Running code from an EEPROM

Introduction

Memory is one of the eternal limitations of computing, and the Espruino is no exception. Because Espruino does not compile the application code, and runs it from RAM, not flash, this problem can be especially acute on Espruino. However, because code is interpreted, that allows code to be stored in other mediums and easily run by Espruino, which is not possible on most microcontroller platforms. This shows an example of how one might store code on an EEPROM, and then call that code from elsewhere in your program. Because this requires preparing the EEPROM in advance, it's utility may be limited to code which does not change often.

Concept

In order to call these functions, we'll need a way to refer to a given function, and determine where it is on the EEPROM to execute it. We could pass the address that the function starts at, and it's length - but that means that every time the code on the EEPROM is modified, the application code has to change too. Instead, let's store a table in the EEPROM, using 4 bytes per entry - the first two will be the address, and the second two the length. In this example, it's started at an offset of 0x0100 (256), leaving the first 256 bytes free for general purpose storage. If we assume a limit of 192 functions, that would place the end of the index at 0x03FF (1023), so functions can start at 1024.


I2C1.setup({scl:B8,sda:B9});
rom=require("AT24").connect(I2C1,128,512); //512 kbit I2C EEPROM - you could use SPI EEPROM if you prefer; OneWire EEPROMs are too small.

rom.r = function (id) {
    var x=this.read(256+id*4,4); //start at 256
    if (x[2]!=255) { //this is the high byte of the length of the function we're calling - no funtion could be that long, so we're reading a blank index entry. 
        return eval(E.toString(this.read((x[1]+(x[0]<<8)),(x[3]+(x[2]<<8)))));
    }
};

Let's try it:


>rom.write(0x0400,"setInterval('digitalWrite(LED2,!a);digitalWrite(LED1,a);a=!a;',1000)"); 
=68
>//so we put it at 0x0400, and it's 68 bytes long... Lets call this function 0, so it's index entry will start at 0x100
>rom.write(0x0100,[0x04,0,0,68]);
=4
>rom.r(0); //and the lights blink!
=1

A few helper functions can handle modifying the stored functions in the code, and ensure that we don't overwrite existing functions:


maxid=192; //max number of stored functions
ftst=256; //index starts at

//getList() returns an object containing one property for each function listed in the function index on the rom, and also prints out it's progress in human readable format to assist the operator in loading the rom.

function getList() {
    var count=0;
    var map={};
    for (var i=0;i<maxid;i++) {
        var b=rom.read(ftst+i*4,4);
        if (b[2]!=255) { //if b[2]==255, length ~= 64K, which is clearly not valid data. 
            count++;
            var a=b[1]+(b[0]<<8);
            var l=b[3]+(b[2]<<8);
            map[i]=[a,l];
            console.log(i+". 0x"+a.toString(16)+" "+l+" bytes."); 
        }
    }
    console.log("Scan complete "+ count+ " functions in index"); 
    return map;
}

//getFunction(id) will return a string containing the code for that function, assuming it exists. 

function getFunction(id) {
    var x=rom.read(ftst+id*4,4);
    if (x[2]!=255) {return E.toString(rom.read((x[1]+(x[0]<<8)),(x[3]+(x[2]<<8))));}
}

//isSafe(address, length, map) takes a 'map' object (as returned by getList()), and returns 1 if a function of specified length can be placed in the specified address without overwriting something. 
//If it fails, print the ID of the function that it's got a problem with. 

function isSafe(adr,len,map) {
    var max=len+adr;
    for (var i=0;i<maxid;i++) {
        if (map[i]!=undefined) {
            var a=map[i][0];
            var l=map[i][1];
            if (((a < adr)&&(a+l > adr))||((a > adr)&&(a < max))) {
                console.log("Conflict on function "+i);
                return 0;
            }
        }
    }
    return 1;
}

//addFunction(id, address, function) - This creates a new entry for a function of 'id', located at 'address' in the function index, and writes that and the function (supplied as a string) to the rom, provided that that can be done without overwriting another function.


function addFunction(id,adr,str) {
    console.log("Adding function of length "+str.length+" at address "+adr+" with ID: "+id);
    if (isSafe(adr,str.length,getList())) {
        rom.write(adr,str);
        rom.write(ftst+4*id,E.toString((adr>>8),(adr&0xFF),(str.length>>8),(str.length&0xFF)));
    } else {
        console.log("Selected location would overlap with other function!");
    }
}

//deleteFunction(id) deletes the function with that ID from the function index. Nothing is done to the stored code itself, but it will now not be protected from overwriting by isSafe(). 

function deleteFunction(id) {
    console.log("deleting function: " + id);
    rom.write(ftst+4*id,"ÿÿÿÿ"); //that's char code 255
}

Taking it one step further, we probably don't want those helper functions wasting memory - during normal operation, they won't be used at all, and a system offloading code to an EEPROM to save memory likely cannot spare the memory anyway. Wouldn't it be nice if we could load those functions off the ROM when we needed them?


