BELK-AN-009: Using Visual Studio Code for remote debugging

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Bora5-small.jpg Applies to Bora
BORA Xpress.png Applies to BORA Xpress
1200px-Visual Studio Code 1.35 icon.svg.png Applies to Visual Studio Code

Warning-icon.png This application note was validated against specific versions of the kit only. It may not work with other versions. Supported versions are listed in the History section. Warning-icon.png

History[edit | edit source]

Version Date BELK/BXELK version Notes
1.0.0 June 2019 4.0.0 / 2.0.0 First release

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Visual Studio Code (VSCode for short) is a powerful integrated development environment (IDE). In the last years, it has grown in popularity among software developers of any kind, thanks to its excellent flexibility. Numerous extensions, native git support, availability for all of the most common platforms are some of the features that have made it so successful.

Even though it was not designed for embedded software development specifically, it is so versatile that it can be used for this purpose as well. This application note shows, for instance, how to configure it in order to remotely debug an application running on the Bora/BoraX platform. As host machine, the Virtual Machine released along with the BELK/BXELK kit was used.

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with at least one of Bora Embedded Linux Kit (BELK for short) or BoraX Embedded Linux Kit (BXELK for short), and with VSCode.

Host configuration[edit | edit source]

The example here described allows compiling and debugging the application for the host machine too. For this reason, the procedure indicates to install the native gdb debugger as well.

In essence, the followings are the packages that have to be installed:

  • Visual Studio Code with these extensions
    • C/C++
    • Native Debug
  • sshpass (sudo apt install sshpass)
  • gdb (sudo apt install gdb).

The two required extensions

The procedure described in this document was tested specifically with the following version of VSCode:

Version: 1.35.0
Commit: 553cfb2c2205db5f15f3ee8395bbd5cf066d357d
Date: 2019-06-04T01:13:26.790Z
Electron: 3.1.8
Chrome: 66.0.3359.181
Node.js: 10.2.0
V8: 6.6.346.32
OS: Linux x64 3.13.0-170-generic

Target configuration[edit | edit source]

The target has to be configured to mount the root file system over NFS. Please refer to link for more details.

The example project associated with this application note should be copied in this directory of the host machine: /bora/rfs/belk-4.0.0/home/root/hello. This directory is seen by the target machine as /home/root/hello.

Please note that you need to change the permissions of the directory /bora/rfs/belk-4.0.0/home/root/hello in order to allow the user dvdk to access it without any restrictions:

dvdk@vagrant-ubuntu-trusty-64:~/bora/rfs/belk-4.0.0/home/root$ ll
total 16
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Jun 12 16:27 ./
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Jul 10  2017 ../
-rw------- 1 root root 1102 Jun 12 10:41 .bash_history
drwxr-xrwx 4 root root 4096 Jun 12 14:55 hello/

After completing this step, you should see these files:

Files of the example project

The example project[edit | edit source]

The example project is the umpteenth flavor of the world-famous "Hello, world!" program. Source code is available [ here] for download.

The example makes use of a simple Makefile for cross-building. This Makefile can be used either to build the application manually or to build it automatically as part of a VSCode-controlled debugging session.

The following image shows the files that the VSCode workspace consists of.

VSCode workspace

The most relevant are:

  • hello.c
    • The source file of the program
  • Makefile
    • This file allows building the program manually from the command line. It is also used by VSCode to build the program before starting a debug session.
    • This script is invoked by VSCode to
      • Build the program for the embedded target
      • Kill the gdbserver instance running on the target
    • This script is invoked in turn by The final command that triggers the actual building process is make hello, that is the same command used to build the program manually.
    • This script is invoked only once on the target side; it guarantees that there is always a running instance of the gdbserver on the target
  • .gdbinit
    • In includes initialization scripts that are run by /home/dvdk/bora/sdk/belk-4.0.0/sysroots/x86_64-petalinux-linux/usr/bin/arm-xilinx-linux-gnueabi/arm-xilinx-linux-gnueabi-gdb upon startup. For more details, please see this page.
  • launch.json
    • In this file two configurations are defined:
      • (gdb) Native launch
        • This is used to build and debug the application on the host machine
      • (gdb) Cross launch
        • This is used to cross build the application on the host machine and to debug it on the target machine
  • tasks.json
    • In this file, two tasks are defined:
      • native build
        • This is used to build the program for the host target. In this case, an explicit command is run (gcc -g -o hello.x86 hello.c)
      • build and start remote debugging
        • As stated before, this task invokes the script.

Starting a debug session[edit | edit source]

In practice, once the target is up and running and the example project is copied onto the host machine as stated previously, follow these steps to start a cross-debugging session.

  • Open the VSCode workspace
  • Go to the Terminal panel and open an ssh connection to the target machine
    • Once logged, execute the script as shown in the following image. This operation has to be carried out only once, at the beginning of the first debug session.

Starting the gdbserver on the target machine

  • Select the (gdb) Cross launch configuration
  • Click on the green Start Debugging icon or select the Debug->Start Debugging menu item. Alternatively, press F5. You should see something like the following picture. It is worth remembering that the scripts take care of killing any gdbserver instance running on the target before starting a new debugging session. This allows starting it with just one click.

Cross-debugging session

For the sake of completeness, the native debugging session is illustrated as well.

Native debugging session

Download[edit | edit source]

The source file associated with this application note can be downloaded here. For accessing the BELK Reserved area, please contact our sales department.