Pure Micropython Display Driver

LittlevGL + Micropython

I created a Pure Micropython display driver for ILI9341 on ESP32. Here it is.
“Pure Micropython”, in this sense, means that all logic is implemented in Micropython, and uses the standard API for LittlevGL and ESP-SDK libraries.

LittlevGL by itself is very portable and can be used on many hardware devices and architectures. However, it requires a display driver, specific to the hardware it runs on. So if you use ESP32 and you want to display a nice GUI on your ILI9341 display, you need a “LittlevGL-ESP32-ILI9341” display driver.

LittlevGL project already provides C implementation of that driver, and there’s even a micropython API for it, but I wanted to create a Pure Micropython implementation of the same driver.

This driver uses DMA and double buffering to achieve high performance.
At the bottom of this post you can find performance statistics and conclusions about using Micropython for a display driver.

This display driver can run in two modes:

Why?

Why would I re-write a module in Micropython that is already written in C?

For three reasons:

Here are some interesting features that are used in the Pure Micropython Display Driver:

Micropython API to *any* C library!

The driver needs to interact with LittlevGL and ESP-IDF.
LittlevGL provides C API for registering a driver, and ESP-IDF provides C API for interacting with ESP32 hardware, access GPIO, and SPI devices for example.

Traditionally, when you want to expose a C API to Micropython, you have to add a native Micropython Module.
This means wrapping every C API function with special code to convert parameters, and later register it in Micropython.
For a few functions, that’s not so bad, but for a large library this becomes tedious to create and maintain.
Another thing is the issue of structs and pointers. C uses them a lot, but Micropython doesn’t really have a notion of pointers and structs, so they need to be handled in a special way when creating the API manually.
LittlevGL is a large C library, and creating an lvgl Micropython module manually was out of the question.

Instead, I’ve created the Micropython LittlevGL Binding, which is at its core a Python script that parses C header files and generates Micropython module automatically from them.
The automatically generated Micropython module not only handles function calls. It also provides API to structs, enums, callbacks, etc.

I was working on this for a while, then I realized Micropython Binding could be used in a wider scope.

Why use it only for LittlevGL? What about other libraries?

In this blog post I’m going to show you how Micropython Bindings was used to create a Micropython API for ESP-IDF, in addition to LittlevGL Micropython API!

By the way, I also used it to provide an API for lodepng, which is a library for encoding and decoding PNG files. But this is out of the scope of this blog post. If you are interested in that, have a look at this example script.

Using Pointers in Micropython

C API usually relies heavily on pointers. Some C functions allocate or consume buffers, which are passed as pointers. Many functions receive a pointer and update the value it points at, instead of returning a value.

Micropython, on the other hand, just like Python, doesn’t need and doesn’t have native pointers as we have in C. In Python (as well as other languages such as JavaScript), an object is accessed by reference. There are no Pointers per-se, no pointer-dereferencing, no pointer-arithmetic, etc.

The Micropython Binding bridges that gap - it makes it possible to use Pointers in Micropython.
Either pass them to functions, assign them to fields in structs, dereference them, or convert them into MemoryView.

The Pure Micropython Display Driver uses pointers in several contexts:

Using Callbacks from C to Micropython

When we want to register a C callback we pass a function pointer.
But what if we want the callback to call uPy code?

The Pure Micropython Display Driver code illustrates several callback use-cases:

Interrupt handling in Micropython

Micropython allows you to write an ISR in Micropython and handle interrupts without writing a dedicated function for it in C. This involves several limitation and considerations.

The Pure Micropython Display Driver implements a DMA completion interrupt, to signal LittlevGL that the display “flush” was completed.

How?

Below are snippets from ili9341.py, espidf.h, espidf.c to illustrate and explain different features in the Pure Micropython Driver.

Auto generated C API

import espidf as esp
import lvgl as lv

These two modules are automatically generated by the Micropython Binding script.

Here is the most important part from espidf.h:

// The following includes are the source of the esp-idf micropython module.
// All included files are API we want to include in the module

#include "driver/gpio.h"
#include "driver/spi_master.h"
#include "esp_heap_caps.h"
#include "esp_log.h"
#include "esp_clk.h"

So we are not providing a full ESP-IDF API. That would be huge. At this point, only an API for functions and structs in these include files are added.

So what is the rest of the content of espidf.h?

