Making SmartFusion2 Visible as USB Storage Using Linux Print


This application note explains how to make SmartFusion2 visible as a USB storage device to a USB host such as, for instance, a Windows or Linux PC or notebook.

The most typical example of when this functionality is required is a "data harvesting" application. In such an application, a remote SmartFusion2 device collects data readings from various sensors and then stores collected readings into a non-volatile storage such as SPI Flash. Once in a while, a technician visits the remote site to offload harvested data and take it to a main site for further processing. Using the functionality described in this note, the data offloading is as simple as connecting the SmartFusion2 as a USB device to a technician's notebook, which immediately recognizes it as USB storage. Collected data can then be simply copied from the USB storage to other disks on the notebook.

A variation of the same application is a movable device that is periodically taken to a main office for data offloading. In this scenario, the embedded device is simply connected to a PC as a USB device and data is copied from the USB storage to the host computer.

Note that this application note is not applicable to the M2S050-FG484 SOM since the M2S050 SmartFusion2 device does not support USB at this time.

Hardware Platform

The hardware platform is Emcraft Systems' M2S-FG484 system-on-module (SOM) plugged into the SOM-BSB-EXT baseboard. The on-chip cache is enabled by software for LPDDR.

Installing the Demo

The procedure described here explains how to install the bootable Linux image (usbgadget_disk.uImage) to the target.

Here is how you can build and install the bootable Linux image from the project sources (usbgadget_disk.tgz), having installed them on top of the Emcraft Systems SmartFusion2 uClinux distribution.

Note: The Linux image and the sample project have been built and validated in context of the Emcraft Systems Release 1.12.0. If you are using a different release, some porting changes may be needed.

High-Level Architecture

We will use the Linux File-backed Storage Gadget (FSG) to implement what we need. The main idea is that the FSG presents a file in the local file system as a storage device to the USB host. On the target side, the content of the disk is stored in a file (hence the "File-backed Storage"). The backing file is a "Unix file" that is given to the File-backed Storage Gadget as a parameter, which can be a normal file or a block device such as a disk partition.

To make data sharing workable using a Windows host, the USB storage must be formatted as a FAT file system. This way, data gathered by the target into the USB storage can be copied or manipulated otherwise, using standard Windows tools on the USB host end.

The implication of the above is that the backing file must be mounted as a FAT32 file system on the target side. This is not really a problem since Linux supports the FAT32 file system (along with many other file systems). Clearly, a file system can be mounted on a block device such as a disk or a disk partition but it is also possible to mount a file system on a normal file using the so-called "loop" device.

The big question is where we want the backing file to reside on a SmartFusion2-based device. We need the file to be on a non-volatile media. It is not really a hard requirement and we could keep the backing file in a RAM-based filesystem too, however in case there is an unexpected power cut, which happens all the time in embedded applications, all data we have collected would be lost. Not really acceptable, in a generic application.

The backing file must be in Flash, then. The M2S-FG484 system-on-module (SOM) provides a 16 MBytes SPI Flash. In Linux, that Flash can be split on as many partitions as makes sense from the application point of view. A few first MBytes of the SPI Flash are taken by the U-boot environment variables and a bootable Linux image, however the remaining Flash is sufficient to allocate a partition specifically for hosting the USB storage backing file.

Now, having allocated a Flash partition to the USB backing file, we have two options, potentially:

  • The entire Flash partition could be mounted as a FAT32 file system. It won't work however, for two reasons. First and foremost, Flash needs to be erased before it can be written to. The FAT32 implementation does not assume that it can be used with a raw Flash device so, as soon as an attempt is made to write data to an unerased Flash sector, an I/O error will be reported by the kernel. Secondly, even supposing that the FAT32 implementation is somehow amended to work on top of a raw Flash device, FAT32 is not architecturally designed to be hosted in a Flash device. Some Flash sectors would be written to more frequently than others and a Flash wear scenario will quickly occur.
  • The backing file can be a file in a JFFS2 file system mounted on the Flash partition. This is a reasonable solution since JFFS2 takes care, transparently for upper-level software, both of erasing Flash prior to writing and of ensuring that Flash sectors are uses evenly to avoid a Flash wear.

