Setup -- Preparing the SAMA5D3-XPLD Board for eCos Development


In a typical development environment, a direct hardware JTAG connection is used to load and execute the eCos application. For hardware debugging, eCos applications would normally be configured for ROMRAM startup. The same application binary can be executed via a hardware debugger environment, or programmed into the onboard NAND flash for loading via a second-level boot loader.

Alternatively, the SAMA5D3-XPLD board can boot from NAND flash into a ROMRAM RedBoot. eCos applications are then configured for RAM startup and then downloaded and run on the board via the debugger arm-eabi-gdb.

Note: Unless you explicitly need network based debugging, are interested in other aspects of the RedBoot functionality, or you lack the requisite hardware support, it is generally the case that development and debugging using a direct hardware JTAG/SWD approach is generally superior and obviates the need to install RedBoot on the target.

Atmel Secure Boot code and the normal RomBOOT code will disable JTAG over certain startups.

For JTAG debugging the RomBOOT code may need to be started with NO bootable source (e.g. JP5 NAND CS open and no bootable SD card) to enable JTAG access. After reset, a CDC-ACM tty connection (to the on-chip ROM provided SAM-BA terminal) via the J6 USB-A interface can be used to enter a # key to enable JTAG.

Bootstrap process

The typical bootstrap process for this board has several steps:

  1. RomBOOT (on-chip, cannot be modified).

  2. eCosPro BootUp or AT91Bootstrap

  3. Your choice of ROMRAM eCos application (such as RedBoot).

For more information about the bootstrap process, refer to the CPU variant bootstrap overview.

RedBoot Installation

The following RedBoot configurations are supported:

ROMRAMRedBoot running from external RAM. Loaded from NAND by second-level boot loader, or directly via JTAG hardware debugger.redboot_ROMRAM.ecmredboot_ROMRAM.bin

Note: The DBGU diagnostic (serial) debug channel is only exposed as TTL on J23 pins. A RS232 TTL to USB adapter can be used to allow serial diagnostic output. The serial terminal connection is not required for normal Ethernet based GDB debugging, but for initial board bring-up where no valid flash configuration is available it can be easier to see what network address has been supplied to the board.

If the standard serial diagnostic/terminal is not available, then it is worth considering configuring the local DHCPD to present a known (fixed) IP address. The current fixed RedBoot MAC address is 12:34:56:78:9a:bc. RedBoot defaults to using port 9000.

Programming RedBoot

There are several ways to program the target flash:

  1. Some hardware debuggers will allow direct programming of the target NAND flash.

  2. If a hardware debugger is available but does not support NAND flash, it is possible to load and run a ROMRAM executable that does know how to write the image to its flash destination.

  3. Atmel provides tools to work in conjunction with the on-chip SAM-BA monitor that can also be used to program the various memories. Detailed instructions for this process are provided in the Installing binaries with SAM-BA section.

Note: RedBoot is configured by default with both network interfaces active, and waits for both of them to come up before allowing user interaction. This may take up to a minute if either are not connected to a network. It is recommended to connect both interfaces.

Initializing RedBoot Flash Configuration

When RedBoot is loaded into the on-chip flash, it maintains a number of persistent settings in the configuration store on the NAND flash. The flash configuration area needs to be initialized with the following commands.

RedBoot> fconfig -i
Initialize non-volatile configuration - continue (y/n)? y
Run script at boot: false
Use BOOTP for network configuration: true
Default server IP address:
DNS domain name:
DNS server IP address:
Network hardware address [MAC] for eth0: 0x0E:0x00:0x00:0xEA:0x18:0xF0
Network hardware address [MAC] for eth1: 0x0E:0x00:0x00:0xEA:0x18:0xF0
GDB connection port: 9000
Force console for special debug messages: false
Network debug at boot time: false
Default network device: at91_eth1
Update RedBoot non-volatile configuration - continue (y/n)? y
... Erase from 0x00000000-0x00000fff: .
... Program from 0x2fdff000-0x2fe00000 to 0x00000000: .

Rebuilding RedBoot

Note: Pre-built RedBoot binary images are supplied with the eCos release in the loaders sub-directory.

RedBoot will normally be a ROMRAM startup, since it will be loaded via the second-level bootloader, or loaded directly using a hardware JTAG debugger, into the DDR2-SDRAM memory for execution.