When building the ESP32 port of the Micropython project, the Makefile contains rules to genreate these modules. For example:

#esp-idf generated module
ESPIDFMOD_SOURCE = $(TOP)/lib/lv_bindings/driver/esp32/espidf.h
ALL_ESPIDFMOD_SRC = $(shell find $(subst -I,,$(INC_ESPCOMP)) -type f) $(ESPIDFMOD_SOURCE) $(SDKCONFIG_H)
ESPIDFMOD_MODULE = $(BUILD)/espidfmod/mp_espidf.c
ESPIDFMOD_PP = $(BUILD)/espidfmod/mp_espidf.pp.c
CFLAGS_MOD += $(ESPIDFMOD_CFLAGS) -Wno-deprecated-declarations

$(ESPIDFMOD_MODULE): $(ALL_ESPIDFMOD_SRC) $(LVGL_BINDING_DIR)/gen/gen_mpy.py 
    $(ECHO) "ESPIDFMOD-GEN [email protected]"
    $(Q)mkdir -p $(dir [email protected])
    $(Q)$(CPP) $(ESPIDFMOD_CFLAGS) -DPYCPARSER -I $(LVGL_BINDING_DIR)/pycparser/utils/fake_libc_include $(INC) $(INC_ESPCOMP) $(ESPIDFMOD_SOURCE) > $(ESPIDFMOD_PP)
    $(Q)$(PYTHON) $(LVGL_BINDING_DIR)/gen/gen_mpy.py -M espidf -E $(ESPIDFMOD_PP) $(ESPIDFMOD_SOURCE) > [email protected]

This mumbo jumbo does essentially two important things:

Eventually, the ESP-IDF micropython module is compiled, linked and referenced in the project, making it available for import by Micropython scripts.

So how does the generated API look like?

