This is a part of a series. Make sure you read all the posts to get the full picture.
Part 1: Required softwares
Part 2: The first program
Part 3: Debugging

The first goal of my offseason project is to make the synth work with any MIDI controller. For this I need to build a little device that turns MIDI to control voltages—a MIDI to CV converter. Even though last year I started making stuff for STM32, due to chip shortage for an unpredictable period of time I opted for a board that is still available🤞: the Raspberry Pi Pico.

This series is about how to get started with the Pico board with C++ on a Mac. A couple of assumptions:

  • You're using an Intel Mac. This might not work on M1 chip Mac's
  • You know what a package manager is
  • You understand the basics of how C/C++ works. The Cherno has an amazing series about it on YouTube if you needed a quick refresh
  • You know what a terminal and a shell is and how to edit your profile
  • You keep your code in a directory called ~/Code. If not, just watch out with paths in terminal commands
  • You have two Pico boards and a bunch of jumper cables

Please make sure you got these before getting started. In the first part we're going to install the required softwares.


To be able to get started with the Raspberry Pi Pico – or any other embedded development FWIW – a bunch of software is needed even just to make the simplest thing, like blinking an LED.

XCode

Yeah, we need xcode so go to the App store on your Mac and install it. Wait 2 weeks and boom you have xcode.

VSCode

I'm sure you have VSCode already but if you don't, then get it from here. Make sure you install the command line prompt code too and download the following extensions:

  • C++
  • Cortex debug (by marus25)
  • CMake (by Microsoft) plugins.
XCode home
VSCode home

Homebrew

Homebrew is a package manager which we'll need to install some stuff. If you don't have it run this in your terminal:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
Homebrew home

CMake

We'll need CMake to build our C/C++ programs. It's a tool that generates makefiles and makes the whole build process super-simple.

brew install cmake
Check if cmake works by running cmake --version
CMake home

GNU ARM embedded toolchain (homebrew or manual installation)

GNU ARM embedded toolchain is a bunch of programs that'll cross compile C/C++ code for ARM microprocessors. There are two ways to install it:

Option 1—using homebrew (this is simpler):

brew tap ArmMbed/homebrew-formulae
brew install arm-none-eabi-gcc

Option 2—download, extract and add it to your path (here xxxxxxx might change based on the latest version of the toolchain)

  1. Download the GNU ARM Embedded Toolchain tar file from here
  2. Double click to unzip it
  3. Create a folder for it: mkdir /usr/local/gcc_arm
  4. Move the unzipped folder to it: mv ~/Downloads/gcc-arm-none-eabi-xxxxxxx /usr/local/gcc_arm/
  5. Add the bin folder to your path in your profile: export PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/gcc_arm/gcc-arm-none-eabi-xxxxxxx/bin/"
Check if the toolchain works by running arm-none-eabi-gcc --version
GNU ARM Embedded Toolchain home

OpenOCD

No it's not that OC D. It's a host tool that enables debugging by managing the communication between the microcontroller and the debugger (OCD stands for On Chip Debugging). Run these to get it:

brew install libtool automake texinfo wget gcc pkg-config libusb
export PATH="/usr/local/opt/texinfo/bin:$PATH"
cd ~/Code
git clone https://github.com/raspberrypi/openocd.git \
  --branch picoprobe --depth=1
cd openocd
./bootstrap
./configure --enable-picoprobe --disable-werror
make -j4
make install
OpenOCD home

Minicom (optional)

It's a cool little utility that will let us use printf commands to output stuff on the computer's screen. You use this more than you think during embedded development.

brew install minicom

😅 Pfhew, that's all the software we need.


In the next post of the series, we make a super-simple program to blink an LED.