The following example illustrates the command-line steps needed to configure and build a ROMRAM RedBoot:

$ mkdir redboot_ROMRAM
$ cd redboot_ROMRAM
$ ecosconfig new sama5d3xpld redboot
$ ecosconfig import $ECOS_REPOSITORY/packages/hal/arm/cortexa/sama5d3/sama5d3xpld/vsn/misc/redboot_ROMRAM.ecm
$ ecosconfig resolve
$ ecosconfig tree
$ make

The RedBoot Location section of the generic SAMA5D3 variant documentation provides a graphical representation of the ROMRAM model.

Building BootUp

Full details are provided in the BootUp Integration section.

Building AT91Bootstrap

As an alternative to the eCosPro BootUp second-level loader, the Atmel AT91Bootstrap second-level loader can be used to load a ROMRAM startup type application from the NVM boot memory into RAM for execution.

A version of the AT91Bootstrap source, modified by eCosCentric, is available in the directory $ECOS_REPOSITORY/packages/hal/arm/cortexa/sama5d3/var/vsn/misc/at91bootstrap. The original (as of writing) is v3.6.2 obtained by:

git clone

The modifications provide example configurations to allow RedBoot to be loaded by the SAMA5D3X-EK and SAMA5D3 Xplained platforms, and to allow compilation using the eCosCentric cross-compilation tools (e.g. 4.7.3e release).

The AT91Bootstrap binary can be built from the provided source with the following steps:

cd at91bootstrap
make mrproper
make sama5d3_xplainednf_redboot_defconfig
export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-eabi-

The result of this process is a second-level boot loader binary binaries/sama5d3_xplained-nandflashboot-uboot-3.6.2.bin that can be installed into NAND using SAM-BA as described below.

Installing binaries with SAM-BA

A version of the Atmel SAM-BA tool which supports the at91sama5d3x-xplained target (e.g. v2-12 patch level 7) can be used to install your choice of BootUp, AT91Bootstrap, RedBoot or any other ROMRAM eCos application.

  1. Download and install the SAM-BA tool, plus any required patches, from

  2. Disconnect JP5 (NAND CS) and ensure no bootable SD card is installed

  3. Connect host to J6 USB-A

  4. Launch the SAM-BA application

    • Select the relevant COM or /dev/ttyACM port

    • Select board type “at91sama5d3x-xplained”

    • Hit “Connect”

    Figure 244-1. SAM-BA Board Connection

  5. Re-connect (close) JP5 NAND CS

  6. Select DDRAM tab

    • In “Scripts” select Enable DDRAM and hit Execute

      Figure 244-2. Enabling DDRAM

  7. Select NandFlash tab

    • In “Scripts” select Enable NandFlash and hit Execute

    • In “Scripts” select Enable OS PMECC parameters and hit Execute

    Figure 244-3. Enabling NAND

  8. Program your choice of second stage bootstrap (BootUp or AT91Bootstrap):

    • Still within the NandFlash tab, in “Scripts” select Send Boot File and hit Execute

      • A file selection dialog opens. Find and select the relevant binary (e.g. bootup.bin) and hit Open.

    Figure 244-4. Programming the Second-Stage bootstrap

  9. Program RedBoot (or other application)

    • Still within the NandFlash tab, in the “Download/Upload File” area, select the file selection icon beside the Send File Name: field.

      • A file selection dialog opens. Find and select the binary (e.g. redboot.bin).

        Tip: The objcopy tool may be used to convert a built ROMRAM eCos application to the binary format required for programming.

        arm-eabi-objcopy -O binary application.elf application.bin

    • In the “Address” field change the address to 0x40000.

      Note: If you are using BootUp with a non-default setting of CYGNUM_BOOTUP_SAMA5D3_SOURCE_OFFSET, use that value instead of 0x40000.

    • Hit the Send File button.

    Figure 244-5. Programming the Application

  10. The SAM-BA application can now be quit

  11. Reset the board. The new images will be booted.

    Note: With RedBoot, the board will typically take several seconds to become ready as it waits for the network interfaces to initialise. (This may take up to a minute if either or both network interfaces are not connected to a network.) During this time RedBoot will not respond, either to telnet on the configured gdb port (usually 9000), or to input on the TTL debug channel. However the TTL debug channel will emit diagnostic output along these lines:

    +NAND: onboard: 1 partition  configured
    NAND: Read partition geometry from config store
    NAND: onboard: 2 partitions configured
    Ethernet eth1: MAC address 0e:00:00:ea:18:f0
    IP:, Gateway:
    Default server:
    DNS server IP:, DNS domain name: null
    RedBoot(tm) bootstrap and debug environment [ROMRAM]
    Non-certified release, version UNKNOWN - built 11:43:08, Jan 16 2015

Documentation license for this page: eCosPro License