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Discussion in 'Misc Electronics' started by Allan Adler, Nov 5, 2006.

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  1. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Suppose I want to learn to use a PIC and only have a PC running RH7.1 Linux.
    In particular, I don't have a PIC development board. I hesitate to get anything
    until I know exactly what I need and how much it will ultimately cost. If
    you know exactly what I need to get to do this, and what it will cost, please
    let me know. I assume I need:
    (1) A PIC development board. Which one and what will it cost, given that
    it has to talk to my PC running RH 7.1 Linux?
    (2) Software, to talk to the PIC development board, that will run on my
    PC running RH 7.1 Linux. What exactly do I get and from where?
    (3) Reading materials that will give me certainty of learning to actually
    use the PIC development board once I have the PIC development board
    and the software running under RH 7.1 Linux. What exactly do I read
    and what does it cost?

    I am very easily thrown by little details that don't go right, since I don't
    have time to devote myself completely to solving them. So, I need for this
    undertaking to be easy and without surprises. Advice such as "read any
    book for dummies on PIC and make the necessary adjustments for Linux"
    is likely to lead to failure in my case. Once I've done this once, it will
    probably be a different story, but I need to suceed in a basic situation
    and then build on it.

    Also, I have very little discretionary capital; that's why I'm using an old
    PC running RH 7.1 in the first place. So the more inexpensive the solution,
    the better. (Please don't refer me to ebay, since I can't deal with ebay.)
  2. Baron

    Baron Guest

    Have you tried Googling "PIC on Linux" ?
  3. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    have you tried the WINE program for linux ?
  4. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    If you are going to be using microcontrollers,
    you should become familiar with .

    With PICs:
  5. dcer10

    dcer10 Guest

    Hi Allan,

    I dont claim to be any kind of expert, and Im sure someone else have a
    more experienced answer to this...Im just getting into pics a little
    too, I am working on a specific project running specific firmware, so I
    can not suggest any real help for part 3 of your question, however I
    have built a few pic burner boards from kits.

    If you have any soldering skills you can build one very cheaply. Here
    is one I have built from a kit, it was very easy to assemble:

    All you will really need is to follow the construction directions on
    that page, solder the parts on [if you dont know how to solder its not
    hard and there are a lot of sites with intro information on this]. You
    will also need to buy a wall wart adapter to suit, a cable to plug it
    into your PC and some PIC chips themselves. Microchip [the
    manufacturer] can give you free samples of pics if it is for research
    for a possible future order, or you can buy them at a lot of electronic

    The board accepts a wide variety of pic chips to program and it will
    plug easily into your pc via the parallel port. It is well documented,
    there are construction examples, and linux software - see the link at
    the bottom of the page.

    You can buy the kit online from this url:

    It is the last one on the page and is 13,20 EUR, im sure mike will
    deliver to USA if thats where you are.

    One important thing to know is what pic chip/s you will want to work
    on, there are a lot. This burner will do two sizes of pic chips, and a
    massive variety of kinds but im sure not all of them.

    Im sure there are millions of sites etc out there on what to do with
    the pic which you can find, but you will need to have a specific goal
    in mind, I think the possibilities are endless :}

    I hope all this helps you out a bit.

    All the best,

  6. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    Are you using *PIC* as a generic term to mean *microcontroller*?*-avr.gcc+*-AVR-Studio

    ....or are you a masochist who is really into HORRIBLE architectures?*-*-*-*+immediate-addressing+very-C-friendly

    ....or are you actually going to make a BILLION of your widget
    and take advantage of the ONLY advantage of a PIC (chip price)?
    **Religious war ensues**
  7. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    By the time I am able to understand the issues you raise and the
    links you cite in connection with them, I won't need help any more.
  8. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    I have done some soldering. For example, in a thread on this newsgroup
    on fixing the AC adaptor for my Dell CsX laptop, I managed to repair the
    damaged cable by soldering it. I've also managed to do some soldering
    involving components, but I am not very good at it and have a history of
    destroying components with too much heat. For that reason, I usually prefer
    to put my chips in special sockets and to solder the sockets. On one occasion
    I ruined the copper on a printed circuit board by trying to solder something
    to it. I've been soldering for decades and I don't expect to get much better
    at it.

    Regarding the page you mentioned, I just took a look at it. I'm not yet
    at the point where I would know why I was building that item. I do have
    a use for MIDI, though: I have an old Casio CTK 571 keyboard that is supposed
    to have MIDI capability (but not USB) but which I've never been able to get
    to talk to any of my PC's. In the case of Linux, that was because the
    software hadn't been developed and in the case of Windows, which was running
    on one machine before I installed Linux on it, who knows why it wouldn't
    talk to the synthesizer, or who wasn't talking to whom?
    The page has a note for newbies:
    "If you are planning to build only a small number of MIOS projects, which are
    based on the PIC18F452 or PIC18F4620, it's highly recommended to buy (a)
    preprogrammed PIC(s) from Mike or SmashTV. The MIOS Bootstrap Loader only
    has to be programmed once into the PIC, you will be able to upload the
    operating system MIOS, and the applications via MIDI."