//we'll need a function like this too, to get rid of the helper functions when we're done. 
function cleanup() {
  delete getFunction;
  delete isSafe;
  delete deleteFunction;
  delete getList;
  delete addFunction;
  delete maxid;
  delete getFunction;
  delete ftst;
  delete cleanup;
}

addFunction(191,0x0400,'maxid=192;ftst=256;deleteFunction=function(a){console.log("del func: "+a);rom.write(ftst+4*a,"ÿÿÿÿ")};getList=function(){for(var a=0,d={},b=0;b<maxid;b++){var c=rom.read(ftst+4*b,4);if(255!=c[2]){a++;var e=c[1]+(c[0]<<8),c=c[3]+(c[2]<<8);d[b]=[e,c];console.log(b+". 0x"+e.toString(16)+" "+c+" bytes.")}}console.log("Scan: "+a+"");return d};getFunction=function(a){a=rom.read(ftst+4*a,4);if(255!=a[2])return E.toString(rom.read(a[1]+(a[0]<<8),a[3]+(a[2]<<8)))};isSafe=function(a,d,b){d+=a;for(var c=0;c<maxid;c++)if(void 0!=b[c]){var e=b[c][0],f=b[c][1];if(e<a&&e+f>a||e>a&&e<d)return console.log("Conflict w/"+c),0}return 1};cleanup=function(){delete getFunction;delete isSafe;delete deleteFunction;delete getList;delete addFunction;delete maxid;delete getFunction;delete ftst;delete cleanup};addFunction=function(a,d,b){console.log("Add func: L="+b.length+" @ "+d+" ID: "+a);isSafe(d,b.length,getList())?(rom.write(d,b),rom.write(ftst+4*a,E.toString(d>>8,d&255,b.length>>8,b.length&255))):console.log("Location conflict")};')

This stores a block of code that recreates all of the helper functions written above, as well as cleanup(). That code has been minified, and the console logging has been shortened - bringing the length to exactly 1024 characters. This places the end at 0x0800, making the address easy to remember. This leaves 62KBytes of EEPROM (assuming a 512kbit one was used) free for code.

Conclusions and extensions

This is an example of a very basic system for running snippets of code from an EEPROM. There is much room for improvement in addFunction(), which could be extended to look for an empty memory location to store the code in. Particularly with large EEPROMs, the index could be expanded, allowing a short string to "name" each entry. The data could be read as strings, and combined with named entries, you could have a string indexed data store on an EEPROM. You could store the index and data on different EEPROM chips, or add support for using multiple EEPROMs to store data - maybe you want to read the index quickly, and not worry about write endurance from regularly rewriting the index, and choose to use an FRAM chip for the index, instead of a traditional EEPROM. The possibilities are endless!

EEPROMs (and related technologies)EEPROMs (and related technologies)AT24Cxxx I2C EEPROM and FRAM (incl. M24M02, MB85RCxx, FT24Cxxx, 24LCxxx, CAT24Cxxx, BR24Gxxx)AT24Cxxx I2C EEPROM and FRAM (incl. M24M02, MB85RCxx, FT24Cxxx, 24LCxxx, CAT24Cxxx, BR24Gxxx)AT25xxx SPI EEPROMs (incl. M95xxx, 25AAxxx, 25LCxxx, CAT25xxx, BR25Sxxx)AT25xxx SPI EEPROMs (incl. M95xxx, 25AAxxx, 25LCxxx, CAT25xxx, BR25Sxxx)DS2xxx OneWire EEPROMs (DS24B33, DS2431, DS28EC20 etc)DS2xxx OneWire EEPROMs (DS24B33, DS2431, DS28EC20 etc)EEPROM on FlashEEPROM on Flash

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