To summarize it all, the architecture we want to implement will be as follows:

  • The Linux File-backed Storage Gadget (FSG) will be used to implement a USB storage device accessible by host software.
  • To ensure that the USB storage content survives power-cycles and resets, the backing file will be in Flash.
  • To allow upper-level software accessing the backing file transparently and avoid a Flash wear, the backing file will be a normal file in a JFFS2 file system.
  • The JFFS2 file system will be mounted on a dedicated partition in the SPI Flash.
  • The backing file will be mounted as a FAT32 file system on both the Linux and host PC sides. On the Linux side, the backing file will be mounted as a FAT2 file system using the "loop" block device.

Preparing USB Storage

This section explains how to prepare the USB storage for deployment. This command sequence is a once-off procedure that needs to be performed on a device at software manufacturing time.

With the bootable Linux image (usbgadget_disk.uImage) installed, U-Boot loads the Linux image from the SPI Flash to the LPDDR and passes control to the kernel entry point:

U-Boot 2010.03-linux-cortexm-1.12.0 (Nov 25 2013 - 15:25:13)

CPU : SmartFusion2 SoC (Cortex-M3 Hard IP)
Freqs: CORTEX-M3=166MHz,PCLK0=83MHz,PCLK1=83MHz
Board: M2S-FG484-SOM Rev 1A,
In: serial
Out: serial
Err: serial
Net: M2S_MAC
Hit any key to stop autoboot: 0
16384 KiB S25FL128S_64K at 0:0 is now current device
## Booting kernel from Legacy Image at a0007fc0 ...
Image Name: Linux-2.6.33-arm1
Image Type: ARM Linux Kernel Image (uncompressed)
Data Size: 1334112 Bytes = 1.3 MB
Load Address: a0008000
Entry Point: a0008001
Verifying Checksum ... OK
Loading Kernel Image ... OK
Starting kernel ...

The kernel proceeds to boot-up, initializing the configured I/O interfaces and sub-systems:

Linux version 2.6.33-arm1 (psl (gcc version 4.4.1 (Sourcery G++ Lite 2010q1-189) ) #18 Mon Dec 9 21:34:58 +0400 2013
CPU: ARMv7-M Processor [412fc231] revision 1 (ARMv7M)
CPU: NO data cache, 8K instruction cache
Machine: Actel M2S
Built 1 zonelists in Zone order, mobility grouping on. Total pages: 16256
Kernel command line: m2s_platform=m2s-fg484-som console=ttyS0,115200 panic=10 ip= ethaddr=C0:B1:3C:83:83:83
PID hash table entries: 256 (order: -2, 1024 bytes)
Dentry cache hash table entries: 8192 (order: 3, 32768 bytes)
Inode-cache hash table entries: 4096 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
Memory: 64MB = 64MB total
Memory: 63628k/63628k available, 1908k reserved, 0K highmem
Virtual kernel memory layout:
vector : 0x00000000 - 0x00001000 ( 4 kB)
fixmap : 0xfff00000 - 0xfffe0000 ( 896 kB)
vmalloc : 0x00000000 - 0xffffffff (4095 MB)
lowmem : 0xa0000000 - 0xa4000000 ( 64 MB)
modules : 0xa0000000 - 0x01000000 (1552 MB)
.init : 0xa0008000 - 0xa005b000 ( 332 kB)
.text : 0xa010fa60 - 0xa0142000 ( 202 kB)
Hierarchical RCU implementation.
Calibrating delay loop... 154.82 BogoMIPS (lpj=774144)
Mount-cache hash table entries: 512
bio: create slab <bio-0> at 0
SCSI subsystem initialized
usbcore: registered new interface driver usbfs
usbcore: registered new interface driver hub
usbcore: registered new device driver usb
Switching to clocksource mss_timer2
musb_hdrc: version 6.0, musb-dma, peripheral, debug=0
musb_hdrc: USB Peripheral mode controller at 40043000 using DMA, IRQ 20
NTFS driver 2.1.29 [Flags: R/O].
JFFS2 version 2.2. (SUMMARY) © 2001-2006 Red Hat, Inc.
Block layer SCSI generic (bsg) driver version 0.4 loaded (major 254)
io scheduler noop registered
io scheduler deadline registered
io scheduler cfq registered (default)
Serial: 8250/16550 driver, 2 ports, IRQ sharing disabled
serial8250.0: ttyS0 at MMIO 0x40000000 (irq = 10) is a 16550A
console [ttyS0] enabled
serial8250.1: ttyS1 at MMIO 0x40010000 (irq = 11) is a 16550A
loop: module loaded