    Should I ignore this note? If not, when they talk about uploading, are they
    assuming a Windows environment? These are the kinds of picky details that
    I tend to get hung up on.
    You mean an AC adaptor that plugs into the wall and produces DC current
    at a certain voltage and with a certain maximum amperage?
    Before I would buy this board, I would first have to figure out exactly
    what chip I would need to buy, exactly where I would buy it, exactly
    how much I would pay for it, including shipping and handling if it comes
    to that (does Radio Shack have them?). I can't claim to be doing research.
    I'm just trying to educate myself.
    That flexibility is a good feature, but I wouldn't know which PIC chip
    I would want or need to use. Having to actually get the project to achieve
    some goal that I might need done is a huge distraction. I need something
    more along the lines of programmed play behavior: a bunch of planned
    activities, not planned by me, which will teach me some basic things I
    need to know and which I am guaranteed to learn if I follow the very clear
    instructions. If I have to figure out what I need or what I want to accomplish,
    it isn't going to happen.

    It's good to know that whatever it is, it will plug into the parallel port.
    The website says:
    "Burning under Linux
    PiKdev is a nice development environment which provides the independent
    program "pkp" which allows to flash PIC devices from the commandline. The
    default setup works well with MBHP_BURNER, no additional modifications are
    required - here my .pkprc file just for documentation:
    # settings for parallel port device :
    # (use /dev/parports/x if your system is devfs based)
    # pin assignments: negative value means inverted signal
    # the following values are working with MBHP_BURNER
    delay=0 "

    This file makes sense if one already knows how to use Pikdev and pkp. Pikdev
    (according to assumes a KDE environment, whereas I
    have Gnome. But at the bottom, they say: "The programming engine of PiKdev
    can be used from a non graphical user interface named pkp. pkp has a simple
    command line interface and can be used by people who do not use KDE or use
    an old Linux distribution."

    When I click on pkp in that quote, I get sent to

    which says that it assumes one has a GCC 3.2 based distrubtion of Linux.
    In RH 7.1, which is what I have, the version of GCC is 2.96 (which I'm
    told officially doesn't exist). So, I don't know whether I can use this
    Linux software on my system.
    I'm not sure which one is the last one on the list since there are a few
    lists. At the page you mention, if I click on midi-PCB-Sets, a scrolling
    list appears and there are several MIDIboxes, most of which are at least 26
    Euros, but there is one that costs 10,00 EUR, namely the MIDIbox SID,
    Art.-Nr.: 5005. Maybe it comes to the figure you mention with shipping
    and handling.
    Unfortunately, I'm not yet at the level where I can possibly know that.
    I don't know anything yet.
    I just want to become familiar with the PIC through some successful hands
    on experience. I have a lot of experience teaching myself things but I know
    from that experience that planning my own curriculum is a LOT of work. I'm
    looking for a way to save myself that planning effort, since I don't have
    time or energy for it right now. I just want to know EXACTLY what to get,
    both hardware and software, EXACTLY what to read, EXACTLY what to do
    with it all and EXACTLY what it will all cost, which should be very little.
    A bit.
  9. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll take a look at comp.arch.embedded.
  10. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Thanks, that's an interesting idea. I'll look into it. Even if it doesn't
    help with this particular problem, it might help with others.
  11. Bob_

    Bob_ Guest

  12. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Not really.
    I considered AVR earlier and tried to find some materials on it that didn't
    assume a Windows environment. The stuff I downloaded contained the following
    files with no documentation, and also looked BSD specific, so I gave up:
    AT90CAN128.BSD ATMEGA169.BSD atmega323.bsd ATMEGA329.BSD ATMEGA6490.BSD
    ATMEGA128.BSD ATMEGA16.BSD ATMEGA3250.BSD atmega32.bsd ATMEGA649.BSD
    ATMEGA162.BSD ATMEGA2560.BSD ATMEGA325.BSD ATMEGA6450.BSD atmega64.bsd
    Vielen Danke. I looked at these links and will have to read the first and
    last a few more times before I can get an overview. Meanwhile, I went to
    the sourceforge link and downloaded everything that I couldn't prove I
    didn't need, except when there were long sublists of downloads for very
    specific interfaces, etc. Here is what I wound up with:


    I didn't download the separate doc files. If it turns out that I need them,
    I can always go back.

    Since I don't possess an AVR and don't know yet exactly what to get, I think
    I need to try to figure out which of these tgz files to open and explore.
    For example, cdk-abr-simulavr-, by its name, sounds as
    though it will let me simulate the AVR without actually having one.

