Upstream Linux support for Microsemi Ethernet Switch

VSC7513 Block Diagram
Microsemi VSC7513 Block Diagram
Starting last year, we have been working on the Microsemi VSC7513 and VSC7514 MIPS processors.

They have a 500 MHz MIPS 24KEc CPU and the usual DDR, UART, I2C and SPI controllers. But more interestingly, they also have an 8 or 10-port Gigabit Ethernet switch allowing to offload common network bridging operations to the hardware. As is usual for that kind of products, the vendor-provided SDK (called WebStaX) used to configure the switch is running in userspace and uses a custom in-kernel UIO driver to talk to the hardware.

However, this has now changed as we submitted support for the platform and the switch to the upstream Linux kernel:

The whole driver based on the switchdev Linux kernel subsystem, is about 5700 lines long.

Microsemi VSC7514EV

Thanks to this work, it is now possible to use standard Linux user-space tools to configure the switch. For example, the following will bridge the switch port and offload to the hardware:

ip link add name br0 type bridge
ip link set dev sw0p0 master br0
ip link set dev sw0p1 master br0

To achieve hardware offloading, the driver needs to:

  • configure port forwarding i.e. to what port the frames coming form a particular port should be forwarded;
  • handle the MAC table: this table is the one used to know on which port which machine is connected. Also, the broadcast and multicast MAC have to be installed;
  • handle STP port state: whether the port is allowed to forward frames or learn new MAC addresses;

VLANs are configured using ip and bridge:

ip link set dev br0 type bridge vlan_filtering 1
bridge vlan add dev sw0p0 vid 1 pvid untagged
bridge vlan add dev sw0p1 vid 1
bridge vlan add dev sw0p0 vid 30
bridge vlan add dev sw0p1 vid 30

Here, the driver configures the VIDs on each port and what to do about them (tag, untag, forward).

Configuring link aggregation is also done with ip:

ip link add name aggr0 type bond
ip link set dev eth_yellow master aggr0
ip link set dev eth_blue master aggr0

The driver has to configure the aggregated ports and the balancing mode. It also has to ensure the switch will forward the control frame (LACPDUs) to the CPU so Linux can know the state of the links.

IGMP snooping is a simple feature where the switch is able to push new multicast addresses to the CPU so Linux can install the MACs in the table and avoid having to forward the multicast frames on all the switch ports. In our case, it is simply enabled using a single register when multicasting is enabled on the bridge.

The switch supports more features to be worked on: PTP timestamping, QoS and packet filtering to name a few. We have already implemented PTP support, and we will be submitting upstream this additional feature in the near future.

To learn more about the inner workings of switchdev, you can refer to Alexandre Belloni’s ELC talk:

If you’re interested about upstream Linux kernel support for other Ethernet switches, do not hesitate to contact us!

Eight channels audio on i.MX7 with PCM3168

Toradex Colibri i.MX7Bootlin engineer Alexandre Belloni recently worked on a custom carrier board for a Colibri iMX7 system-on-module from Toradex. This system-on-module obviously uses the i.MX7 ARM processor from Freescale/NXP.

While the module includes an SGTL5000 codec, one of the requirements for that project was to handle up to eight audio channels. The SGTL5000 uses I²S and handles only two channels.


I2S timing diagram from the SGTL5000 datasheet

Thankfully, the i.MX7 has multiple audio interfaces and one is fully available on the SODIMM connector of the Colibri iMX7. A TI PCM3168 was chosen for the carrier board and is connected to the second Synchronous Audio Interface (SAI2) of the i.MX7. This codec can handle up to 8 output channels and 6 input channels. It can take multiple formats as its input but TDM takes the smaller number of signals (4 signals: bit clock, word clock, data input and data output).

TDM timing diagram from the PCM3168 datasheet

The current Linux long term support version is 4.9 and was chosen for this project. It has support for both the i.MX7 SAI (sound/soc/fsl/fsl_sai.c) and the PCM3168 (sound/soc/codecs/pcm3168a.c). That’s two of the three components that are needed, the last one being the driver linking both by describing the topology of the “sound card”. In order to keep the custom code to the minimum, there is an existing generic driver called simple-card (sound/soc/generic/simple-card.c). It is always worth trying to use it unless something really specific prevents that. Using it was as simple as writing the following DT node:

        board_sound {
                compatible = "simple-audio-card";
                simple-audio-card,name = "imx7-pcm3168";
                simple-audio-card,widgets =
                        "Speaker", "Channel1out",
                        "Speaker", "Channel2out",
                        "Speaker", "Channel3out",
                        "Speaker", "Channel4out",
                        "Microphone", "Channel1in",
                        "Microphone", "Channel2in",
                        "Microphone", "Channel3in",
                        "Microphone", "Channel4in";
                simple-audio-card,routing =
                        "Channel1out", "AOUT1L",
                        "Channel2out", "AOUT1R",
                        "Channel3out", "AOUT2L",
                        "Channel4out", "AOUT2R",
                        "Channel1in", "AIN1L",
                        "Channel2in", "AIN1R",
                        "Channel3in", "AIN2L",
                        "Channel4in", "AIN2R";

                simple-audio-card,dai-link@0 {
                        format = "left_j";
                        bitclock-master = <&pcm3168_dac>;
                        frame-master = <&pcm3168_dac>;

                        cpu {
                                sound-dai = <&sai2>;
                                dai-tdm-slot-num = <8>;
                                dai-tdm-slot-width = <32>;

                        pcm3168_dac: codec {
                                sound-dai = <&pcm3168 0>;
                                clocks = <&codec_osc>;

                simple-audio-card,dai-link@2 {
                        format = "left_j";
                        bitclock-master = <&pcm3168_adc>;
                        frame-master = <&pcm3168_adc>;

                        cpu {
                                sound-dai = <&sai2>;
                                dai-tdm-slot-num = <8>;
                                dai-tdm-slot-width = <32>;

                        pcm3168_adc: codec {
                                sound-dai = <&pcm3168 1>;
                                clocks = <&codec_osc>;

There are multiple things of interest:

  • Only 4 input channels and 4 output channels are routed because the carrier board only had that wired.
  • There are two DAI links because the pcm3168 driver exposes inputs and outputs separately
  • As per the PCM3168 datasheet:
    • left justified mode is used
    • dai-tdm-slot-num is set to 8 even though only 4 are actually used
    • dai-tdm-slot-width is set to 32 because the codec takes 24-bit samples but requires 32 clocks per sample (this is solved later in userspace)
    • The codec is master which is usually best regarding clock accuracy, especially since the various SoMs on the market almost never expose the audio clock on the carrier board interface. Here, a crystal was used to clock the PCM3168.

The PCM3168 codec is added under the ecspi3 node as that is where it is connected:

&ecspi3 {
        pcm3168: codec@0 {
                compatible = "ti,pcm3168a";
                reg = <0>;
                spi-max-frequency = <1000000>;
                clocks = <&codec_osc>;
                clock-names = "scki";
                #sound-dai-cells = <1>;
                VDD1-supply = <&reg_module_3v3>;
                VDD2-supply = <&reg_module_3v3>;
                VCCAD1-supply = <&reg_board_5v0>;
                VCCAD2-supply = <&reg_board_5v0>;
                VCCDA1-supply = <&reg_board_5v0>;
                VCCDA2-supply = <&reg_board_5v0>;

#sound-dai-cells is what allows to select between the input and output interfaces.

On top of that, multiple issues had to be fixed:

Finally, an ALSA configuration file (/usr/share/alsa/cards/imx7-pcm3168.conf) was written to ensure samples sent to the card are in the proper format, S32_LE. 24-bit samples will simply have zeroes in the least significant byte. For 32-bit samples, the codec will properly ignore the least significant byte.
Also this describes that the first subdevice is the playback (output) device and the second subdevice is the capture (input) device.

imx7-pcm3168.pcm.default {
	@args [ CARD ]
	@args.CARD {
		type string
	type asym
	playback.pcm {
		type plug
		slave {
			pcm {
				type hw
				card $CARD
				device 0
			format S32_LE
			rate 48000
			channels 4
	capture.pcm {
		type plug
		slave {
			pcm {
				type hw
				card $CARD
				device 1
			format S32_LE
			rate 48000
			channels 4

On top of that, the dmix and dsnoop ALSA plugins can be used to separate channels.

To conclude, this shows that it is possible to easily leverage existing code to integrate an audio codec in a design by simply writing a device tree snippet and maybe an ALSA configuration file if necessary.

Linux 4.8 released, Bootlin contributions

Adelie PenguinLinux 4.8 has been released on Sunday by Linus Torvalds, with numerous new features and improvements that have been described in details on LWN: part 1, part 2 and part 3. KernelNewbies also has an updated page on the 4.8 release. We contributed a total of 153 patches to this release. LWN also published some statistics about this development cycle.

