Users of rBoot have reported OTA problems when using Espressif SDK v1.5.1 which I have been able to reproduce on this version and v1.5.2. The problem appears to be in the sdk flash write functions. While most writes work fine some will occasional fails to fully write (leaving small areas of blank data (0xff)). To make matters worse no error is reported from the write function and attempts to read the flash back for verification immediately afterwards return the correct data (presumably they are serviced by the rom cache). This is very similar to the problem seen when trying to perform an OTA with insufficient power. I once had a similar report from a user using just a 100mA power supply and the problem was fixed by using a proper power supply. This makes me wonder if the new SDK causes the device to draw more power, although supplying extra power does not fix the problem in this case.
I have created a test case that doesn’t use rBoot but simply downloads a file and writes it to flash (which is of course very similar to what rBoot does) to demonstrate the problem to Espressif. I have yet to hear back from them. If you encounter this problem please add your support to my bug report. I have no reason to believe this bug will be limited to rBoot users and I assume SDK bootloader users and anyone else writing to the flash from an application (possibly only in long sustained writes) will also have this problem.
This is a good opportunity to encourage rBoot users to enable the irom checksum option, to help detect badly flashed roms at boot time. See the readme for more information.
I’ve just pushed an update to rBoot that allows 2-way communication between rBoot and the running user application. This is something I had though about previously, and I mentioned it in a previous post, but nobody had actually asked for it until a couple of weeks ago. The main use of this is to allow the application to request rBoot to perform a temporary boot to a different rom (i.e. not the one identified in the config, which would normally be booted). This helps to make updating safer, because you can perform an OTA and only temporarily switch to the new rom, until you are happy to update the config and make this the standard. rBoot is already safer for updating than the SDK bootloader, if you enable to irom checksum option, but this new functionality also guards against valid but buggy roms that simply don’t work properly once booted.
How you decide that your rom is good enough to switch to booting it by default is up to you of course. Perhaps if the rom is able to boot, connect to wifi and stays up for 5 minutes, that would be deemed sufficient. Another option would be to have the user manually initiate the change of default rom once they are happy with the way it runs.
You can also get information about the boot from your application such as the boot mode (standard, temporary or GPIO), and the currently running rom. Previously the running rom could be determined by reading the config, but that would not work for a temporary boot.
This new functionality makes use of the ESP8266’s RTC data area and to use it uncomment the #define BOOT_RTC_ENABLED line in rboot.h. See the documentation in the GitHub rBoot repository and the updated sample project for example use.
One other change made at the same time is that GPIO-rom selection is now an optional feature and not compiled in by default. Please enable the appropriate #define in rboot.h if you wish to use this feature.