    The third link, to, is fairly specific about binutils-2.15,
    while I have binutils-2.10, and gcc-core-3.42, while I have gcc-2.96. So,
    I'm not sure yet what ought to work on my RH 7.1 Linux PC. They also sell
    some hardware at various prices in Euros, any one of which might represent
    approximately the total of what I'm prepared to spend on hardware for this
    learning experience, and I don't know how many items I might actually need.
    I do know that I can't buy anything until I have very detailed knowledge of
    exactly what I will need in the way of hardware, software, documentation
    and other educational materials.
  13. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    I've downloaded what looked appropriate, except for GTK+ and the stuff
    that goes with it (pango,...) and stuff that required me to make sense of
    the New Site window that popped up. Here is what I have now:

    gpsim-0.21.11.tar.gz gtk+extra-2.1.1.tar.gz sdcc-src-2.6.0.tar.gz
    gputils-0.10.0.tar.gz libscigraphica-2.1.1.tar.gz

    Actually, I'm still downloading the sdcc. It's taken almost 4 hours
    to download this stuff and the stuff at the AVR websites on a 56K dialup.
    I have about 15 minutes before my ISP's 4 hour online limit kicks in, so
    sdcc is in a race against time. It's 43 percent downloaded... 48...
    59... 70... 80... 90... 100 with 7 minutes to spare...

    Now I just have to make sense of all these packages.
    I do know how to program in C. I've always been very bad at it but recently
    I seem to have gotten a lot better. So maybe I can do it that way.
  14. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Frank-Christian Kruegel writes:

    That's encouraging. I have now untarred it and learned that, even if it can
    run without an AVR, it apparently can't run without the rest of the software.
    Now that I have a lot of the packages, I'm going back and trying to download
    some of the documentation. Some of it is in German and I've made an attempt
    to read it. Ich spreche jetzt sehr schlecht Deutsch, aber ich kann es sehr
    langsam lesen. Dass is sehr gut weil es is besser die Dokumentation langsam
    zu lesen. I don't normally have the patience to do so in English.
    OK, the first thing they say to do is:

    mkdir /usr/local/avr
    mkdir /usr/local/avr/bin
    export PATH=/usr/local/avr/bin:${PATH}

    I'm very picky about what I install on my machine and where I install it.
    When I'm installing something like this, I prefer to keep it in my user
    directories, instead of on the system as a whole. That makes it a lot easier
    for me to back up my system and also a lot easier for me to remove it in case
    I decide I don't like having it. (The other link having directions seems to agree with the
    tuxgraphics site on this point.)

    So, I'm going to pretend they didn't tell me to do that, but I'll keep in
    mind that I may eventually need to create some directories and put one of
    them in my path.

    Now let's look at the GNUbinutils instructions:

    tar jxvf binutils-2.15.tar.bz2
    cd binutils-2.15/
    mkdir obj-avr
    cd obj-avr
    .../configure --target=avr --prefix=/usr/local/avr --disable-nls

    # as root:
    make install

    Since I'm going to put this in my private directories, I won't need to be
    root to do the installation. Also, I downloaded the tgz version of binutils,
    not the tar.bz2 version. So I have to do this differently from what they say
    to do. Actually, I don't know where the directory binutils-2.15 is supposed
    to live. I guess I can put it wherever I like. I'll just stick it in my
    directory ~/AVR/LINUX as /AVR/LINUX/binutils-2.15. Now, where is the varmint?
    Actually, it was cdk-avr-binutils-2.16.1-20060708.tgz and when I untarred it
    in ~/AVR/LINUX it created various subdirectories of ~/AVR/LINUX/opt and that
    is consistent with that the second link:
    (which is where I downloaded all the stuff from) said would happen. So, maybe
    I don't need to create anything even remotely resembling a binutils-2.15
    directory. But let's see: I'm still trying to follow the 3rd link:
    and it does have something to say about creating a subdirectory of the
    binutils-2.15 I was supposed to create and cd'ing to it in order to run
    configure and make. So, where should I go? Well, probably to wherever the
    configure program is, i.e. in .. of the mythical directory obj-avr, which
    was created as a subdirectory of the mythical directory binutiles-2.15,
    i.e. configure should be in the directory binutils-2.15. Wherever it is,
    since I untarred the file cdk-avr-binutils-2.16.1-20060708.tgz in the
    directory ~/AVR/LINUX, this file configure which I'm going to execute
    as ./configure ought to be in *some* subdirectory of ~/AVR/LINUX. But
    when I execute
    ls -R | grep configure
    in ~/AVR/LINUX there is no mention of any such file named configure.
    So, it appears that I can't take the next step and I would not have been
    able to take this next step even if I had untarred the file inside some
    subdirectory of /usr/local/avr or some other subdirectory of /usr. And
    then I would have had a mess to clean up, so now I'm really glad I didn't
    follow the directions blindly.

