Minimal Real Time Operating System for Embedded Applications  
Copyright (C) 2000-2017 Universidad de Cantabria, SPAIN
Authors:  Mario Aldea Rivas

Michael González Harbour

User's Guide

(Last updated for MaRTE OS version 1.9_06Jun2011)

Contents of this Guide

  1. Making Applications
  2. Cross development environment (architecture x86)
  3. Debugging Applications
  4. Configuring a Stand-Alone Target
  5. Compiling MaRTE Kernel and Libraries
  6. Optimizing MaRTE Kernel for Speed and Size
  7. Enabling Debug Checks and Messages in the Kernel
  8. MaRTE OS device drivers
  9. Using the 'tasks_inspector' Tool
  10. Changing MaRTE OS Configuration Parameters
  11. Miscellany of Utilities

1.- Making Applications

Applications are made using the scripts mgcc and mgnatmake. They are invoked in almost the same way that gcc and gnatmake. They link the user's application with the MaRTE OS libraries.

Examples of use:

$ mgcc -g -O2 extra_obj.o my_program.c

$ mgcc use_math.c -lm

$ mgnatmake -gnato my_program.adb

For Ada programs also mgnatbind is provided.

Including MaRTE OS source directories

In order to use MaRTE Ada packages in a user's Ada application it is necessary to include in the compilation command the directories where MaRTE sources are located. It can be done very easily by including a MaRTE specific flag for mgnatmake: -Imarte_src_dirs

$ mgnatmake -gnata -Imarte_src_dirs my_program.adb

(using -Imarte_src_dirs is equivalent to -aI$MPATH/kernel -aI$MPATH/sll -aI$MPATH/arch/hwi -aI$MPATH/misc -aI$MPATH/posix5 -aIall_the_drivers_directories -aO$MPATH/lib)

2.- Cross development environment (architecture x86)

A cross development environment uses two computers: the host and the target. The host computer is a PC with Linux, GNAT and MaRTE_OS, where we write and make the application. The target is the computer where the application will be executed. As target MaRTE OS only requires a PC with a 386 processor or above and a boot device: floppy, hard disk, Flash-RAM, PXE, ...

Usualy the application will be transferred from the host to the target across Ethernet. Probably the easiest way of doing it is using a floppy disk and "Etherboot" (for more information visit "MaRTE OS Boot process (x86 architecture)" it also describes other booting alternatives involving hard disk, Flash-RAM, PXE, etc.).

It can also be used and emulator to emulate a real target computer. More information about this topic in the documentation section of the MaRTE OS web page.

[Note] "Etherboot": An Etherboot image can be created at as explained in the installation guide "INSTALL".

[Note] "MaRTE OS Boot process (x86 architecture)": MaRTE OS Boot process (x86 architecture) in the documentation section of the MaRTE OS web page.

[Note] "Hello MaRTE OS using an emulator": Hello MaRTE OS using an emulator in the documentation section of the MaRTE OS web page.

3.- Debugging Applications

Architecture x86

For the x86 architecture if you are using a target PC you can debug it using a serial line (RS-232) connecting host and target.

In order to debug an application it should be compiled with the -g flag. To synchronize the execution with the remote debugger running in the host is necessary to add these lines to the application code (possibly at the very beginning of your program):
Ada program:
with Debug_Marte; use Debug_Marte;
procedure My_Proc is
  Debug_Marte.Init_Serial_Communication_With_Gdb (Serial_Port_1);

  Application's code;
end My_Proc;

C program:
#include <debug_marte.h>
int main()
  init_serial_communication_with_gdb (SERIAL_PORT_1);

  Application's code;

The application executes until the first Debug_Marte.Set_Break_Point_Here or set_break_point_here is reached. At this point the execution is stopped and the target is ready to synchronize with the debugger.

At the MaRTE installation path run gdb:

$ gdb mprogram

The connection with the target is performed by executing the following "gdb" command:

(gdb) target remote /dev/ttyS0

Where '/dev/ttyS0' is the device file for the serial port 1. After this you should get a message like this:

Remote debugging using /dev/ttyS0
main () at hello_world.c:25
25 printf("\nHello, I'm a C program running on the MaRTE OS.\n\n");

All these steps can be performed at once executing:

$ gdb -x /installation/path/marte/utils/marte_db

When executing gdb as above it is possible to reconnect with the target using the macro connect:

(gdb) connect

Architecture x86 using the QEMU emulator

For the x86 architecture if you are using the QEMU emulator as a target PC you can use its built-in debugging capabilities. (More in the tutorials section):

$ qemu -kernel marte_program -s -S &

$ ddd &

(gdb) target remote localhost:1234

(gdb) break main

(gdb) cont

Architectures Linux and Linux_Lib

If you have chosen Linux or Linux_lib as your architecture you can debug the program as any other Linux application:

$ cd $HOME/marte

$ mgnatmake -g hello_world.adb -o mprogram


$ mgcc -g hello_world_c.c -o mprogram

$ gdb mprogram

4.- Configuring a stand-alone target

The netbooting of user's applications is a very suitable method for the developing stage, but if you prefer it, the application can be executed in a target completely disconnected from any other computer. For this configuration neither the RS-232 nor the Ethernet are necessary for the target computer, only a boot device (floppy, hard disk, Flash-RAM) is required.