MicroPython v1.11-194-g29bbfd8-dirty on 2019-07-22; ESP32 module with ESP32
Type "help()" for more information.
>>> 
>>> import espidf as esp
>>> help(esp)
object <module 'espidf'> is of type module
  __name__ -- espidf
  get_ccount -- <function>
  esp_err_to_name -- <function>
  esp_err_to_name_r -- <function>
  _esp_error_check_failed -- <function>
  _esp_error_check_failed_without_abort -- <function>
  gpio_init -- <function>
  gpio_output_set -- <function>
  gpio_output_set_high -- <function>
  gpio_input_get -- <function>
  gpio_input_get_high -- <function>
  gpio_intr_handler_register -- <function>
  gpio_intr_pending -- <function>
  gpio_intr_pending_high -- <function>
  gpio_intr_ack -- <function>
  gpio_intr_ack_high -- <function>
  gpio_pin_wakeup_enable -- <function>
  gpio_pin_wakeup_disable -- <function>
  gpio_matrix_in -- <function>
  gpio_matrix_out -- <function>
  gpio_pad_select_gpio -- <function>
  gpio_pad_set_drv -- <function>
  gpio_pad_pullup -- <function>
  gpio_pad_pulldown -- <function>
  gpio_pad_unhold -- <function>
  gpio_pad_hold -- <function>
  esp_intr_mark_shared -- <function>
  esp_intr_reserve -- <function>
  esp_intr_alloc -- <function>
  esp_intr_alloc_intrstatus -- <function>
  esp_intr_free -- <function>
  esp_intr_get_cpu -- <function>
  esp_intr_get_intno -- <function>
  esp_intr_disable -- <function>
  esp_intr_enable -- <function>
  esp_intr_set_in_iram -- <function>
  esp_intr_noniram_disable -- <function>
  esp_intr_noniram_enable -- <function>
  gpio_config -- <function>
  gpio_reset_pin -- <function>
  gpio_set_intr_type -- <function>
  gpio_intr_enable -- <function>
  gpio_intr_disable -- <function>
  gpio_set_level -- <function>
  gpio_get_level -- <function>
  gpio_set_direction -- <function>
  gpio_set_pull_mode -- <function>
  gpio_wakeup_enable -- <function>
  gpio_wakeup_disable -- <function>
  gpio_isr_register -- <function>
  gpio_pullup_en -- <function>
  gpio_pullup_dis -- <function>
  gpio_pulldown_en -- <function>
  gpio_pulldown_dis -- <function>
  gpio_install_isr_service -- <function>
  gpio_uninstall_isr_service -- <function>
  gpio_isr_handler_add -- <function>
  gpio_isr_handler_remove -- <function>
  gpio_set_drive_capability -- <function>
  gpio_get_drive_capability -- <function>
  gpio_hold_en -- <function>
  gpio_hold_dis -- <function>
  gpio_deep_sleep_hold_en -- <function>
  gpio_deep_sleep_hold_dis -- <function>
  gpio_iomux_in -- <function>
  gpio_iomux_out -- <function>
  spicommon_periph_claim -- <function>
  spicommon_periph_in_use -- <function>
  spicommon_periph_free -- <function>
  spicommon_dma_chan_claim -- <function>
  spicommon_dma_chan_in_use -- <function>
  spicommon_dma_chan_free -- <function>
  spicommon_bus_initialize_io -- <function>
  spicommon_bus_free_io -- <function>
  spicommon_bus_free_io_cfg -- <function>
  spicommon_cs_initialize -- <function>
  spicommon_cs_free -- <function>
  spicommon_cs_free_io -- <function>
  spicommon_setup_dma_desc_links -- <function>
  spicommon_hw_for_host -- <function>
  spicommon_irqsource_for_host -- <function>
  spicommon_dmaworkaround_req_reset -- <function>
  spicommon_dmaworkaround_reset_in_progress -- <function>
  spicommon_dmaworkaround_idle -- <function>
  spicommon_dmaworkaround_transfer_active -- <function>
  spi_bus_initialize -- <function>
  spi_bus_free -- <function>
  spi_bus_add_device -- <function>
  spi_bus_remove_device -- <function>
  spi_device_queue_trans -- <function>
  spi_device_get_trans_result -- <function>
  spi_device_transmit -- <function>
  spi_device_polling_start -- <function>
  spi_device_polling_end -- <function>
  spi_device_polling_transmit -- <function>
  spi_device_acquire_bus -- <function>
  spi_device_release_bus -- <function>
  spi_cal_clock -- <function>
  spi_get_timing -- <function>
  spi_get_freq_limit -- <function>
  multi_heap_malloc -- <function>
  multi_heap_free -- <function>
  multi_heap_realloc -- <function>
  multi_heap_get_allocated_size -- <function>
  multi_heap_register -- <function>
  multi_heap_set_lock -- <function>
  multi_heap_dump -- <function>
  multi_heap_check -- <function>
  multi_heap_free_size -- <function>
  multi_heap_minimum_free_size -- <function>
  multi_heap_get_info -- <function>
  heap_caps_malloc -- <function>
  heap_caps_free -- <function>
  heap_caps_realloc -- <function>
  heap_caps_calloc -- <function>
  heap_caps_get_free_size -- <function>
  heap_caps_get_minimum_free_size -- <function>
  heap_caps_get_largest_free_block -- <function>
  heap_caps_get_info -- <function>
  heap_caps_print_heap_info -- <function>
  heap_caps_check_integrity_all -- <function>
  heap_caps_check_integrity -- <function>
  heap_caps_check_integrity_addr -- <function>
  heap_caps_malloc_extmem_enable -- <function>
  heap_caps_malloc_prefer -- <function>
  heap_caps_realloc_prefer -- <function>
  heap_caps_calloc_prefer -- <function>
  heap_caps_dump -- <function>
  heap_caps_dump_all -- <function>
  ets_run -- <function>
  ets_set_idle_cb -- <function>
  ets_task -- <function>
  ets_post -- <function>
  ets_set_user_start -- <function>
  ets_set_startup_callback -- <function>
  ets_set_appcpu_boot_addr -- <function>
  ets_unpack_flash_code_legacy -- <function>
  ets_unpack_flash_code -- <function>
  ets_printf -- <function>
  ets_write_char_uart -- <function>
  ets_install_putc1 -- <function>
  ets_install_putc2 -- <function>
  ets_install_uart_printf -- <function>
  ets_timer_init -- <function>
  ets_timer_deinit -- <function>
  ets_timer_arm -- <function>
  ets_timer_arm_us -- <function>
  ets_timer_disarm -- <function>
  ets_timer_setfn -- <function>
  ets_timer_done -- <function>
  ets_delay_us -- <function>
  ets_update_cpu_frequency -- <function>
  ets_update_cpu_frequency_rom -- <function>
  ets_get_cpu_frequency -- <function>
  ets_get_xtal_scale -- <function>
  ets_get_detected_xtal_freq -- <function>
  ets_isr_attach -- <function>
  ets_isr_mask -- <function>
  ets_isr_unmask -- <function>
  ets_intr_lock -- <function>
  ets_intr_unlock -- <function>
  ets_waiti0 -- <function>
  intr_matrix_set -- <function>
  esp_log_level_set -- <function>
  esp_log_set_vprintf -- <function>
  esp_log_timestamp -- <function>
  esp_log_early_timestamp -- <function>
  esp_log_write -- <function>
  esp_log_buffer_hex_internal -- <function>
  esp_log_buffer_char_internal -- <function>
  esp_log_buffer_hexdump_internal -- <function>
  esp_clk_slowclk_cal_get -- <function>
  esp_clk_slowclk_cal_set -- <function>
  esp_clk_cpu_freq -- <function>
  esp_clk_apb_freq -- <function>
  esp_clk_xtal_freq -- <function>
  esp_clk_rtc_time -- <function>
  task_delay_ms -- <function>
  spi_transaction_set_cb -- <function>
  spi_pre_cb_isr -- <function>
  spi_post_cb_isr -- <function>
  ili9341_post_cb_isr -- <function>
  ili9341_flush -- <function>
  ESP -- <class 'ESP'>
  TRANS -- <class 'TRANS'>
  CAP -- <class 'CAP'>
  GPIO_PIN_INTR -- <class 'GPIO_PIN_INTR'>
  GPIO_NUM -- <class 'GPIO_NUM'>
  GPIO_INTR -- <class 'GPIO_INTR'>
  GPIO_MODE -- <class 'GPIO_MODE'>
  GPIO_PULLUP -- <class 'GPIO_PULLUP'>
  GPIO_PULLDOWN -- <class 'GPIO_PULLDOWN'>
  GPIO -- <class 'GPIO'>
  GPIO_DRIVE_CAP -- <class 'GPIO_DRIVE_CAP'>
  enum -- <class 'enum'>
  ETS -- <class 'ETS'>
  ESP_LOG -- <class 'ESP_LOG'>
  gpio_config_t -- <class 'gpio_config_t'>
  spi_bus_config_t -- <class 'spi_bus_config_t'>
  spi_device_interface_config_t -- <class 'spi_device_interface_config_t'>
  multi_heap_info_t -- <class 'multi_heap_info_t'>
  ETSTimer -- <class 'ETSTimer'>
  spi_transaction_t -- <class 'spi_transaction_t'>
  C_Pointer -- <class 'C_Pointer'>

