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Arm Linux version of J-Link debugger lets the Raspberry Pi play host

Sep 11, 2020 — by Eric Brown 1,840 views

Segger has ported its J-Link debugging software to Arm Linux hardware such as the Raspberry Pi for use with its J-Link Debug Probes. The news follows the release of the compatible Eclipse Embedded CDT for Arm and RISC-V.

The Raspberry Pi and other Arm Linux gizmos have long been supported as targets by development platforms such as Eclipse and compatible debuggers such as Segger Microcontroller’s J-Link. Now they can act as the development platform itself.

Segger has released its first debugging software for use with its J-Link hardware debuggers that supports 32-bit and 64-bit Arm Linux platforms including the Raspberry Pi. Aimed primarily at industrial automation projects, the release coincides with the release of the compatible Eclipse Embedded CDT (C/C++ Development Tools) for Arm and RISC-V (see farther below).

J-Link Pro 500 (left) and J-Link Base Compact
(click images to enlarge)

J-Link for Arm Linux contains all command-line versions of the software and supports the same target devices and features found in the Windows, macOS, and Linux x86 equivalents. Features include high-speed download into flash memory and an unlimited number of breakpoints “even in flash memory,” says Segger.


The software includes the GDB Server remote server software, which makes it “compatible with all popular development environments.” The J-Link SDK supports writing custom programs for J-Link on Arm Linux.

J-Link for Arm Linux works with a variety of J-Link Debug Probes detailed in the chart below. All the J-Link probes offer USB, JTAG, cJTAG, SWD, SWO, and ETB Trace support, and some offer Ethernet, ETM Trace, WiFi, and other features. Bandwidth and target interface speeds vary, with RAM download speed ranging from 200KB per second to 3MB per second.

J-Link Debug Probe feature comparison
(click images to enlarge)

J-Link for Arm Linux is a significant milestone toward bringing Arm up to speed with x86 platforms for embedded development hosting. Yet, even the quad-core, Cortex-A72 Raspberry Pi 4 with up to 8GB RAM is less than ideal for more demanding development and debugging applications.

Raspberry Pi 4

Stated Liviu Ionescu, developer of the Open-Source Eclipse Embedded CDT project: “Although it seems very unusual, even unlikely, it is now possible to use a small Raspberry Pi 4 single board computer with the Eclipse for Embedded C/C++ Developers package and the additional xPack binary tools, plus Segger’s J-Link debug probe and J-Link software, to create projects, build them and run debug sessions! Amazing!”

Stated Rolf Segger, founder of Segger Microcontroller: “While the typical use is automated test systems and using Raspberry Pi as a J-Link bridge or Server in the LAN / WLAN, there are many other applications. With Eclipse Embedded CDT coming, it is possible to use Raspberry Pi and J-Link as hardware to develop, download and debug firmware for Embedded Devices.”

Eclipse Embedded CDT

Eclipse Embedded CDT (C/C++ Development Tools) comprises a set of plug-ins that allow developers to create, build, debug, and manage ARM and RISC-V projects with the Eclipse framework “without having to manually create and maintain makefiles,” says the Eclipse Foundation. Formerly referred to as GNU MCU/ARM Eclipse, the plug-ins include executables and static/shared libraries in both 32- and 64-bit versions and run on Windows, macOS, and GNU/Linux.

The platform provides debugging support via JTAG/SWD, as well as a peripheral registers view for debug sessions. Templates are available for some Cortex-M processors. The Eclipse plug-ins can integrate a series of external tools available from the separate xPack Project.

Further information

The J-Link for Arm Linux software is available in free non-commercial and commercial versions. The commercial versions of the J-Link hardware probes range from $378 for the J-Link Base Compact to $998 for the J-Link Pro, both of which are shown farther above. Educational versions such as the J-Link EDU and J-Link EDU Mini sell for as low as $18.

More information may be found in Segger’s announcement, as well as its J-link product page and J-Link shopping page.

More on Eclipse Embedded CDT may be found here.


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