A very easy way of doing this is using the "grup-floppy image" provided in the download section of the MaRTE OS web page. In order to create a grup floppy, untar the file and copy the disk image to a floppy:

$ tar zxf grubfloppy.img.tgz

$ dd if=grubfloppy.img of=/dev/fd0

Then, every time you want to run a MaRTE OS application copy the mprogram to the floppy:

$ mcopy my_program a:mprogram

Finally insert the floppy in your target computer and reset it.

Remember the MaRTE application (mprogram) must fit in the disk (< 1.4 Mb). 

Information about how to use other boot devices in: "MaRTE OS Boot process (x86 architecture)": MaRTE OS Boot process (x86 architecture) in the documentation section of the MaRTE OS web page.

5.- Compiling MaRTE kernel and libraries

The kernel and libraries are compiled using full optimization options during the installation stage, so if you are planning to use MaRTE OS "as is" to build your applications, just skip the rest of this chapter.

But there are some reasons why you can be interested on recompile MaRTE OS:

There are some scripts in the 'utils/' directory that allow you to recompile the kernel and/or the libraries:


When used without parameters, msetcurrentarch returns the current architecture.  That is, the architecture for which mgcc and mgnatmake are currently configured to generate the executable.

This script can also be used to change the current architecture:

  $ msetcurrentarch linux


  $ msetcurrentarch linux_lib


  $ msetcurrentarch x86 [i386 | pi | pii]

The "processor" flag allows to specify the processor to be used in the x86 architecture:


Compiles the kernel and drivers (calling 'mkdrivers'). It accepts gnat and/or gcc options, so if you want a kernel optimized for speed execute:

$ mkkernel -gnatn -O3 -gnatp

The "-f" flag can be added to force the recompilation of all the kernel, otherwise only modified and related packages will be compiled. 

The -compile_only_kernel flag can be added to speed up compilation process when you don't need to compile the drivers nor the libmc.a


Generates the MaRTE OS version of the libc C standard library ('lib/libmc.a'). For full optimized library execute:

$ mklibmc -O3


Automatically run 'make' in each driver directory containing a 'GNUmakefile'. After that, all the objects files found in drivers directories are moved to the objects library lib/. (See also chapter  "MaRTE OS devices").


Makes the GNAT run-time system for the current architecture.

$ mkrtsmarteuc -gnato -g

6.- Optimizing MaRTE kernel for speed and size

By default the kernel is optimized for speed (compiled with flags "-gnatn -gnatp -O3") and without any pragma "restrictions". If you desire to impose some restrictions to your application or use a simplified version of the run time with the use of "pragma Restricted_Run_Time" or "pragma Ravenscar" just put a 'gnat.adc' file with the desired pragmas in the kernel/ directory and force recompilation of everything (flag "-f").

For example, for a minimum size kernel a 'gnat.adc' file with the following pragmas can be used:

pragma Ravenscar;
pragma Restrictions (Max_Tasks => 2); -- Or the number of tasks of your application

And then recompile MaRTE kernel with the command:

$ mkmarte -gnatp -O3 

The size of the final executable can be reduced by stripping all symbols that are not needed for relocation processing using the command:

 $ objcopy -O elf32-i386 --strip-unneeded mprogram

7.- Enabling Debug Checks and Messages in the Kernel

Some debugging checks are included in the kernel in the form of "Assert" pragmas. They can be used to detect internal errors inside the kernel before they cause any unexpected behaviour impossible to analyse. To enable these checks the kernel have to be recompiled with the '-gnata' flag:

$ mkmarte -gnata -a -f ("-f" force recompilations)

Enabling "Assert" pragmas can be useful if you are modifying MaRTE OS to check the consistency of your changes.

The kernel also can be configured to display some (lot) debugging messages on console. They can report all relevant events about context switches, mutexes, signals, timed events, etc. This functionality can be useful for kernel developers in some specific situations. In the general case the number of messages displayed is too huge to be analysed, and the use of the debugger will be preferred. To enable the debugging messages edit the file 'kernel/', set to true some (or all) the boolean constants below the label "General Messages" and recompile the kernel with assertions enabled:

$ mkmarte -gnata

8.- MaRTE OS Devices

MaRTE OS provides a standard method for installing and using device drivers. This method allow programmers to share their drivers with other people in a simple way.

The implemented model is similar what is used in most UNIX-like operating systems. Applications access devices through "device files" using standard file operations (open, close, write, read, ioctl).

The drivers installation in MaRTE OS is explained bellow. The best way of understanding that process is looking at drivers included in MaRTE OS distribution. The simpler examples are "Demo_Driver_C" and "Demo_Driver_Ada".

Driver code

A driver can be written using both Ada or C programming languages. The code file(s) must be included in a subdirectory of 'drivers/'.

An Ada driver can provide some the following functions (usually all the functions will be provided):

function My_Driver_Create return Int;

function My_Driver_Remove return Int;

function My_Driver_Open (Fd   : in File_Descriptor;
                         Mode : in File_Access_Mode)
                        return Int;

function My_Driver_Close (Fd : in File_Descriptor) return Int;

function My_Driver_Read (Fd            : in File_Descriptor;
                         Buffer_Ptr    : in Buffer_Ac;
                         Bytes_To_Read : in Unsigned_32)
                        return Int;

function My_Driver_Write (Fd             : in File_Descriptor;
                          Buffer_Ptr     : in Buffer_Ac;
                          Bytes_To_Write : in Unsigned_32)
                         return Int;

function My_Driver_Ioctl (Fd             : in File_Descriptor;
                          Request        : in Ioctl_Option_Value;
                          Ioctl_Data_Ptr : in Buffer_Ac)
                         return Int;

For a C driver the function prototypes are:

int my_driver_create (int arg);

int my_driver_remove ();

int my_driver_open (int file_descriptor, int file_access_mode);

int my_driver_close (int file_descriptor);

ssize_t my_driver_read (int file_descriptor, void *buffer, size_t bytes);

ssize_t my_driver_write (int file_descriptor, void *buffer, size_t bytes);

int my_driver_ioctl (int file_descriptor, int request, void* argp);

For C drivers a specification Ada file must be written to make accessible the C functions to MaRTE kernel. To write that file you can use drivers/demo_driver_c/ as a template. Also a GNUmakefile file should be included in driver's directory since mkdrivers will automatically run make in each driver directory containing a GNUmakefile. After that, all the objects files found in drivers directories are copied to the drivers library lib/libdrivers.o.

Installing device drivers

Drivers and device files included in the system are registered in kernel/ file. In this file there are two tables:

In order to include a new driver add and entry to The_Driver_Table, choosing an unused number. That number will be the major number that identifies your driver in the system. (You can take as example the commented entry for "Demo_Driver_Ada" or "Demo_Driver_C").

Now you must add unless one device file in The_Device_Files_Table. The name of your device file can be whatever you want ("/dev" prefix is recommended for analogy with UNIX systems).

As mayor number should be chosen the one previously associated with your driver. As minor number can be used whatever you want, this number is useful to distinguish between different files associated with the same major number.

In the field Ceiling you can put any value within the priorities range used in the system (usually between 0 and 31). To know more about this field read "Mutual exclusion among threads using the same file descriptor".

Installing device drivers for the standard input, output and error

A few special things is necessary to do in case you want to change one of the standard input, output or error devices.

Since we want to use these devices from the very beginning of an application execution, even before the file system has been properly setup, some direct hooks to basic functions of these devices have to be provided in file kernel/

If you are changing the standard input device, you should modify the following "hook" in kernel/

If you are changing the standard output device, you should modify the following "hooks" in kernel/

If you are changing the standard error device, you should modify the following "hooks" in kernel/

Restrictions for drivers and interrupt handlers code

There is an important restriction for interrupt handlers code: "they should not call any potentially blocking operation". This includes writing directly to stderr or stdout devices because a mutex is used to protect every driver in MaRTE OS. So, interrupt handlers are not allowed to use standard input/output functions as printf or the package Ada.Text_IO.

As alternative, C interrupt handlers must use printc (to write on console) and printe (to write on standard error). These functions write directly in the devices without passing through the file system. For Ada drivers package Kernel_Console must be used instead of Ada.Text_IO.

Apart from the explained before for interrupt handlers, there is no restrictions for code to be used inside drivers, so they could use any standard POSIX or Ada interfaces. Anyway, it is recommended for Ada drivers not to use the "POSIX.Ada" interface. There are two reasons for that:

To avoid this dependency MaRTE OS provides two packages: Marte_Hardware_Interrupts and Marte_Semaphores to be used inside drivers instead of their POSIX equivalents (POSIX_Hardware_Interrupts and POSIX_Semaphores).

