Lucas Jenß

The Atmel SAM R21

Setting up a RIOT development environment

For the internet of plants, we have decided to use the Atmel SAM R21, a Cortex M0 based platform with an on-board IEEE 802.15.4 wireless module, to monitor our green friends. This post explains the general process of setting up a development environment for RIOT applications on Ubuntu 14.10, taking into account the peculiarities of the SAM R21 board.

Package requirements

The following packages are needed to build the necessary tools and the RIOT application:

  • General: git, pkg-config, autoconf, libtool, unzip
  • OpenOCD: libudev-dev, libusb-1.0-0-dev

They can be installed through apt by running

sudo apt-get install git pkg-config autoconf \
    libudev-dev libusb-1.0-0-dev libtool unzip \

In addition it is recommendable to update Ubuntu to the latest version after installing, by invoking

sudo apt-get update &&
    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Warning: Running a dist-upgrade is a potentially destructive operation, so it is NOT recommended if you don’t have a dedicated installation of Ubuntu 14.10 for this excercise.

Building OpenOCD

The Open On-Chip-Debugger (OpenOCD) is used by the RIOT build system for flashing the application onto the board and to debug it. The current release (v0.8.0) of OpenOCD, however, does not contain configuration files for the SAM R21 board, so it has to be built from source. OpenOCD also requires hidapi, which is not available as a package on Ubuntu 14.10. The following script will clone, build and install hidapi if all goes well:

TMP=$(mktemp) &&
    rm -r $TMP &&
    mkdir -p $TMP &&
    cd $TMP &&
    git clone &&
    cd hidapi &&
    ./bootstrap &&
    ./configure &&
    make &&
    sudo make install &&
    sudo ln -s /usr/local/lib/ \

Now that all requirements are installed, OpenOCD can be built:

TMP=$(mktemp) &&
    rm -r $TMP &&
    mkdir -p $TMP &&
    cd $TMP &&
    git clone openocd &&
    cd openocd &&
    ./bootstrap &&
    ./configure --enable-maintainer-mode \
                --enable-cmsis-dap \
                --enable-hidapi-libusb &&
    make &&
    sudo make install

Installing the toolchain

The 64-bit version of the “GNU Tools for ARM Embedded Processors” toolchain (as recommended in the RIOT wiki) can be installed via apt using the following script.

sudo apt-get remove binutils-arm-none-eabi gcc-arm-none-eabi &&
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:terry.guo/gcc-arm-embedded &&
    sudo apt-get update &&
    sudo apt-get install gcc-arm-none-eabi=

Note: A warning could be displayed that there are conflicting package names with the Debian apt repositories. That warning is already taken into consideration here and you can safely proceed by pressing enter.

Building a RIOT example application

Now that all the requirements are set up, a RIOT-based application can be built. Cloning RIOT (via, switching to the directory of the example hello world application and building it is performed by the following script:

git clone &&
    cd RIOT/examples/hello-world &&
    export BOARD=samr21-xpro &&

The only non-standard line here is the definition of the BOARD environment variable which tells the RIOT build system which hardware we are targeting.

Preparations for flashing

In order to be able to flash the application onto the board without root privileges, a couple of additional customizations are necessary. First we need to add our user do the dialout group by running the following command:

sudo usermod --append --groups dialout <our username>

This is required in order to capture the output from the board’s serial console, which is mounted as /dev/ttyACM[0-9]+ and belongs to the dialout group by default.

Note: You need to re-login after adding the user to the group.

Secondly we need to instruct udev, the device manager, to allow access to the kernel devices created by the hidapi. We do this by creating a new file 99-hidraw-permissions.rules in the /etc/udev/rules.d directory with the following content:

KERNEL=="hidraw*", SUBSYSTEM=="hidraw", MODE="0664", GROUP="plugdev"

Note: After adding the udev permission you have to re-connect the board for the changes to take effect.

Flashing and running the application

The next step is to get the application onto the board, run it and see the output it produces. The RIOT build system is already configured to do all of this for the SAMR board, under the assumption that OpenOCD is installed. For this we need two separate terminals: one where the command to flash the board is invoked and the other where the output from the board is displayed.

Setting up the output terminal

In this terminal we start a pyterm instance, a serial port terminal emulator written in Python, listening to the output of the board:

export BOARD=samr21-xpro &&
    make term

This should result in the following being printed, after which pyterm waits for output from the board:

INFO # Connect to serial port /dev/ttyACM0
Welcome to pyterm!
Type '/exit' to exit.

Running the flash command

Now we can switch to the other terminal window in which we will invoke the commands to flash the application onto the board:

export BOARD=samr21-xpro &&
    make flash

The CMSIS-DAP interface for flashing and debugging is quite slow (should be around 2KiB/s). So when flashing, you might need to wait a little longer. You can also apply an OpenOCD patch that increases flashing speed by 50-100%.

make flash flashes and subsequently resets the board, causing the application to run. For our hello world example it should result in the following output being shown in the terminal window in which make term was executed:

INFO # kernel_init(): This is RIOT! (Version: 2014.12-285-gfe295)
INFO # kernel_init(): jumping into first task...
INFO # Hello World!
INFO # You are running RIOT on a(n) samr21-xpro board.
INFO # This board features a(n) samd21 MCU.

Bonus: RIOT native mode

In addition to running the application directly on the target hardware, RIOT also features a target called native, which runs the application inside the host operating system. This is especially useful when flashing the devices is comparatively slow, as is the case for the SAM R21 board.

If you want to use native mode, the only thing required is a 32-bit version of libc installed on the system:

sudo apt-get install libc6-dev-i386

After installing this dependency you can then return to the directory of the example hello world application and invoke

export BOARD=native &&
    make &&
    make term

For native mode, the build system creates a 32-bit binary in the bin/native directory. The only thing make term then has to do is running that binary. You should see the same output as when running the application on the board, except for the board’s name and the MCU.

That’s all, folks!

Now that the development environment for RIOT has been set up and applications can be flashed onto the board, you’re ready to develop your first RIOT-based IoT application!

For more information about RIOT on the SAM R21, please visit the wiki page for the board in the RIOT repository. If you have any questions on the setup procedure or if anything is not working quite right, please leave a comment!

This article is based on a great post by David Karibe on setting up an open-source development toolchain for the Freescale FRDM-KL25Z board.