Newt Tool - Theory of Operations

Newt has a fairly smart package manager that can read a directory tree, build a dependency tree, and emit the right build artifacts.

Building dependencies

Newt can read a directory tree, build a dependency tree, and emit the right build artifacts. An example newt source tree is in incubator-mynewt-blinky/develop:

$ tree -L 3 
├── apps
│   └── blinky
│       ├── pkg.yml
│       └── src
├── project.yml
└── targets
     ├── my_blinky_sim
     │   ├── pkg.yml
     │   └── target.yml
     └── unittest
         ├── pkg.yml
         └── target.yml

6 directories, 10 files

When Newt sees a directory tree that contains a "project.yml" file it knows that it is in the base directory of a project, and automatically builds a package tree. You can see that there are two essential package directories, "apps" and "targets."

"apps" Package Directory

apps is where applications are stored, and applications are where the main() function is contained. The base project directory comes with one simple app called blinky in the apps directory. The core repository @apache-mynewt-core comes with many additional sample apps in its apps directory. At the time of this writing, there are several example BLE apps, the boot app, slinky app for using newt manager protocol, and more in that directory.

@~/dev/myproj$ ls repos/apache-mynewt-core/apps/
blecent     bleprph_oic bleuart     ffs2native  slinky_oic  test
blehci      bletest     boot        ocf_sample  spitest     timtest
bleprph     bletiny     fat2native  slinky      splitty

Along with the targets directory, apps represents the top-level of the build tree for the particular project, and define the dependencies and features for the rest of the system. Mynewt users and developers can add their own apps to the project's apps directory.

The app definition is contained in a pkg.yml file. For example, blinky's pkg.yml file is:

$ more apps/blinky/pkg.yml
<snip> apps/blinky
pkg.type: app
pkg.description: Basic example application which blinks an LED. "Apache Mynewt <>"
pkg.homepage: ""

    - "@apache-mynewt-core/kernel/os"
    - "@apache-mynewt-core/hw/hal"
    - "@apache-mynewt-core/sys/console/full"

This file says that the name of the package is apps/blinky, and it depends on kernel/os, hw/hal and sys/console/full packages.

NOTE: @apache-mynewt-core is a repository descriptor, and this will be covered in the "repository" section.

"targets" Package Directory

targets is where targets are stored, and each target is a collection of parameters that must be passed to Newt in order to generate a reproducible build. Along with the apps directory, targets represents the top of the build tree. Any packages or parameters specified at the target level cascades down to all dependencies.

Most targets consist of:

  • app: The application to build
  • bsp: The board support package to combine with that application
  • build_profile: Either debug or optimized.

The my_blinky_sim target that is included by default has the following settings:

$ newt target show
$ ls targets/my_blinky_sim/
pkg.yml     target.yml

There are helper functions to aid the developer specify parameters for a target.

  • vals: Displays all valid values for the specified parameter type (e.g. bsp for a target)
  • target show: Displays the build artifacts for specified or all targets

In general, the three basic parameters of a target (app, bsp, and build_profile) are stored in the target.yml file in that target's build directory under targets. You will also see a pkg.yml file in the same directory. Since targets are packages, a pkg.yml is expected. It contains typical package descriptors, dependencies, and additional parameters such as the following:

  • Cflags: Any additional compiler flags you might want to specify to the build
  • Aflags: Any additional assembler flags you might want to specify to the build
  • Lflags: Any additional linker flags you might want to specify to the build

Resolving dependencies

When newt is told to build a project, it will:

  • find the top-level project.yml file
  • recurse the packages in the package tree, and build a list of all source packages

Newt then looks at the target that the user set, for example, blinky_sim:

$ more targets/my_blinky_sim/
pkg.yml     target.yml
$ more targets/my_blinky_sim/target.yml
### Target: targets/my_blinky_sim "apps/blinky"
target.bsp: "@apache-mynewt-core/hw/bsp/native"
target.build_profile: "debug"

The target specifies two major things:

  • Application ( The application to build
  • Board Support Package (target.bsp): The board support package to build along with that application.

