Written By Neil


This article tries to test TinyOS 2.x on MSP430 tools in Quartus II Cygwin. And record the procedure and any problems encountered.

Compiling and Installing

I firstly try to compile a very simple TinyOS application called Blink.

You compile TinyOS applications with the program make. TinyOS uses a powerful and extensible make system that allows you to easily add new platforms and compilation options. The makefile system definitions are located in tinyos-2.x/support/make.

The first step is to check that your environment is set up correctly. Run the tos-check-env command:

$ tos-check-env

This script checks pretty much everything that the TinyOS environment needs. Most of the warnings should be somewhat self-explanatory, if you are at all accustomed to a UNIX environment. If you are having trouble with warnings, your best bet is to join and ask questions on the tinyos-help email list. It’s almost always the case that if you’ve run into a problem, someone else has too. Searching the help archives can therefore be useful.


There are warnings there in my environment:

tos-check-env completed with errors:

–> WARNING: The JAVA version found first by tos-check-env may not be version 1.4 or version 1.5one of which is required by TOS. Please ensure that the located Java version is 1.4 or 1.5
Depending on your PATH environment variable, there is often another  version of java.exe in c:\windows\system32 that is "seen" first. Check that this is version  1.4 or 1.5 or reconfigure your PATH environment variable if this is the case.
–> WARNING: No dot in current path.
–> WARNING: tos-check-env could not find the ‘dot’ executable which is part of the AT&T Graphviz package. Please install version 1.1.0 of Graphviz if you’d like to use the nescdoc documentation generator. If Graphviz is already installed, then dot may not be in your PATH.

Try "type java" to see where you are getting your Java from. 
If it indicates something like "jdk1.5.0_07/bin/java" or
other 1.4, 1.5, 1.6 versions you are probably fine....otherwise
you may need to install a modern JDK.

For Graphviz, if "type dot" doesn't find anything, a file search for
the "Graphviz" directory might turn up something which should go into
your PATH. GV is only used to produce the nice docs diagrams so it's
not a life-threatening thing to be missing. If you didn't get it
installed when you did TOS itself, look through tinyos.net for the
install package.
Thanks the help from the help archives:

If your system says some command is not available, then chances are you need to install the TinyOS tools (tos-*) RPM. Please refer to your installation instructions. If you have installed the RPM, then look in /usr/bin and /usr/local/bin for tos-check-env. If you have downloaded from CVS rather than used RPMs, then you need to compile and build the tools. Go to tinyos-2.x/tools/tinyos and type:

$ configure
$ make 
$ make install

On Linux systems, you will either need superuser abilities or access to sudo for the last command.

The second thing to check is that you have the TinyOS build system enabled. This involves the MAKERULES environment variable. In a shell, type

  printenv MAKERULES

You should see /opt/tinyos-2.x/support/make/Makerules. If your TinyOS tree is installed somewhere besides the standard place, you might not see /opt, but rather a different initial path. If MAKERULES is not set (printenv prints nothing), you need to set it. Depending on your shell, this involves using either export (bash) or setenv (csh, tcsh). If you don’t know about shell environment variables, this tutorial should help.

The make command to compile a TinyOS application is make [platform], executed from the application’s directory. To compile Blink, go the apps/Blink directory and depending on which hardware you have, type make micaz, make mica2, make telosb, or, for simulation, type make micaz sim.

You should see output such as this:

dark /root/src/tinyos-2.x/apps/Blink -4-> make telosb
mkdir -p build/telosb
    compiling BlinkAppC to a telosb binary
ncc -o build/telosb/main.exe -Os -O -mdisable-hwmul -Wall -Wshadow
-DDEF_TOS_AM_GROUP=0x7d -Wnesc-all -target=telosb -fnesc-cfile=build/telosb/app.c
-board=   BlinkAppC.nc -lm 
    compiled BlinkAppC to build/telosb/main.exe
            2782 bytes in ROM
              61 bytes in RAM
msp430-objcopy --output-target=ihex build/telosb/main.exe build/telosb/main.ihex
    writing TOS image

If you compile for TOSSIM, you will see a much longer message, as building TOSSIM requires several steps, such as building shared libraries and scripting support.