It can be, of course, larger or smaller depending on what’s in the H file that is fed into the Micropython Binding script.

It’s easy to include too many functions/structs in an API.
That’s because a public C API might include private headers, which are not usually used by the user. But the script doesn’t know that and takes every function/struct/enum from the preprocessed file.
To overcome this you can either

Another thing to take into account is that C macros are not handled by the Binding Script, because it analyzes the preprocessed file.
A workaround for this is to wrap the macros in an enum, which is converted to Micropython.
An example from espidf.h:

// Useful constants

enum{
    CAP_DMA = MALLOC_CAP_DMA,
    CAP_INTERNAL = MALLOC_CAP_INTERNAL,
    CAP_SPIRAM = MALLOC_CAP_SPIRAM
};

This would generate a Micropython object esp.CAP which has a field for each enum member. For example here we use esp.CAP.DMA:

    trans_buffer = esp.heap_caps_malloc(trans_buffer_len, esp.CAP.DMA)

A few footnotes

ILI9341 python class

class ili9341:

    width = const(240)
    height = const(320)

    ######################################################

    disp_buf = lv.disp_buf_t()
    disp_drv = lv.disp_drv_t()

    def __init__(self, miso=5, mosi=18, clk=19, cs=13, dc=12, rst=4, backlight=2, spihost=esp.enum.HSPI_HOST, mhz=40, factor=4, hybrid=True):

        # Make sure Micropython was built such that color won't require processing before DMA

        if lv.color_t.SIZE != 2:
            raise RuntimeError('ili9341 micropython driver requires defining LV_COLOR_DEPTH=16')
        if not hasattr(lv.color_t().ch, 'green_l'):
            raise RuntimeError('ili9341 micropython driver requires defining LV_COLOR_16_SWAP=1')

When declaring the class, the first thing we check that color mode is correct.
LittlevGL can be configured to use different color modes, starting from 1 bit monochrome up to 32 bit RGB with alpha channel.
For the Pure Python display driver to work correctly, LittlevGL color mode must match ILI9341 color mode, 16-bit RGB565. If we didn’t do that we would have to translate every pixel to RGB565, and this is a lot of work for a display driver.