Our most significant contributions:

  • Boris Brezillon improved the Rockchip PWM driver to avoid glitches basing that work on his previous improvement to the PWM subsystem already merged in the kernel. He also fixed a few issues and shortcomings in the pwm regulator driver. This is finishing his work on the Rockchip based Chromebook platforms where a PWM is used for a regulator.
  • While working on the driver for the sii902x HDMI transceiver, Boris Brezillon did a cleanup of many DRM drivers. Those drivers were open coding the encoder selection. This is now done in the core DRM subsystem.
  • On the support of Atmel platforms
    • Alexandre Belloni cleaned up the existing board device trees, removing unused clock definitions and starting to remove warnings when compiling with the Device Tree Compiler (dtc).
  • On the support of Allwinner platforms
    • Maxime Ripard contributed a brand new infrastructure, named sunxi-ng, to manage the clocks of the Allwinner platforms, fixing shortcomings of the Device Tree representation used by the existing implementation. He moved the support of the Allwinner H3 clocks to this new infrastructure.
    • Maxime also developed a driver for the Allwinner A10 Digital Audio controller, bringing audio support to this platform.
    • Boris Brezillon improved the Allwinner NAND controller driver to support DMA assisted operations, which brings a very nice speed-up to throughput on platforms using NAND flashes as the storage, which is the case of Nextthing’s C.H.I.P.
    • Quentin Schulz added support for the Allwinner R16 EVB (Parrot) board.
  • On the support of Marvell platforms
    • Grégory Clément added multiple clock definitions for the Armada 37xx series of SoCs.
    • He also corrected a few issues with the I/O coherency on some Marvell SoCs
    • Romain Perier worked on the Marvell CESA cryptography driver, bringing significant performance improvements, especially for dmcrypt usage. This driver is used on numerous Marvell platforms: Orion, Kirkwood, Armada 370, XP, 375 and 38x.
    • Thomas Petazzoni submitted a driver for the Aardvark PCI host controller present in the Armada 3700, enabling PCI support for this platform.
    • Thomas also added a driver for the new XOR engine found in the Armada 7K and Armada 8K families

Here are in details, the different contributions we made to this release:

Embedded Linux Projects Using Yocto Project Cookbook

Embedded Linux Projects Using Yocto Project Cookbook Cover

We were kindly provided a copy of Embedded Linux Projects Using Yocto Project Cookbook, written by Alex González. It is available at Packt Publishing, either in an electronic format (DRM free) or printed.

It is written as a cookbook so it is a set of recipes that you can refer to and solve your immediate problems instead of reading it from cover to cover. While, as indicated by the title, the main topic is embedded development using Yocto Project, the book also includes generic embedded Linux tips, like debugging the kernel with ftrace or debugging a device tree from U-Boot.

The chapters cover the following topics:

  • The Build System: an introduction to Yocto Project.
  • The BSP Layer: how to build and customize the bootloader and the Linux kernel, plenty of tips on how to debug kernel related issues.
  • The Software layer: covers adding a package and its configuration, selecting the initialization manager and making a release while complying with the various licenses.
  • Application development: using the SDK, various IDEs (Eclipse, Qt creator), build systems (make, CMake, SCons).
  • Debugging, Tracing and Profiling: great examples and tips for the usage of gdb, strace, perf, systemtap, OProfile, LTTng and blktrace.

The structure of the book makes it is easy to find the answers you are looking for and also explains the underlying concepts of the solution. It is definitively of good value once you start using Yocto Project.

Bootlin is also offering a Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded training course (detailed agenda) to help you start with your projects. If you’re interested, join one of the upcoming public training sessions, or order a session at your location!

Bootlin registered as Yocto Project Participant.

Earlier this month, Bootlin applied and was elected Yocto Project Participant by the Yocto Project Advisory Board. This badge is awarded to people and companies actively participating to the Yocto Project and promoting it.

We have mainly contributed to the meta-fsl-arm and meta-fsl-arm-extra layers but we also have some contributions in OpenEmbedded Core and in the meta-ti layer.

Bootlin offers a Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded training course that we can deliver at your location, or that you can attend by joining one of our public sessions. Our engineers are also available to provide consulting and development services around the Yocto Project, to help you use this tool for your embedded Linux projects. Do not hesitate to contact us!