If you are running Cygwin and see the error message "The procedure entry point basename could not be located in the dynamic link library cygwin1.dll" then you need to install the other Cygwin nesC RPM (step 4 of the install instructions or step 2 of the upgrade instructions)

Making sure you’re invoking the right version of the nesC compiler

If you see an error message along the lines of this:

BlinkAppC.nc:46: syntax error before `new'
make: *** [exe0] Error 1

Then you are invoking an older version of the nesc compiler. Check by typing ncc --version. You should see:

ncc: 1.2.4
nescc: 1.2.8a
gcc: gcc (GCC) 3.3.3 (cygwin special)

Followed by some information on what version of the C compiler is being used. If you see different versions than those above, your compilation problems are most probably due to the fact that make is invoking the wrong version. This can easily happen if you are upgrading from TinyOS 1.x. You might have passed the tos-check-env because you have the right compiler on your system, but for some reason make is invoking the wrong one.

ncc is a script that invokes the full compiler, nescc. It lives in tinyos-2.x/tools/tinyos/ncc. If you’ve installed from an RPM, then the RPM put the new version of ncc in /usr/bin. You can see which version make is invoking by typing which ncc:

$ which ncc
$ /usr/local/bin/ncc --version
Unknown target mica
Known targets for TinyOS directory /opt/tinyos-2.x/tos
and the specified include directories are:

In this case, the version of ncc is so old that it doesn’t even respond to the --version flag. In contrast,

$ /usr/bin/ncc --version
ncc: 1.2.1
nescc: 1.2.5

The best solution to this problem is to move the old ncc to a different name (keep in around in case you need to go back to your old setup):

$ mv /usr/local/bin/ncc /usr/local/bin/ncc.old
$ which ncc

You can apply the same process for nescc:

$ nescc --version
ncc: 1.1.2
$ which nescc
$ /usr/bin/nescc --version
nescc: 1.2.5
$ mv /usr/local/bin/nescc /usr/local/bin/nescc.old
$ which nescc

Components and Interfaces

Now that you’ve installed Blink, let’s look at how it works. Blink, like all TinyOS code, is written in nesC, which is C with some additional language features for components and concurrency.

A nesC application consists of one or more components assembled, or wired, to form an application executable. Components define two scopes: one for their specification which contains the names of their interfaces, and a second scope for their implementation. A component provides and uses interfaces. The provided interfaces are intended to represent the functionality that the component provides to its user in its specification; the used interfaces represent the functionality the component needs to perform its job in its implementation.

Interfaces are bidirectional: they specify a set of commands, which are functions to be implemented by the interface’s provider, and a set of events, which are functions to be implemented by the interface’s user. For a component to call the commands in an interface, it must implement the events of that interface. A single component may use or provide multiple interfaces and multiple instances of the same interface.

The set of interfaces which a component provides together with the set of interfaces that a component uses is considered that component’s signature.

Configurations and Modules

There are two types of components in nesC: modules and configurations. Modules provide the implementations of one or more interfaces. Configurations are used to assemble other components together, connecting interfaces used by components to interfaces provided by others. Every nesC application is described by a top-level configuration that wires together the components inside.

Blink: An Example Application

Let’s look at a concrete example: Blink in the TinyOS tree. As you saw, this application displays a counter on the three mote LEDs. In actuality, it simply causes the LED0 to to turn on and off at .25Hz, LED1 to turn on and off at .5Hz, and LED2 to turn on and off at 1Hz. The effect is as if the three LEDs were displaying a binary count of one to seven every two seconds.