Note that 3 logical partitions are created on the SPI Flash by this Linux configuration. The first two partitions are taken by the U-Boot environment variables and the bootable Linux image respectively, so we can't use them, however the third partition is dedicated specially to a JFFS2 file system. This is where we will store the FSG backing file:

m25p80 spi0.0: s25fl129p1 (16384 Kbytes)
Creating 3 MTD partitions on "s25fl129p1":
0x000000000000-0x000000010000 : "spi_flash_uboot_env"
0x000000010000-0x000000410000 : "spi_flash_linux_image"
0x000000410000-0x000001000000 : "spi_flash_jffs2"
spi_m2s spi_m2s.0: SPI Controller 0 at 40001000,clk=83000000
cpuidle: using governor ladder
Freeing init memory: 332K
init started: BusyBox v1.17.0 (2013-07-17 14:32:52 +0400)
~ #

First thing we need to do is to erase the Flash partition we are going to use for the JFFS2 file system:

~ # flash_eraseall -j /dev/mtd2
Erasing 64 Kibyte @ bf0000 - 100% complete.Cleanmarker written at be0000.
~ #

We can now mount the newly created JFFS2 file system. As expected, it is empty at this time:

~ # mount -t jffs2 /dev/mtdblock2 /mnt
~ # ls -lt /mnt
~ #

Next step is to create in the JFFS2 filesystem a backing file for the FAT32 image.

The JFFS2 partition is about 12 MBytes in size so let's create a 8 MBytes FAT32 file system image:

~ # dd if=/dev/zero of=/mnt/fat32.part bs=1M count=8
8+0 records in
8+0 records out
8388608 bytes (8.0MB) copied, 11.512274 seconds, 711.6KB/s
~ # ls -lt /mnt
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 8388608 Jan 1 00:07 fat32.part
~ #

Now, let start the File-backed Storage Gadget on the backing file:

~ # insmod /g_file_storage.ko file=/mnt/fat32.part stall=0 removable=1
g_file_storage gadget: File-backed Storage Gadget, version: 20 November 2008
g_file_storage gadget: Number of LUNs=1
g_file_storage gadget-lun0: ro=0, file: /mnt/fat32.part
~ # g_file_storage gadget: high speed config #1

Assuming the SmartFusion2 is connected to a host as a USB gadget, the above command will make it immediately visible as a USB storage device to the host. Or, if the SmartFusion2 is not connected to a host at the time the above command is run, simply connect it to a host using an appropriate USB cable. For instance, on the M2S-FG484 Starter Kit connect a USB 2.0 A Male to Mini-B cable between a free USB port on the host and the USB OTG interface connector on the SOM-BSB-EXT baseboard.

At this point the SmartFusion2 should become visible as a USB storage device to the host, however the storage still needs to be formatted as a FAT32 file system to allow using it with standard host software. The formatting is done on the host using standard software. For instance, on a Windows machine, go to My Computer and then locate an icon for the new removable disk. Ask to format it and agree with anything that Windows suggests, until the storage is formatted as a FAT32 file system.

Harvesting Data on the Target

Ok, so now everything is ready to start deploying the SmartFusion2 as a "data harvesting" device. In all probability, the commands shown below would be put into the /etc/rc start-up script by any reasonably application, but in order to make the set-up command sequence easier for understanding, let's run the required commands manually.

