Newbie questions from Microchip refugee

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I've had a lot of fun developing dozens of projects (professional and hobby) using 8-bit Microchip microcontrollers.

But the unbelievably inferior quality of Microchip's development tools has finally driven me to look elsewhere. And their forum is a disaster too. You cannot preview your posts and it removes all of the new lines, compressing your post into a monolithic block of text. I am deeply embarrassed for those guys.

I can wring bugs out of their tools like water from a wet sponge.

So anyway: here's my initial questions:

1. Is the AVR Dragon adequate? I may end up with the AVR ONE, but its cost is steep for a tentative first step.

2. Are there user guides for the AVR Dragon and other debugger/programmers? The little website blurbs I found on them did not tell me much. The lack of user guides may be my biggest issue with Atmel so far. Click on the Documents Tab at http://www.atmel.com/tools/AVRDR... and you get "Zero results were found. Please change selection and try again." Atmel, seriously, is this the first impression you want to make??

For example, does the Dragon implement an RS-232 interface that I could use to put out messages that would help debugging? How many breakpoints does the Dragon have? Can I see the schematic for the Dragon?
I often made specialized programming cables with super tiny connectors; where do I learn about the programming interface?

3. Where can I learn more about how the better debuggger/programmers have more features?

4. If I get an STK500 or STK600, would I still need a programmer/debugger? This is not entirely clear in Atmel's website. And, I initially buy just an STK600, can I do anything? Yes, I know I must buy the adapter card, but what adapters does it come with?

5. The STK600 has a modular approach which seems cool. Some of my projects would likely use the ATtiny25/45/85, so I would buy the adapter card for that 8-pin tiny's. The low res photos of those boards do not tell me if I can use DIP's, SOIC's, or??? Again, being able to download a manual sure would be nice.

6. Do any of the kits/tools have sockets for programming SOIC, SSOP, QFN or other SMD packages?

7. The forums at forum.atmel.com were virutally useless in two ways. 1) There are only two (Touch and Crypto. 2) Access to them was very slow-- in two ways. The first way was that each click, like to change to the next page of posts, took 20 to 25 seconds (when everything else on the net is a about 1 second with my cable modem connection). The other is that a day after registering, I still cannot post. Is that forum of any use or is this the place?

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Welcome to AVRfreaks!

Quote:

I may end up with the AVR ONE, but its cost is steep for a tentative first step.

Right now the AVR ONE is on sale at Atmels shop (or at least a few days ago it was), at a third or so of the usual price.

Both STK-500 and STK-600 have on-board stuff for programming. Neither has on-board stuff for ICE debugging.

If you want to get any documentation for Atmel tools these days, it seems that you must download and install Atmel Studio on your Windows system, since the tools are documented in Atmel Studio's help system. Not everything is green at the Atmel side of the fence, as you can see..

Quote:
Is the AVR Dragon adequate?

Yes. No. Perhaps. You tell us.. (Adequate for what?!?)

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1. A Dragon will debug and program.
2. A STK500 is a good dev kit. You need two USB->RS232 cables. (cheap Ebay cables should be fine)
3. If you want to develop with a SMD chip, solder it to a DIP adapter pcb.
4. You will get a lot of help here. Especially with the Atmel website that they have recently made useless.

Incidentally, the PIC user forums are perfectly usable. There is possibly more activity on the AVR forums.

David.

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Welcome to AVR Freaks.
Dragon is a cheap alternative to be able to both program all 8-bitters and do debug via JTAG or Dw (DebugWire used with Tiny's with small pin count).
Possible disadvantage is the lack of a box to protect against shorts, ESD and so on. You can search on this forum for how this has been solved by different freaks.

Download AVRStudio4 (avoid Studio5 for now, it's still buggy).
Open Studio4 and click on Help -> AVR Tools User Guide and you will find all the manuals you asked for.
Also schematics for some of the tools and description of pinouts for ISP and JTAG etc.
STK500 is only a programmer, not able to debug.
AFAIK this is also true for STK600.
Atmels website is embarrassing, especially after it was redone some time ago. Extremely hard to find anything but they do have Application notes that might be very helpful.
If you can find them...

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Quote:
I often made specialized programming cables with super tiny connectors; where do I learn about the programming interface?

Welcome to the Forum.

Atmel's Application Note: AVR042 AVR Hardward Design Considerations covers the ISP, PDI, etc., interfaces.

For ISP use the 6-Pin, not the 10-Pin, pin-outs.

One generally puts a Male 6-Pin on the PCB, as the Programmers typically have a 6-Pin female, or a Header for a 6-Pin to 6-Pin ribbon cable for off board programing.

You can, of course, make any custom connector you desire, once you have the generic standard working.