So this is achieved by building lv_micropython with this parameter:

LV_CFLAGS="-DLV_COLOR_DEPTH=16 -DLV_COLOR_16_SWAP=1"

Using Pointers

If we just pass pointers around, this is very easy. Each pointer is wrapped in a Micopython “Blob” object which is convertible to pointer between API functions, even if they belong to different libraries.
For example:


        self.buf1 = esp.heap_caps_malloc(self.buf_size, esp.CAP.DMA)
        self.buf2 = esp.heap_caps_malloc(self.buf_size, esp.CAP.DMA)
        
        ...

        lv.disp_buf_init(self.disp_buf, self.buf1, self.buf2, self.buf_size // lv.color_t.SIZE)

Here we allocate two DMA capable buffers using ESP-IDF API function, and pass them to LittlevGL function that initializes the display buffers.

But what if we want to read or write to the data the pointer points at, in Micropython?
Each “Blob” has a __dereference__ functions which allows you to convert it to a MemoryView.

    trans_buffer_len = const(16)
    trans_buffer = esp.heap_caps_malloc(trans_buffer_len, esp.CAP.DMA)

...

    def send_data(self, data):
        esp.gpio_set_level(self.dc, 1)	   # Data mode
        if len(data) > self.trans_buffer_len: raise RuntimeError('Data too long, please use DMA!')
        trans_data = self.trans_buffer.__dereference__(len(data))
        trans_data[:] = data[:]
        self.spi_send(trans_data)

send_data function receives data which is an array of bytes, and sends it by calling spi_send.
But spi_send expects to receive a DMA-able buffer! We need to copy data into a DMA-able memory.
So we prepare trans_buffer which is a pointer to DMA-able memory, and copy data into it. To do that, we dereference trans_buffer (self.trans_buffer.__dereference__(len(data))), and copy the data into it (trans_data[:] = data[:])

Another case is using a pointer as a function output.
What if we have an API function that receives a pointer, and updates the data it points at?

For example:

esp_err_t spi_bus_add_device(spi_host_device_thost, const spi_device_interface_config_t *dev_config, spi_device_handle_t *handle);

On this function, dev_config is an input. That’s easy, just create a struct, fill it up, and pass it over.

For example:

    devcfg = esp.spi_device_interface_config_t({
        "clock_speed_hz": self.mhz*1000*1000,   # Clock out at DISP_SPI_MHZ MHz
        "mode": 0,                              # SPI mode 0
        "spics_io_num": self.cs,                # CS pin
        "queue_size": 2,
        "flags": esp.ESP.HALF_DUPLEX,
        "duty_cycle_pos": 128,
    })

    ...

    ret = esp.spi_bus_add_device(self.spihost, devcfg, ptr_to_spi)

Here, by the way, we used a dict to initialize a struct by passing it to esp.spi_device_interface_config_t constructor.
This is only possible on struct initialization. On other cases, fields can be accessed as object attributes.
For example devcfg.pre_cb = None would assign NULL to pre_cb field of devcfg struct.

But what about the last parameter of spi_bus_add_device?
spi_device_handle_t *handle is an output. We need to create a pointer, pass it over to spi_bus_add_device and dereference it.
The trick is to use a struct called C_Pointer, like this:

    ptr_to_spi = esp.C_Pointer()
    ret = esp.spi_bus_add_device(self.spihost, devcfg, ptr_to_spi)
    if ret != 0: raise RuntimeError("Failed adding SPI device")
    self.spi = ptr_to_spi.ptr_val

In this case we pass ptr_to_spi of type C_Pointer to the function, and later access ptr_to_spi.ptr_val to dereference it and extract the output value written by spi_bus_add_device.
So what’s this C_Pointer is about? It’s a simple helper union that looks like this:

typedef union {
    void *ptr_val;
    int int_val;
    unsigned int uint_val;
    const char *str_val;
} C_Pointer;

So we create an instance of C_Pointer, pass it over to a function that writes something into it (either a string, an int, or another pointer like our case).
After the function updated it, it’s very easy to extract the relevant data from it, by accessing the right union field.