Blink is composed of two components: a module, called "BlinkC.nc", and a configuration, called "BlinkAppC.nc". Remember that all applications require a top-level configuration file, which is typically named after the application itself. In this case BlinkAppC.nc is the configuration for the Blink application and the source file that the nesC compiler uses to generate an executable file. BlinkC.nc, on the other hand, actually provides the implementation of the Blink application. As you might guess, BlinkAppC.nc is used to wire the BlinkC.nc module to other components that the Blink application requires.

The reason for the distinction between modules and configurations is to allow a system designer to build applications out of existing implementations. For example, a designer could provide a configuration that simply wires together one or more modules, none of which she actually designed. Likewise, another developer can provide a new set of library modules that can be used in a range of applications.

Sometimes (as is the case with BlinkAppC and BlinkC) you will have a configuration and a module that go together. When this is the case, the convention used in the TinyOS source tree is:

File Name        File Type

     Foo.nc       Interface

     Foo.h       Header File

    FooC.nc     Public Module

    FooP.nc     Private Module

While you could name an application’s implementation module and associated top-level configuration anything, to keep things simple we suggest that you adopt this convention in your own code. There are several other conventions used in TinyOS; TEP 3 specifies the coding standards and best current practices.

The BlinkAppC.nc Configuration

The nesC compiler compiles a nesC application when given the file containing the top-level configuration. Typical TinyOS applications come with a standard Makefile that allows platform selection and invokes ncc with appropriate options on the application’s top-level configuration.

Let’s look at BlinkAppC.nc, the configuration for this application first:


configuration BlinkAppC {
implementation {  
  components MainC, BlinkC, LedsC;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer0;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer1;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer2;

  BlinkC -> MainC.Boot;
  BlinkC.Timer0 -> Timer0;
  BlinkC.Timer1 -> Timer1;
  BlinkC.Timer2 -> Timer2;
  BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC;

The first thing to notice is the key word configuration, which indicates that this is a configuration file. The first two lines,


configuration BlinkAppC {

simply state that this is a configuration called BlinkAppC. Within the empty braces here it is possible to specify uses and provides clauses, as with a module. This is important to keep in mind: a configuration can use and provide interfaces. Said another way, not all configurations are top-level applications.

The actual configuration is implemented within the pair of curly brackets following the key word implementation . The components lines specify the set of components that this configuration references. In this case those components are Main, BlinkC, LedsC, and three instances of a timer component called TimerMilliC which will be referenced as Timer0, Timer1, and Timer2(1). This is accomplished via the as keyword which is simply an alias(2).

As we continue reviewing the BlinkAppC application, keep in mind that the BlinkAppC component is not the same as the BlinkC component. Rather, the BlinkAppC component is composed of the BlinkC component along with MainC, LedsC and the three timers.

The remainder of the BlinkAppC configuration consists of connecting interfaces used by components to interfaces provided by others. The MainC.Boot and MainC.SoftwareInit interfaces are part of TinyOS’s boot sequence and will be covered in detail in Lesson 3. Suffice it to say that these wirings enable the LEDs and Timers to be initialized.

The last four lines wire interfaces that the BlinkC component uses to interfaces that the TimerMilliC and LedsC components provide. To fully understand the semantics of these wirings, it is helpful to look at the BlinkC module’s definition and implementation.

The BlinkC.nc Module


module BlinkC {
  uses interface Timer<TMilli> as Timer0;
  uses interface Timer<TMilli> as Timer1;
  uses interface Timer<TMilli> as Timer2;
  uses interface Leds;
  uses interface Boot;
  // implementation code omitted

The first part of the module code states that this is a module called BlinkCand declares the interfaces it provides and uses.  The BlinkC  module uses three instances of the interface Timer<TMilli> using the names Timer0, Timer1 and Timer2 (the <TMilli> syntax simply supplies the generic Timer interface with the required timer precision). Lastly, the BlinkC module also uses the Leds and Boot interfaces. This means that BlinkC may call any command declared in the interfaces it uses and must also implement any events declared in those interfaces.