Newt goes and builds the dependency tree specified by all the packages. While building this tree, it does a few other things:

  • Any package that depends on another package, automatically gets the include directories from the package it includes. Include directories in the newt structure must always be prefixed by the package name. For example, libs/os has the following include tree and its include directory files contains the package name "os" before any header files. This is so in order to avoid any header file conflicts.
$ tree
├── include
│   └── os
│       ├── arch
│       │   ├── cortex_m0
│       │   │   └── os
│       │   │       └── os_arch.h
│       │   ├── cortex_m4
│       │   │   └── os
│       │   │       └── os_arch.h
│       │   └── sim
│       │       └── os
│       │           └── os_arch.h
│       ├── endian.h
│       ├── os.h
│       ├── os_callout.h
│       ├── os_cfg.h
│       ├── os_eventq.h
│       ├── os_heap.h
│       ├── os_malloc.h
│       ├── os_mbuf.h
│       ├── os_mempool.h
│       ├── os_mutex.h
│       ├── os_sanity.h
│       ├── os_sched.h
│       ├── os_sem.h
│       ├── os_task.h
│       ├── os_test.h
│       ├── os_time.h
│       └── queue.h
├── pkg.yml
└── src
    ├── arch

  • API requirements are validated. Packages can export APIs they implement, (i.e. pkg.api: hw-hal-impl), and other packages can require those APIs (i.e. pkg.req_api: hw-hal-impl).

In order to properly resolve all dependencies in the build system, Newt recursively processes the package dependencies until there are no new dependencies or features (because features can add dependencies.) And it builds a big list of all the packages that need to be build.

Newt then goes through this package list, and builds every package into an archive file.

NOTE: The Newt tool generates compiler dependencies for all of these packages, and only rebuilds the packages whose dependencies have changed. Changes in package & project dependencies are also taken into account. It is smart, after all!

Producing artifacts

Once Newt has built all the archive files, it then links the archive files together. The linkerscript to use is specified by the board support package (BSP.)

NOTE: One common use of the "features" option above is to overwrite which linkerscript is used, based upon whether or not the BSP is being build for a raw image, bootable image or bootloader itself.

The newt tool places all of it's artifacts into the bin/ directory at the top-level of the project, prefixed by the target name being built, for example:

$ tree -L 4 bin/
└── my_blinky_sim
     ├── apps
     │   └── blinky
     │       ├── blinky.a
     │       ├── blinky.a.cmd
     │       ├── blinky.elf
     │       ├── blinky.elf.cmd
     │       ├── blinky.elf.dSYM
     │       ├── blinky.elf.lst
     │       ├── main.d
     │       ├── main.o
     │       └── main.o.cmd
     ├── hw
     │   ├── bsp
     │   │   └── native
     │   ├── hal
     │   │   ├── flash_map.d
     │   │   ├── flash_map.o

As you can see, a number of files are generated:

  • Archive File
  • *.cmd: The command use to generate the object or archive file
  • *.lst: The list file where symbols are located
  • *.o The object files that get put into the archive file

Download/Debug Support

Once a target has been build, there are a number of helper functions that work on the target. These are:

  • load Download built target to board
  • debug Open debugger session to target
  • size Size of target components
  • create-image Add image header to target binary
  • run The equivalent of build, create-image, load, and debug on specified target

load and debug handles driving GDB and the system debugger. These commands call out to scripts that are defined by the BSP.

$ more repos/apache-mynewt-core/hw/bsp/nrf52dk/
. $CORE_PATH/hw/scripts/


if [ $# -gt 2 ]; then
    # TODO -- this magic number 0x42000 is the location of the second image
    # slot. we should either get this from a flash map file or somehow learn
    # this from the image itself
    EXTRA_GDB_CMDS="add-symbol-file $SPLIT_ELF_NAME 0x8000 -readnow"



The idea is that every BSP will add support for the debugger environment for that board. That way common tools can be used across various development boards and kits.