For the sake of running a clean test, let's power-cycle the device. As expected, Linux comes up to the shell:

... Freeing init memory: 332K
init started: BusyBox v1.17.0 (2013-01-07 15:45:20 +0400)
~ #

First thing is to mount the JFFS2 file system:

~ # mount -t jffs2 /dev/mtdblock2 /mnt
~ #

Next step is to associate the backing file with a loopback block device, which allows us to mount a FAT32 file system on the backing file:

~ # losetup /dev/loop0 /mnt/fat32.part
~ # mount /dev/loop0 /m
~ #

Now, it is time to start the File-backed Storage Gadget making the FAT32 file system mounted on the backing file visible to a USB host as a storage device:

~ # insmod /g_file_storage.ko file=/mnt/fat32.part stall=0 removable=1
g_file_storage gadget: File-backed Storage Gadget, version: 20 November 2008
g_file_storage gadget: Number of LUNs=1
g_file_storage gadget-lun0: ro=0, file: /mnt/fat32.part
~ #

Let's "harvest" some data and store what is collected into a file in the FAT32 file system. In this demo, we emulate a data stream by taking a snapshot of the system time each second:

~ # while true; do date >> /m/data.log; sleep 1; done

Having let the "data harvesting" run for a while, let's interrupt it (by pressing ^-C) and take a look at what data we have collected:


~ # cat /m/data.log
Thu Jan 1 00:01:56 UTC 1970
Thu Jan 1 00:01:57 UTC 1970
Thu Jan 1 00:01:58 UTC 1970
Thu Jan 1 00:01:59 UTC 1970
Thu Jan 1 00:02:00 UTC 1970
Thu Jan 1 00:02:01 UTC 1970
~ #

All looks as expected, so we are ready to try accessing the FAT32 file system from a USB host.

Processing Data on the Host

Given the above set-up, a host will be able to see the SmartFusion2 as a removable disk as soon as a USB connection is made between a free port on the host and the USB OTG interface on the target. A message like this will appear on the target console when a connection to the host has been made:

~ # g_file_storage gadget: high speed config #1

Host software should recognize the newly plugged USB device as a storage device and mount it as a FAT32 file system. Data collected on the target can be copied to other host disks for further processing.

Note that the format of Windows and Unix text files differs slightly. In Windows, lines end with both the line feed and carriage return ASCII characters, but Unix uses only a line feed. As a consequence, some Windows applications will not show the line breaks in Unix-format files. Assuming that data is stored in a text file (vs a binary file) and Windows is a data processing host, Linux data harvesting applications should take care of the difference by adding a carriage return character to data logs.

Data Synchronization Issues

It is important to note that it is not safe to update the USB storage both on the target and host sides at the same time. Here is what the File-backed Storage Gadget documentation has to say about this:

AN IMPORTANT WARNING! While FSG is running and the gadget is connected to a USB host, that USB host will use the backing storage as a private disk drive. It will not expect to see any changes in the backing storage other than the ones it makes. Extraneous changes are liable to corrupt the filesystem and may even crash the host. Only one system (normally, the USB host) may write to the backing storage, and if one system is writing that data, no other should be reading it. The only safe way to share the backing storage between the host and the gadget's operating system at the same time is to make it read-only on both sides.

Given that the primary use of this technology is to let the host copy harvested data for further processing, this should be an acceptable limitation for most applications. It is important to understand however that the host will see the USB storage in a state it was in when the USB cable was connected between the target and the host. Further updates made to the storage by the target will not be visible on the host until a next plug-in.

As mentioned above, updates made on the host side may be unsafe in case the target continues harvesting data when the host is connected. Probably, the best strategy is to assume a read-only mount of the USB storage on the host side and let application code on the target take care of purging data at appropriate times. Note the File-backed Storage Gadget provides a special flag (ro=1) to allows mounting the USB storage for read-only access by the host.