After reviewing the interfaces used by the BlinkC component, the semantics of the last four lines in BlinkAppC.nc should become clearer. The line BlinkC.Timer0 -> Timer0 wires the three Timer<TMilli> interface used by BlinkC to the Timer<TMilli> interface provided the three TimerMilliC component. The BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC line wires the Leds interface used by the BlinkC component to the Leds interface provided by the LedsC component.

nesC uses arrows to bind interfaces to one another. The right arrow (A->B) as "A wires to B". The left side of the arrow (A) is a user of the interface, while the right side of the arrow (B) is the provider. A full wiring is A.a->B.b, which means "interface a of component A wires to interface b of component B." Naming the interface is important when a component uses or provides multiple instances of the same interface. For example, BlinkC uses three instances of Timer: Timer0, Timer1 and Timer2. When a component only has one instance of an interface, you can elide the interface name. For example, returning to BlinkAppC:


configuration BlinkAppC {
implementation {  
  components MainC, BlinkC, LedsC;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer0;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer1;
  components new TimerMilliC() as Timer2;

  BlinkC -> MainC.Boot;
  BlinkC.Timer0 -> Timer0;
  BlinkC.Timer1 -> Timer1;
  BlinkC.Timer2 -> Timer2;
  BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC;

The interface name Leds does not have to be included in LedsC:

  BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC; // Same as BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC.Leds

Because BlinkC only uses one instance of the Leds interface, this line would also work:

  BlinkC -> LedsC.Leds; // Same as BlinkC.Leds -> LedsC.Leds

As the TimerMilliC components each provide a single instance of Timer, it does not have to be included in the wirings:

  BlinkC.Timer0 -> Timer0;
  BlinkC.Timer1 -> Timer1;
  BlinkC.Timer2 -> Timer2;

However, as BlinkC has three instances of Timer, eliding the name on the user side would be a compile-time error, as the compiler would not know which instance of Timer was being wired:

  BlinkC -> Timer0.Timer;  // Compile error!

The direction of a wiring arrow is always from a user to a provider. If the provider is on the left side, you can also use a left arrow:

  Timer0 <- BlinkC.Timer0; // Same as BlinkC.Timer0 -> Timer0;

For ease of reading, however, most wirings are left-to-right.

Visualizing a Component Graph

Carefully engineered TinyOS systems often have many layers of configurations, each of which refines the abstraction in simple way, building something robust with very little executable code. Getting to the modules underneath — or just navigating the layers — with a text editor can be laborious. To aid in this process, TinyOS and nesC have a documentation feature called nesdoc, which generates documentation automatically from source code. In addition to comments, nesdoc displays the structure and composition of configurations.

To generate documentation for an application, type

  make platform docs

You should see a long list of interfaces and components stream by. If you see the error message

sh: dot: command not found

then you need to install graphviz, which is the program that draws the component graphs.

Once you’ve generated the documentation, go to tinyos-2.x/doc/nesdoc. You should see a directory for your platform: open its index.html, and you’ll see a list of the components and interfaces for which you’ve generated documentation. For example, if you generated documentation for Blink on the telosb platform, you’ll see documentation for interfaces such as Boot, Leds, and Timer, as well as some from the underlying hardware implementations, such as Msp430TimerEvent and HplMsp430GeneralIO.

In the navigation panel on the left, components are below interfaces. Click on BlinkAppC, and you should a figure like this:

In nesdoc diagrams, a single box is a module and a double box is a configuration. Dashed border lines denote that a component is a generic:

                          Singleton                                      Generic



Lines denote wirings, and shaded ovals denote interfaces that a component provides or uses. You can click on the components in the graph to examine their internals. Click on MainC, which shows the wirings for the boot sequence:

Shaded ovals denote wireable interfaces. Because MainC provides the Boot interface and uses the Init (as SoftwareInit) interface, it has two shaded ovals. Note the direction of the arrows: because it uses SoftwareInit, the wire goes out from RealMainP to SoftwareInit, while because it provides Boot, the wire goes from Boot into RealMainP.


For now, the basic Cygwin on Nios II works, next step, we should build or map nesC to nios2-gcc!