What's a good ICSP programmer?

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I had been using a USBtinyISP (from Adafruit) for a long time, and been happy with it. However, I recently had an "event" of unspecified kind, and the programmer is no longer speaking to the USB bus of any computer I own through any cable I own. (Windows reports "the device has malfunctioned" and Linux just logs to syslog that the device is refusing its assigned address)

Being in a pinch (Friday, needed for the week-end,) I picked up a Pololu AVRISPII compatible USB board from the local supplier (Jameco) for a Jackson and change (price is right) and it works -- but, it only does 5V programming! And I'm starting a 3.3V project! Woe be me!

So, now that I have time to order something decent, what should I be ordering? The "real deal" AVRISPMKII for $40 off digi-key? Another USBtiny? A JTAG/ICE clone for $150 off e-bay? That would be at the high end of my budget, but if the debugging of your typical attiny or atmega with that device is a great experience, it might be worth it.

I'll probably order something in the next day or to, so looking forward to quick recommendations :-)

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The "real deal" AVRISPMKII for $40 off digi-key?
That would be my choice for PROGRAMMING ONLY.
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A JTAG/ICE clone for $150 off e-bay?
As long as you are prepared to deal with the fact that it may not work as well as it should. Many seem to use them without issues however.

I got a $200.00 REAL JTAG Mk2 from a fellow freak, you can get some bargains at times.

If you end up getting a JTAG/ICE clone make sure that it is NOT a Mk1 type as it is pretty much useless nowdays with newer chips and only support older chips.

A ~$50.00 Dragon may be an option if you treat it gently, new age dragons tend to be sissies... :)

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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I thoguht the Dragon needs you to plug the device in. Can that be used for remote programming? I need to field program devices that are in less than ideally accessible places (where only the 6-pin ICSP header is poking out)

Looking at the pictures, it does have headers, though. If the Dragon can do ICSP on a mounted chip, that looks sweet!

Also: is it supported from avrdude?

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The Dragon can do what an ISP/JTAG/PDI programmer can do. Not very robust if you don't lock it up in a case though for field use.

Never used avrdude so someone else will need to answer that bit. :-)

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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Also: is it supported from avrdude?

Yes it is but obviously only for programing - not debugging. If the question implies you are on a non Windows system then the equivalent of avrdude when it comes to debugging is avarice. This provides a link between the Dragon (or other Atmel debug interfaces) and avr-gdb which is the debugger.

If you are on Windows you can forget all that and just use Atmel Studio for everything.

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You have mentioned two different needs:
In the field programming, and debugging.

If I wanted a reliable programmer I'd get an Atmel AVRISPmkII. It works with AVR Studio, under Windows.
It is small, and comes with a case and USB cable.

I think it would be foolish to use a Dragon as an In-the-field programmer. It has an open circuit board, no provided case, and many Threads discuss its propensity to die an early death. (Although I suspect there have been fewer such threads since the Ver II Dragon came out, but without knowing any specific numbers one can't say this with certainty.)

I'll let others comment on Debuggers.

JC

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Thanks for all the help! It sounds like the Dragon really is the right choice for me. My ICSP needs are still on my work bench / kitchen table, it's just for boards that are mounted already, rather than neatly laid out on the anti-static work surface that doubles as table cloth ;-)

And, yes, my development machine runs Arch Linux right now, although I'm fairly OS agnostic. I just prefer to not have to switch tools too often, so I prefer tools that have wider OS support in general.

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I've got a dragon of the first generation with the broken power supply. I've applied the known hack of just bypassing the broken regulator. It has worked fine ever since.

Atmel did a new revision of the Dragon, some time ago. It can be recognized by mounting holes in the PCB (the first revision has not had those). I've not seen much noise anymore about the dragon dying, so I think the early problems have been solved in the later revisions.

Also, you mentioned 3.3V circuits. I say xMega with PDI programming. I'm sure your next project after buying a non-PDI capable programmer will be with a xMega. The Dragon has both.

Markus

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I've not seen much noise anymore about the dragon dying

http://www.aplomb.nl/TechStuff/D...

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clawson wrote:
Quote:

I've not seen much noise anymore about the dragon dying

http://www.aplomb.nl/TechStuff/D...

There relevant parts (failure) of this page date from 2009 and the dragon there is from the first generation (no mounting holes).

Do you know of any recent complaint about a broken dragon of recent vintage ?

Markus

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I'm sure your next project after buying a non-PDI capable programmer will be with a xMega. The Dragon has both.

Hi Markus,

I've got a Ver I Dragon, but I've got to say it is my last choice for PDI programming. Although there may be rather few threads about Dragons going up in smoke recently, there are plenty of threads about difficulties with Dragons doing PDI programming. There are several threads with "fixes", a resistor here, a tweak there...

My Dragon would sometimes program an Xmega PCB once, then lock up AVR Studio, (Ver 4 at the time). What a hassle to kill the program, reload the program, then program the next version of my program when I'm debugging a new project.

I've got a couple of other programmers, and the Dragon is the only one on which I've seen PDI problems.

If one doesn't need JTAG, the AVRISP mkII is mighty hard to beat!

JC

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you may well be right with the PDI problems of the dragon. I used PDI only once for now with a Xmega16A4 and had no problems with it, despite the very rudimentary setup on my part (wires soldered to the bare chip). So my experience is very limited on that front. On the other hand there have been a few new revisions of studio and Dragon firmware too.

Markus