Compiling kernel and drivers

Each driver with files not written in Ada should include in its directory a 'GNUmakefile' with the rules to compile those files.

MaRTE utilities 'mkkernel' and 'mkdrivers' automatically run 'make' in each driver directory containing a 'GNUmakefile'. After that, all the objects files found in drivers directories are copied to the drivers library 'lib/libdrivers.a'.

'mkkernel', apart from calling 'mkdrivers', makes all MaRTE OS kernel. Then it must be executed after changing drivers and device files definition tables in 'kernel/'.

So, the general way of keeping everything updated after a change in device drivers code or definition tables is executing 'mkmarte' (see also chapter "Compiling MaRTE kernel and libraries"). However, if you have only changed your driver code (without touching 'kernel/') running 'mkdrivers' would be enough.

It is important to notice that, when using Ada drivers from Ada applications, 'mgnatmake' will do all the work (it is not necessary to execute 'mkmarte' nor 'mkdrivers'). This is because all dependencies in an Ada application are known at compilation time (the Ada library records that information), and then, necessary compilations will be performed assuring the application consistency.

Mutual exclusion among threads using the same file descriptor

It is important to notice that, by default, there is no mutual exclusion among threads using the same device. This fact can be useful, for example, in devices that allows simultaneous write and read operations without any kind of synchronization between them.

Operations available for drivers

MaRTE OS provides some operations to be specifically used inside drivers:

These operations are provided by Ada package 'Drivers_Marte'. For more information about that functions read the source file misc/

For drivers written in C exists the headers file include/drivers/drivers_marte.h.

9.- Using the 'tasks_inspector' Tool

This tool (in experimental phase) allows analysing the execution flow of an application. The relevant scheduling information can be stored or sent from the target to the host computer, to be analysed after the application execution finishes.

The scheduling information is parsed and transformed into a set of files that can serve as input for 'gnuplot', a plotting program with which the information is displayed graphically.

In order to use the 'tasks_inspector' tool first the boolean constant 'Tasks_Inspector_Messages' must be set to 'True' (file 'kernel/') and then the kernel have to be recompiled:

  $ mkmarte -gnata

In Linux_Lib architecture, the scheduling information always is stored in the file 'trace_marte.dat', but in x86 architecture it can be chossen between differnt mechanisms to send the information from the target to the host:

In x86 architecture also the logger mechanism can be specified:

Once the scheduling information is available in your host computer, the data can be displayed with 'gnuplot':
  $ .../tasks_inspector/ trace_marte.dat

10.- Changing MaRTE OS Configuration Parameters

MaRTE OS (if using "Preallocated Resources") is a static system in which the maximum number of resources (i.e., threads, mutexes, thread stacks, number of priority levels, timers, etc.) is set at compilation time.

Also some specific services can be enabled or disabled to improve kernel performance or footprint. If you want to change the default values the kernel have to be recompiled with the new ones.

The configuration parameters are defined as constants in the file kernel/ Below each parameter there is a short description of its meaning.

For example the maximum number of tasks (or threads) that is possible to create is set by constant Num_User_Tasks_Mx (20 by default in x86 architecture). If you want to create more tasks just change this value and recompile the kernel using the mkmarte script:

$ mkmarte -gnatn -gnatp -O3           (or whatever other compiler options you want)

11.- Miscellany of Utilities

In the directories 'misc/' and 'include/misc/' there are some extra utilities that although they do not belong to the kernel or the POSIX interface can be useful for some applications:

Console Management

Complete set of operations for the text console. They allow changing the text attributes, positioning the cursor and cleaning the screen. It also allows changing keyboard behaviour between to modes:

Files 'misc/', 'misc/console_management.adb' and 'include/misc/console_management.h'.

Execution Load

Allows applications to consume CPU for a given amount of time. Useful in examples that do nothing but show the scheduling of tasks and resources.

In Ada there are two versions of this package:

Files 'misc/', 'misc/execution_load_loop.adb', 'misc/', 'misc/execution_load.adb', 'misc/load.c' and 'include/misc/load.h'.

Console Switcher

Allows applications to change the output system console between the monitor and the serial line.

If you are using QEMU emulator you can redirect again the serial port to stdio to read the messages in the terminal (with scrolling!) with the followin flag: "-serial stdio"

   $ qemu -kernel marte_program -serial stdio

Files 'misc/' and 'include/drivers/console_switcher.h'.

Contact Address:
MaRTE OS internet site:
Department of Electrónica y Computadores
Group of Computadores y Tiempo Real
University of Cantabria