mgr's weblog

Again more features for uLisp on M5Stack (ESP32):
time via NTP, lispstring without escaping and more space

February 16, 2021, Lisp
Last edited on February 23, 2021

I just pushed three small things to ulisp-esp-m5stack: Get time via NTP, add optional escape parameter to function lispstring, increased WORKSPACESIZE and SYMBOLTABLESIZE for M5Stack.

Getting time via NTP

Enable #define enable_ntptime to get time via NTP. New functions INIT-NTP and GET-TIME. Note that you need to connect to the internet first. Usually with WIFI-CONNECT.

Syntax: INIT-NTP -> nil

Initializes and configures NTP.

Syntax: GET-TIME -> timestamp

Returns a timestamp in the format of xsd:dateTime.

Add optional escape parameter to function lispstring

I have changed the function lispstring to have an optional escape parameter to switch off the default behavior of handling the backslash escape character. The default behavior is not changed.

The C function lispstring takes a C char* string and return a uLisp string object. When parsing data in the n-triples format retrieved via HTTP I noticed that the data got modified already by lispstring which broke my parser implemented in uLisp.

As lispstring might be used in other contexts that expect this behavior, I just added the option to switch the un-escaping off.


The M5Stack ESP32 has 320 kB of usable DRAM in total. Although with a lot of restrictions (see next section),

I increased WORKSPACESIZE to 9000 cells, which equals 72,000 bytes, and SYMBOLTABLESIZE to 2048 bytes. These sizes seem to work still safely even with bigger applications and a lot of consing.

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The SRAM of the M5Stack ESP32

In total the M5Stack ESP32 comes with 520 kB of SRAM. The catch is that the ESP32 is based on the Harvard architecture and 192 kB is in the SRAM0 block intended(!) for instructions (IRAM). There is another 128 kB block in block SRAM1 which can be used either for instructions or data (DRAM). The third block SRAM2 has got a size of 200 kB and is for data only. But 8 kB of SRAM2 is lost for ROM mappings.

The ESP-IDF and thus also the Arduino environment use only SRAM0 for instructions and SRAM1 and SRAM2 for data, which is fine for uLisp as it is an interpreter and therefore more RAM for data is perfect. SRAM0 will just hold the machine code of the uLisp implementation but no code written in the language uLisp.

Of the remaining 320 kB another 54 kB will be dedicated for Bluetooth if Bluetooth is enabled in ESP-IDF (which it is by default, #define CONFIG_BT_RESERVE_DRAM 0xdb5c) in the SRAM2 block. And if trace memory is enabled, another 32 kB of SRAM1 are reserved (by default it is disabled, #define CONFIG_TRACEMEM_RESERVE_DRAM 0x0).

So, by default with Bluetooth enabled and trace memory disabled, 266 kB are left. At the bottom of SRAM2 right after the 62 kB used for Bluetooth and ROM are the application's data and BSS segments. Sadly, at around the border between SRAM1 and SRAM2 there seem to be two small reserved regions again of a bit more the 1 kB each, limiting statically allocated memory.

Thus, the "shared data RAM" segment dram0_0_seg in the linker script memory layout is configured to have a default length of 0x2c200 - CONFIG_BT_RESERVE_DRAM. That is, 176.5 kB (= 180,736 bytes) without Bluetooth and 121.66 kB (= 124,580 bytes) with Bluetooth enabled.

But actually I have already written more than I have intended for this blog post and the rest of my notes, calculations and experiments will have to wait for a future article. For now, I just increased the size of the statically allocated uLisp workspace to make more use of the available memory of the ESP32 in the M5Stack.

See also More features for uLisp on M5Stack (ESP32):
flash support, muting of the speaker and backlight control
and uLisp on M5Stack (ESP32).


Espressif Systems, ESP32 Technical Reference Manual, Shanghai, 2020, section 2.3.2 Embedded Memory.

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