Using Callbacks

Callbacks on Micropython C API is a subtle subject. While in C all you need is a function pointer (code only), on Micropython a callable object is needed (which contains data, not only code).
So when we want to register a Micropython function to be called from C, we need to find a way to record the callable object on C and pass it to the callback.
On LittlevGL this is done using the user_data field, that is present on structs where callbacks are used. On other libraries that do not follow this convention, you might need to wrap the callback registration/invocation and find another way to pass the callable object.

    disp_drv = lv.disp_drv_t()

    def __init__(self, miso=5, mosi=18, clk=19, cs=13, dc=12, rst=4, backlight=2, spihost=esp.enum.HSPI_HOST, mhz=40, factor=4, hybrid=True):

        ...
        self.disp_drv.user_data = {'dc': self.dc, 'spi': self.spi}
        self.disp_drv.flush_cb = esp.ili9341_flush if self.hybrid and hasattr(esp, 'ili9341_flush') else self.flush
        self.disp_drv.monitor_cb = self.monitor

Here, the display driver instantiates and fills disp_drv_t struct. This struct describes the display driver.
The display driver implements two callbacks: flush_cb and monitor_cb.
In case of flush_cb:

Under the hoods, the assignment to flush_cb saves the callable object self.flush in user_data member of disp_drv, this is automatic and hidden from the user.
Later on, I’ll show an example of registering callbacks on ESP-IDF, where the callback convention is not followed as it is in LittlevGL, and the copy of the callable object to user_data does not happen automatically.

Consider the case of hybrid mode.
In this case we register a C function esp.ili9341_flush to flush_cb. When LittlevGL wants to flush the display data to the display it calls it.
esp.ili9341_flush in turn should access the SPI device and DMA the data. However, the SPI device was initialized in uPy code - how can esp.ili9341_flush access it?

On LittlevGL, every callback receives as the first parameter a struct which contains data related to the callback, in our case - lv_disp_drv_t.
Every such struct contains a field called user_data, the same field that holds the callable object when registering uPy function.
We can use it to store our own custom data, in addition to callable objects!

        self.disp_drv.user_data = {'dc': self.dc, 'spi': self.spi}

esp.ili9341_flush needs the SPI device and DC pin, which were initialized in the uPy side, in order to do its work. user_data is a void * member of lv_disp_drv_t. But since it was initialized to a python dict it can be casted back.
Let’s have a look at it, on ESP32 interactive console after the driver was initalized:

MicroPython v1.11-330-g6f2b2e2-dirty on 2019-07-29; ESP32 module with ESP32
Type "help()" for more information.
>>> import ili9341
ILI9341 initialization completed
Enable backlight
Double buffer
>>> print(ili9341.disp.disp_drv.user_data.cast())
{'lv_disp_drv_t_flush_cb': <function>, 'lv_disp_drv_t_monitor_cb': <bound_method>, 'dc': 12, 'spi': Blob}

As you can see, user_data dict contains our dc and spi members, as well as the callable objects for flush_cb and monitor_cb.

Now, how can esp.ili9341_flush extract this data from user_data? Let’s have a loot at it:

void ili9341_flush(void *_disp_drv, const void *_area, void *_color_p)
{
    ...

    // We use disp_drv->user_data to pass data from MP to C
    // The following lines extract dc and spi
    
    int dc = mp_obj_get_int(mp_obj_dict_get(disp_drv->user_data, MP_OBJ_NEW_QSTR(MP_QSTR_dc)));
    mp_buffer_info_t buffer_info;
    mp_get_buffer_raise(mp_obj_dict_get(disp_drv->user_data, MP_OBJ_NEW_QSTR(MP_QSTR_spi)), &buffer_info, MP_BUFFER_READ);
    spi_device_handle_t *spi_ptr = buffer_info.buf;

dc is read in a straightforward way - get the dict from user_data and convert dc field (it’s name is given as a qstr) to int. spi on the other hand, is a pointer. Pointers are saved using buffer protocol, therefore an mp_get_buffer_raise is used to extract it.

So far I’ve shown you how a callback (either C or Micropython) is registered to LittlevGL, which was designed to automatically save the callable object in user_data.
But what if the API was not designed that way?

When DMA completes, ESP-IDF calls post_cb function, (in ISR context, but that does not matter for this point).
We might want to register a uPy function as post_cb, but post_cb doesn’t receive a struct with user_data member, so the Binding Script cannot automatically save the callable object there.

Fortunately, post_cb receives a struct with user field that can be used exactly for that! We will use the user field to pass over the callable object, but this time, without using a dict.
Instead, user will contain a new object of type spi_transaction_ptr_type that holds information for the callback, such as the post_cb callable object.

