications.
Scripting Capabilities Allows automation of debugging tasks and customization of the debugging environment.

Mixed Language Debugging

TotalView’s mixed language debugging lets you debug C++ and assembly code. This is useful for embedded systems needing code in different languages. TotalView’s advanced features help developers overcome the challenges of debugging C++ embedded applications. TotalView empowers developers to efficiently debug their applications and ensure their embedded systems perform optimally.

Verify Code Execution with GPIO Pin Toggle

One technique for verifying code execution in C++ embedded applications is by using a GPIO pin. This can provide feedback on whether a specific line of code is being executed. By initializing the pin to a low state and then setting it high or pulsing it when the code runs, developers can gain insights into the execution flow.

To use this technique, developers need to find a GPIO pin on the microcontroller that is not being used by any other component. Configure the pin as an output in the software, set it to a low state during initialization, and toggle it to a high state or pulse it within the code block you want to verify. Use an oscilloscope or logic analyzer to check if the GPIO pin behaves as expected.

It is important to ensure that the GPIO pin you choose does not interfere with other components or disrupt the operation of the embedded application. Refer to the microcontroller’s datasheet or documentation to find suitable GPIO pins.

Example GPIO Pin Toggle Verification Table:

GPIO Pin Code Block Expected Output Observed Output
GPIO1 if (condition) { // Code block to verify } High High
GPIO2 while (true) { // Code block to verify } Pulse Pulse

By using this technique with other debugging strategies, such as breakpoints, error handlers, and logic analyzers, developers can effectively diagnose and resolve issues in their C++ embedded applications, ensuring their software functions as intended.

Enable Serial Output for Live Application Logging

UART serial output helps log key events in real-time. By enabling serial output, developers can log important information and transmit it for analysis and troubleshooting.

Enable UART serial output to log and transmit important data. Once the connection is established, the embedded application can send relevant data through the UART, which can then be logged and analyzed in real-time.

By logging key events, such as variable values, function calls, or error messages, developers can gain valuable insights into the execution of their application. This can help identify any issues or anomalies that may be occurring and aid in narrowing down the root cause of problems.

Combine serial output with breakpoints to understand the application’s behavior. By monitoring the serial output alongside the execution of the code, developers can correlate specific events with the corresponding code execution for more effective debugging.

Benefits of Serial Output for Live Application Logging:

  • Real-time monitoring of key events
  • Insight into code execution and variable values
  • Ability to track and investigate anomalies
  • Aid in identifying root causes of issues

Enabling serial output through the UART peripheral is an effective technique for live application logging during the debugging process of C++ embedded applications. By logging key events and transmitting them through the UART, developers can gain real-time insights into the execution of their code. Combining this technique with other debugging methods can provide a comprehensive view of the application’s behavior, aiding in the identification and resolution of issues.

Consult Documentation for Microcontroller Configuration

Understanding and configuring your microcontroller is crucial. Consult the datasheet from the chip vendor.

The datasheet has detailed info on the microcontroller’s features and registers. It provides insights into how the MCU can be configured, allowing you to optimize its performance and troubleshoot issues effectively.

Key Points from Datasheets:

  • Pin Configuration: The datasheet provides pin configurations, including their functionalities and electrical characteristics. Understanding the pinout diagram is important for connecting peripherals and troubleshooting connectivity issues.
  • Peripheral Configuration: Detailed information about each peripheral, such as timers, UART, I2C, SPI, and ADC, can be found in the datasheet. This includes register descriptions, bit configurations, and interrupt handling.
  • Memory Mapping: The memory map provided in the datasheet helps you understand how the MCU’s memory is organized. This includes information about flash memory, RAM, and special function registers (SFRs).
  • Clock Configuration: The datasheet explains the available clock sources, their frequency ranges, and how to configure them. This is crucial for ensuring accurate timing and synchronization in your embedded application.
  • Electrical Characteristics: The datasheet provides important electrical specifications such as voltage levels, current requirements, and temperature ranges. Understanding these parameters helps ensure proper power supply and avoid potential stability issues.

Benefit | Advantage

  • Accurate Configuration: Consulting the datasheet ensures accurate configuration of the microcontroller, reducing the risk of faulty behavior.
  • Troubleshooting Efficiency: Understanding the information provided in the datasheet enables efficient troubleshooting of issues, saving valuable development time.
  • Optimized Performance: Utilizing the datasheet’s recommendations for configuring peripherals and memory improves the overall performance of the embedded application.

Refer to the datasheet to understand the microcontroller’s capabilities and limits. This knowledge is invaluable when debugging C++ embedded applications, allowing for effective configuration and optimization of code execution.

Isolate Code and Identify Interdependencies

Isolating code and identifying interdependencies between different parts of your C++ embedded application can be a valuable approach to debugging, allowing you to pinpoint the root cause of issues. By breaking down your code into smaller sections, you can narrow down the area where the problem is occurring and eliminate potential distractions.

One effective technique is to create a new project and go back to the basics of “Hello World” functionality. Ensure that your basic application works correctly before adding the code in question. This way, you can verify that the core functionality is intact and focus solely on the code causing the issue.

Once you have isolated the code, try the process of elimination. Comment out or remove large sections of code and observe the behavior of your application. This can help you identify any interdependencies between different parts of your code and narrow down the source of the problem. It’s important to approach this methodically and document your findings for future reference.

Additionally, consider consulting the technical community for assistance. Online technical communities and forums are great resources where you can seek help from experts and fellow developers who may have encountered similar issues. Sharing your code and explaining the problem can often lead to valuable insights and potential solutions.

Logic Analyzer

When dealing with complex interdependencies, it can be helpful to use a logic analyzer. A logic analyzer is a tool that can capture waveforms from multiple signals simultaneously, making it easier to debug communication between different components or chips in your embedded system. Analyzing the captured data can provide crucial insights into the behavior of your application and help you identify any issues relating to interdependencies.

Debugging Technique | Advantages

  • Code isolation: Allows pinpointing the root cause of issues
  • Process of elimination: Identifies interdependencies and narrows down the source of problems
  • Consulting the community: Access to expert advice and insights from fellow developers
  • Using a logic analyzer: Provides a comprehensive view of signal behavior

Remember that the choice of debugging techniques may vary depending on the microcontroller used and individual preferences. It’s important to approach debugging systematically, documenting your process and findings along the way to aid in future troubleshooting.

Seek Support from the Technical Community

When facing debugging challenges, seeking support from online technical communities and forums can provide valuable assistance and insights from experts and fellow developers who have encountered similar issues.

These online platforms offer a supportive environment where you can ask questions, share your experiences, and learn from others. Whether you’re struggling with a specific bug or looking for advice on debugging techniques, the technical community is an excellent resource.

Join these communities to benefit from their knowledge and expertise. Many developers are happy to help and share their insights.

In addition to receiving direct assistance, you can also learn from the experiences of others who have encountered similar challenges. Reading through forum threads and discussions can expose you to different approaches and strategies for debugging C++ embedded applications.

Shane Garcia


3 Thames Street BOLTON, BL1 6NN

01204 456413



Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.