JC

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Did you know that PICkit2 can program AVRs? You may use it as a programmer as well as an UART-USB tool (the latter works under the PICkit2 standalone GUI software).

Warning: Grumpy Old Chuff. Reading this post may severely damage your mental health.

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Thanks, all, for the friendly welcome and useful advice!!

The AVR ONE was indeed still for sale for ~$200 at the Atmel Store. $33 was kinda high for shipping that takes 4-7 days, and CA sales tax totalled me out at about $250. I hope it's worth it.

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Welcome!!

Since everyone has given the usual sound advice on hardware...for now ;) I have a few tid's of bits you should know so you don't fall into the quicksand

1) Read StuSans sticky...Read it, Learn it, Live It.

2) Be prepared for wise ass replies. :) You will learn over time who is a joker, and who is a joke.

3) Try to avoid asking the 'Which C compiler is better' question. Johan has a sticky on that too.

4) If you absolutely MUST start asking comparisons on PIC vs AVR. THINK TWICE PLEASE!!!! If the urge is too great, so a search on it. YOu will understand what I mean. :lol:

5) Be prepared to get the hell peppered out of you with questions and ideas that have nothing to do with your question. Why is this you ask? It's because we like pepper on our fresh meat! :lol:

Again Welcome to the Freaks. LET THE BRAINWASHING BEGIN!!!! :evil

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Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB user

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Quote:
For example, does the Dragon implement an RS-232 interface that I could use to put out messages that would help debugging?

No.
Quote:
How many breakpoints does the Dragon have?

It is not an emulator, but a debugging dongle. It is the debugged chip that has breakpoints, not the dongle itself. Some AVRs do not support breakpoints at all, some only support program breakpoints and some support both program and data breakpoints.
Quote:
Can I see the schematic for the Dragon?

All Atmel AVR debugging protocols are proprietary. AFAIK Atmel never publishes schematics of any of their debugging tools. You can search the network, perhaps someone ripped off that thing. I would be glad to see the anatomy of the Dragon.
Quote:
3. Where can I learn more about how the better debuggger/programmers have more features?

I am afraid this is the only place. "Search" is your best friend. You can also try to contact Atmel.

No RSTDISBL, no fun!

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Quadrangle wrote:
1. Is the AVR Dragon adequate?
Probably. Some of us are having problems with it and XMEGAs, and it does not do TPI (Tiny Programming Interface). The other debuggers are more rugged though there are some third party additions to Dragon to make it more rugged.
Quadrangle wrote:
2. Are there user guides for the AVR Dragon and other debugger/programmers? The little website blurbs I found on them did not tell me much. The lack of user guides may be my biggest issue with Atmel so far. ... Atmel, seriously, is this the first impression you want to make??
Yes and Atmel is working on the impression.
older = http://support.atmel.no/knowledgebase/avrstudiohelp/index.html
recently added = http://www.atmel.no/webdoc/
Some Atmel AVR support directs one to AVR Freaks first.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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¡Welcome to the forum, Quadrangle!

MBedder wrote:
Did you know that PICkit2 can program AVRs? You may use it as a programmer as well as an UART-USB tool (the latter works under the PICkit2 standalone GUI software).

Yes and it's not the only way, here are others:
1) by using a patched avrdude
https://www.avrfreaks.net/index.p...

2) by uploading a custom-made pickit OS that makes pickit2 an AVRISP mkII clone (that's how I'm doing it now)
http://elena-march.narod.ru/

The Dark Boxes are coming.

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Quadrangle wrote:
For example, does the Dragon implement an RS-232 interface that I could use to put out messages that would help debugging?
Could try Little Wire instead; see Printf style debugging over AVR-ISP pins!. This is a FYI because I haven't tried it.
Debuggers or printf or spy will only go so far (timing and/or sizing impacts) but will be the quick go to tools; otherwise, use a logic analyzer and an 8-bit port on a lot of MCUs:
Troubleshooting real-time software issues using a logic analyzer by David B. Stewart (EE Times, 2/27/2012).
8-bit MCUs are simple enough that a simulator for the MCU is usually adequate or more than adequate for initial debugging; not the case for 32-bit MCUs so use that MCU's trace port for no impact (except for cost) tracing.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Quadrangle wrote:
5. The STK600 has a modular approach which seems cool. Some of my projects would likely use the ATtiny25/45/85, so I would buy the adapter card for that 8-pin tiny's. The low res photos of those boards do not tell me if I can use DIP's, SOIC's, or???
STK600 would cover most/all of the packages for most/all AVRs. The STKs (Starter Kits) are general but Atmel evaluation kits or a third party board would likely be more useful (smaller, more features, etc.). Tiny 5s - Using the BB313 as a target board for the ATTiny25/45/85.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller