TinyOS Toolchain

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This lesson describes the details of the TinyOS toolchain, including the build system, how to create your own Makefile, and how to find out more information on the various tools included with TinyOS.


TinyOS Build System

As you saw in Lesson 1, TinyOS applications are built using a somewhat unconventional application of the make tool. For instance, in the apps/Blink directory,

$ make mica2

compiles Blink for the mica2 platform,

$ make mica2 install

compiles and installs (using the default parallel port programmer) Blink for the mica2, and

$ make mica2 reinstall mib510,/dev/ttyS0

installs the previously compiled mica2 version of Blink using the MIB510 serial port programmer connected to serial port /dev/ttyS0.

As these examples show, the TinyOS build system is controlled by passing arguments to make that specify the target platform, the desired action, and various options. These arguments can be categorised as follows:

  • Target platform: one of the supported TinyOS platforms, e.g., mica2, telosb, tinynode. A target platform is always required, except when using the clean action.
  • Action: the action to perform. By default, the action is to compile the application in the current directory, but you can also specify:
    • help: display a help message for the target platform.
    • install,N: compile and install. The N argument is optional and specifies the mote id (default 1).
    • reinstall,N: install only (fails if the application wasn't previously compiled). N is as for install.
    • clean: remove compiled application for all platforms.
    • sim: compile for the simulation environment for the specified platform (see Lesson 11 for details). Example: to compile for simulation for the micaz: $ make micaz sim
  • Compilation option: you can change the way compilation proceeds by specifying:
    • debug: compile for debugging. This enables debugging, and turns off optimisations (e.g., inlining) that make debugging difficult.
    • debugopt: compile for debugging, but leave optimisations enabled. This can be necessary if compiling with debug gives code that is too slow, or if the bug only shows up when optimisation is enabled.
    • verbose: enable a lot of extra output, showing all commands executed by make and the details of the nesC compilation including the full path of all files loaded. This can be helpful in tracking down problems (e.g., when the wrong version of a component is loaded).
    • wiring, nowiring: enable or disable the use of the nescc-wiring to check the wiring annotations in a nesC program. See the nescc-wiring man page for more details. Example: to do a verbose compilation with debugging on the telosb: $ make debug verbose telosbAdditionally, you can pass additional compilation options by setting the CFLAGS environment variable when you invoke make. For instance, to compile apps/RadioCountoToLeds for a mica2 with a 900MHz radio set to ~916.5MHz, you would do: $ env CFLAGS="-DCC1K_DEF_FREQ=916534800" make mica2 Note that this will not work with applications whose Makefile defines CFLAGS (but this practice is discouraged, see the section on writing Makefiles below).
  • Installation option: some platforms have multiple programmers, and some programmers require options (e.g., to specify which serial port to use). The programmer is specified by including its name amongst the make arguments. Known programmers include bsl for msp430-based platforms and avrisp (STK500), dapa (MIB500 and earlier), mib510 (MIB510) and eprb (MIB600) for mica family motes. Arguments to the programmer are specified with a comma after the programmer name, e.g., $ make mica2dot reinstall mib510,/dev/ttyUSB1 $ make telosb reinstall bsl,/dev/ttyUSB1 to specify that the programmer is connected to serial port /dev/ttyUSB1. More details on the programmers and their options can be found in your mote documentation.

Customising the Build System

You may find that you are often specifying the same options, e.g., that your mib510 programmer is always connected to /dev/ttyS1 or that you want to use channel 12 of the CC2420 radio rather than the default TinyOS 2 channel (26). To do this, put the following lines

MIB510 ?= /dev/ttyS1

in a file called Makelocal in the support/make directory. If you now compile in apps/RadioCountToLeds, you will see:

$ make micaz install mib510
    compiling RadioCountToLedsAppC to a micaz binary
ncc -o build/micaz/main.exe -Os -DCC2420_DEF_CHANNEL=12 ... RadioCountToLedsAppC.nc -lm
    compiled RadioCountToLedsAppC to build/micaz/main.exe
    installing micaz binary using mib510
uisp -dprog=mib510 -dserial=/dev/ttyS1 ...

The definition of PFLAGS passes an option to the nesC compiler telling it to define the C preprocessor symbol CC2420_DEF_CHANNEL to 12. The CC2420 radio stack checks the value of this symbol when setting its default channel.

The definition of MIB510 sets the value of the argument to the mib510 installation option, i.e.,

$ make micaz install mib510

is now equivalent to

$ make micaz install mib510,/dev/ttyS1

Note that the assignment to MIB510 was written using the ?= operator. If you just use regular assignment (=), then the value in Makelocal will override any value you specify on the command line (which is probably not what you want...).

Makelocal can contain definitions for any make variables used by the build system. Unless you understand the details of how this works, we recommend you restrict yourselves to defining:

  • PFLAGS: extra options to pass to the nesC compiler. Most often used to define preprocessor symbols as seen above.
  • X: set the argument for make argument x, e.g., MIB510 as seen above. You can, e.g., set the default mote id to 12 by adding INSTALL ?= 12 and REINSTALL ?= 12 to Makelocal.

Some useful preprocessor symbols that you can define with PFLAGS include:

  • DEFINED_TOS_AM_ADDRESS: the motes group id (default is 0x22).
  • CC2420_DEF_CHANNEL: CC2420 channel (default is 26).
  • CC1K_DEF_FREQ: CC1000 frequency (default is 434.845MHz).
  • TOSH_DATA_LENGTH: radio packet payload length (default 28).

Application Makefiles

To use the build system with your application, you must create a makefile (a file called Makefile) which contains at the minimum:

include $(MAKERULES)

where TopLevelComponent is the name of the top-level component of your application.

TinyOS applications commonly also need to specify some options to the nesC compiler, and build some extra files alongside the TinyOS application. We will see examples of both, by looking at, and making a small change to, the apps/RadioCountToLeds application.

The RadioCountToLeds Makefile uses mig (see Lesson 4) to build files describing the layout of its messages, for use with python and Java tools:

BUILD_EXTRA_DEPS = RadioCountMsg.py RadioCountMsg.class

RadioCountMsg.py: RadioCountToLeds.h
	mig python -target=$(PLATFORM) $(CFLAGS) -python-classname=RadioCountMsg RadioCountToLeds.h RadioCountMsg -o $@

RadioCountMsg.class: RadioCountMsg.java
	javac RadioCountMsg.java

RadioCountMsg.java: RadioCountToLeds.h
	mig java -target=$(PLATFORM) $(CFLAGS) -java-classname=RadioCountMsg RadioCountToLeds.h RadioCountMsg -o $@

include $(MAKERULES)

The first and last line of this Makefile are the basic lines present in all TinyOS Makefiles; the line in bold defining BUILD_EXTRA_DEPS specifies some additional make targets to build alongside the main TinyOS application (if you are not familiar with make, this may be a good time to read a make tutorial, e.g., this one).

When you compile RadioCountToLeds for the first time, you will see that the two extra targets, RadioCountMsg.py and RadioCountMsg.class, are automatically created:

$ make mica2
mkdir -p build/mica2
mig python -target=mica2  -python-classname=RadioCountMsg RadioCountToLeds.h RadioCountMsg -o RadioCountMsg.py
mig java -target=mica2  -java-classname=RadioCountMsg RadioCountToLeds.h RadioCountMsg -o RadioCountMsg.java
javac RadioCountMsg.java
    compiling RadioCountToLedsAppC to a mica2 binary

As this Makefile is written, these generated files are not deleted when you execute make clean. Fix this by adding the following line:


to apps/RadioCountToLeds/Makefile. This defines the CLEAN_EXTRA make variable to be the same as BUILD_EXTRA_DEPS, with RadioCountMsg.java added to the end. The build system's clean target deletes all files in CLEAN_EXTRA:

$ make clean
rm -rf build RadioCountMsg.py RadioCountMsg.class RadioCountMsg.java
rm -rf _TOSSIMmodule.so TOSSIM.pyc TOSSIM.py

Finally, to see how to pass options to the nesC compiler, we will change RadioCountToLeds's source code to set the message sending period based on the preprocessor symbol SEND_PERIOD. Change the line in RadioCountToLedsC.nc that reads

 call MilliTimer.startPeriodic(1000);


 call MilliTimer.startPeriodic(SEND_PERIOD);

and add the following line to RadioCountToLeds's Makefile:


Note the use of += when defining CFLAGS: this allows the user to also pass options to nesC when invoking make as we saw above (env CFLAGS=x make ...).

Now compiling RadioCountToLeds gives:

$ make mica2
    compiling RadioCountToLedsAppC to a mica2 binary
ncc -o build/mica2/main.exe ... -DSEND_PERIOD=2000 ... RadioCountToLedsAppC.nc -lm
    compiled RadioCountToLedsAppC to build/mica2/main.exe

TinyOS Tools

The TinyOS build system is designed to make it easier to write Makefiles for applications that support multiple platforms, programmers, etc in a uniform way. However, it's use is not compulsory, and all the tools it is built on can be used in your own build system (e.g., your own Makefile or simple build script). Below we show how to build and install the RadioCountToLeds application for a micaz with the mib510 programmer using just a few commands.

First, we compile RadioCountToLedsAppC.nc (the main component of the application) using the nesC compiler, ncc:

$ ncc -target=micaz -o rcl.exe -Os -finline-limit=100000 -Wnesc-all -Wall RadioCountToLedsAppC.nc

This generates an executable file, rcl.exe. Next, we want to install this program on a mote with mote id 15. First, we create a new executable, rcl.exe-15, where the variables storing the mote's identity are changed to 15, using the tos-set-symbols command:

$ tos-set-symbols rcl.exe rcl.exe-15 TOS_NODE_ID=15 ActiveMessageAddressC\$addr=15

Finally, we install this executable on the micaz using uisp, to a mib510 programmer connected to port /dev/ttyUSB1:

$ uisp -dpart=ATmega128 -dprog=mib510 -dserial=/dev/ttyUSB1 --erase --upload if=rcl.exe-15
Firmware Version: 2.1
Atmel AVR ATmega128 is found.
Uploading: flash

If you wish to follow this route, note two things: first, you can find out what commands the build system is executing by passing the -n option to make, which tells it to print rather than execute commands:

$ make -n micaz install.15 mib510
mkdir -p build/micaz
echo "    compiling RadioCountToLedsAppC to a micaz binary"
ncc -o build/micaz/main.exe -Os -finline-limit=100000 -Wall -Wshadow -Wnesc-all -target=micaz 
-fnesc-cfile=build/micaz/app.c -board=micasb  -fnesc-dump=wiring -fnesc-dump='interfaces(!abstract())' 
-fnesc-dump='referenced(interfacedefs, components)' -fnesc-dumpfile=build/micaz/wiring-check.xml RadioCountToLedsAppC.nc -lm
nescc-wiring build/micaz/wiring-check.xml

Second, all the commands invoked by the build system should have man pages describing their behaviour and options. For instance, try the following commands:

$ man tos-set-symbols
$ man ncc
$ man nescc

Related Documentation

  • mica mote Getting Started Guide at Crossbow
  • telos mote Getting Started Guide for Moteiv
  • Lesson 1 introduced the build system.
  • Lesson 10 describes how to add a new platform to the build system.
  • GNU make man page.
  • man pages for the nesC compiler (man ncc, man nescc) and the various TinyOS tools.

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