Open Source and the Microcontroller Hobbyist

I’ve recently gone big-time with Linux, specifically the Debian offshoot Ubuntu distro. I also like to program Microcontroller chips for fun. One thing I noticed: there are not a lot of choices in the free software space. Most of the software to program MCUs (specifically the editors, compilers, and programmers) are for Windows.

I’m thinking this makes sense, sort of, considering how many people are running Windows. Since I am moving away from Windows (although I may have to dual boot the PC in my electronics shop), this new discovery (not the prevalence of Windows, but that much of the programmer software out there only runs on it) makes me a little sad. However, for the open source booster like me there’s hope. Two things encourage me as I begin to dig around in this space:

First, the folks at Parallax have released the guts of their Javelin stamp software (called Javelin Direct) under the GNU General Public License. This allows me to port the code (written entirely in C++, except for one module that communicates over the serial port that is written in Pascal) to Linux, and even write a GUI on top of it (of course I’ll write it in Ajax ;-)). I like that. BTW, you can get version 1.2 of Javelin Direct from my site (since it’s GPL, I can do that).

Second, PP06, hosted at Sourceforge, is open source programmer software for many popular Microchip’s PIC MCU devices. I haven’t tried to use it with my programmer hardware yet, but I’m still encouraged to see someone playing in this space.

So, as I get some free time, I’m going to try and mess around with some of this neat stuff. And I’ll post it all here.


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