Sean "xobs" Cross' Farpatch Offers Wireless Debug, Serial, and OTA Updates for Your Microcontrollers

Designed for Arm Cortex-M and Cortex-A boards, this compact add-on will make debugging as painless — and wireless — as possible.

Gareth Halfacree
3 months agoDebugging / HW101

Noted embedded developer Sean "xobs" Cross is preparing to launch a tool designed to make debugging your Arm Cortex-M and Cortex-A projects considerably easier and more convenient: Farpatch, a wireless debugger accessed via Wi-Fi.

"Farpatch is a wireless debugger, capable of programming, debugging, and interacting with a wide range of microcontrollers," Cross explains of the board. "Powered by the Black Magic debug software, Farpatch supports inspecting memory, single-stepping code, and adding breakpoints to your project. You don’t need to install any drivers, just join Farpatch to your wireless network, or let it run in AP mode if you’re not near an access point."

Farpatch itself is usable as a standard debugger, but with the added bonus of Wi-Fi connectivity to solve the rats-nest of cables normally associated with investigating problems with embedded projects. It launches by default with its own access point, though can also be connected as a device on an existing network — and supports "most debuggers," including gdb, VSCode, and IntelliJ.

The open-hardware board has a few other tricks up its sleeve, though: It can also operate as a remote serial port over TCP, UDP, or websocket, without the need to mess with the debugging functionality; and it offers an easy route to monitoring and updating devices in-the-field, which don't have native over-the-air (OTA) update capabilities.

"Making a submarine that needs to be sealed? It can be inconvenient and potentially damaging to open the case to update the software," Cross explains of the latter feature. "You can place a Farpatch into the case and continue to update it wirelessly, monitor serial logs, and inspect the contents of the running program."

The compact board, built around an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller, offers 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, supports board targets running from 1.8V to 5V DC, will ship with "at least 8MB of flash storage," and offers Serial Wire Debug (SWD) and JTAG support — with the potential for additional protocols to be added in the near future.

Cross is currently preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the board on Crowd Supply, at an as-yet unannounced price point; the hardware, firmware, and software will all be made available under a reciprocal Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license — though, at the time of writing, not everything had been made available on the Farpatch GitHub repositories.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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