DEFINE_PTR_OBJ_TYPE(spi_transaction_ptr_type, MP_QSTR_spi_transaction_ptr_t);

typedef struct{
    mp_ptr_t spi_transaction_ptr;
    mp_obj_t pre_cb;
    mp_obj_t post_cb;
} mp_spi_device_callbacks_t;

void *spi_transaction_set_cb(mp_obj_t pre_cb, mp_obj_t post_cb)
{
    mp_spi_device_callbacks_t *callbacks = m_new_obj(mp_spi_device_callbacks_t);
    callbacks->spi_transaction_ptr.base.type = &spi_transaction_ptr_type;
    callbacks->pre_cb = pre_cb != mp_const_none? pre_cb: NULL;
    callbacks->post_cb = post_cb != mp_const_none? post_cb: NULL;
    return callbacks;
}

spi_transaction_set_cb is a C function declared on espidf.h, therefore it will be included in ESP-IDF Micropython API automatically.
It receives two callable objects pre_cb and post_cb, registers them in a spi_transaction_ptr_type object and returns.

The uPy code of the display driver calls this function:

    def disp_spi_init(self):
        ...
        if self.hybrid and hasattr(esp, 'ili9341_post_cb_isr'):
            devcfg.pre_cb = None
            devcfg.post_cb = esp.ili9341_post_cb_isr
        else:
            devcfg.pre_cb = esp.spi_pre_cb_isr
            devcfg.post_cb = esp.spi_post_cb_isr

        ...
        self.spi_callbacks = esp.spi_transaction_set_cb(None, flush_isr)
    ...
    def spi_send_dma(self, data):
        ...
        self.trans.user = self.spi_callbacks
        esp.spi_device_queue_trans(self.spi, self.trans, -1)

The init code registers flush_isr callback, and saves the spi_callbacks result (of type spi_transaction_ptr_type)
When sending DMA, the transaction user field is set to that spi_callbacks.
On pure python mode, the post_cb C callback is set to esp.spi_post_cb_isr, which extracts the callback from the user field:

void spi_post_cb_isr(spi_transaction_t *trans)
{
    mp_spi_device_callbacks_t *self = (mp_spi_device_callbacks_t*)trans->user;
    if (self) {
        self->spi_transaction_ptr.ptr = trans;
        cb_isr(self->post_cb, MP_OBJ_FROM_PTR(self));
    }
}

The cb_isr receives post_cb callable Micropython object, and will call it in ISR context.

Calling uPy code in ISR context

When you want to run uPy in ISR context you have two options:

The easiest thing to do it to schedule uPy. This means that uPy will not run in ISR context, but shortly after in standard user mode FreeRTOS task context.
The drawback is that the function will not run immediately. It will take some time, may require a context switch etc.
What if you want to do something right now?

Two options:

What limitations are there, to run uPy directly in ISR?

Micropython docs have a chapter discussing exactly this, how to write interrupt handlers in uPy.
ESP32, apparently, has some additional complications but this is still doable.

In the Pure Micropython Driver we register flush_isr uPy function to be called directly in ISR context when DMA completion post_cb is called, when running in Pure uPy mode (non-hybrid)

Performance?

Test conditions:

So where, in the time budget, hides LittlevGL rendering time?
Since this driver uses double buffering, two things happen simultaneously: DMA to buffer A and rendering to buffer B! (then on the next frame it switches, DMA to buffer B and rendering to buffer A), that’s the idea behind double buffering. So as long as LittlevGL rendering time <= DMA time, rendering time does not affect FPS at all.
For the purpose of this test, I kept LittlevGL rendering time low enough (shorter than DMA time) such that we can ignore it.

Results:

Pure Micropython Driver

Hybrid Micropython Driver

SPI setup, ILI9341 initialization etc. remain in Micropython.
Only the critical “flush” function and interrupt handling done in C (see ili9341_flush here)

Conclusion?

Does it make sense to write a display driver in pure Micropython? Probably not :) at least not the critical paths.
It can still be useful to write the setup code in Micropython (setting up SPI and initializing ILI9341 for example), but paying 15ms every frame only to run Micropython code that would flush data to the display, feels too much for me.

But there is still hope!
Micropython has a Native Code Emitter and Viper Code Emmiter which translate Micropython code directly to native CPU opcodes! That would boost performance significantly.
Unfortunately, these code emitters are not avaiable for ESP32 yet. Let’s hope someday they will be.