C and assembly development introduction

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This tutorial describes how to set up an environment and use the Ndless SDK to write native Ndless-compatible programs for the TI-Nspire.

Install dependencies

On Linux distros

  • Make sure your system has the following dependencies: git, GCC (with c++ support), binutils, GMP (libgmp-dev), MPFR (libmpfr-dev), MPC (libmpc-dev), zlib, boost-program-options, wget. Install them with your system's package manager if not.

On Mac OS X

  • TODO
  • Make sure your system has the following dependencies: git, GCC (with c++ support), binutils, GMP, MPFR, MPC, boost-program-options, zlib, wget. Install them with your system's package manager if not, for example brew.

On Windows

MinGW and MSYS do not work correctly, so use WSL or install Cygwin (32bit, x86). WSL is closer to a real Linux environment and likely easier to set up.


Install the following dependencies: php (5.6+), libboost-devel, libboost_program_options*, binutils, gcc-core, gcc-g++, git, mpfr, mpfr-devel, gmp, libgmp-devel, libmpc3, libmpc-devel, make, zlib-devel, wget

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

Install a distro (which one should not matter much) and continue in the Linux section.

Build and install toolchain and SDK

  • Get the latest code from GitHub
git clone --recursive https://github.com/ndless-nspire/Ndless.git
  • On Windows, fix the few symlinks, for instance zehn.h in the ndless-sdk/tools/genzehn folder, which has to be deleted then copied there from ndless-sdk/include (and if you intend to rebuild Ndless, utils.c from the resources folder into the different installers folders)
  • Run the SDK's build_toolchain.sh script that will download and build a complete ARM toolchain compatible with Ndless, and install it (edit the PREFIX variable at the beginning of the script to change the install location). You don't need to be root for this.
cd ndless-sdk/toolchain/

Running the script again will continue from the last successful step (not redownloading everything for instance). At the end of a successful build you should see Done!. Alternatively you can verify the build using echo $?. 0 indicates success.

  • Now add the following folders to your PATH environment variable. On linux, ~/.bash_profile should be a good place for this, just add something like this to it:
export PATH="[path_to_ndless]/ndless-sdk/toolchain/install/bin:[path_to_ndless]/ndless-sdk/bin:${PATH}"
  • Build Ndless and the SDK, in the top level of the repository, run:

Verifying the installation

  • Open a console, and run:
$ nspire-gcc

If everything has been set up correctly you should see something similar to:

arm-none-eabi-gcc: fatal error: no input files
compilation terminated.

2-minute tutorial

As a convention for the next chapters, lines starting with $ are commands you should type in a console. Other lines are the command's output.

Your first build

Ndless comes with sample programs in the samples/ directory of the Ndless SDK. We will try to build the C Hello World. Change the current directory of the console:

$ cd "<my_ndless_sdk_copy>/ndless-sdk/samples/helloworld-sdl"

Ndless programs are built with GNU Make, which is run with the command make. So let's make the program:

$ make
nspire-gcc -Wall -W -marm -Os -c hello-sdl.c
mkdir -p .
nspire-ld hello-sdl.o -o ./helloworld-sdl.elf 
genzehn --input ./helloworld-sdl.elf --output ./helloworld-sdl.tns --name "helloworld-sdl"
make-prg ./helloworld-sdl.tns ./helloworld-sdl.prg.tns

nspire-gcc is Ndless's wrapper for the GNU C Compiler GCC, which compiles C and assembly source files to object files (here hello.o).

nspire-ld is the wrapper for GCC, which redirects gcc with the option "-fuse-ld=gold" to use another wrapper "arm-none-eabi-ld.gold" as linker. "arm-none-eabi-ld.gold" adds some necessary libraries to the final program.

genzehn converts the executable created by "nspire-ld" to a format, which ndless supports.

make-prg adds a simple loader on top so the executable works on older versions of ndless.

Your first program

If you want to create a program from scratch:

  • Create a new directory for the program
  • Type in a console:
cd "<your directory path>"
nspire-tools new <name>
where <name> is your program name. This will create a Makefile to build <program>.tns
  • Create a new .c file and edit your program
  • Run make to build it