    Actually, a lot of the files that have turned up in subdirectories of
    ~/AVR/LINUX/opt have turned out to be executables. So, maybe there is
    no make process involved. Maybe what I have downloaded is binaries and
    I just have to use them. For example, from the simulavr package, I wound
    up with three files in the subdirectory ~/AVR/LINUX/opt/cdk4avr/bin, namely
    simulavr simulavr-disp simulavr-vcd
    and I was able to run them, except for not having anything else that they
    needed to run. So, I'm going to proceed on the theory that I should ignore
    most of the instructions I find on the pages:
    even though their selection of topics is probably quite useful. The problem is
    that the 3 pages contradict each other in fundamental ways, but I now have
    some sense of what to believe and what to disregard.

    After I've experimented with this for a while, I'll have a better idea of
    what I know, what I don't know, when I knew it and what I wish I had known.
    As that process can be quite verbose, and not very interesting, I'll stop
    reporting on it until I have something more definite to say.
    I'm certainly not an expert on Linux/Unix, but I'm not as feeble as I seem
    to have made you think. It's more accurate to say that I'm not extremely
    good at guessing what is going on by reading the names of the distribution
    tgz files instead of the documentation. In particular, I don't know yet which
    files refer to the target machine and which refer to my x86 but I expect to
    know soon.
  15. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    Well, I've been trying and have had some interesting experiences. As I guessed,
    what I have, after unpacking all of the tgz files, is a collection of binaries
    and some documentation, shell scripts, etc., but nothing that needs to be made.
    The binaries work well enough to tell me they can't find things and then give
    up. I don't know yet how to tell them where to find the things they say they
    can't find (e.g. versions of or whatever it was) and GLIB3.2, etc.
    I tried to download documentation from the sourceforge site but there is not
    always documentation available from there. My browser doesn't support whatever
    is at some of the sites that sourceforge does link to, i.e. the sites of
    whoever wrote the software, so there may very well be some documentation
    there that I can't find.

    Here is one of the more positive experiences so far: I managed to get
    simulavr-ddd to work to some extent, but not really. I ran run-simulavr-ddd
    and got a complaint that it couldn't find simulavr. So, I made a back up
    copy of run-simulavr-ddd and then edited the original so that it could
    find simulavr. That caused a window to open but it couldn't be used for
    simulavr because I hadn't told it where to find simulavr-disp. It could,
    however, be used as a terminal window, which I closed. I modified it again
    to tell it where simulavr-disp is and this time the window opened and closed
    very quickly. Apparently, whatever port or device or socket it was trying to
    access was busy.

    Anyway, I decided it would be helpful to look at the source code for the
    various packages, which has to be completely accurate about what the program
    is supposed to do and under what conditions, unlike the more optimistic
    opinions often expressed in documentation. I returned to sourceforge and
    downloaded the base-0.5 rpm. I don't like rpm files since they don't give
    me enough control over where the files wind up and because I don't like to
    do things as root unless I know exactly what I am doing and why. So, I used
    rpm2cpio to convert the rpm file to a cpio file and then tried to use
    cpio --extract to extract the contents of the cpio file. Unfortunately,
    cpio just hung and I don't know why. It would be much better if there were
    also a tgz file that contained the source code, instead of a dreimal
    verdammt rpm file. I didn't see one listed at sourceforge. If there is
    one available, I'd like to know about it.

    It is probably not a good sign that I am now thinking of reading the source
    code to these dozens of programs in order to find out how to use them. As I
    mentioned in my original posting and in at least one follow up posting, I
    tend to be easily thrown by little details and wind up in very strange places,
    and this is a good example of how that happens. The way I read source code,
    since I'm not very good at it, is to try to convert the source code (if it's
    in C) to a literate document written in CWEB. I've done this with a Go
    playing program and am now revising the CWEB file. It took quite a long time
    but I now understand thoroughly how the program works. Unfortunately, I have
    several programs I am already trying to study by this extremely labor
    intensive method and they have much higher priority than AVR, which I
    was hoping would not be very distracting from my research and other projects.

    If I have to work this hard at it, it probably isn't going to happen.
  16. Allan Adler

    Allan Adler Guest

    OK, thanks.
    OK, I've downloaded the schematic.
    I haven't figured out how to download it. I clicked on the thing for
    HI-TECH PICC-Lite and found information on the differences between
    it and the full non-free version, but I didn't find any way to
    actually download it.

    Since my Linux systems are so old and so unprepared for the other free
    PIC software I've found for LINUX, I'm wondering whether I might be better
    off trying to use the FREEDOS partition I have on one of my machines.
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